5 Reasons to Escape to Madeira This Summer


If you haven’t heard of Portugal’s Madeira (the place, not the wine), don’t be surprised. Located off Africa’s northwest coast, it consists of four islands, only two of which are inhabited: Madeira and Porto Santo, which in 2024 was named Europe’s Leading Beach Destination by World Travel Awards. But, so far, it has been mostly off travelers’ radars.

Madeira Island offers stunning vistas, outdoor adventures, low tourist traffic, gourmet food and posh hotels. And getting there is easier than ever, so it’s a great time to plan a trip. SATA Azores Airlines is offering nonstop service from Boston’s Logan International Airport this summer and year-round nonstop service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. .

Travelers who have discovered Madeira enjoy a slower pace and fewer crowds than many other vacation destinations, as well as these top five attributes.

Madeira Vacation Packages With AAA

The tropical paradise of Madeira awaits with direct flights from Boston and New York.

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Five members of the AAA Northeast travel team recently went to the island of Madeira, gathering firsthand experience to help guide members interested in visiting. They all returned with rave reviews and unanimously praised the abundance of natural beauty.

“It’s a hidden gem,” said Nicole Ekholm, a travel project specialist who participated in the trip. Ekholm is of Portuguese descent and speaks Portuguese.

Ponta de São Lourenço is one of the most visited places on the island of Madeira.

“I loved Madeira!” added travel advisor Jodi Abata. “I loved the diversity of things to do and the interesting topography … from the beautiful beaches and coastline to the picturesque hills filled with gardens and vineyards.”

Known for its variety of rare plants and flowers, one place not to miss is Madeira Natural Park, which was created in 1982 to preserve these natural treasures. Classified as a biogenetic reserve, the park is home to an enormous range of plant life.

Travel advisor Amy Orzechowski was amazed at the landscape. “I was not familiar with how beautiful and picturesque it really is.”

©Tiago Sousa Desenquadrado

Outdoor Adventures

Formed by a volcano and known for its rocky terrain, the archipelago of Madeira is popular with hikers – especially thrill-seekers. The island’s network of 1,926 miles of levadas, which are irrigation trenches built into the mountains, attract daring hikers who follow paths adjacent to the trenches down the mountains. The levadas, some of which are 600 years old, provided water for drinking, farming, power and enabled a sugar cane industry to thrive for centuries.

Hiking in less treacherous forest locations is also popular, as is parasailing, off-roading, paragliding and swimming in natural pools. The island also has two man-made beaches and a waterfront.


For years, Madeira was known as a wellness retreat for the rich and famous. Winston Churchill was a regular visitor, as was Stephen Hawking, who went seeking rejuvenation.

Visitors can spend time in the islands’ capital city of Funchal on Madeira, cited for being accessible for people of all abilities. Tour the waterfront and continue to downtown, which besides several cathedrals, houses the Museum of Sacred Art. Plan a visit to the Madeira Wine, Embroidery and Handicrafts Institute, which preserves the island’s longtime tradition of embroidery and displays works that are more than 150 years old.

“I felt like I was in the Caribbean and Europe at the same time,” Abata said.


Don’t forget to schedule a tour of one or more vineyards to learn how delicious Madeira wine is made. Madeira is one of the few regions of the world that produces mountain wine.

Take time to sip a glass of Madeira or Poncha, the island’s favorite rum punch cocktail, while relaxing at an outdoor cafe.



Not surprisingly, many of Madeira’s culinary specialties come from the sea. These include grilled limpets, a type of mollusk, and varieties of broiled fish. Steak skewers with cornmeal nuggets are another regional favorite, as are a variety of hearty soups.

Madeira is still being discovered by U.S. tourists, but that is rapidly changing, said Ekholm. “If you want a good combination of food, culture and activity, it can be a better value vacation than Hawaii or the Caribbean.”

Contact your AAA travel advisor and plan your next getaway today!

Have you been to Madeira? Would you like to go? Tell us in the comments.

Featured image: Praia do Porto Santo5. ©Henrique Seruca


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3 Thoughts on “5 Reasons to Escape to Madeira This Summer

  1. I’ve never been to Madeira, but my grandfather’s family is from there originally, so I’ve always wanted to go. Might be the time.

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