A quiet, laidback resort on the east coast, Santa Cruz moves at a slower pace than the nearby capital of Funchal. Characterised by white houses and a long pebbled beach, Santa Cruz is for couples and families who want a laidback base for their Madeira holiday without being too far from the action. The resort has its own lido and water park, and a day trip in Funchal is only a 15-minute drive away.
Like most beaches in Madeira, Santa Cruz’s Palmeiras Beach is pebbled, but is one of the island’s most popular and busy throughout the summer season. The beach is attached to a lido complex, which is equipped with 2 swimming pools, a dive centre, lifeguards and a food court. If you’re really craving a sandy beach, you can visit the heavenly neighbouring island of Porto Santo by catching a ferry from Funchal.
Santa Cruz Water Park is a great day out for the whole family, boasting slides, swimming pools and a lazy river. The resort has a huge golf course, a beachside promenade lined with shops, bars and restaurants, and several historical sights including the 16th century Igreja Matriz church. Whale and dolphins often frequent the waters around Madeira in summer, and there are tons of boat companies offering wildlife spotting trips.
Madeira is small so if you have a taste for adventure it’s easy to go exploring – you can drive the full length of the island in an hour and a half. The vibrant capital city, Funchal, is only 15 minutes away and has a beautiful cathedral, botanical gardens and a cable car offering panoramic views. Also nearby is the historical village of Machico, where you can find the island’s oldest church and two forts.