QUICK PICKS: TOP 3 TOURS ON MADEIRA
Don’t have time to read my entire article about the best boat tours on Madeira? No worries! All in all, these are the most popular Madeira boat trips.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN MADEIRA
- Ultimate Luxury: Les Suites at Cliff Bay best location and view
- Best Value: Hotel Alto Lido – Funchal rooftop swimming pool under 100 Euros
- Budget Hostel in Funchal: Santa Maria Hostel is easily the top hostel in Funchal
10 BEST BOAT TOURS ON MADEIRA COMPARISON TABLE
To sum up, here’s a table listing the top 10 boat tours on Madeira and their rates per person. If you’re interested in booking other tours than just Madeira boat trips, try my 20 Best Tours on Madeira Guide. And if you want to hike through the Island as I did, here are my 60 Best Hikes on Madeira.
10 BEST BOAT TOURS ON MADEIRA
The following are the 10 best boat tours on Madeira. From whale-watching adventures to catamaran cruises and historical voyages, there’s something for everyone in the following list. Get Your Guide is a popular booking platform for activities on Madeira and one I recommend to reserve these tours. If you’re interested in booking other tours than just Madeira boat trips, try my 20 Best Tours on Madeira Guide. Whether you swim with dolphins or explore nearby islands, I hope you’ll find the perfect Madeira boat trip for you.
DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING CATAMARAN CRUISE
Dolphin and Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise: this is the most popular boat tour on Madeira, and with over 1000 5-star reviews, it’s easy to see why. The cruise departs from Funchal and begins with a sail around the stunning coastline. The experienced captain and crew then explore the waters off the coast for dolphin and whale sightings.
Following the wildlife encounters, snorkeling equipment is provided for a swim in the sea. The cliffside of Cabo Girão makes for an epic backdrop to your afternoon swim. Meanwhile, drinks are available for purchase at the onboard bar. And even though the marine life may remain elusive, guests still enjoy a memorable sail along the coast of Madeira. For that reason, it’s the most booked Madeira boat trip.
Funchal Sunset Tour by Catamaran
Funchal Sunset Tour by Catamaran: For those wanting a romantic Madeira boat tour, look no further than this Funchal sunset catamaran cruise. To begin with, this tour departs from the Marina do Funchal and spends the next 3 hours sailing off into the sunset along the south coast of Madeira. A knowledgeable crew will be on hand to provide information in English and Portuguese, with historic sites and dolphins and whales to be seen.
What’s more, if no dolphins or whales are spotted, guests receive a 2nd trip free of cost. In truth, spending golden hour sailing along one of the most beautiful islands in the world is more than worth the price of the tour, but the guarantee is a thoughtful touch. Lastly, don’t forget to pack a wind-jacket and warm clothes for the evening sail home. Altogether, this is one of the best Funchal boat trips available.
Flagship Tour of Santa Maria de Colombo
Flagship Tour of Santa Maria de Colombo: If you’ve visited the nearby island of Porto Sato, you’ll have heard that Christopher Columbus once called the island home, even marrying the governor’s daughter there. Rumor has it he learned much about sailing while living on the island and stopping through Madeira’s ports. In view of Madeira’s role in maritime history, this tour of a replica of the Santa Maria is very popular.
This Madeira boat trip takes passengers on a journey back through time. The ship is a well-made replica of the Santa Maria, a 15th-century ship sailed by Colombus. Certainly, it’s a bit touristy, but it’s well worth the ticket. Firstly, the sail begins with a visit to Cabo Girão, the highest sea cliff in Europe, and the second highest in the world. Here, guests can swim in the warm Atlantic waters, with local wine and honey cake on offer. Afterward, the tour slowly returns to Funchal. Dolphins and whales are occasionally spotted, marking the end to a perfect day on the water. For these reasons, it’s one of the most popular boat tours on Madeira.
Dolphin and Whale Watching Luxury Catamaran
Dolphin and Whale Watching Luxury Catamaran: This Madeira boat tour is also a dolphin and whale watching excursion, but on a luxurious catamaran. The trip begins at the Funchal Marina, where the crew will provide a quick briefing before setting sail. Guests can choose from a luxurious interior or outdoor sun beds and trampoline nets.
While keeping an eye open for cetaceans, the catamaran sails for Cabo Girão. The 1000m cliff rising above makes a gorgeous backdrop while you sunbathe or swim in the sea. Snorkeling gear is provided for those wishing to explore underwater. Finally, the journey ends with a leisurely cruise back to the marina, capping off a wonderful Funchal boat trip.
Swimming with Dolphins
Swimming with Dolphins: personally, this is my favorite Madeira boat trip, and one I highly recommend. It’s also one of the most popular tours on Madeira, full stop. The tour departs out of Funchal, and heads out to sea with an experienced crew. The regulations for swimming with Madeira’s dolphins are strict – in order to prevent disturbing their natural behaviors. Due to this, entering the water is not always guaranteed. In fact, dolphin sightings alone can’t be certain, which makes their guarantee so welcome.
That is, if no dolphins are seen, you can reschedule for free, or receive a voucher valid for two years. Additionally, if swimming isn’t possible, guests receive a refund between the price of the viewing and the swimming trip. For those lucky enough to swim with wild dolphins, both common dolphins and spotted dolphins can be encountered.
Throughout the swimming experience, guests remain safely connected to the boat, while being gently pulled along the water. Curious dolphins glide past and interact with swimmers in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In light of this, swimming with dolphins is one of my favorite boat tours on Madeira.
