EUROPE / MADEIRA

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

We take a trip to the home of Ronaldo – the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira

There’s a spontaneous and enthusiastic round of applause as our plane touches down in Madeira.

We are cheering both the gentle landing and the stunning approach to this airport said to be so challenging to land at that pilots need special training.

Stepping off the plane, I catch a first glimpse of the countless red-roofed homes scattered over the hills which will become an abiding memory from this trip.

That and the view from our hotel room, pina colada slipping down as easily as the waves roll over the rocks in the Atlantic Ocean below us.

I’ll be as bold as to say this might be one of the best hotel room views we’ve ever had.

But then we are in Madeira – an island where stunning scenery is around every corner.

Our particular corner of this Portuguese island is the village of Canico de Baixo.

And our hotel is the Riu Madeira. A large, all-inclusive resort with two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, as much fresh food as you can eat and as many cocktails as you can drink.

One of the outdoor pools at the Riu Madeira hotel

One of the outdoor pools

There’s also a tennis court, games room, an area to play bowls and evening entertainment from singers, bands, magicians and a ballroom dancing duo who call up our daughter to help demonstrate her Strictly Come Dancing skills.

The applause makes her day. And it’s the staff here, especially those in the busy restaurant area, who deserve a pat on the back.

It can’t be easy to keep guests from over 300 rooms fed and watered but they come round to top up your wine glass with an efficient smile before it’s even half emptied.

We’re almost as quick to clear our plates of tasty food. The main restaurant is buffet style catering to every possible preference. There’s also a more adult focussed Kulinarium restaurant with table service. And a poolside bar and grill.

The main bedroom in our junior suite room at Riu Madeira hotel

The main bedroom in our junior suite

Our room is a junior suite with two large beds and a sofa bed for the four of us to choose from.

Having a separate lounge area allows us to spread out as does the large dressing room area – all kept spotless by our lovely maid.

Oh and that balcony I mentioned earlier overlooking the sea. It is literally a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel

And there are plenty of stones to throw on the rocky beach.

The area around the hotel is a fun place to explore with caves, a small seawater pool, exercise equipment and a busy promenade to enjoy.

The lure of the swimming pool at our hotel is just as popular with our children – indoors if the showers sweep in, or outdoors when the sun shines.

Fortunately the sun is out for most of our week in Madeira so we can explore the narrow, hilly roads around the island.

We head east to the stunning clifftop walk of Ponta de São Lourenço .

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço

Drive north west through mountains and tunnels to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

Seawater pools in Porto Moniz

And go south to Câmara de Lobos – a fishing village made famous by Winston Churchill, who painted its pretty harbour when he came in 1950.

Children looking at Churchill's view in Camara de Lobos

Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos

One must in Madeira is to head up high.

We take the cable car from the centre of capital Funchal to Monte. It’s a spectacular ride and at the top you can enjoy the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again on the cable car.

A statue and flowers in Monte Palace Garden, Madeira

Monte Palace Garden

Another way down is by toboggan on a traditional wicker basket sleigh along steep streets, guided by two people with nothing for brakes but the grips on their shoes.

If you like heights it’s worth stopping by at the Madeira Skywalk. You can walk across a glass walkway on a balcony 580 metres above the sea attached to some of the highest cliffs in Europe.

Madeira Skywalk

Madeira Skywalk

After a busy week of highs, it’s nearly time to leave.

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk

For a last time, we awaken and pull back the curtains to enjoy the view and the sound of the Atlantic from our bed.

Then it’s back to the airport, named after the island’s most famous export.

Not its fortified wine but the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

He was born here and returns regularly and this is one happy family which may follow suit.

 

Where we stayed

The Riu Madeira hotel in Canico de Baixo, a four-star all inclusive, read our full guide and review to it here.

What to do in Madeira

*Visit the capital Funchal and take the Madeira Cable Car up to the large Monte Palace Gardens which are set on the steep hillside.

*Take a toboggan ride on a traditional wicker basket.

*Visit the traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, visited by Winston Churchill and find the spot where he painted the view. Also look for his statue in the village.

*Visit the salt water pools at Porto Moniz and the small aquarium in the town.

*Take a walk at inland Levadas – similar to canal paths – at various sites throughout Madeira. The Fanal forest walk in the north west of the island is one of the best places to explore.

