The Portuguese island of Madeira is one of the best places for snorkeling all year round. The water stays warm through the winter, but it’s ideal in the summer when it’s the warmest and calmest with incredible visibility.
There are many ways to enjoy snorkeling in this paradise, and you can often jump right in the sea from your hotel. There are a good amount of locations that allow you to snorkel directly from the beach. However, consider one of the available tours that will take you to the best spots. You will enjoy exploring the Atlantic Ocean and the marine life below the surface.
If you’re curious about Portugal and exploring it’s marine life, make sure to also read our article about snorkeling in Lagos.
What’s So Special About Madeira?
Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean. Although it’s part of Portugal, it’s geographically closer to Africa than to Lisbon. The island is an archipelago with mountains and valleys, and it has a natural beauty that is truly unique. There are volcanic soils and unique plants on the island. The weather is usually beautiful, so you can enjoy Madeira all year round. In addition to hiking and canyoning, you can enjoy different water activities, including snorkeling. You might not want to miss this incredible location.
The Marine Life
There’s a big variety of marine life to explore in Madeira. Here’s a list so you know what to expect:
- Manta ray
- Eagle ray
- Butterfly ray
- Lizard fish
- Brown lizardfish
- Moray eels
- Mediterranean moray
- Brown moray
- Fangtooth moray
- Sorcerer eels
- Conger eels
- Sand smelts
- Big Eyes
- Sea chubs
- Triplefin blennies
Top Snorkel Locations
You have a lot of different options, from going in off the beach to excursions combined with kayaking, boating, and even snorkeling with dolphins. There are a number of places where snorkeling is great, including some of the hotels. Take a look at some of these best spots in Madeira:
1. Ponta de São Lourenço
Ponta de Sao Lourenco is the easternmost point of the island. You can go to the Quinta do Lorde Resort, Hotel, and Marina to experience snorkeling. There is a three-hour tour you can join where you paddle along the coast and snorkel. There is diverse sea life in the crystal clear waters. You start out in the bay, where a guide will take you kayaking along the coast. You will see incredible volcanic rock formations, caves, hidden spots, and beautiful scenery.
After an hour you’ll arrive at Abra Bay, which is a secluded site. This is where you can snorkel with different colorful fish. A wonderful way to see some of the beautiful scenery and explore the warm waters.
You can also take a speed boat trip from Ponta de São Lourenço. The speed boat will take you out to some hidden places that you can’t otherwise get to, including the Cliffs of Abra. Your guide will teach you about the history of the area, after which you can explore the marine life as you spend some time snorkeling. You will see coral reefs and numerous species, including moray eels, eagle rays, cuttlefish, and monk seals. This is a popular excursion.
No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, you’ll find many opportunities in Ponta de Sao Lourenco. You can combine snorkeling with boating, kayaking, or hiking, or you can snorkel right next to your hotel. The water is always warm and clear. Avoid snorkeling in case of currents, winds or any other unpleasant weather conditions.
Tip: Joining a boat trip can sometimes cause motion sickness. If this is what you’re likely to experience, go ahead and read our article called “Can snorkeling make you seasick?“. We provide some helpful tips and tricks.
This tour allows you to snorkel in the open ocean with dolphins. A truly unique experience! They will take you out by boat to see the Atlantic spotted dolphin and the short-beaked common dolphins. You can go out with a captain and a guide. They will drop you by a buoy, from where you’ll be able to snorkel back to the boat. This is a popular trip that people seem to really enjoy. If you want to make this swim a little more comfortable, make sure to bring a pair of snorkel fins.
3. Garajau Beach
This beach is in the center of the marine reserve “Reserva natural Parcial do Garajau.” It was created in 1986, and it was the first exclusive marine reserve in Portugal. The beach is located between Lazaretto’s Quay and Ponta da Oliveira. The clear water offers a 60 feet visibility all year round.
You can also go to the sea below the Christus Rei Status (the Jesus Christ statue), allowing you to snorkel in the reserve from that location. This is a great spot to try when you are in Madeira.
4. Porto Santo
If you want a beach experience, you can go to Porto Santo. There are no natural sandy beaches on Madeira since it’s a volcanic island, but they created a few man-made beaches where sand has been brought in. Porto Santo is about two hours from Funchal. You can go for a day trip or stay a little longer.
There’s a snorkel tour in a protected marine area. The marine life is accustomed to people, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy them to a certain extent. You can see different species, including octopus, cuttlefish, three different types of moray eel, sea urchin, sea cucumber, brittle star, hermit crabs, and more.
