Lapas Negras is one of the most epic and also probably up there as one of the steepest trails on Madeira. Located on the coast of Sao Vicente, Lapas Negras leads you directly up the side of a rocky cliff face. It’s a challenging, exposed, and difficult ascent that often seems close to vertical. With more than 300 meters of an incline in less than 800 meters of distance, there isn’t a much steeper trail on the island.
Lapas Negras is a series of black caves, which can be seen from the highway running through Sao Vicente. They are big enough to walk through as you traverse around the cliff to reach the coastal viewpoint. The views of the northern coastline on Madeira are quite remarkable from halfway through the hike. The route finishes off by delving into the forest and looping back around to the parking lot. It’s very overgrown, steep, and quite exposed so this should be done with a local guide or someone who has been previously.
LAPAS NEGRAS HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of my hike was 5 kilometers. However, there are definitely shorter and longer ways to do this route depending on if you have multiple cars.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 2-3 hours because the wild terrain can at times make it slow-going.
- Hike Difficulty: This trail is difficult and not for inexperienced hikers. There are a lot of dangerous moments and parts of the trail with exposure. The trail is quite overgrown and we were all scratched and bloody by the end of this one. It’s very steep and the trail isn’t laden with ropes and cables so you often need to scramble.
- My hiking guide: This trail requires some local knowledge of the directions so I recommend a guide. Want to contact João to be your guide for this hike or any of the hikes I’ve done on Madeira? You can contact him on Instagram here: João Let’s Hike or by email: [email protected]
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 640 meters
- My Strava Map Upload: Lapas Negras Route
MY 3 FAVORITE TOURS IN MADEIRA
- Dolphin & Whale Watching: Take a cruise from Funchal to spot Dolphins, Whales and see amazing views of Madeira’s coastline!
- Hike Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo: Hike the most epic trail on the island with a qualified guide!
- Level 1 Canyoning Adventure: Rappel down waterfalls in this high-adrenaline experience.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN MADEIRA
LAPAS NEGRAS TRAILHEAD
Lapas Negras is located on the northern side of Madeira in the coastal town of Sao Vicente. I’ve added the exact pin location to the trailhead below, which is near the church. There is a small parking lot with 1-2 spaces at the Praceta dos Cardais viewpoint, which is where the hike will begin. It takes about 30 minutes to reach this parking spot from downtown Funchal.
MY LAPAS NEGRAS HIKING VIDEO
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MY EXPERIENCE ON THE LAPAS NEGRAS HIKE
There’s something looming above, every time you drive through the central highway on Madeira from Funchal to the North Coast. Just before arriving at Sao Vicente, a small town on the northern coast of Madeira, you pass the Lapas Negras caves. High above on the right-hand side of the highway, a small series of caves seem ominously placed and unreachable. However, there is a wild path that leads you up into the caves and onto one of the sharpest, coastal ridges on the entire island.
After seeing the caves more than a hundred times, it was finally time to head up there with a couple of local legends. It’s the kind of trail you should only ever attempt with a local who knows the route well. I went with one of the locals from the Tainadas group who cleared the trail and another local mate.
Although it is only about one kilometer up to the caves, it is very steep and wildly overgrown. The trail weaves back and forth along a series of sharp switchbacks. We often need to clamber up and over rocky steps. There are no technical skills required for this trail but a high level of comfort with exposure, rocky scrambles, and general bush-bashing will get you far. You can see some of that terrain in the video above but most of my photos are not from this steep approach section.
What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
Once you reach the caves, you are treated to spectacular views of the entire Sao Vicente region including the church tower. It’s one of my favorite towns on the island with lots of dramatic mountain backdrops in all directions.
Technically, you could just hike back down after reaching the caves for a short, 2-km loop. However, there is much more to explore on this trail beyond the caves. The trail now winds along the edge of the cliff towards the coastline where you will ascend up toward the viewpoint. It’s an incredible view all the way down to Porto Moniz to the left and Ponta Delgada to the right. There’s a huge drop there so it’s a high-exposure, dangerous part of the route but there is no need to go near the edge as part of the trail.
After enjoying the viewpoint, you have some solid incline to churn through. The trail takes you up onto the spine of the ridge and then you begin to traverse through the dense forest. Expect to get scratched and cut on the overgrown shrubs. We all drew a lot of blood on this one so I would advise pants, long sleeves, and gaiters if you can stand them in the heat. The other concern that is starting to plague this trail is wasps. We encountered two swarms and I was stung five times while my friend had eight bites including one excruciating bite to the mouth. Good luck avoiding those.
What goes up must come down. The trail then descends very, very steeply with a high degree of difficulty along the slippery path. Concentration is key here as falling on the descent is hard to avoid. The trail eventually spits you out at a small farm and vineyard near the church. It then loops back onto the levada, which you take to the right. After less than a kilometer on the levada you will arrive back at your starting spot at the parking lot.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the Lapas Negras hike near Sao Vicente on Madeira Island. Happy Hiking!
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)
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
BEST RENTAL CAR COMPANY ON MADEIRA
When booking your Madeira car rental online, I personally recommend and always use Discover Cars. They search for both international corporations and local Madeiran companies, so you get the best deal!