Porto Santo, the little sister of Portugal’s Madeira, may be one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. While Madeira is a 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. Golden sand beach, deep blue Atlantic waters, palm trees and rugged volcanic sandstone landscapes welcome visitors looking for a beach escape away from the crowds. Oh, and the weather is warm year-round with summer lasting May to October. 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.
Madeira’s sandy sister, is a quick flight away, and has few tall buildings, but rather historic festivals, family friendly activities, outdoors adventures and natural spa offerings. 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.
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’s 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.
For anyone seeking an outdoor escape and relaxation on a European beach, the island of Porto Santo might just be the perfect destination, combining beautiful landscapes, excellent restaurants and plenty of adventure.
- FOR SPA & WELLNESS:Porto Santo, called the ‘Golden Island’, with a range of natural offerings to rejuvenate bodies and minds. The island’s sands are known for healing properties due to their rich mineral content and the organic combination of natural magnetic stones. Hot sand treatments at the Porto Santo Hotel & Spa let guests spend 30 minutes twice a day in the spa’s heated sand beds, where the high calcium and strontium content help ease the pains of rheumatism and other ailments, as well as to revitalize.
- FOR FAMILIES: The island has a lot of family friendly activities including paddle boarding, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, boat trips, hiking and off-road Jeep adventures. Or, you can simply spend time on the long sandy beach.
- FOR HISTORY ENTHUSIASTS: Those keen to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus can come to Porto Santo for the island’s annual Columbus Festival; a historical re-enactment of the time when he lived on the island. The festival takes place in September and features a 16th century market with traditional food and crafts, theatrical representations and lots of music and traditional dancing.
- FOR ECO-TRAVELLERS: Renault, a European electric vehicle leader, has recently announced the launch of the world’s first smart electric ecosystem in Porto Santo. Moving the island away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, this initiative will introduce electric cars and electric batteries to store the energy from Porto Santo’s own solar and wind farms.
- FOR ADVENTURERS: Hiking and biking is easy on Porto Santo’s mountain trails. The rugged, dry beauty of the landscape contrasts with the blue waters of the Atlantic. Unlike Madeira, Porto Santo is quite dry. But like Madeira,a large portion of the islands heights are conservation land. 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.
- FOR FOODIES: For such a small island, Porto Santo has a surprising number of restaurants. Visitors can enjoy local specialties such as octopus, sizzling hot plates of limpets and grilled skewered beef, known as Espetada.
HOW TO GET THERE AND WHERE TO STAY
TAP has service from Lisbon, and there is a regular flight from Madeira and a daily fast ferry. TAP has Portugal service from seven US cities. There are also non-stop flights from the UK.
For more information visit www.madeiraallyear.com