*Take a walk at Ponta de São Lourenço for stunning scenery and ocean views,

*Visit Santa Catarina park Funchal with its large playground, busy lake and views over Funchal and its port.

*Football fans can stop at the CR7 Museu – a museum dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo on the waterfront in Funchal. There is a statue of the footballer outside.

*Stop by at the Madeira Skywalk on the cliffs of Cabo Girão and walk across the glass walkway on a balcony that juts out of some of the highest cliffs in Europe, 880 meters above sea level.

RELATED CONTENT: Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

*We received complimentary accommodation for some of our stay at the Riu Madeira, all views are our own.

 

 

Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

Riu Madeira – all you need to know about this refurbished all-inclusive hotel

We review the Riu Madeira Hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira and give you a video tour

We love a Riu hotel so when we found out the Riu Madeira had been refurbished, we were excited to try it out. Here’s our full review and guide to this four-star all-inclusive on the gorgeous Portuguese island of Madeira.

Name

Riu Madeira

Where is it?

The hotel is in Praia dos Reis Magos in Caniço de Baixo on the south coast of the Portuguese island of Madeira, east of the capital Funchal.

It is nestled in the hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Outdoor restaurant seating at the Riu Madeira hotel

Outdoor restaurant seating

What is it?

It’s a four-star all-inclusive hotel with three restaurants and two pools and is one of the Riu Hotels & Resorts hotels.

As it’s all-inclusive, everyone wears a wristband and all food and drink is included. It also has a spa, hairdressers, lobby bar and a big room to watch shows and entertainment each evening.

Swimming pools and the sea at the Riu Madeira hotel.

Is it family friendly?

It’s great for everyone including families. Children will love the pools, location and food – there’s so much choice that there should be something for even the fussiest eaters including pizza and three pasta options every day.

There’s a tennis court and a place to play bowls. But there isn’t a RiuLand Children’s Club as we’ve seen at other Riu hotels and the two outside pools are deep although there’s a separate little paddling pool.

The lobby or reception area at the Riu Madeira hotel

The reception area

The rooms

There are 327 rooms, including single and twin rooms along with junior suites.

They all have air-conditioning, a balcony or terrace and free Wi-Fi, which was very fast and reliable.

The main bedroom in our junior suite room at Riu Madeira hotel

The main bedroom in our junior suite

We had a fabulous junior suite with the most stunning view over the sea, wonderful to enjoy from the bed or balcony. It had two double beds pushed together and a separate area with a sofa bed. There were two televisions, a bathroom with two sinks and a shower, plus bathrobes which you could wear around the pool (not available in children’s sizes). The sound of the sea from the room was so relaxing.

The second room in our junior suite at Riu Madeira hotel

The second room in our junior suite

Food and drink

There are three restaurants and all food and drink, including alcohol, is included.

The main buffet restaurant – we ate mostly in this restaurant which serves a huge selection of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of tables inside and out, overlooking the pools. It only felt really busy on one morning, which was a Sunday.

The main buffet restaurant at Riu Madeira hotel

The main buffet restaurant

Kulinarium – this is an a la carte speciality restaurant. The food is delicious, made from local produce and the service is fantastic, staff are so attentive. The menu is small and there is no separate children’s menu but if there is nothing they fancy, you can always fetch something from the buffet restaurant. This restaurant gets booked up in advance so make sure you book a night on arrival.

Kulinarium speciality a la carte restaurant at Riu Madeira hotel

Kulinarium

Pepe’s Food – this is a poolside grill bar which has a selection of food and drink open during the day.

Pepe's Food pool bar and restaurant at Riu Madeira Hotel

Pepe’s Food

Sports and activities

There’s a hard-surface tennis court, a card games room and an area to play bowls plus a small gym.

The tennis court at Riu Madeira

The tennis court

We spotted lots of people running along the sea front and many stop to use the outdoor gym equipment dotted around on the path running behind the hotel.

We went in February half-term but from around July to mid-September there’s a daytime entertainment programme for six to 12-year-olds, six times a week.

Our hotel highlights

One of the outdoor pools at Riu Madeira

One of the outdoor pools

*The pools – the indoor pool, one of the outdoor pools and the paddling pool is heated during the winter months.

