Madeira is an island of lush vegetation, delicious food, cheerful people and water activities on the agenda, so when we think of what to see and do in Funchal, its capital, we immediately move to the sea and what better way than by boat?
On yachts or catamarans, in this post you will learn about the best boat trips in Madeira, prices, duration and all the necessary guidance for you to join the best experiences.
1. Sustainable tourism: dolphin and cetacean sighting by boat
This tour offers the perfect combination of attractions for adventurers who love nature. The tour begins with a briefing at the selected operator's facilities and often passes through Cabo Girão.
The staff of this type of tour provides assistance at sea and on land to increase the chances of encountering cetaceans during the trip.
Aboard comfortable semi-rigid boats you will be accompanied by a group of 8 to 20 people to enjoy the company of dolphins, sea turtles, whales and many other marine species in a sustainable way, respecting their natural habitat.
- Price: From 55 €.
- Duration: between 2:30 - 3 hours.
- What the tour usually includes: This tour usually includes an experienced marine biologist who guides the adventurous visitors. The experience is as enjoyable as it is educational.
- Means of transportation: Boat or motorboat.
- Pros: Apart from the tour activities, you have the opportunity to snorkel in Funchal surrounded by dolphins. Just let us know when booking the tour for an additional supplement ranging from 20-40 €, depending on the operator. The staff will be attentive to the appearance of the dolphins so that you are ready to join them under the sea. You can also forgo the activity at no cost. While the thrill of swimming with the dolphins is a highly recommended experience, this last minute change of plans option is synonymous with true satisfaction guaranteed.
- Cons: Groups are usually large, up to 20 people, however, the size of these boats allows all members of the ride to appreciate the surroundings in comfort.
2. Take a catamaran cruise
Choose between traveling on a private boat or in a group, catamaran cruises offer both alternatives. Let yourself be carried away by the fresh breeze of the Madeiran coast aboard a catamaran.
Among the boat trips, this is the tour that I recommend to see and do in Madeira with children, as it is comfortable and stable, ideal for the little ones and for those more sensitive to movement at sea.
Get on a catamaran with experts, relax and enjoy. In this type of boats, the navigation is set with good music and various cocktails.
Enjoy an aperitif while you contemplate the hidden jewel of the Atlantic with its peaks and cliffs by the Cabo Girao Natural Reserve or another area such as the Ponta de São Lourenço.
Don't worry about the cetaceans, when you least expect it they will be around you. Get ready to swim in the pristine waters of Madeira and enjoy your vacation!
- Price: from 35 € for group trips and from 59 € you can take this experience to an intimate space with private cruises.
- Duration: from 3 hours and up.
- What the tour may include: whale, dolphin or other marine mammal watching in private or groups up to 15 people, a more stable boat, drinks, snacks and a relaxing walk around Funchal.
- Means of transportation: Catamaran, check out this video and see part of the experience.
- Pros: offers customizable options, ideal to share with family or friends.
- Cons: its rides are usually very close to the coast. Catamarans are not designed to travel in deep water, in part to this they owe their stability.
3. As an admiral or corsair: cruise on a caravel or pirate ship
If you dream of traveling by ship and say: "they will always remember this day as the day they almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow", in the best style of Johnny Deep in Pirates of the Caribbean, this cruise is for you.
In Funchal you have the option of traveling back in time among pirate ships or sailing on a replica of one of Christopher Columbus' ships.
Yes, in Funchal you can take a cruise on the caravel Santa Maria de Colon, one of the flagships of the Genoese admiral, this time to cruise along the coast of Madeira. Groups of up to 15 people transit the Bay of Camara de Lobos until reaching Cabo Girão.
Details of interest
- Price: from 35.9 €.
- Duration: 3 hours.
- What the tour usually includes: In addition to the boat tour, most of them include a local wine tasting, the distinctive Madeira honey cake or some other snack to nibble.
- Means of transportation: traditional boat worthy of a movie take a look here.
- What to expect on the tour. Discover the colossal marine world that surrounds this island. Dolphins, sea turtles and whales can be seen throughout the trip. In between stops, you have the opportunity to dive into the ocean while practicing some of Madeira's essential activities: snorkeling, canyoning and scuba diving.
- Pros: Both the pirate ship and the Santa Maria replica recreate the ships of yesteryear from the inside to the outside. The ride is pleasant, the staff is friendly and they are equipped with a bar. The price is also convenient.
- Cons: Children are accepted, in fact, between 4 and 12 years old there is usually a special half-price rate, but the experience in this type of cruises is recommended for adults. The atmosphere, the movement of the boat driven by sails and its additional engine, is usually uncomfortable for the little ones. I recommend this experience for ages 15 and up.
4. Private cruise in Madeira
Set sail with your friends or family - it also works for lone wolves who want a getaway - aboard a yacht to get to know Madeira your way.
Private cruises in the archipelago of Madeira were traditionally seen as expensive tours, but the massification, access facilities and the emergence of various service companies has lowered prices considerably. Now this is one of the cheapest, most beautiful and well-preserved islands in the Atlantic.
Hire a half or full board service and choose between snorkeling, diving, relaxing on the yacht deck, celebrating your private party or meditating in the sea between Ponta do Sol, Seixal or the spot of your choice.
Details of interest
- Price: Prices are variable, a group of maximum 6 people could estimate their expenses from 380 € and up.
- Duration: From 4 hours.
