Porto da Cruz in Madeira is nestled in the cliffs and surrounded by wilderness.
It is a great place to visit, and a wonderful option to find accommodation for those looking to listen to the sound of waves.
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with tips, map, photos and things to do in Porto da Cruz.
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Why visit Porto da Cruz in Madeira?
Porto da Cruz is one of my favorite villages in Madeira, especially to spend a few nights.
It is not easy to explain why, but this place has something special.
- It is nestled between cliffs and mountains, protected by the imposing giant hill, Penha d'Aguia
- You can see the cliffs all the way to Ponta de Sao Lourenço
- It is quiet, away from the crowded popular places
- Yet, it has a great sea water swimming pool
- It is practical to drive to some of the main hikes on the island.
- And you can fall asleep listening to the waves crashing on the beach
Porto da Cruz means Port of the Cross. Its name is probably because explorers in the 15th century, made a cross here from wood found in the river (and later a cross of steel) to better identify the location from the ocean.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips & Map - Porto da Cruz, Madeira
How to get to Porto da Cruz - Map
- East of the North coast of Madeira
- Funchal to Porto da Cruz = 35min drive
- Santana to Porto da Cruz = 15min drive
- Short drive from the main road VE1, between tunnels,
- Below is a map to locate it and get oriented:
This highlight (with GPS coordinates and practical tips) is included in my travel Guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Madeira trip:
Plan your perfect trip around Madeira!
- Best visited with a car
- Public transportation reaches Porto da Cruz but is limited - check website
- Small carpark near the restaurant and small carpark near the church
- And also a carpark near Praia da Alacca, at the other end of the seafront promenade
- Easy to walk around, especially with the waterfront promenade
- Few restaurants on the seafront
Need to rent a car in Madeira?
- Compare car rental prices on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (remember you need enough power for the steep roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Where to stay
- HOTEL - Costa Linda - Check out photos and availability
- HOTEL - Vila Bela - Check out photos and availability
- RENTAL HOUSE - Modern and close to the water - Check out photos and availability
- GUESTHOUSE - Madeira Surf Camp with shared kitchen - check out pictures and availability
- HOSTEL - Jaca Hostel in Porto da Cruz, close to the beach - check out photos and availability
- or see best rated accommodations in Porto da Cruz
More tips on my article about where to stay in Madeira
Porto da Cruz beaches
The best part of Porto da Cruz is the seafront.
Here you can see tall cliffs all around and listen to the waves crashing.
Such a great place to relax.
There are 2 beach areas.
Praia da Alacca
To the West of the town, just below the Penha d'Aguia rock cliffs, is Praia da Alacca.
The scenery here is very dramatic thanks to the 590m high rock.
So even if you don't plan on swimming, this is a nice place to sit and relax while admiring nature.
- Easy access via a few stairs
- Not a very long beach
- Black pebbles of various sizes
Praia do Porto da Cruz beach & Calhau surf school
If front of the restaurant area and to the East, is the other beach Praia de Porto da Cruz.
- No facilities
- Pebble & rock beach
- Good waves - there is consistent surf
- It is a spot appreciated for surfing. Winter is the best time.
Between the 2 beach areas mentioned above, there is a nice short promenade around the cliffs.
It is paved all the way. And you can enjoy the sound of the waves crashing below you.
This is where you can appreciate the geological history of the island.
You can see successive layers of volcanic and basaltic rocks.
First from Praia da Alacca, you can enjoy the views of Penha d'Aguia, the Eagle rock.
And as you walk east, you can enjoy expansive views of the North Coast all the way to Ponta de Sao Lourenço.
A phenomenal view under all weather.
Below is a picture with my zoom. You really all the way to the tip of Madeira's dragon tail!
The promenade also goes along the seawater pools, where waves sometimes keep feeling it.
The view is great with the tiny village behind.
And on the other side of the town center, you can keep walking along the seafront, over a small bridge and up.
