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A Family-tastic Holiday in Funchal: Our Favourite Nature Excursions

I’ve always been a firm believer that getting out into nature is one of the most genuine ways to connect to a destination. But, as a family, it’s also one of the very best ways I’ve found of connecting with one another. Madeira is a place of astounding natural beauty – and it’s all there on display.

While most children enjoy an excursion into the great outdoors, every parent knows that you’ve got to cover all of your bases if you want to maintain their attention. From the capital city of Funchal, many of Madeira’s natural assets can be explored in a very hands-on way without getting too exhausted – which is just the way the young ones like it.

Often, going on a long awaited family holiday can be more stressful for parents than being at home. Keeping that delicate balance of fun, affordability and relaxation (aka making everyone happy) can be a real challenge. I’ve helped many clients in the planning stages of their family holiday, so I know just what it takes. And what it takes on Madeira is a place like Funchal.

Top Tip: One very helpful tip for a family holiday is to go “all inclusive“. So, once you’ve done Madeira you might want to start considering next year’s holiday…

Family Fun in Funchal

With Prestige Holidays’ collection of family-friendly accommodation and the great number of accessible attractions, I can virtually guarantee a fun-filled family break in Funchal. The ones below are always popular inclusions.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

Speaking of whales and dolphins, this perennial favourite experience is popular for a very good reason. I’ve had several encounters with these wonderful creatures off the coast of Madeira, and it’s something I’ll never forget. For children, seeing a whale or dolphin for the first time in the wild is a huge thrill, but in addition, the things they’ll learn from the on-board marine biologist will keep them well and truly enthralled.

The waters around Madeira are filled with cetaceans, so the chances of a sighting are very high. The two- or three-hour round trip on a specialised rigid inflatable vessel is both safe and comfortable. I think this is truly one of the best family bonding experiences available and lifelong memories can be made.

Top Tip: I recommend booking your excursion with one of the companies that offer a free trip if you don’t get any sightings.

Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Introduce the youngsters to what lies beneath the ocean without having to get your own feet wet! Taking a glass bottom boat tour out to the Garajau Nature Reserve is something that appeals just as much to parents as it does to children, and the opportunity to get up close to some of the marine reserve’s fascinating underwater life is one you shouldn’t miss.

Through the boat’s semi-submerged cabin, you’ll be able to see all sorts of fish, manta rays, moray eels and other species of underwater life through the glass windows. When you reach the limits of the marine reserve, the children can try their hand at some safe snorkelling before you head out to deeper water. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy sightings of turtles and even whales and dolphins. This is a fabulous outing – with or without children! – that I can never recommend enough to my clients.


If you’ve always harboured a secret desire to get your toes on the nose and hang ten, now’s the time to do it – and you can use your children as the perfect excuse! Madeira is a world-renowned surfing destination, as the warm, safe waters and black volcanic beaches of the northeast are an ideal spot for novice surfers to make a start. Getting the young ones out into the ocean exposes them to nature in the most delightful of ways – and if the excuse is surfing, there’ll rarely be any arguments.

I’ve recommended a family surfing excursion to a number of my clients, and the response has always been amazing. No child can resist the opportunity of surfing lessons and, annoyingly, they’re usually the ones who get the hang of it first. I haven’t surfed in years myself, but I’m very tempted every time I visit Madeira. Maybe next time, all in the name of research…

Top Tip: Make sure you book with a professional company that knows all the best surf spots around the island, and whose instructors will pick you up and drop you off back home after the lesson.

Sail the Coast on a Pirate Ship

What young heart could resist the chance to sail the (not so) high seas on a pirate ship? You’ll see nature at its best, I’d say. I just loved this experience, although I have to admit that a lot of the appeal was probably in the ship itself. This replica of a traditional Portuguese sailing ship is absolutely beautiful and, pirate or not, the experience of travelling around the Madeiran coast on this lovely lady is absolutely uplifting to the spirit.

Along with the chance to see dolphins and whales, the children will get to see the cliffs and dramatic landscapes that make Madeira so unique from a completely different angle. This experience will give them a really good context of the scale and geography of the archipelago, and they’ll be learning without even knowing it. It’s an absolute must for families visiting Funchal.

Recommended Hotels

Our Prestige Holidays portfolio has a number of excellent hotels in Funchal that focus on being as family-friendly as possible, many of which are even family-run. What better recommendation could there be?

Quinta da Penha de Franca

My first recommendation in Funchal is the Quinta da Penha de Franca, a hotel situated within its own tropical gardens. There’s plenty of room for children to run around, and the beauty of this hotel is that it’s family-run – so it’s truly family-friendly. With two pools (plus a dedicated children’s pool), a games room and a location right on the edge of the ocean, you’ll receive a genuinely warm welcome from the Ribeiro family to yours.

Castanheiro Boutique Hotel

The Castanheiro Boutique Hotel is set in a superb location right in the centre of town. There’s a range of options, including suites and family rooms, so no matter how many you there are, the hotel will probably be able to accommodate you. Children will love the buffet breakfast and rooftop pool, while parents will appreciate the access to the golf course and the onsite pampering centre.

Top Tip: The intriguing layout of this hotel is linked over five historic buildings. Children will love getting the chance to explore.

Quinta Da Bela Vista

My final recommendation for superb family accommodation in Funchal is the Quinta Da Bela Vista, which boasts expansive gardens and a fabulous view over the entire city. Everyone is made to feel welcome with the high quality of service that this family-run establishment is known for. Along with elegant accommodation, you’ll be able to enjoy a host of family friendly facilities, including a games room, pool, tennis, spa and free Wi-Fi.

Let Us Craft Your Perfect Holiday Experience

If you’d like to take your family on a fun-filled escape to Madeira, Prestige Holidays’ portfolio has numerous hotels at your disposal in Funchal. Get in contact with one of our helpful and friendly advisors, all of whom have a wealth of local knowledge and are waiting to help you book your perfect accommodation.

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