- What the tour may include: Often includes a selection of local wines, natural juices, soft drinks and local beers. Participants will also be provided with their diving equipment prepared for the adventure, as well as their blankets, towels and VIP assistance by the yacht captain.
- Means of transportation: yacht.
- Pros: the confidence of being in the hands of professionals who are 100% dedicated to assisting you. Small groups are usually the best option and these tours allow up to 6 people. Here you decide your course, of course, within Funchal.
- Cons: When it comes to budget, this option may seem more expensive, but the privacy you gain for a few extra euros is worth every penny.
5. Celebration charter tour
Sometimes, it is necessary to pamper ourselves and celebrate in good company surrounded by natural beauties, that is what a boat charter in Madeira offers. Stroll through the volcanic caves of São Vicente, Baía d'Abra, Ponta do Sol or enjoy the natural pools in the volcanic caves of São Vicente.
In them you can celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year's Eve, bachelor parties or just existence. Tell us your event and contact your operator, Madeira is waiting for you and your friends.
Details of interest
- Price: They are variable, a group of maximum 10 people could estimate their expenses from 1200 € onwards.
- Duration: From 2 hours.
- What the tour may include: Often include soft drinks, mineral water, selection of Madeira wines, a selection of snacks, towels, snorkeling equipment, advice from local experts and everything previously agreed. These are customizable tours and the selected operators are willing to collaborate with you to make you live the event of the century or to provide you with the longed calmness.
- Means of transportation: yacht
- Pros: The confidence to celebrate your special occasion as you wish. The friendliness and revelry is part of the local culture, decide how and when you want to party in Funchal.
- Cons: Events must be coordinated in advance. You need advance notice for everything to happen exactly as you have planned and when you customize your boat tour the same thing happens. So, you need some time to consider and plan the details to your liking.
What will I see on this type of excursion?
Whale, dolphin, turtle and cetacean watching is the main attraction of this type of activities in Madeira, but there are more things to see on the island.
Explore its coasts, go down to its natural pools -check with your operator which one the tour goes through-, relax under the sun, taste Madeiran wine, get to know the local culture ....
It is not for nothing that this archipelago has been named one of the besttourist destinations in the world to explore.
Tips for a boat trip in Madeira
- All operators guarantee the sighting of dolphins and whales, but the number varies considerably between seasons. A trip between July and September increases the chances of seeing more marine life.
- Arrive at the meeting place 30 minutes in advance. Each operator provides a short briefing before boarding their boats, some even add interesting talks about all the marine species present in Madeira, do not miss the opportunity to learn information from experts.
- Wear low shoes or beach sandals. Maybe it sounds obvious but sometimes style wins us over and we precede a photo shoot at sea with high shoes. They are not allowed.
- Combine the best Jeep tours in Madeira from Funchal with your boat trip. It will allow you to get to know curiosities of the island such as Ribeiro Frio, Pico do Arieiro and the Deserted Islands for example.
- The best Madeira tours from Funchal have one point in common: the port of the New Marina of Funchal. This is where the activities begin and end. You can plan the boat ride in the morning and a wine tasting in the afternoon shift without incurring additional costs.
What are the stops I should not miss in Madeira?
- Girão Cape. Where the most popular viewpoint of Madeira is located. The views are amazing.
- Deserted Islands. Better known by its câmara de Lobos, it is an area of tourist interest where with abundant species, among them a colony of sea lions that are in their natural habitat.
- Baia d'Abra. Located in Ponta de S. Lourenço, it is the easternmost peninsula of the archipelago. It is part of the cultural heritage of the island. João Gonçalves Zarco's skull arrived there when they discovered the island that bears the homonymous name with the boat.
- The volcanic caves of São Vicente by the lava pools of Porto Moniz and the observation platform. These are beauties not to be missed in Madeira.
- Seixal. A natural beach with black sand. This kind of places are rare on the island and, it is impressive with the leafy cliffs on its sides. It is among the best beaches of Madeira.
- Ponta do Sol. An area with picturesque streets and dreamy beaches.
- Calhau da Lapa cliffs, waterfalls, crystal clear waters and a nature reserve perfect for diving and hiking. Spending the night in an ancient cave facing the sea? This is the place for you.
The best time for boat tours in Madeira
It is advisable to always be attentive to the forecasts of the Portuguese Meteorological Institute. However, on the coast of Madeira Island the weather is benevolent.
There is a wet season from the end of October to the end of April, and a dry season between May and the beginning of October. Between the spring and summer months, you will be able to contemplate a magnificent landscape on board of any of the cruises of your choice in Funchal.
If you are looking for the best time for dolphin and whale watching in Madeira, book your trip to the island between July and September. It is possible that among the whales you may see some Minke whales, better known as blue whales.
What are the advantages of taking a Madeira boat tour vs. visiting Madeira on my own?
- While you can get around the island on foot, you need a boat, yacht or catamaran to get around the ocean. If you choose to skip the guided boat tours, you will miss the heart of Madeira. Remember, many can take you but few can guide you, I suggest you hire an expert.
- Did you forget the whale and dolphin watching, you arrive in Funchal with that plan and although the wine, safaris, good food and hiking may stop you in town, the Madeiran beaches are calling you.
- The difference between doing the activities on your own and taking a guided tour are frankly not significant. It is worth spending a few euros more to get to know this archipelago completely, soak up its customs and enjoy the natural wealth of the archipelago in harmony with the environment.