The golden beaches of Porto Santo
by Valentina B. Winter
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
One of the things I love the most about Portugal is the diversity of landscapes. Some years ago, I had the chance to go on vacation to Porto Santo, the little island of Madeira archipelago. In spite of distancing only 68km from the Madeira, this island couldn’t be any more different from the big island.
At first, I must say I wasn’t very excited about it but my mood changed as soon as we landed on the golden island. The weather, the landscapes, the people – it all gave me such a feeling of serenity and peace. It’s definitely a place to return.
Porto Santo is part of the Madeira’s islands and was discovered in 1418 – a year before the big island (Madeira island) – by João Gonçalvez Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira.
As a result of the successive and massive attacks by pirates, nearly all the population was murdered and enslaved until the Philip III of Spain determined the construction of a fortification to protect the people and allow the repopulation of the island.
Porto Santo is, par excellence, a beach destination that attracts many tourists for its turquoise waters and 9km of golden sand beaches. This lil’ island’s sand is well known for its rare therapeutic features – due to its main component, calcium carbonate, the sand has very particular thermal properties which makes it highly sought for the hot sand’s treatments.
Nature and unique landscapes are as well as the beaches one of the island’s strengths. You can rent a car and discover them on your own or you can book a tour and get to know the island with a guide. Of course, both options have advantages and disadvantages, so I suggest you choose the one that suits you best. In my case, I went with a group that stayed in the same hotel as me and we spent the day learning more about Porto Santo while we were amazed by the outstanding views we found along the way.
Despite the different paths you might take to discover the island, some of the must-sees of the island are:
- Miradouro das Flores
- Ponta da Calheta
- Pico da Ana Ferreira
- Fonte da Areia
- Porto Santo’s marine
In the case you are bored on land, there’s always the option of exchanging it by the sea and spend the day diving, doing stand-up paddle or simply taking a boat ride, even though these are just a few of the multiple activities you can do, whether at the sea or land.
Nevertheless, don’t leave the island without spending a day or two in the wonderful city of Vila Baleira. Discover the little treasures of this city, from the cute flowered streets and nightlife to the hospitality of the locals, always welcoming the tourists the best way they can. As you walk through Vila Baleira, don’t miss the chance to get to know a bit of the historical past of this island and visit the house where Christopher Columbus lived part of his life.
If you are on a low-budget trip, Porto Santo has some hostels with good conditions that can help you save some money such as Areia Dourada or Casa do Velho Dragoeiro yet if you come with a group of friends, it may be a better option to book an apartment through Airbnb or some similar app.
On the other hand, if you can afford a more expensive trip, Porto Santo has some astonishing hotels and resorts where you can stay.
Vila Baleira – Hotel Resort & Thalasso Spa
Vila Baleira is a 4-star resort right in front of the beach and it was where I stayed for a week. I must say the resort was magnificent – there was a spa, two swimming pools, a tennis court, a gym, a private beach and the Thalasso Spa – a big attraction to this resort – besides all the rest.
However, what made my stay was the animation programme – it was absolutely sensational! It had activities for all tastes and ages, such as dancing classes, water polo, water aerobics, soccer games on the beach, tennis and many more. It led me to meet people from everywhere whether they were old or young. I really felt at home because we all developed a connection with each other in a short time.
As it can’t all be perfect, in my opinion, the variety of food is something the resort should improve. Whether at lunch or dinner, there wasn’t that much variety besides all the cultures that were represented there. So, there was no better excuse to go to the center of the city and try the typical food of locals.
The most typical dishes are:
- Espetada – a dish made with cubes of meat on a spit of laurel and grilled in wood or charcoal typically accompanied with Fried Corn or Bolo do Caco;
- The tuna steak
- Mackerel with villain sauce
- Swordfish fillet – a fish that lives in Madeira’s waters, it is prepared à moda da Madeira and is served with banana and passion fruit sauce.
As for the dessert, you can taste the delicious Pão de Ló (my favourite), the Honey buns, the Honey cake or the Biscuits.
Lastly, I would just like to say that I truly loved the week I spent in Porto Santo. It was one of those things that came at the right time and in the right place, mainly because it’s an island where you can disconnect from everything, from our stressful lives and focus on the good and simple things in life. It’s a perfect place to connect with Nature, experience new things and enjoy some quality time with our loved ones (or with new people). That’s why I think the island fully conveys and re-establishes a sense of harmony and inner peace.
So, if you look for a warm place to enjoy the best things in life, have fun with new people and to be dazzled by one of the most untouched and paradisiac landscapes in Europe, why don’t you come to the little country in the southwest of Europe and experience what one of Portugal’s many islands has to offer?