Porto Santo Island is known as the “Holy Harbor” and is well-known for its long stretch of incredibly fine, sandy beach which is blessed with health-enhancing properties. Yes, the beaches on Porto Santo are different from the ones you see on Madeira Island as the sand is powdery-fine and therapeutic. In fact, there are specialized spas all year round where you can cover yourself with sands. For many years, Porto Santo has been the ultimate beach getaway for those in colder European countries and locals from Madeira.
In this Porto Santo Beach Guide, I will share with you the details about ten beaches and natural pools around the island so that you can plan to visit a few different beaches during your Porto Santo vacation. I spent ten days exploring Porto Santo myself and enjoyed the long, sandy stretch of beach on the southern side of the island but also had a great time at a few of the more remote, hidden gem beaches on Porto Santo Island.
TOP 10 BEACHES ON PORTO SANTO ISLAND
The main stretch of beach on Porto Santo Island is called Praia Porto Santo. Technically it is all one long beach but because there are a few different towns throughout its an 8-kilometer stretch, there are a few different ‘beaches’ within this one stretch of sand even though it’s all connected.
PONTA DA CALHETA
Ponta da Calheta is the most southern point on Porto Santo Island. It’s one of my favorite spots on the island because it is great for sunset but also the sunrise. If you come out here early in the morning, there will be basically no-one on the beach and as you look up the entire stretch of sand on the island, the sun will rise lighting up the beach. Alternatively, if you come out for sunset, you have a great view of the sun setting over the horizon beside the nearby island of Ilhéu da Cal.
There are a few caves around the corner of Ponta da Calheta, which I visited on a kayak tour. There are also a few fun little tidal pools you can check out at low tide. There are usually a few people down this end of the beach but it’s not quite as busy as the main sections of Praia Porto Santo in front of the big hotels.
Zimbralinho Beach is tucked away, requiring a little bit of an adventure to find. There are a few ways to reach this hidden gem beach on the southern coast of Porto Island. You can drive all the way up and make the short walk down the stairs, hike to Zimbralinho, or kayak to Zimbralinho beach. I actually hiked, biked, and kayaked to Zimbralinho beach on three separate occasions.
This isn’t a sandy beach for sunbathing like the main Praia Porto Santo Beach but its much more epic. After a pretty steep, cliff-side stairway leads you down to the beach, you will be on the rocky shore with giant cliff walls towering over you. There’s a few rocky formations inside this little cove, which are perfect for exploring while kayaking or snorkeling.
PRAIA PORTO SANTO – MAIN BEACH
We probably shouldn’t go much further into this Porto Santo beach guide without mentioning the main strip. Praia Porto Santo is a classic. On a good, clear day you have incredibly, crystal clear water to compliment the unbelievable fine sand. It really is like powder more than granular sand. You’ll understand once you feel it beneath your feet.
There are lots of areas along Praia Porto Santo that have umbrellas and daybeds for rent. Many are linked to a hotel but you can also just turn up and ask to rent one. With the sand so soft, it’s nice just to lay the towel down and enjoy the natural, free sunbed.
It’s more than 8-kilometers in length so perfect for a morning walk where you can catch the sunrise. Depending on the swell there can be some waves small enough for body surfing but usually, it is pretty calm, good for swimming, and a refreshing dip after working on your tan on the beach.
PORTO DAS SALEMAS NATURAL POOLS
The Porto Das Salemas natural pools are one of the best places to swim on the north coast of Porto Santo Island. At low tide, you can float and swim in a vast array of beautifully shaped natural tidal pools. The water was crystal clear in the pools and it was incredible to watch the waves smashing against the outer wall of the pools.
It’s important to choose the right time to visit Porto das Salemas natural pools. You need to consider the time of day so that the sun is reaching the pools but most importantly you need the low tide. I suggest arriving one hour before low-tide so you have two full hours of time to explore while the tide is at it’s lowest.
There is a very small sandy beach on the shore before the tidal pools, which is one of the few sandy spots on the north coast. There is enough room for about 20-30 people to sunbathe on the sandy patch after enjoying the tidal pools.
If you want to read my full blog post you can check it out here: Porto das Salemas Natural Pools
CALHAU DA SERRA
Calhau da Serra is the beach you go to if you want to get away from the tourists in the south and enjoy some time out in nature. It’s a rocky beach so don’t expect the powdery sands of the south, but what you do get is some peaceful solitude at quite a stunning little spot on the north-east coast of Porto Santo Island.
I visited this beach after the Vereda Pico Branco and Terra Chã hike and enjoyed the entire beach to myself. There’s some incredible rock formations along this coastline and some good snorkeling to be done aswell. To get to this beach you simply turn off the main ‘ring-road’ that wraps around the island and either walk or ride your bike along the dirt road. It wasn’t super clear from the main road but it’s only a few hundred meters to walk.
PORTO DOS FRADES TIDAL POOLS
Porto dos Frades is a pristine area with crystal clear water and a rugged coastline, which has some well-protected tidal pools. This makes it a perfect snorkeling spot without many waves. Lots of sea creatures love the shallow water and protection of the reef wall so they call it home. I actually visited this spot as part of my snorkeling tour with Matias from Porto Santo Destination Tours.
The volcanic rocks below the surface make a perfect hiding spot for an octopus or a Moray eel as well as lots of fish and other creatures. Within such a small area we saw so many different critters and sealife, even more than on an entire scuba-dive I did one of the top dive sites in Porto Santo. The Moray Eel was probably the highlight of the trip as he came out of his hole to let us know this is his territory.
If you want to read my full blog post you can check it out here: Kayak and Snorkel Tour on Porto Santo Island
FONTINHA BEACH (THE PIER)
One of the most iconic beaches on Porto Santo island is Fontinha Beach because of the prominent pier stretching out from the coast. This area of Porto Santo is a hub for cafes, restaurants and small shops so it is always lively with action. Lots of locals hang out here and many of the young kids love jumping off the pier, which is just a few meters in height.
PORTO DOS FRADES BEACH
I’ve already mentioned the tidal pools at Porto dos Frades, which are great for snorkeling. However, Porto dos Frades beach is probably my top pick for beaches on Porto Santo Island away from the south coast. There is parking right next to the coast here, which makes it the most accessible beach on this rocky eastern coastline. The main drawcard to Porto dos Frades is the crystal clear water, snorkeling opportunities and it’s a sandy beach! Pico do Maçarico acts as a perfect backdrop to this incredibly scenic beach.
PENEDO BEACH / MARINA
If you are looking for a classic sandy beach for a nice day of swimming and sunbathing but don’t want the crowds, you should try Penedo Beach. It’s right next to the marina and the port where the ferry dropped you off when you arrived. Unlike many docks around the world, the beaches nearby have remained pristine and with some umbrellas set up, it is a pretty nice beach for a relaxing day.
PRAIA DO FURADO & POIO DAS MULHERES
These two little beaches are a bit more remote and always very empty. They take a little coastal trek to reach but are guaranteed for some social isolation and some crystal clear waters. If you continue on from Porto dos Frades along the coast to the north, you will reach these two beautiful little spots.
I hope you enjoyed this Porto Santo Beach Guide. Now you know, there is more than just the beach in front of your hotel so go check out a couple and enjoy this beautiful island!
WHERE TO STAY ON PORTO SANTO
There’s 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.
PESTANO PORTO SANTO BEACH RESORT & SPA
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
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.