A guide to things to do in Porto Santo

You might think a tiny island like Porto Santo would give you nothing but sun, sea, sand and sumptuous cocktails. As much as this little patch of paradise off the coast of Madeira does just that, there’s actually much in the way of mystery and history to uncover in Porto Santo, and a fair few activities to enjoy too.

Discover the home of Christopher Columbus

We all know Christopher Columbus for the part he played in charting the Caribbean and the New World. But, it’s said that at the end of his career he married a young woman, Dona Felipa Moniz, and lived out his days as a sugar trader on Porto Santo.

Today, the house he is believed to have occupied during this time is used as museum, chronicling his journeys across the New World and hosting all manner of myths about his true legacy. It’s a slice of intrigue well worth looking into, as well as a claim to fame that makes Porto Santo holidays a journey of cultural and historical importance far beyond its humble appearance.

Experience one of Europe's best beaches

Porto Santo has a unique geographic structure. It’s often described as a long strip of beach with a small stretch of hinterlands attached, and as comical as it might be to imagine, that’s actually a pretty accurate description. A huge swathe of glistening sand is yours to enjoy on this secluded island, and those who take holidays to Porto Santo during winter can pretty much lay claim to the entire shoreline for themselves.

Test your swing against the local course

You wouldn’t necessarily expect a tiny island off the coast of Madeira to be home to a world class golf course, but that’s just what you’ll find on Porto Santo. Designed by legendary golfer Seve Ballesteros, the 18 holes of Porto Santo Golfe cover much of the island. They hold an unquestionable pedigree and are sure to challenge even the most steadfast of sportsmen.

Take the sights in through a nature trail

Porto Santo has retained much of its rugged natural beauty, even as it has opened its arms to tourism. Enjoy guided walks through nature trails, weave through woodland and stride across open meadows to clifftop retreats and grand vistas. It’s all part of the fun in Porto Santo, where you’re free to explore the island by your own inner compass.

Shop throughout Vila Baleira

The old world, traditional feel of the cosy communities of Portugal is a spirit that lives on in Porto Santo. In the capital of Vila Baleira you’ll find tradition is the mainstay of every market day, where fruit vendors and local craftsmen gather to ply their trade.

You can bargain hunt with the best of them while you’re here, or enjoy a stroll through the winding streets of the town, where ancient churches and classic architecture await your open senses. Street-side cafes give welcome reprieves from the sunshine, while hidden treasure troves are yours to uncover as you take in the sights and sounds.

Unlock the island's secrets

The great thing about Porto Santo is that it’s small enough to explore without getting too lost. If you follow the paths of old you could find all kinds of discoveries, such as the secret drinking fountain in the lost cove of Zimbralinho. There are many other local legends and folklores that look into the mysterious ways of Porto Santo.