The Pico de Baixo peak is a 209-meter, steep mountain on the east side of Porto Santo Island. It’s not an official hiking route but it is one of the best sunrise views on the island and a fun climb involving some sketchy scrambling, and some sand dune sliding. This is an adventure for those willing to get a little dirty, maybe a few scrapes and do some scrambling up the mountainside.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN PORTO SANTO
PICO DE BAIXO HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike was 4 kilometers but you can shorten it if you don’t walk through the tunnel and just go straight up and down the peak.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 2 hours if you have a break at the viewpoint to watch the sunrise. If you just go straight up and down, I’m sure it can be done in under 1.5 hours.
- Hike Difficulty: This is an unofficial trail. Very unofficial. When I arrived at Porto dos Frades, I had no idea it was possible to climb the peak. I just drove to Porto dos Frades because I knew it would face east for sunrise. However, I saw a possible route up and just went for it. If you go up and down via the sand dune side, on the eastern edge of the mountain it is much easier. I figured this out once I was at the top and it was light so I could analyze the best path. I went up from the south side in the dark and it was quite technical and involved a lot of scrambling so I would avoid that as it wasn’t super safe. You can see on the map I have linked below the route I took on the east side up the peak. This was super easy (if you are capable of scrambling and handling some incline) to get up and down with just a few slips here and there. The peak is 203 meters so you can expect to get the legs pumping as you go directly up the steep hill.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 250 meters.
- My Strava Map Upload: Pico de Baixo
HOW TO GET TO THE PICO DE BAIXO HIKE TRAILHEAD
The place where I began the hike was the Porto dos Frades parking lot. The road actually continues wide enough for a car on the gravel surface but because of potential rockfall, it is best to park in the parking lot. I’ve added the pin location for the Porto dos Frades parking lot below. Once you park the car, simply head around the coast to the right and you will see the sand dunes on your right. This is where you can begin your scramble. Alternatively, I went through the rock tunnel further down the path and then scrambled up the rocks on the southern side of Pico de Baixo. This was more difficult.
The next day I hiked up Pico do Maçarico, which is the peak next to Pico de Baixo. I saw a trail that connects the two peaks, which would be much easier than scrambling from sea-level to Pico de Baixo. It’s easy to get up to Pico do Maçarico but I haven’t done the connecting trail so can’t speak for its difficulty although I saw on several hiking sites that it can be connected so that could be something to consider.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE PICO DE BAIXO HIKE
I knew the east coast would be a great region to watch the sunset so I set off looking for a nice spot to watch the morning glow. There are several viewpoints on the east but Porto dos Frades is the one that allows you to drive closest to the coast without having to hike in from the main road. Therefore, I chose to park at Porto dos Frades and explore from there.
I noticed Ponta da Gale on the map with a dirt trail leading to it so I decided to head there for sunrise and see what everything looked like. As I made my way along the dirt trail toward the rocky point, I had the desire to climb Pico de Baixo and began to look for a possible route up the side of the mountain. In the dark, it was hard to pick the best line. The below photo was taken on the walk back when it wasn’t so dark but I wanted to show you guys the gravel trail.
I ended up going through the tunnel, which passes underneath the ridge of Ponta da Gale and then I found a sketchy line to the top. I thought I would at least check it out and the next thing I knew I was halfway up the cliff after edging my way meter by meter. The rocks were loose and the gravel was soft underfoot, which makes it very hard to scramble up. I needed to take it somewhat slow to make sure of my footing. Below is a photo from inside the tunnel and from an aerial perspective above the tunnel.
It took me about 40 minutes to reach the summit of Pico de Baixo on my sketchy little line to the top. I think if you came up the route via the sand dunes you could be up in under 20 minutes with no problems.
The last 30% of the ascent was much easier than the early sections because there was vegetation and strong boulders, which made the climb easier than the loose rocks and gravel. As I climbed, I couldn’t see where the sun would rise but just as I rounded the last corner, a slither of the sun edged its way over the horizon. I had made it in time! These are the types of adventures I love.
On top of the peak, there is a rocky ridgeline but nothing else. Just a natural mountain with panoramic views of Porto Santo Island. I could see all the way along the coast to the west side of Porto Santo and felt like I was looking down on the port. Pico do Macarico towered behind me as it also began to glow with the first light of the day.
I flew the drone out over the ocean to check out the small islet nearby called, Ilhéu de Cima. Once I was near the island, I had an incredible view back towards Porto Santo, which emphasized all of the volcanic, cone-shaped peaks of the island.
After enjoying the sunset atop the peak, I now had an easier way down via the sand dunes. With a bit of light and a chance to analyze the way down, I had a quick scramble down in under 10 minutes till I reached the gravel road.
I then turned left on the road and walked back to the parking lot to complete my circuit. It was an amazing sunrise adventure but don’t suggest this one unless you are experienced with scrambling, loose rocks, and just very comfortable on ridges and mountains in general. It’s not a safe route for those looking for an average hike.
I hope you enjoyed this post about my Pico de Baixo hike on Porto Santo Island!
WHERE TO STAY ON PORTO SANTO
There are a lot of options on Porto Santo Island from big all-inclusive hotels to small Airbnb apartments. I’ve written a huge post about all of the best options when it comes to Porto Santo and you can check it out here: WHERE TO STAY ON PORTO SANTO ISLAND: 11 BEST RESORTS AND HOTELS
I stayed for five days at Vila Baleira Resort and five days at Hotel Porto Santo & Spa but also heard and saw great things about Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa. Here’s a quick glimpse at those three, beautiful beachside accommodations.
VILA BALEIRA RESORT
Vila Baleira Porto Santo (Luxury & All-inclusive): THIS IS WHERE I STAYED! Vila Baleira is a 4-star resort situated right on the golden sand beach of Porto Santo. The rooms are on one side of the road and the restaurant and pool area are directly next to the beach. I had the all-inclusive package, which meant we got a wristband when we arrived and then had buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as unlimited coffee and alcohol all day, every day.
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Vila Baleira Porto Santo.
Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa (Luxury): This is a 5-star resort on Porto Santo Island and it is by the largest hotel group in Portugal. The moment you step in the resort you’ll be rewarded with a blissful setting and its world-class amenities. I would’ve liked to stay here and from everything, I heard while on the island, it is a pretty awesome place to stay. It’s the top pick for a hotel on Porto Santo Island if you want luxury!
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa.
Hotel Porto Santo & Spa (Luxury): THIS IS WHERE I STAYED! Another classy, 4-star resort is Hotel Porto Santo & Spa where I stayed for my second 5-day period on my 10-day trip to Porto Santo Island. I’d happily recommend this Porto Santo hotel for couples and those looking for beachfront luxury with a very relaxing atmosphere. On top of that, the spa has a Turkish bath, a heated pool, massage rooms, relaxation spots, hot sand therapy, and more. Not to mention the restaurant serves fresh local dishes.
Click here to check the best current rates and availability of Hotel Porto Santo & Spa.