Madeira and the Algarve
Pestana Porto Santo outdoor pool
Pestana Porto Santo bedroom with balcony
Pestana Porto Santo indoor pool
Pestana Porto Santo living room
Portugal is known for its affection and respect for children of all ages. The entire country is ideal for luxury family holidays; children are kept firmly in mind and locals bend over backwards (sometimes literally) to make sure families feel welcome. The ‘island of eternal spring’ that is Madeira hasn’t traditionally been known as a family destination but those in the know adore Madeira’s mild climate, child-friendly vibe and wholesome Atlantic diet. And while much of the Algarve may be terribly over-developed, a pocket on the western edge is stunning, relatively well preserved and loaded with luxury family hotels, including the infamous Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel.
Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort
Every now and then a luxury family hotel hits every high note. The Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort is one such property and we can't recommend it enough.
Every now and then a hotel crops up that hits every high note. The Martinhal Sagres Beach Family Resort is one such property. It was designed, specifically, with families in mind. Just over an hour's drive from Faro airport (or two and a half from Lisbon if you want to throw some culture in), the staff at Martinhal...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Villa & Book »
Pestana Porto Santo
Pestana Porto Santo is a family-oriented hotel a bucket-and-spade’s throw from one of Europe’s best holiday beaches.
This latest addition to the Pestana empire is located on Madeira’s sister island of Porto Santo and that means just one thing – beach fun. What the main island lacks in sand, Porto Santo more than makes up for with its 9 kilometer-long strip of glorious red-gold sandcastle material. Porto Santo provides a...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Choupana Hills Resort and Spa
Choupana Hills Resort & Spa is a luxurious resort that goes that little bit further to make families feel special.
If you’re keen to be slightly removed from Funchal’s city centre and the hustle of the Hotel Zone, the top-notch Choupana Hills Resort and Spa to the west of the capital, high in the island’s verdant hillscape, is a terrific choice. Those in search of a luxury family holiday will not be disappointed with the...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
The Cliff Bay
The Cliff Bay offers spectacular Atlantic vistas and a Michelin star a short hop from Funchal city centre.
It may be the views, it may be the impeccable service or Madeira’s best food that you remember from your stay at The Cliff Bay, a superb hotel, 2 kilometers from Funchal city centre. But it may also be the way staff make a gentle fuss around your young ones, as when a tot walks through the front doors here, you’d...Baby-friendly / Pre-Teen friendly / Summer Sun / See this Hotel & Book »
Quintinha Sao Joao
Quintinha São Joãois a tranquil retreat set amid fragrant subtropical gardens.
Rare is the quinta (former merchant’s mansion house) where you don’t have to rely on a minibus to reach the central action, but Quintinha Sao Joao, a fine, 150-year-old manor is within walking distance of Funchal city centre. Even so, the views across the city are still pretty special, as is the attentive...Baby-friendly / Family-friendly Spa / Pre-Teen friendly / See this Hotel & Book »
Rua Ponta da Cruz 18, Funchal
Children will love the big-family-dinner atmosphere and the nightly live music at Real Canoa, an ever-busy place at Ponta da Cruz, 3.5km west of Funchal city centre (a free bus shuttles diners to and from any hotel on request). Proceedings are overseen by owner Bruno, who’ll make sure your heirs are served the best portions of scabbard fish with banana, espetada (meat barbecued with laurel leaves) and grilled catch of the day. Real Canoa packs them in of an eve and the service is brisk, but children are prioritised, as they are across the island. After your meal, take a short stroll down the hill to take in the dramatic Madeira sunset from Ponta da Cruz.
Armazém do Sal
Rua da Alfândega 135, Funchal
Generally regarded as one of the best restaurants on the island, Armazém do Sal is naturally a wise choice for those looking to dine out with children. The choice of large but atmospheric dining spaces in and around this former salt store mean families can enjoy a bit of space and wee ones can explore a bit. The menu is populated by adeptly prepared local fish and meat, and it goes without saying that kiddie-scale portions are available. However, it may be desserts such as tropical fruit crumble and vanilla-and-pistachio ice cream that prove the biggest winners among young diners.
Venda da Donna Maria
Venda da Donna Maria, Rua de Santa Maria, 51, Funchal
Tucked away in the narrow street of Funchal’s Old Town, the food at Venda da Donna Maria is straight from grandma’s cookbook, making it one of the best places to introduce your children to real Madeiran fare. The main dining area is a jumble of tables and chairs and the crockery looks like it’s been rediscovered after three decades in a cupboard, but staff are very knowledgeable about the food they plate up. As across Madeira, it would be an insult to even ask if they have a highchair and children’s portions, and this place in particular welcomes the convivial ambience dining families generate.
The Madeira Cable Car
Adventurous souls will love the Madeira cable car, a 25-minute ride up to Monte high above the rooftops of Funchal. We recommend you take the toboggan ride down again.
Porto Moniz in the far west of the island is a more educational outing – here children can explore the Living Science Centre and the Madeira Aquarium.
Hikes along the levadas (irrigation channels – one of the main activities on the island) can be done with children, but you need to plan the day carefully – guides are reluctant to take children as they slow groups down.
More tranquil pleasures are available in the village of Camacha where most children are fascinated by the local basket weavers at work.
No beaches on Madeira? Simply not true – between west Funchal and the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos extends the black volcanic sand of Praia Formosa and there are man-made beaches in Machico and Calheta. Madeira’s sister island of Porto Santo has one of Europe’s finest beaches.
Dial 112 for emergencies. The main hospital is the Cruz Carvalho at Avenida Luis Camoes in the Martinho area of Funchal (+351 291 705 600). Pharmacies are common, especially in Funchal city centre, and the vast majority of pharmacists speak English. Bring a supply of disposable nappies if need be as the Portuguese brands (often the only type available) leave a bit to be desired.
When to go
Weather-wise, Madeira has the advantage of being a truly all-season destination with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Celsius year round. Carnival (40 days before Easter) is the most enjoyable event for kiddies with the main Saturday evening procession in Funchal sandwiched between a children’s carnival, fun performances in the Municipal Gardens and the final-day fancy dress procession for all-comers. Funchal puts on what is surely the biggest firework show on earth, come New Year’s Eve, and other firework displays pepper the events calendar.