Desertas Island Full-Day Catamaran Trip
Desertas Island Full-Day Catamaran Trip: The ecologically protected Desertas islands make for a beautiful day trip from Madeira. On this catamaran trip, guests set sail along the southern coast of Madeira, heading to the rugged islands on the horizon. Once at Desertas, you’ll drop anchor at one of the volcanic beaches and enjoy a refreshing swim. After that, you’ll disembark at Deserta Grande, the only island in the chain accessible to tourists.
The rest of the islands are a protected reserve, with scientists studying the local marine life. As a result, the waters along Desertas are pristine and can offer rare sightings of local wildlife. At any rate, guests can visit the conservation center on Deserta Grande to learn more about the conservation efforts in the area. Finally, you’ll set sail on the return journey to Funchal to end the Catamaran trip. All in all, it’s a wonderful Madeira boat trip to the neighboring island chain.
Dolphin and Whale Watching Sailing Trip
Dolphin and Whale Watching Sailing Trip: This is a wonderful way to experience the usual Madeira dolphin and whale watching tour. Being that most of the other tours take place on crowded catamarans, this journey offers guests the opportunity to board a sailboat for more nautical vibes. Overall, this Madeira boat trip feels less touristy than a lot of the others and offers an incredible day of sailing off the coast.
Other than that, the trip follows the same itinerary as the other dolphin and whale-watching cruises. The ship departs from Funchal ad heads to Cabo Girão. There, you can swim or snorkel with provided gear. This tour does include a complimentary drink, which is a nice upgrade compared to the other tours. In any case, this is a great alternative Madeira boat tour.
All-Inclusive Luxury Catamaran
All-Inclusive Luxury Catamaran: This is yet another upgraded option to the usual catamaran trips. It’s a little over double the price of the other boat trips on Madeira, but well worth the splurge. Again, the itinerary follows the standard route – Funchal to Cabo Girão for a swim, with dolphin and whale watching along the way. The only difference is in the unlimited food and beverage whilst on board.
For instance, guests are served sparkling wine before setting off. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages regularly make the rounds, and drinks are unlimited – including alcohol. The crew is also trained to a tee and provides impeccable VIP service. With smaller group sizes as well, the tour has the feeling of a private charter, making for a memorable Funchal boat trip.
Ponta de São Lourenço Boat Tour
Ponta de São Lourenço Boat Tour: This is an adventurous way to explore the coast along São Lourenço, one of the most scenic parts of the island. Unlike the other tours on the list, this trip departs from Marina Quinta do Lorde. Once on the speed boat, you’ll sail around the beautiful coastline of Ponta de São Lourenço as well as Ilhéu do Desembarcadouro, the North Coast.
Viewing the oldest lighthouse in the Madeira Archipelago is a highlight, as well as cruising into hidden caves and bays. The best part is that there are several options for starting and end points to this tour, meaning you can get dropped off and finish the boat tour with a hike if you wish. On the whole, it’s an exhilarating way to view one of Madeira’s most iconic landmarks, and one of my favorite boat trips in Madeira.
Dolphin & Whale Watching Sunset Sailing
Dolphin & Whale Watching Sunset Sailing: The final tour on the list combines a few of my favorite things. Dolphins, sunsets, and sailing. This tour begins in Funchal just as the light begins the change. As you sail along the south coast, dolphins and whales can often be seen. Then while daylight changes to golden hour, enjoy a swim alongside the sea cliffs of Cabo Girão.
Each guest receives a complimentary adult drink, which is best enjoyed as the sun begins to set. Undoubtedly, onboard a sailboat is one of the best ways to enjoy a Madeiran sunset. Afterward, the tour returns to Funchal, while guests can enjoy blue hour hues on the journey home. This is one of the most magical Madeira boat trips out there, and one I can’t recommend enough.
In conclusion, these are the top 20 Boat Tours in Madeira. Each of these is an excellent way to enjoy this beautiful island, and I highly recommend trying at least one on your upcoming stay. Just don’t forget the sunscreen and the jacket for the journey home!
WONDERING ABOUT WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA?
Throughout my six months on Madeira Island, I stayed in multiple accommodations. My favorite regions to stay in were Funchal and Canico de Baixo. I’ve created several guides to help you find the right region for you and a great hotel or apartment.
- The ultimate guide: WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA: WHICH REGION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
- If you want luxury: BEST 5-STAR LUXURY HOTELS ON MADEIRA ISLAND
- To feel at home: TOP 10 BOUTIQUE HOTELS ON MADEIRA ISLAND
- If you want to base in Funchal: WHERE TO STAY IN FUNCHAL: 15 TOP-RATED HOTELS
HAVE YOU READ MY OTHER MADEIRA BLOGS?
I spent six months exploring Madeira and the nearby island of Porto Santo. These are some of my most popular guides about the region that you may be interested in.
- My favorite hikes: 65 AWESOME HIKES ON MADEIRA
- My favorite levada walks: 25 BEAUTIFUL LEVADA WALKS ON MADEIRA
- The best waterfalls on the island: 25 EPIC WATERFALLS ON MADEIRA
- Guide to the best Accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON MADEIRA
- Hardest hike: THE MADEIRA ISLAND ULTRA TRAIL IN 4 DAYS (115KM)
- Longest hike: CAMINHO REAL 23: MADEIRA’S ROYAL PATH (180KM)
BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY ON MADEIRA
When you book your Madeira Rental Car online, I personally recommend and always use Discover Cars. They search for both local and international companies, so you get the best deal! MUST Read: Guide to Renting a Car on Madeira