There’s an appealing disjointedness to South west Madeira. Travelling east-to-west along the coast, you’ll find each town sitting in its own secluded natural harbour with its own little microclimate; almost its own little world.
There’s something of a Cornish-feel to the most-easterly village of Ponta do Sol, and its attractive colourful buildings, pebble beach and laid-back feel make it a popular weekend destination for Funchal’s residents. It’s the kind of place that encourages you to stop what you’re doing and just enjoy exactly where you are; especially during its panoramic ocean sunsets.
South west Madeira’s largest town is Calheta: Funchal in miniature. Calheta’s small-and-friendly marina is a nice alternative to the much larger marina in the captial, particularly if you enjoy sailing. Our favourite self-catering cottages are also nearby: at Calhau Grande in the hills just above the town. The majority of Madeira’s self-catering accommodation tends to be new-build apartments in Funchal. We prefer more interesting, traditional-style casas – include a hire car in your tailor-made holiday and Calheta’s a great base from which to explore the western-end of the island.
As the south coast meets the west, you’ll come to tiny Paul do Mar: barely two cobbled-streets wide, you could be forgiven for thinking you were lost in the narrow backstreets of an Italian city. Find the harbour and you’ll find the some of the best fish restaurants on Madeira; the type of places where you can eat like the locals, with the locals.
It's important to allow a little time to relax during your trip; the cliff-top Estalagem Ponta do Sol is arguably the best hotel to spend a day-of-nothing in the sunshine.
One of the island’s most popular walks, the Rabacal trail, begins in the hills above Calheta. The trail takes you through the laurisilva forest in the Rabacal Valley, via the 100m high Cascata Risco waterfall, to one of the most beautiful spots on the island: the 25 Fontes Lagoon.
Calheta’s also home to one of the island’s few surviving rum distilleries at Engenho da Calheta. A happy by-product of the rum production process is the leftover Molasse, which is the key ingredient in one of Madeira’s oldest delicacies: Bolo de Mel. It’s a deliciously dark, sticky sponge cake filled with walnuts, almonds and spiced with cinnamon.
The marina in Calheta is one of the best jumping-off points for sailing: our skipper Joao’s Sunset Sailing Trips are a wonderful way to spend a summer's evening. A hire car isn’t crucial but it will give you the freedom to explore at your leisure, and there are some lovely levada walks in the area. Of course, you've got to set aside some time to relax in the sunshine.
Ponta do Sol has the lion's share of hotel accommodation in south-west Madeira - in addition to the Estalagem, there's the Hotel da Vila (great for couples) and the Enotel Baia Hotel (a good family option). In Calheta, there's the all-inclusive Savoy Calheta Beach and the lovely traditional-style cottages at Calhau Grande.