5. Galo, Mangos, and Canical
All three of these locations allow you to snorkel directly off the beach. You can see all kinds of marine life, such as barracudas, morays, amberjacks, giant anemones, cutlassfish, mackerels, salemas, and rays. There is good visibility, and easy access from the beach.
Canical has a beach called Prainha Beach, which is located on the east side of the island. It’s also known as “Fisherman Village”. This beach is located in the hills and made of black sand from the volcanic dunes. It has beautiful views and offers various facilities. A lovely area for snorkeling. Another spot in Canical is Ribeira Natal, which has crystal clear waters where you can even see the rocks on the ocean floor.
Tip: If you’re into photography, these kinds of crystal clear waters can result in some amazing pictures or videos. Feel free to also check out our article about snorkeling with a GoPro. Some cool gadgets to know about.
6. Belmond Reids Palace Hotel
This hotel is situated in subtropical gardens that look out over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a luxury hotel and somewhat hidden away. You can snorkel directly from this hotel in several different ways. One would be the “half day packages” which include a kayak tour along the Underwater Nature Reserve of Garajau. You will enjoy exploring and snorkeling at the same time!
7. Vidamar Madeira
This is another great hotel, very family friendly, with incredible views of the ocean and a lot of activities to keep you entertained. They have clubs for the children as well as pools, dance classes, a gym, and (of course) snorkeling. If you bring your kids, maybe you’ll like to read our giant guide for snorkeling with kids. There’s always a way to keep them entertained!
Galasol is a four-star hotel on top of a cliff. It offers a lot of activities at a reasonable price. Besides the beautiful views you can inform about snorkeling tours. There are a couple to choose from.
In the southeast of Madeira, you will find Garajau, which is where the Reserve is. The beach is called Reis Magos. It has good water quality and the sea is clean. Lifeguards are usually on duty, so you can safely enjoy snorkeling as well as swimming and relaxing on the beach.
There is a beach on the south side of the island called Poca do Gomes (between Lido and Formosa Beach in Funchal). It’s a natural volcanic swimming pool with direct access to the sea. You will also find a lifeguard here, as well as changing rooms, sunbeds, and parasols.
11. Ribeira Brava
Another spot on the south side of the island, this area has a couple of great beaches where you can snorkel. Calhau da Lapa is considered to be a paradise with natural beauty, peace, and tranquility. In addition to snorkeling, you will find hiking and a waterfall to admire. You can get here by hiking or by boat.
Nearby, you will find Faja dos Padres. It’s as old as the original colonization of Madeira. According to some, this is one of the most beautiful places for snorkeling. You can get there by boat or by a cable car lift from Quinta Grande. This allows you to enjoy the sights before arrival.
The Climate In Madeira
The average maximum temperatures range from 66 °F in January/February, all the way up to around 79 °F in August/September. This being said, even though the climate is comfortable all year round, the summer months are usually the warmest.
Sea water temperatures react accordingly to the climate. This means an average of around 64 °F in January and 73 °F in August. If you’re uncertain about the sea being too cold, consider to get a snorkel rash guard or even a thicker wetsuit. Not only do they keep you warm, they also protect you from scratches or even stings.
When it comes to rain, the summer months show the lowest precipitation. July and August have the lowest amount. During the winter months you’ll experience more rain, with peaks in December and Januari. Even though you can still snorkel in the rain, it’s usually best to opt for a sunny day.
For a detailed overview of the climate go visit Climates To Travel. That’s where we got the information as well.
Madeira is a wonderful paradise with a lot of snorkeling spots. The water is warm all year round, but snorkeling is ideal in the summer. It’s a volcanic island, but there are a few sandy beaches where they have imported the sand. You can snorkel off the beach across the island, or you can go from your hotel. There are a good amount of excursions to enhance your experience. The combined kayaking and snorkeling trips seem to be the most popular since they allow you to access some hidden gems.
Since the island offers a good amount of tours, make sure to do a little research up front. Some provide all the necessary equipment in case you don’t have your own gear. These days the full face snorkel masks are a very popular gadget, and yes they can enhance the experience big time. Just make sure you understand their pro’s and con’s like we explain in our article.
One last thing: If you’re curious about Madeira, we found this article that covers a bunch of adventures to consider. Having a day off from snorkeling and do something completely different can be fun as well, right?