Indoor pool at Riu Madeira hotel

Indoor pool

*Entertainment –  after dinner in the show room there was a different music act each evening until around 9pm followed by a show from 9.15pm including a magic show, a circus-themed performance and an Elton John tribute. Our favourite was the ballroom dancing as our daughter got picked to have a go.

The bar area at the Riu Madeira hotel

The bar area

*Views of the sea – the view from our bed and balcony and many of the sunbeds of the ocean, were stunning.

View from the sunbeds at the Riu Madeira hotel

View from the sunbeds

*The staff – staff were so friendly and attentive throughout the hotel.

Top tips

Pool towels are available from a hut next to the outdoor pools. You are allowed one each but can swap for a dry one or for a pool card whenever you want.

The towel hut at the Riu Madeira hotel

The towel hut

Breakfast got busier later in the morning so go earlier if you can for a more relaxing experience.

If you want to eat at the a la carte Kulinarium restaurant book as soon as you arrive because it fills up quickly.

Tell us more about Madeira

Madeira is one of the Madeira Archipelago (group of islands), as well as Porto Santo, Desertas and the Selvagens. The islands are south west of Portugal, off the coast of Africa and are actually closer to Morocco than Portugal.

Madeira used to be hard to explore as it is so mountainous with rugged coasts, but today there are raised roads and loads of tunnels – two of them over 1.9 miles long.

My abiding memory of Madeira will be of all the red-roofed homes scattered over the hills and the pretty lights sparkling on the hillsides at night, which you can even see from the airport as soon as you arrive.

The view of red roofed buildings from the Madeira Cable Car from Funchal to Monte

The view from the Madeira Cable Car

Nearby

If you leave the hotel by its rear exit, you cross a narrow path to get to the pebbly beach.

It’s pretty to look at but not easy to walk on and quite hard to swim from – you’ll need shoes and there are a lot of rocks plus the sea seems rough. There is a jetty with steps down into the sea and further around to the left is a part sectioned off by rocks which feels safer to swim in.

The pebbly beach at Riu Madeira Hotel

The beach is pebbly

Madeira is a wonderful island to explore. We had a hire car and marvelled at some of the steep mountain roads.

The capital Funchal is just a 15-minute drive from Riu Madeira. We were lucky enough to be there during its Carnival celebrations and enjoyed one of the colourful parades.

We took a cable car from Funchal, it’s a stunning ride up to the top where we visited the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again.

Monte Palace Gardens

Monte Palace Gardens

Another way back down but not for the faint-hearted is by the famous Madeira Toboggan Ride. Passengers on wicker basket sledges are helped down the hill by two runners wearing straw boaters, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century and experienced by my grandparents in the 1970s.

We also visited the traditional fishing village Camara de Lobos which was loved by Winston Churchill after he visited in 1950 and stood at the site where he painted a portrait of the bay.

Children looking at Churchill's view in Camara de Lobos

Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos

We headed east to the stunning clifftop walk of Porto do San Lourenco and drove north west to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.

A seawater pool at Porto Moniz

A seawater pool at Porto Moniz

When to go to the Hotel Riu Madeira

We went in February when the average temperature is 20 degrees and the rain is 97mm. This was perfect for us as we don’t like it too hot. Here is a year-round look at the average weather in Madeira:

January 20 degrees, 80mm rainfall
February 20 degrees, 97mm rainfall
March 21 degrees, 53mm rainfall
April 21 degrees, 55m rainfall
May 22 degrees, 22mm rainfall
June 24 degrees, 6mm rainfall
July 26 degrees, 1mm rainfall
August 27 degrees, 2mm rainfall
September 27 degrees, 28mm rainfall
October 25 degrees, 89mm rainfall
November 23 degrees, 88mm rainfall
December 21 degrees, 118mm rainfall

Riu Madeira more information

Accessibility: The hotel is on a hillside but is said to be generally suitable for those with reduced mobility. There are stairs up from the pool area to the restaurant and reception but also a small lift.

Facilities: Gym, hair salon, spa, tennis court, bowls, three restaurants, three pools, paddling pool, free Wifi.

The gym/fitness suite/centre at the Riu Madeira hotel

The gym

 

Address: Praia dos Reis Magos, 9125-024 Caniço de Baixo, Portugal

How to book: Riu Madeira

RELATED CONTENT: Madeira – an island of highs, views and pretty red roofs

We were given complimentary accommodation for part of our stay in exchange for this review. All views are our own.