The path becomes a trail, but offers beautiful views.
Porto da Cruz pools
Porto da Cruz is also famous for its 2 swimming pools: one large one with various depths, and a small one for kids.
They are filled with sea-water and offer magnificent views of the coast.
- solar loungers,
- small entry fee.
This is not a natural pool like in Porto Moniz, but it is still a great experience to enjoy.
Learn more about Madeira's natural pools.
Sugar cane & Rum factory - Engenho do Norte
The other main reason to visit Porto da Cruz is the Sugar cane and Rum factory.
ENGENHO DO NORTE - factory & museum
The current factory dates back to around 1927 with gear from the 19th century.
- West side of town, near the Alacca beach
- Active from March to May to produce rhum
- Open to visitors the rest of the year
- Opening hours - Mon to Fri: 9am to 6pm / Sat 10am to 5pm / closed on Sundays
- Free access
Sugar making in Madeira
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Madeira was one of the most famous places in the World for its production of sugar.
It was introduced on the island in 1425.
The first sugar made in Madeira was manufactured in Machico.
Historical documents indicate that in the 16th century, there were 4 sugar mills in Machico, 2 in Faial and one in Porto da Cruz.
Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, production involved many steps:
- Harvesting the sugar cane, one year after planting
- cutting and crushing the cane in the mill
- Cooking the juice in metal boilers - this makes the syrup guarapo
- Purging by pouring the guarapo into clay moulds to crystallize the sugar
- Removal of sugar loaves from the mould
- Sorting according to quality
Rhum production in Madeira
Nowadays, sugar canes grown in Madeira is used exclusively to produce rum. The denomination Rum da Madeira is protected.
It takes 12kg of sugar to produce 1L of Rhum (with 50% alcohol by volume).
The 2017 production was 12,000 tons - including 3300 tons processed in this factory.
The town & church - things to do in Porto da Cruz
The village / town is small (it is at the limit with around 2600 inhabitants in the area).
It is quick to tour its center.
In the past, it was a fertile land with sugar cane plantations.
Porto da Cruz church - Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe
The Saint of Porto da Cruz is Virgem Guadalupe. The church is consecrated in her name: Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe.
It was inaugurated in 1957, when the town first had electricity.
If you are looking for a place to sit and relax, you can find a nice balcony with beaches just above the seafront.
This is also a great place to chat with locals.
The Engenho Velho Museum
In the town center, by the river, there is a small museum with antique tools and machinery: the Engenho Velho Museum.
Check their facebook page for the latest information.
Along the seafront, you can find a few restaurants.
The views are wonderful, but I must admit that none of them convinced me in terms of food or service. Ok, but nothing special.
Things to do near Porto da Cruz
Miradouro da Portela
One of the best views of Porto da Cruz and Penha d'Aguia is from Miradouro da Portela.
It is a sinuous mountain road to get to it, but wide enough and not difficult. Light is good all day.
On the other side of Penha d'Aguia is the town of Faial with its fort, its beach and more views!
Santana Traditional Houses
The most famous town in the area is Santana.
This is due to its charming traditional houses - A-shaped and colorful. There is an open-air museum attraction to learn more about the history of Madeira.
Rocha do Navio
4 of the best hikes within 40min drive
Other less famous hikes in the area
- Walk up Penha d’Águia – difficult with some dangerous section
- Levada Do Castelejo
- Boca do Risco - old communication path with Machico
- Levada Nova
- Porto da Cruz is also famous for its Trail competition once a year
- There is a circuit in the mountains with various distances: 43km, 22km and 10km
- Check the date to avoid the potential crowds - website
Want to see more of the best Madeira offers?
- 42 Madeira travel tips to plan an unforgettable trip - read article
- The best landscapes in Madeira in 40 pictures - read article
- The 7 cables cars in Madeira and their amazing views - read article
- Tips to rent a car and drive around Madeira - read article
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