You probably already know that we have a soft spot for Portugal. Well, we’re taking that love one step further to say that the Portuguese island of Porto Santo may have one of the best beaches in Europe! 


The above assertion is instantly debatable; the main reason being that the definition of ‘beach perfection’ looks very different for all of us.

Ponta da Calheta - Calheta Beach - Porto Santo island - Madeira

White sand vs golden sand. Party vibe vs tranquillity. Off-the-beaten track vs easily accessible. Paddle-boarding calm vs surf-friendly waves. Family-friendly vs nudist. These are just a handful of the elements that come to mind when people think about what their ‘perfect beach’ might look like.

Beaches in Greece, Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Spain are consistently included in roundups of the best beaches in Europe. Recently, the European Best Destinations (an annual competition of voter-selected travel destinations) celebrated Pasjaca Beach in Cavtat, Croatia as the best beach in Europe in 2019.

We admit that there are many stunning beaches in Europe. However, we still think that Porto Santo might have one of the best ones!

Hear us out…


Where is Porto Santo?

Home to just over 5,000 inhabitants, Porto Santo is one of the islands in the Madeira archipelago. This volcanic outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean is around 500 km from the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from Europe.

View of Ilhéu da Cal islet in Porto Santo Island

There is a small airport on Porto Santo but don’t bother looking for flights there. Air services to the island are limited depending on the time of year.

Most people get to Porto Santo via ferry from Funchal (the capital of Madeira – the largest island in the archipelago). Services run daily between the islands.

Vila Baleria is the island’s sole parish and is located on the south coast. Most of the activity and nightlife takes place around Largo do Pelourinho, the main town square.

HDYTI Tip: The modern and comfortable Porto Santo Line covers around 50 km in about two-and-a-half hours. See ferry timetable and booking portal.

Also read: Visit Portugal in One Week and Get a Taste of Four Destinations


Why Porto Santo has one of the Best Beaches in Europe

The Porto Santo beach covers most of the island’s southern coast (the island is THAT small!).

Points along the Porto Santo beach include Calheta, Cabeço da Ponta, Fontinha, Pedras Pretas, Ribeiro Cochinho and Ribeiro Salgado.


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During our visit, we spent most of our time at Ponta da Calheta (Calheta Beach) at the south-west tip of the island and where the Porto Santo beach ends.

So what makes Porto Santo one of the best beaches in Europe? We share five reasons below.


#1: Porto Santo is the perfect partner to Madeira

The combination of Madeira and Porto Santo is the recipe for a perfect tropical holiday in Europe.

We have said before that if Africa and Europe had an intimate affair, their resulting ‘love child’ might look something like Madeira. With year-round warm temperatures, Madeira has been described as ‘The land of the eternal spring’.

Sunset view of Funchal from ocean villa

Madeira’s charm includes its floral beauty, banana plantations, green mountains, vertical cliffs, waterfalls, ancient levadas (a network of hiking trails), food and festivals.

However, for all its charm, there is one thing Madeira lacks… proper beaches!

Mother Nature didn’t hold back beautiful beaches from Madeira completely though. She only decided to place them a few kilometres away, on the island of Porto Santo.

This is why Porto Santo makes the perfect destination partner for Madeira.


#2: Year-round warm temperatures

Perhaps the biggest reason why Porto Santo offers the best beaches in Europe is the weather.

Due to their location in the warmer part of the Atlantic Ocean, Porto Santo and Madeira are great for escaping harsh European winters.


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The year-round climate in Porto Santo is mild. Sea temperatures range between 17ºC and 22ºC, excellent conditions for swimming.


#3: Nine kilometres of golden sand

The sand is fine, golden, soft, clean and stretches for 9 km.

Rich in iodine, calcium and magnesium, the beach sand in Porto Santo is said to provide therapeutic benefits and mineral replenishment. Many of the hotels on the island leverage this to offer thalassotherapy (use of seawater as a form of therapy) spa treatments.

Couple on Porto Santo Beach

Combine this with the calm azure/turquoise ocean water and you have the perfect setting for wellness and relaxation.

HDYTI Tip: Walking suggestion: From Ponta da Calheta, walk along the beach towards the Marina Porto Santo (1hr 40min – 8KM).


#4: Beach with no crowds

Tranquillity is high up on our personal criteria for ‘best beach’. Endless rows of sun loungers and umbrellas scare us away. When we visited Calheta Beach (late September), but for a handful of people, the place was deserted.

Eulanda at Ponta da Calheta - Calheta Beach - Porto Santo island - Madeira

Couple walking on Porto Santo Beach - Madeira - Portugal

Madeirans flock to Porto Santo on weekends and in the summer to enjoy the beach. However, it does not appear that Porto Santo (as of writing) has a problem with over-tourism. The fact that visitors need to make an extra journey from Madeira to Porto Santo is perhaps an advantage.

Note that beaches close to hotels on the island are obviously more popular and maybe busier.

HDYTI Tip: Calheta Beach has toilets, showers and parking facilities. There is also a small beach restaurant/cafe at street level.


#5: Dramatic landscapes to explore

Calheta Beach itself has many interesting rock formations (Pico de Ana Ferreira being one of them). The beach also provides a good view of Ilhéu da Cal, a limestone islet.

Rugged north coast of Porto Santo

However, for some soft adventure, Porto Santo’s rugged and dramatic northern coast is worth exploring. Head across gentle mountains towards the natural pools of Salemas and stop at the many viewpoints along the way.

Recommended transportation modes include bicycles, all-terrain vehicles or electric-powered quadricycles.

Walking along the north coast of Porto Santo

HDYTI Tip: We rented an electric-powered two-seater Renault Twizzy which had enough battery power to last us for up to four hours and provided decent speed and acceleration. Very little storage space, however!


Does Porto Santo Have One of The Best Beaches in Europe?

The truth is that perfection is relative. Every beach has its own unique character. Whatever your beach style or preference, we think that the island of Porto Santo offers something unique and unspoilt.

Eulanda walking on Calheta Beach - Porto Santo island - Best Beaches in Europe


Travel information

Fly to Funchal, Madeira. TAP Air Portugal offers an innovative stopover program with daily flights from London and Manchester to Madeira with stopovers in Lisbon or Porto.

Book flights via or call 0345 601 0932

Disclaimer: We received complimentary flights to Funchal from TAP Air Portugal. However, all thoughts expressed remain ours.


Where to stay in Porto Santo


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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).