Looking for things to do in Calheta, Madeira? Nestled along the southwest coast, this cute neighbourhood is a gem waiting to be explored. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on this stunning island, make sure to carve out some time for the charming town of Calheta.

Calheta also features on my 12 day Madeira coastal itinerary and my 7 day Madeira West itinerary.

Below is a simple guide to 18 things to do in Calheta.

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My last visit to Madeira was in summer 2023 on a solo trip, but Madeira is also ideal for couples and families. I have also visited Madeira in the spring and winter time too. You may also like to check out my main Madeira Travel Guide if you are thinking of travelling to Madeira.

18 Great Things to do in Calheta, Madeira

Let’s proceed with the list of 18 things to do in Calheta.

You will also find a map of Calheta, links for accommodation suggestions, tour suggestions and frequently asked questions about things to do in Calheta at the bottom of the post.

1. Hit the Beach at Calheta. 

Calheta is renowned for its golden sandy beaches, and you won’t want to miss soaking up the sun by the crystal-clear waters. Whether you’re into swimming, sunbathing, or simply strolling along the shore, Calheta’s beach is a lovely place to unwind. It has yellow sand, blue sea and lots of bars and restaurants. It’s actually one of Madeira’s few sandy beaches, so it’s worth making the most of the sand.

An aerial view of a beach and cliffs.
Praia Da Calheta

2. Explore the Calheta Sugar Cane Factory.

Dive into the island’s history with a visit to the Calheta Sugar Cane Factory. Learn about Madeira’s sugar production legacy, witness traditional processes, and even sample some local sugar cane products.

📍The Sugar Cane Mill and Museum is located at Av. D. Manuel I 29, Calheta, Madeira, Portugal.

A steam engine with a wheel attached to it in Calheta Madeira
Sugar Cane Factory

3. Visit the Contemporary Art Museum – Casa das Mudas.

The Casa das Mudas Arts Centre offers a stunning view of the ocean and overlooks the village of Calheta with its artificial sand beach. The terrace becomes a peaceful space in good weather. Designed by architect Paulo David, the building seamlessly blends with the natural landscape and was nominated for the 2005 Mies van der Rohe Award.

This acclaimed venue hosts exhibitions, music performances, plays, and conferences. It includes a 200-seat auditorium, a library, a shop, a café, a restaurant, and space for cultural events. Additionally, there are artists’ studios, workshops, and covered parking.

4. Wander Through Calheta Marina.

Take a leisurely stroll around Calheta Marina, where colourful boats bob in the harbour against a backdrop of lush hills. It’s a serene spot for a morning walk or an evening unwinding session. Grab a spot right on the water’s edge, order a drink and watch the world go by.

5. Hike the Levada Nova Trail.

Lace up your hiking boots and explore the Levada Nova Trail. This picturesque walk along irrigation channels offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and introduces you to the island’s lush greenery.

You can combine the Levada Nova with the Levada Moinho – both lovely hikes.

6. Enjoy Water Activities at Calheta Beach.

Adventure seekers, rejoice! Calheta Beach offers a range of water activities, from paddleboarding to jet skiing. Dive into the refreshing ocean and add a splash of excitement to your day.

Other outdoor activities include whale and dolphin watching, 4×4 experiences and hiking Madeira’s peaks at sunrise or sunset. See guided tours with pickup from Calheta for further information.

A sign with the word Calheta in front of a mountain, showcasing one of the exciting things to do in Calheta.

7. Indulge in Local Cuisine at Calheta Restaurants.

Treat your taste buds to the flavours of Madeira at local restaurants located in Calheta. Fresh seafood, traditional Espetada, bolo do caco bread and delectable desserts await. I wrote a whole post on food and drink in Madeira, which I will link below.

There are some really good restaurants in Calheta, including the one inside the Savoy Saccharum which is amazing (it’s number 18 on this list). You could also try a guided food tour or wine tour for the an authentic experience.

Further reading: Food in Madeira: What to Eat and Drink on Madeira Island

8. Discover Prazeres Market, Calheta.

Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the Sunday farmer’s market in the town of Prazeres, Calheta. Sample fresh produce, interact with friendly locals, and perhaps pick up some authentic Madeiran souvenirs whilst you’re there.

📍The Mercado Abastecedor dos Prazeres is located at Caminho da Referta 144 9370, Prazeres, Madeira, and opens at 08:00 on Sundays.

