Madeira's top sunbathing spots

Tuesday, 6 August 2013 6:28 AM

As sunbathing destinations go, few have better climates for kicking back on a sun lounger with a book than the Atlantic Ocean island of Madeira.

With its mild Mediterranean-style conditions, it's warm enough to hit the sand every day of the year, with average highs above 19C from January to December. But, because it never gets too hot, with average August highs in the mid-20s, you won't find yourself frazzling after 30 minutes either.

If you're a real sun worshipper, who insists on wall-to-wall sunshine, the majority of the cloud-free days fall between March and October, with only a handful of rainy days between May and September.

Despite this good weather, Madeira's not actually renowned as a beach destination. Its volcanic terrain, with steep cliffs falling into the sea and an often rocky and pebbly shoreline, golden strips of sand are actually at somewhat of a premium around the island's coast.

However, if you know where to look, you'll find some great beaches for both sunbathing and taking a dip in the warm ocean - making cheap family holidays in Madeira a very distinct possibility.

Calheta

If it's your stereotypical golden sand beach your after, then Calheta is the one for you. Located on Madeira's south-western shoreline, this man-made beach was constructed using imported Moroccan sand, giving it a much more alluring appearance than the local black sand.

An unusual shape, the beach comprises two halves set on either side of a small harbour created by two curving sea walls.

Machico

At the opposite end of the island, you'll find a recently installed artificial golden beach at Machico, built using sand from the Western Sahara. Madeira is just over 300 miles from the African coast, so importing the sand from there is an obvious choice.

Like Calheta, Machico is also sheltered behind a sea wall, meaning the water is calm and safe for families to paddle and swim.

Prainha

However, if you want something a bit more organic and are happy to experience a natural volcanic beach, Prainha near the fishing village of Canical is a small strip of black sand nestled between steep, rocky cliffs, where you can sunbathe.

Unlike some of those above, this beach is a little more exposed, so you might find it too rough for swimming at times but it's still a fine place for a paddle.

Porto Santo

If you're prepared to travel for it, Madeira's indisputably finest strip of sand is found on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, 27 miles off the coast.

Unlike Madeira's rocky coastline, Porto Santo is blessed with an enormous five-mile stretch of golden sand covering two-thirds of the island's southern shoreline.

Porto Santo can be reached by ferry from Funchal in around two-and-a-quarter hours, so it's certainly an all-day exclusion. During high season, an adult round trip ticket costs €57 (£49).

Praia Formosa

As mentioned, most of Madeira's beaches are rocky and pebbly. One of the bigger ones is Praia Formosa in the capital Funchal.

As long as you bring a beach mat to soften the feel of the rocks underneath you, this is a perfectly fine place to soak up the sun and make the most of the calm, clean waters with a refreshing swim.

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