Huge cliffs, big wave pointbreaks, low crowds, and subtropical climes. It’s the description you associate with Hawaii, or Tahiti, a remote Maldivian atoll, perhaps? You’ll find all this and more just hours from mainland Europe.
This European island gem is often dubbed the “Hawaii of Europe,” and for great reason, with countless surf setups, stunning natural beauty, and a relaxed pace of living, making Madeira hard to resist. If you think the island could be your next surf trip destination, here’s everything you need to know about surfing in Madeira.
Table of Contents
How to Get to Madeira?
Fly to Funchal from most major cities in western Europe. From further afield, head to Lisbon and jump on a connecting flight from there. Check out the best flight routes here. The only way to get to Madeira is to fly or take a cruise, but if you’re after waves, hop on a plane, then you’ll be free to explore at your leisure.
Getting Around in Madeira
While only a tiny island, it takes 4-5 hours to circumnavigate Madeira; you’ll still need a car to get around. Because of the steepness of the island, it often takes longer to get between towns than you think.
Pick up a hire car from Funchal airport and hit the road. No matter where you stay, you’ll need a car to head between your accommodation and surf spots and to explore all the other cool stuff the island offers. Check out rental cars in Funchal here.
Best Time of Year to Surf in Madeira
Madeira can have waves year-round. However, the best time to surf in Madeira is during Winter. (October – April). This is when the largest North Atlantic swells hit Madeira and light up the various point breaks.
Madeira Surf Forecast
Surf Info Overview
Best Surf Spots in Madeira
There are countless points and rocky outcrops that, on the right day, have the potential to produce world-class waves in Madeira. However, due to accessibility and fickleness, don’t rely on scoping these out. Instead, there are some go-to spots where most surfing happens on the island.
Jardim do Mar
Jardim Do Mar is the wave that put surfing in Madeira on the map. A large intimidating wave that never gets too big. Waves rise from the deep ocean, marching down the point with full force. Jardim handles anything from 4 – 20ft.
Unfortunately, the spot has lost some of its allure due to the seawall construction in front of the wave. Nowadays, you can’t surf it when it’s below 3-4ft, and even still, you’ll only get 1 hour at low tide before it starts breaking almost directly onto the rocks.
If the swell gets big, you’ll need a gun and paddle out on the slipway, no easy feat! But make it out, and you’ll be rewarded with huge, sweeping rights–an intimidating spot for advanced surfers and hard chargers only.
Luckily, since the seawall was built, there is an alternative option for surfing in Madeira. Ponta Paquena has replaced Jardim as the go-to surf spot. It breaks at all tides but is better at mid-low as waves break closer to the reef, further from the boulder-strewn shoreline.
You can access the wave by either paddling from the pier in Paul do Mar or walking 20 minutes across the boulders from Jardim. You surf under massive vertical cliffs, and the wave is fast, handles size, finishing abruptly onto boulders –make sure your kick-out game is strong!
Paul do Mar
While Paul Do Mar needs specific conditions to start working, this wave is a fast boulder point break, where you’ll spend more time racing past boulders than ripping into turns.
It only works on the biggest swells and right swell direction, but when it does turn on, this spot is another fast, perfect right-hander just south of Jardim.
On the north coast, there are a handful of other spots, mainly left points. Again breaking over boulders, Jalena is the pick for quality and consistency for the north coast lefts. Check if the swell is north and the wind blows from the south or southwest.
Top Beginner Surf Spots
Madeira Surf Spot Map
Here’s an overview of Madeira’s best and most well-known surf spots.
Where to Stay?
Madeira Surf Camp
Madeira Surf Camp is a laid-back hostel located in Porto Da Cruz. Newly renovated and regarded as the go-to best surf camps in Madeira. While you’ll need a car to access some of the island’s premier breaks, this camp puts you in an ideal spot to surf as a beginner in Maderia.
Funchal 109 gives you somewhere to stay without breaking the bank if you’re on a budget surf trip to Madeira. While Funchal is 40 minutes five from the nearest surf break, you can grab a hostel bed here for around $22 per night.
If you’re looking for somewhere outstanding to stay close to Jardim, I’d highly recommend Villa Flora, about 15 minutes driving (above Jardim); while not the cheapest surf trip rental you’ll ever find, if there are a few of you (it sleeps 6) you can split an incredible place, complete with a pool, sick view, and spacious interior. Check it out here.
Tips for Surfing in Madeira
All the waves you surf in Madeira break over a rock reef in front of a boulder point/shoreline. The waves here break more toward the shore than at a traditional point break you might find in Mexico or Australia. Rocks pop up as you race down the line at most spots, particularly at Jardim and Paquena.
Because of the cliffs and rock-strewn coastline, getting in and out of the water can be tricky in Maderia. For instance, Jardim requires a paddle out from a concrete jetty with shore break slamming into it, whereas in other spots, you’ll need to jump off a boulder beach and time it between sets.
Additionally, the cliffs are super steep so you may be staying “close” to somewhere, but because you need to drive up and down a winding road or through a tunnel, it often takes much longer than you anticipate.
Madeira receives some serious swell. In winter, large North Atlantic storms hit the Madeiran coastline–arriving at the boulder points with full force. Surfing in Madeira has a true Hawaiian-style feel—a raw, powerful deep ocean vibe. You could be surfing a 3-4ft day but always feel like something bigger could come through at any moment.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Digital Nomad Surfing in Madeira
With decent accommodations throughout Madeira, nothing stops you from working remotely and living that digital nomad surfing lifestyle in Madeira. However, the island doesn’t have that rich digital nomad surf community culture you might find at other digital nomad surf hotspots such as Ericeira on the mainland or Mexico’s Puerto Escondido.
But if you’re traveling with family or just want peace and quiet, you could easily work remotely and score waves in Madeira.
Non-surfing Activities in Madeira
As you’d expect from a popular tourist destination, Madeira has countless non-surf-related activities. The coastline is beautiful, with dramatic green/red cliffs plunging hundreds of meters into the sea below. Some cool things to check out:
Sea pools at Ponta Moniz
While all this stuff is great, my best experiences in Madeira were post-surf strolls around Jardim and Paul Do Mar, sipping espressos at cafes, and relaxing under the scenery. Many of the above “things to do” can get crowded!
If you’re a European surfer looking to escape the harsh winters further north, Madeira is an awesome escape. The waves are uncrowded; the scenery is beautiful, temps moderate to sub-tropical, and the pace of life here forces you to slow down and relax.
I’d highly recommend surfing in Maderia, even if you just go once. Just bring your balls, a big-wave gun, and your hill starts.
Madeira Surf - FAQs
Yes, Madeira has incredible waves. Long powerful point breaks break under beautiful big cliffs.
Yes, they can; although Madeira is not ideal for beginners, you can surf at Porta Da Cruz.
You’ll need a 3/2mm wetsuit or short arm during the warmer months.