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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Porto Santo

Porto Santo Holidays

This tiny island packs a punch in terms of tourist satisfaction. With a coastline brimming with beaches and great facilities for dining, Porto Santo holidays offer the ultimate getaway experience.

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Small in nature, big on holidays

This sleek little number has astonishing measurements so it's a wonder they can even fit an airport on the island. Found 40km north of Madeira, Porto Santo is 6x11km in size yet still manages to squeeze in 10km of beach space along the southern coast where the majority of resorts are.

The capital and main resort is Vila Baleira but there are plenty of terrific places to stay, both inland and along the coast. Whether you choose a villa complex hidden in the forests or a hotel perfectly placed by the beach, you're never too far away from a delicious restaurant, a volcanically formed mountain or the lively summer nightlife at the port.

Quick Tips

  • Roman Catholic
  • Euro
  • Portuguese
  • Approx 5,000
  • GMT - None

Long beaches on the coast

Other than relaxing poolside at your accommodation, the undisputed hotspot for spending time out in the sun is the 10km stretch of sand that runs along the south coast. The golden space runs from Vila Baleira in the north, past a couple of towns and resorts before coming to a halt at Ponta de Calheta.

If the large beach feels too touristy to you, you can find other smaller, more secluded sands to lay down your towel. There are some found on the northern face of Porto Santo or Praia da Calheta, tucked away on the western tip, provides phenomenal views of the sunset.

While there are water sports to get you active on the waves by the beach, there are also opportunities to tour the spectacular nature of Porto Santo found inland. Tour companies are eager to take you through the forests and over mountains to gain the best possible views of the island. There is also the option to take a horse ride over varied terrain.

Portuguese through and through

Porto Santo was accidentally discovered in the 15th century when ships were blown here by a storm. The island has been owned and ran by the Portuguese ever since and there are a couple of highlights to discover from centuries ago. A canon sits at the top of the Pico Castelo Viewpoint which also looks down across a large part of the island.

Christopher Columbus lived here for a short time with his Portuguese wife and their home has now been turned into a museum.

Hot summer nights

Despite all the opportunities to get active and explore the island, holidays to Porto Santo are generally calm throughout the day and into the evening. Quiet tavernas offer you the chance to enjoy great meals with fine wines, some of which are produced at local vineyards. Whether it is by the waterfront, in the main square of Vila Baleira or at your accommodation, the island offers a great climate to sit out and drink under the stars.

During the summer weekends you can find some action at night at Vila Baleira's port O Penedo do Sono, where the bars welcome in a younger crowd of locals and tourists. The music ranges from Latin tunes to upbeat techno and dance. The party goes on until very late during peak seasons and often there'll be boats arriving from Funchal in Madeira with night time revellers raring to go.

Seaside dining

Amongst all of the resorts on this small island, you'll find a restaurant with the cuisine and location to suit you. Many are based along the waterfront of the 10km beach while others are found within the traditional-looking main square of Vila Baleira.

Seafood makes a regular appearance on the Portuguese menus here. The restaurants Torres and Pe ne Agua are said to have delicious servings of Octopus, for the non-squeamish eaters. Elsewhere the offering is typically Mediterranean while most locations ensure there are generic options for those in search of simple meals like steak or pizza.

Handmade souvenirs

If you're looking for a holiday souvenir from Porto Santo then your best opportunity will be found along the cobbled street of Rua Joao Gonclaves Zarco in Vila Baleira where chic boutiques sell charming products. Local handmade crafts are found within the Centro de Artesanato near the pier. Cute dolls, handwoven baskets and clay ornaments are found in this quirky shop.

For high street fashion the Zarco Shopping Mall is the place to find internationally recognisable brands.

Getting there

The Porto Santo Airport is central to the whole island and transfers are guaranteed to be blissfully short. The 2km distance between the airport and Vila Baleira should take just five minutes to cover.

Walking between your accommodation and the beach should be simple since the beach covers the majority of the coastline. If you stay somewhere more inland then the road networks are simple to traverse via a hire car.

If you're just planning on making the odd drive then taxis and busses are easy to use too.

Best time of year to visit

Porto Santo experiences a terrifically long summer with over 300 days of sunshine and temperatures that reach a high of 20C for around six months each year. July and August experience temperatures that regularly hit 30C and above.

The island's most notable celebration is a three day festival held for their adopted son, Christopher Columbus. This party is thrown at the beginning of September every year with music, shows, exhibitions and a parade all held in the explorer's honour.