Madeira has a little-known sister island that through lots of new infrastructure investment and planned growth has emerged as the best little beach in Europe. While Madeira is lush, green island, Porto Santo is a dry crescent with a six-mile long beach on its central bay. The light yellow sand is rich in magnetic rock and that same sand has a healing power. And, with the doubling of TAP flights from the US to Portugal this summer, connecting to Porto Santo is easy!
The clear waters of the bay are always warm with no undertow. Tiny islands cap either end of the long beach and dunes with beach grass and cactus flowers back the rest. An occasional café is off of the beach, but for the most part, the ample sands turn into fields where grapes are grown for the local wine.
Start off by snorkeling and taking a peek at the marine life in the popular spot just south of Porto de Abrigo, where the wreck of the "O. Madeirense" is found.
With a mean temperature of 70 degrees the sea around Porto Santo is inviting year-round. The dry and stable climate and the warm sea make this island an ideal beach location 12 months a year.
So for a beach without high-rises, a laid-back feel, healing sands, and even bits of china washing up on shore from shipwrecks, check out Porto Santo. Yes, it has golf, tennis, new hotels and carting, but once you see the beach… you won’t want to go anywhere else.
The downtown is charming and historic with a 17th century museum dedicated to Columbus (he lived on the island for years, and married the island governor’s daughter) and a central square from the 16th century. About four main eateries and a few boutiques flank the square. But, even in mid-summer, there is a sleepy, relaxed feel to Porto Santo.