A variety of fruits and vegetables are on display at a market in Madeira.
Dragon Fruit at a food market

Further reading: Visiting the Mercado dos Lavradores Funchal (Madeira)

9. Take a Scenic Drive to Arco da Calheta.

Rent a car and embark on a scenic drive to Arco da Calheta. This charming village offers stunning views, traditional architecture, and a glimpse into the laid-back Madeiran way of life.

I recommend Discover Cars for car rentals in Madeira – it’s a car comparison website, so you always know you are getting the best deal. You can pick up and drop off your car at Funchal airport, or other places around Madeira.

A town on a hill by the ocean - Arco do Calheta in MAdeira
View of Arco do Calheta on the hill

10. Unwind at Calhau Beach Club.

 For those seeking relaxation, Calhau Beach Club provides a serene escape. Enjoy the pool, sip on a refreshing drink, and relish the tranquillity of this idyllic spot. There are sun beds and cool tunes, along with a lovely menu, great cocktails and some of the best sunset views on the island.

📍This beach club is located right opposite the Savoy Saccharum hotel (read my review here) and the address is: Rua da Serra D’Água, 1 9370-087 Arco da Calheta.

Further reading: 20 Gifts and Souvenirs to Buy From Madeira.

11. Sample Local Rums at Engenho da Calheta. 

Established during a period of significant industrial growth, the ‘Sociedade dos Engenhos da Calheta’ marks the second Madeiran sugar cycle, a time often referred to as the late 19th century and the early 20th century when sugar was dubbed ‘white gold.’

With a history spanning over half a century, Engenho da Calheta stands as one of the oldest sugar cane mills on the island. This facility is renowned for producing the internationally acclaimed Madeira rum, crafted through meticulous fermentation and distillation processes.

Located in the heart of the town, the Engenho da Calheta serves as a living museum, offering a unique glimpse into the past. The mill operates annually, typically post-Easter celebrations. However, visitors can explore the facilities, which include a tasting room and wine bar, throughout the year.

A Madeira souvenir - rum and a wooden barrel.
Rum distillery at Porto da Cruz

12. Join a Whale and Dolphin Watching Tour from Calheta Marina. 

In Madeira you can see whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. The west coast is ideal for this, and there are many professional companies operating tours from Calheta marina.

The Atlantic near the coast has a depth of 3000m, creating an ideal habitat for marine life. You can see: Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, Rough-toothed Dolphin, False Killer Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale, Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Sperm Whale, Bryde’s Whale, Sei Whale, Fin Whale, and occasionally Orcas, Blue Whales, Minke Whales, and Humpback Whales.

The success rate for sightings on journeys from Calheta is over 90%. Try a private guided whale and doplhin watching tour for the best experience.

13. Hike the Rabacal – 25 Fontes Trail. 

Strap on your hiking boots and explore the breathtaking Rabacal – 25 Fontes Trail.

This is a popular hiking trail starting at regional road ER 105 in Rabaçal, attracting both tourists and locals. With a length of about 4.3 km and an estimated duration of 3 hours, it’s a moderately challenging trail.

Running parallel to Levada do Risco (PR 6.1) from the same starting point, it takes you to various points of interest and scenic spots. Amidst stunning natural surroundings, the trail leads to Lagoa das 25 Fontes, a unique lagoon fed by water springs from Paul da Serra. Before reaching this destination, enjoy impressive views of the Ribeira da Janela valley with the lush Laurissilva forest.

After reaching Levada das 25 Fontes, marvel at the lagoon’s beauty and recharge for the return trip along the same path. Try a guided tour of the 25 fontes trail for the best experience.

14. Attend the Festas de São João in Calheta.

Originally celebrated on June 21st to honour the pagan summer solstice, the festival remains significant, now dedicated to three famous saints: St. Anthony (Santo Antonio), St. John (São João), and St. Peter (São Pedro).

The festivities kick off on June 12th and 13th, honouring St. Anthony in various parishes. From June 15th to 25th, Porto Santo pays tribute to St. John, featuring notable attractions such as costumed parades, cultural activities, and sporting events like golf and tennis tournaments.

The festival of São João Batista (June 21st to 24th), officially celebrated on June 24th, includes “altars of São João” in Funchal and a lively parade on June 23rd. Calheta (16th, 23rd, 24th) and Ribeira Brava (23rd) also host popular marches.

This traditional festival in Calheta, dedicated to Saint John, involves lively processions, street parties, and a festive atmosphere that provides a unique cultural experience.

