“Is Porto Santo worth going to?” I recently got this question from a friend who’s honeymooning in Madeira (just like I did!) and wanted to know whether this little island – part of the archipelago of Madeira – was worth a visit while she was staying on the “big” island. Photos of glorious light-colored, sandy beaches pique tourists’ curiosity… but what does it actually have to offer and is it really worth visiting? If you’re planning a trip to Madeira, this post is for you!
When I told people I was going to Madeira, several people immediately replied, “you have to go to Porto Santo!” I was only spending 4.5 days in Madeira and wondered whether it was too much time for just the main island (for the record, it’s definitely not, especially as we dedicated an entire day to visiting the Desertas islands). And those gorgeous photos of the beaches in Porto Santo were certainly tempting… so I took the bait and decided to allocate one of the days of our already short vacation to visiting Porto Santo, not knowing exactly what to expect or what I was going to do there.
You can get a boat out to Porto Santo or you can take a very quick, 15-minute flight on a light aircraft between Funchal airport and Porto Santo. Because of our schedule, we took the cute little plane – it had about 5 rows! It was a scenic flight, although I’m sure the boat would be lovely too. Getting from Porto Santo airport to any of the hotels on the island is quick and easy – traffic doesn’t seem to exist on this island. What immediately strikes you as you drive to your hotel, is the stark contrast between the greenness of Madeira to the rockier Porto Santo.
Here’s the thing about Porto Santo, which I learned the hard way: you shouldn’t go for just 24 hours. There are some good hiking spots, which I didn’t get a chance to go on because I wasn’t there long enough. There’s also a very interesting museum, Casa Colombo – Museu de Porto Santo which is where Christopher Columbus lived with his Portuguese wife. That’s right: his greatest achievement may have been discovering America, but his greatest fortune was his excellent taste in women. The Cardina Museum is also supposed to be quite interesting.
Porto Santo is blessed with some excellent diving sites… which – again – I didn’t get to enjoy. However, if you’re more comfortable above sea level, the fine sand beaches (which can’t be found on the island of Madeira) provide not only memorable views, but also a tranquil escape from reality. I decided to explore the beach by going on a run (overly ambitious, given my current physical fitness levels), but you could just as easily go for a long walk. Lastly, Porto Santo has a few resorts so you can also enjoy their pools and on-site amenities and not worry about where to get your next meal… or anything else for that matter. If all-inclusive resorts are your cup of tea, you may want to consider alternative accommodation.
So is Porto Santo worth visiting? Yes, but only if you have time to do it right and only if you really want to relax and take it easy. If you’re looking for an action-packed island adventure, this isn’t the destination for you. If you want to relax and do very little, Porto Santo is a great bet. Don’t make the same mistake I did – you need to spend at least a couple of days there, otherwise, you don’t get time to enjoy what it has to offer and it just detracts from your time on Madeira. I did Porto Santo all wrong – make sure you do it right!