The Levada do Rei waterfall hike leads you on a peaceful trail into a jungle wonderland where you can find several stunning waterfalls! The trail follows the Ribeiro Bonito (Bonito River) through the jungle until you reach an atmospheric gorge featuring several small cascades and waterfalls. At the very end of the gorge you will find a giant hidden waterfall but only accessible with some basic climbing, clambering, and a sense of adventure.
LEVADA DO REI HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The total distance of the Levada do Rei hiking trail was 9.8-kilometers round-trip.
Hike Duration: The hike can be completed in about 2-3 hours depending on how long you relax and enjoy the natural gorge at the halfway point of the hike.
Hike Difficulty: This trail is one of the easiest Levada walks on Madeira. There is only a little bit incline, the trail is clearly marked and there are no moments of danger on this very popular tourist route.
Hike Incline: Total incline for this hike is just 72-meters.
HOW TO GET TO THE LEVADA DO REI HIKE
The Levada do Rei can be found in the central region of the northern coast on Madeira Island. From Funchal, the trailhead is a 54-minute drive with a distance of 50-kilometers. The trailhead is marked with a pin on the map below, but another landmark to help you find the trailhead is the Quinta Levada do Rei cafe. You can park at the cafe and enjoy a shot of espresso for one Euro to get you going before you hit the trails.
It is possible to catch the bus from Funchal but it won’t take you quite to the trailhead. You will get dropped at the Chão da Felpa bus stop and then have a 20-minute walk for just over 1-kilometer to reach the start of the trail.
WHY THE LEVADA DO REI HIKE IS POPULAR
The Levada do Rei, also known as ‘Kings Levada’, is one of the more popular trails on Madeira Island. It’s one of the top hikes because it offers a bit of everything without a strenuous incline and is one of the safest levada walks on Madeira. Because of the steep slopes on Madeira, there are very few hikes or walks 10km in distance with less than 100m of incline. However, the Levada do Rei has just 72 meters of total incline and relatively safe trails. This means you can enjoy the waterfalls, lush scenery, and the beautiful jungle walking trail without having to battle up steep hills.
The trail is an out and back route and is well-marked with signs along the way. At the 5km mark, there is a beautiful gorge area with small waterfalls and lovely pools for a refreshing swim. This is a great spot for a snack or lunch before returning.
As you can tell this hike is perfect for families, older hikers, and those who are inexperienced hikers or not conditioned to steep hikes. If you are an experienced hiker, you will still enjoy the peaceful atmosphere along this lush trail.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE LEVADA DO REI HIKE
When I decided to head up north and hike the Levada do Rei, I was expecting a pleasant stroll through the forest. The hike reportedly had almost no incline, no huge viewpoints, and no epic waterfalls so I was expecting a simple trail walk in beautiful surroundings. However, I couldn’t have imagined I would finish the hike covered in mud, wet from the chest down including my shoes!
The trail begins right next to the Quinta Levada do Rei cafe. We enjoyed a quick espresso before heading off onto the trail. You will find the sign ‘Ribeiro Bonito PR 18’ in red and yellow and a big information board at the trailhead. From that point, the trail is quite simple to follow as you just follow the levada. The Levada begins at the Water Treatment Plant at Quebradas in São Jorge, and leads you all the way to the source of the levada at the Ribeiro Bonito stream.
In the early stages of the hike, the trail was quite well maintained with manicured flowers decorating each side of the pathway. However, as the hike got deeper and deeper into the jungle the density of the trees, vines, and lush green leaves seemed to overwhelm the trail. It was beautiful to look down off the side of the pathway into the thick canopy as your eyes got lost in a sea of green.
If you let your eyes wander, there is a lot to take in on the edges of the Levada. On one side you have the views of the São Jorge and Santana farmlands amidst cliffs on the other side of the valley. On the near side, you have wildflowers, small lizards, and the leaves, roots, and vines slowly taking over the walls.
After a few kilometers, the trail enters a small tunnel, which has been drilled out through the rock. It’s only a few meters long so there’s no need for a flashlight but it does add a little bit of adventure to this part of the Levada do Rei hike.
If the tunnel wasn’t adventurous enough for you, the waterfall shower will certainly get your adrenaline going. The trail passes underneath a waterfall and there is no escaping some of the sprays is you duck underneath.
After this small waterfall that pours down onto the path, the trail becomes quite shady as it enters the depths of the Laurissilva Forest, which is a UNESCO natural heritage site. Immersed in the lush greens of the Laurissilva forest, you are now nearing the natural gorge and have just a couple of kilometers remaining to the halfway point.
The climax of the Levada do Rei is the natural gorge, which is rich in bio-diversity due to the constant of the fresh-water source. This is a great spot for a photo and to take a seat and enjoy a snack as you watch the endemic birds, such as the firecrest, scurry about the plants and rocks. Despite only walking for five kilometers to reach this natural gorge, you will truly feel a world away from civilization.
This is where it gets interesting. In amongst the gorge, there are a few dirt trails that lead to small waterfalls. These are quite easily accessible. Many hikers will view these small pools and even take a swim on a hot day. However, if you are truly adventurous and up for a slightly dangerous challenge, there is something much larger hidden at the end of the gorge.
I decided to continue down the river, in search of a larger waterfall. There is always a source and I was curious as to what came from the top of the river and if it was possible to get there. I began wading through the water in my shoes, often at times knee-deep. There was a certain point where I realized no-one went beyond this point because the trail disappeared and I had to begin scrambling up rocks and navigating through the muddy undergrowth beneath the weeping waterfall walls.
At one point, I had to clamber up a slippery wall, that had even me questioning if it was possible to continue upstream. However, my intuition told me that there was a waterfall just around the corner. I’d seen no pictures or proof of such but something told me to just keep going. I slowly made my way through each section of dense vegetation, often shin-deep in slushy mud as I was tight up against the gorge wall. Eventually, the trail lowered me down into the gorge and I was met with a chasm, behind which I could hear a roar of a waterfall.
I took off my bag and shirt and waded out into the water, which quickly reached up to my chest before I went any further into the dark, murky waters. As I edged my way around the corner, a magnificent waterfall revealed itself, hidden behind the curved walls of the gorge. I had found the source of the levada and it was incredibly beautiful with rich red rocks in stark contrast against the fluorescent greens of the lush walls. The water was freezing but I stayed long enough to marvel at the falls before taking my camera in to snap a photo of a waterfall I think very few people have been to.
There is another, slightly easier, way to view the waterfall. If you follow the faint tracks from the gorge viewpoint you can end up on top of the gorge looking down onto the waterfall through the forest. It’s a much more accessible route but still far off-the-beaten-path.
As you can see, one of the safest levada walks on Madeira quickly escalated into a full-blown adventure. I don’t really advise trying to visit the second waterfall if you aren’t too sure about the safety as there were a few moments of risk but for me, it seemed okay. Tread with caution.
After having a lunch break at the gorge, we headed back and made quick progress on our return leg of five kilometers to complete the Levada do Rei hike.
I hope you enjoyed this guide for the Levada do Rei hike!