15. Experience Local Flavour: Poncha Tasting.

No visit to Calheta is complete without indulging in the local favourite, Poncha. Head to one of the cosy taverns or beachside bars in Calheta and immerse yourself in the island’s culture by trying this traditional drink.

Made with local rum, honey, and citrus juice, Poncha is a sweet and alcoholic concoction indeed. Whether you prefer the classic version or one infused with tropical fruits, sipping on Poncha is a delightful way to embrace the authentic taste of Calheta.

16. Capture Sunset Views at Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse. 

End your day on a magical note by driving to the Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse. Perched on the westernmost point of Madeira, this iconic spot offers unparalleled sunset views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Beyond the sunset, Ponta do Pargo offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including unique rock formations and the vast Atlantic. Whether you prefer enjoying the sunset from the lighthouse grounds or exploring nearby coastal trails, this spot is perfect for nature lovers and photographers.

Bring your camera and capture the magic of the sun setting in this captivating corner of Madeira.

A lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Madeira.
Ponta do Pargo, Madeira, Portugal

17. Try the Local Lapas. 

Eating local lapas at Calhau Beach Club in Calheta is a tasty experience. These delicious limpets, a local delicacy, are often served grilled and seasoned with garlic and butter. The beach club has a nice vibe, and you can pair your lapas with a local drink – wine and beer both work well. There are sun beds, tables, cool music and a small stretch of private rocky beach.

Of course you can get lapas at pretty much every restaurant in Calheta, but if you want to try this beach club, it is located right opposite the Savoy Saccharum hotel (read my review here) and the address is: Rua da Serra D’Água, 1 9370-087 Arco da Calheta.

18. Experience Culinary Delights at Alambique Restaurant.

Elevate your dining experience in Calheta by visiting Alambique Restaurant. Known for its delectable Madeiran cuisine, Alambique offers a menu that showcases the island’s rich flavours. From fresh seafood to traditional meat dishes, each bite is a celebration of local ingredients and culinary expertise.

Whether you’re a fan of seafood, meat dishes, or vegetarian options, Alambique has a diverse menu to cater to different preferences. The chefs here take pride in preparing dishes that showcase the richness of Madeiran culinary heritage.

Things to do in Calheta Madeira

Calheta also features in my 7 day itinerary for the West of Madeira and my 12 day coastal Madeira itinerary.

Where I stayed in Calheta, Madeira

I stayed at the Savoy Saccharum Resort & Spa Madeira in July 2023, and you can read my review here. The hotel far exceeded my expectations in every way. From its beautiful location and luxurious amenities to its outstanding service and exceptional dining options, it’s a perfect choice for a relaxing and indulgent escape (this post is not sponsored).

Check availability and prices of the Savoy Saccharum Resort & Spa Madeira on Booking.com.

Where else to stay in Calheta

You can book the Savoy Saccharum Resort & Spa Madeira here, but I have also included some booking links for different parts of Madeira below. There is also a map showing accommodation by location. Clicking on the map will take you straight through to Booking.com.

Hotels in Funchal | Hotels in Calheta | Hotels in São Vicente | Hotels in Porto Moniz | Hotels in Machico | Hotels in Santana | Hotels in Ponta do Sol | Hotels in Câmara de Lobos | Hotels in Ribeira Brava | Hotels in Ponta Delgada | All hotels in Madeira.

Accommodation in Madeira

Here is a map from Booking.com showing hotels by location. You can zoom in, zoom out, drag and move the map. If you click the map, it will take you to Booking.com where you can look more closely at your options.


I recommend reserving your room immediately to get the best price. It’s usually free to reserve, and you can always cancel later on.

See the main Madeira page from Booking.com.

Frequently asked questions about things to do in Calheta, Madeira.

Q: What are some of the top things to do in Calheta, Madeira? 

A: Calheta offers a range of activities, including relaxing on its golden sandy beaches, exploring historical sites like the Calheta Sugar Cane Factory, and enjoying outdoor adventures like hiking the Levada Nova Trail.

Q: Are there cultural experiences in Calheta? 

A: Absolutely! Dive into the local culture by visiting Casa das Mudas, a contemporary art museum, and attending local festivals such as the Festas de São João.

Q: Can I engage in water activities in Calheta? 

A: Yes, Calheta is a great place for water enthusiasts. Enjoy water sports at Calheta Beach, join a whale and dolphin watching tour from Calheta Marina, or simply relax at the Calhau Beach Club.

