Porto da Cruz is a village on the northeast corner of the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is popular with surfers, sunbathers, and hikers. Porto da Cruz has a nice waterfront and small sandy pocket beach. It is also well connected to levadas and mountain hikes.
The heart of the village sits on the Atlantic Ocean, with houses stretching into the mountainous terrain that surrounds the area. A striking escarpment, Penha da Águia (Eagle Rock) looms over Porto da Cruz.
From 1858, an aguardente factory (sugarcane mill and rum distillery), one of many on the island, formed part of Porto da Cruz's industry. The town got its name because the founder of the town marked the harbor with an iron cross.
The houses in and around the village are surrounded by trellised gardens and farms on the steep hills, irrigated by levadas and growing a variety of fruit and vegetables, including sugarcane still today.
Porto da Cruz is reachable from Funchal or the airport on S.A.M. bus routes 53, 78, or 208. These routes have a number of "variations", so check the schedule carefully. The Expresso variations can be twice as fast from Funchal than a normal line, but less scenic.
Beware: many of these variations skip the airport. If you are coming from the airport, it's often faster to catch any bus to Machico and transfer to the 53, 78, or 208 to Porto da Cruz.
From Funchal or the airport, take the highway (VR-1) heading towards Santana, then follow signs for "Porto da Cruz". Parking in the village is easy and free.
The town is just a few hundred metres across, so walking is definitely an option. In addition there are many hiking trails leading out from Porto da Cruz to different attractions further out (see the Do section below), though those are also accessible by car.
- 1 Fort Ruins (Fortim do Porto da Cruz). Walk up a small hill on the waterfront (behind the rum factory) to see the stone ruins of a 18th-century fort. Free.
- 2 Companhia dos Engenhos do Norte & Casa do Rum (Rum Factory & tasting house), ☏ . M–Sa 09:00–18:00. Museum showing the workings of a now-defunct sugarcane and rum processing plant. Operating during the Industrial Revolution, all the machinery is steam-powered. The steam was produced by burning the chaff of the sugarcane. Quick, self-guided tour of the equipment in Portuguese, English, French, and German. Next door is a tasting room. Free.
- 3 Engenho Velho Museum, Rua Sousa e Freitas 10. Tu–Sa 10:00–13:00 & 14:00–18:00. A short self-guided walk through dark rooms of a motley collection of antique tools and machinery. There is a viewpoint, but it's not much different from the publicly-accessible view of the beach that you see just north of the museum. €4, includes alcohol tasting.
- 4 Watch surfers or surf (pocket beach). Go to the beach around low tide to watch surfers catch some waves, or join them. Free.
- 5 Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe (Igreja do Porto da Cruz), Rua Dr. João Abel de Freitas. The church of Porto da Cruz, a simple building with white walls and sections of black tiles is a major landmark of the village.
- 1 Madeira Surf Camp, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Group surf or stand-up-paddleboard (SUP) lessons. Customized to any skill level, including beginner. Often held at the Porto da Cruz pocket beach, but if wave conditions require a different part of the island, they'll drive you to the best beach. €35 for 2-hr lesson and equipment.
- 2 Public swimming pools (Piscinas Municipais). There are public swimming pools below the fort ruins where you can swim with an ocean view. €1.50 adult, 75¢ child.
Three hikes serve Porto da Cruz, making use of the island's famous irrigation channels (levadas).
- 3 Vereda do Larano. This hike connects Machico and Porto da Cruz along the north coast. From Machico, it begins with the Levada do Caniçal and goes via the Boca do Risco viewpoint. Bus routes or your car can take you back, or some tour companies offer this. Be safe: have a map and a buddy. 12 km one-way.
- 4 Levada do Castelejo (Porto da Cruz to São Roque do Faial). This levada hike takes you into the mountains and lush pine and native laurel forest, past waterfalls, to the Ribiero Frio (Cold River)—one of the most important sources of water for the north of Madeira, including this levada's source. To find the trailhead, take any of the main roads from the center of Porto da Cruz, uphill (about 40 minutes hiking, or 10 minutes driving). At the blue bar, there's a sign pointing the way. When this road forks, take the right (dry levada) fork a few hundred metres until you see the well-marked trailhead and map. From here it's an easy and tranquil 8.6-km round-trip hike with virtually no elevation change. At the opposite terminus the trail ends at a huge boulder and the Ribeiro Frio. Free.
- 5 Vereda da Penha d'Aguia (Eagle Rock). This strenuous hike takes you to the 590-metre-high massif overlooking the sea and village. To find the trailhead, take any of the main roads from the centre of Porto da Cruz, uphill (about 40 minutes hiking, or 10 minutes driving). Just before the blue bar, a blue and white "Verada da Penha d'Aguia" sign will point to a levada threading between houses; follow this for 100 m until another sign (whose back is facing you) points to a left-turn away from the levada and up a steep, windy trail. After 40–60 minutes the trail forks: turn right to overlook Porto da Cruz, or turn left to overlook São Roque do Faial.
- 1 Supermercado, Rua da Igreja. Small grocery store on the main square, facing the church.
The food served is typically Madeiran; see Madeira#Eat for details of what to expect. Some places are known to charge tourists more than the advertised price: you are under no obligation to pay more than what was agreed, and if you stand your ground, you will help to stamp out this discriminatory practice.
- 1 Snackbar a Pipa, ☏ . Tu–F 12:00-00:00, Sa Su 09:00-22:00. Always busy with locals, regarded as the best and most popular restaurant, as it serves extremely fresh fish caught that day. €30 covers mains for two including drinks.
- 2 Snackbar Piscinas (near the swimming pool). Daily 10:00-21:00. There is a handful of restaurants along the waterfront, all virtually the same quality and price, although you'll get a somewhat wider view of the ocean at Snackbar Piscinas. Reviews are decidedly mixed.
- 3 Snackbar Praia da Alagoa. Daily 10:00-23:00. Bar, restaurant and events venue next to the Alagoa Beach. Good for poncha and beef sandwiches. Bad service.
Some hotels also have places to eat and drink, see the Sleep section below.
- 1 Pastelaria Terezinha, Rua dos Oliveiras. 07:00-20:00. Coffee and local pastries. Unfriendly service.
- 2 Dino's Bar (in the main square, facing the church), ☏ . Tu-Su 15:00-02:00. The main bar in town and really the only place to join locals to watch a football match. Lively atmosphere and affordable drinks.
However all restaurants in town will serve similar drinks.
- 1 Madeira Surf Camp, Rua da Piedade 4 (the only green building in the centre of town), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small, clean hostel with a gorgeous balcony in the village centre. Includes one 4-person dorm and two private rooms. By appointment only. Optional surf lessons leave from the site. €20 per person per night for dorm bed or private double room, €25 July-Sep. Breakfast included. One week half-board and surf lessons €340, €375 July-Sep.
- 2 Jaca Hostel, R. Dr. João Abel de Freitas Nº1, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cozy hostel next door from A Pipa. Owner-run by a young couple and a great atmosphere. Dorms start at €12, single and double rooms available.
- 3 Hotel Costa Linda, Dr. Abel De Freitas Sitio, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small hotel with 13 rooms, all equipped with private bathroom and TV. The hotel has a restaurant, Praça do Engenho, serving traditional Madeiran cuisine. rates from €38.
- 4 Vila Bela, Rua da Praia 23/25, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms with private bathroom and TV. There are more affordable rooms with mountain view and more expensive ones with sea view. The hotel has a restaurant with local cuisine and a bar. rates from €52.
Mobile operators MEO, NOS and Vodafone have 3G and 4G coverage in Porto da Cruz town. Further out coverage may be spotty.