Q: What’s the significance of the Calheta Sugar Cane Factory? 

The Calheta Sugar Cane Factory provides insights into Madeira’s sugar production history. Visitors can learn about traditional processes and sample local sugar cane products.

Q: Are there scenic viewpoints in Calheta?

A: Yes, the Pico do Facho viewpoint and Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse offer breathtaking vistas. Drive to these locations for stunning panoramic views of Calheta and the surrounding landscapes.

Q: What is lapas, and where can I try them in Calheta? 

A: Lapas are limpets, a local delicacy. Visit Calhau Beach Club to savour lapas while enjoying the seaside ambiance.

Further reading: Food in Madeira: What to Eat and Drink on Madeira Island

Q: Any recommendations for dining in Calheta? 

A: For an exceptional culinary experience, try Alambique Restaurant, known for its delicious Madeiran cuisine. It’s a perfect spot to indulge in local flavours.

Q: Where can I experience local rum tasting in Calheta? 

A: Engage in a delightful rum-tasting experience at Engenho da Calheta, a traditional rum distillery. Learn about the rum-making process and sample some of the finest local rums.

Q: Can I enjoy live music or cultural performances in Calheta? 

A: Yes, Calheta offers various venues, including beach clubs and local establishments, where you can enjoy live music performances and cultural events, especially during festivals.

Q: Are there opportunities for hiking and nature exploration in Calheta? 

A: Absolutely! Calheta provides excellent hiking trails like the Rabacal – 25 Fontes Trail, offering a scenic trek through lush landscapes and waterfalls for nature enthusiasts. There are lots of levada walks throughout Madeira island.

Q: What family-friendly activities are available in Calheta? 

A: Families can have a great time at Calheta Beach, enjoying the sun and sea. See tours section for Madeira nature tours.

Q: How can I learn more about the local agriculture and produce in Calheta? 

A: Visit the Calheta Agricultural Market to sample fresh produce, interact with local vendors, and gain insights into the island’s agricultural bounty. There are also nearby attractions such as rum tasting and sugar cane factories where you can gain more of an insight.

Q: Is there a recommended time to visit Calheta for festivals or events? 

A: The Festas de São João in June is a lively celebration in Calheta. Check local event calendars for other festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.

Q: Can I explore nearby villages from Calheta? 

A: Yes, Calheta’s westerly location makes it convenient to explore nearby villages. Consider visiting charming locations like Ponta do Pargo and Jardim do Mar area for unique experiences.

Further reading: The 20 best towns in Madeira (and where to stay in each one)

Q: How far is it from Calheta to Porto Santo?

A: The straight-line distance from Calheta in Madeira to Porto Santo is approximately 45 kilometres (about 28 miles). However, the actual travel distance may be longer depending on the transportation method used, such as ferry .

Map showing Things to do in Calheta, Madeira

The Google map below shows the things to do in Calheta as listed in this post. Click the blue icons to see more information about each place, or click the star to add to your own Google Maps.

Tours in Calheta

Below are some of the top-rated tours in Madeira, from my preferred tour operator Viator (I also use Get Your Guide as well, but Viator is my go-to).

1. Sunrise Self-Guided Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo: To save you the hassle of organising transport, the trip includes hotel pickup, then drop-off at Pico do Arieiro, and pickup from Achada do Teixeira once you’ve finished the hike.

2. Full-Day Madeira North West Coast Safari from Funchal: Take the scenic route between Ribeira Brava and Porto Moniz in an open-top safari vehicle; enjoy spectacular views of the Cabo Girão sea cliffs, Veu da Noiva waterfall, and the Paul da Serra plateau.

3. East of Madeira | Full Day 4×4 Tour: Travelling by 4WD, venture off-road and escape the crowds as you drive the Pico do Areiro mountain roads, stop in villages such as Ribeiro Frio and Faial, and visit a traditional A-frame house in Santana.

4. Half-Day Wine Tour in Madeira: Wonderful wine trail through the Laurissilva forest with wine and tapas included.

5. Private Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour in Madeira: 2- to 4-hour private charter by motor yacht. Snorkel and spot marine life including whales and dolphins. Light refreshments and a glass of sparkling wine included.

View all Madeira tours on Viator here. You can reserve tours immediately without paying anything up front, and cancel for free. Viator is a TripAdvisor company, so you know you will get a good service.


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