Must-Have Experiences in Madeira Island

Must-Have Experiences in Madeira Island

The landscape of Madeira Island is as magical as footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s right foot, offering unique experiences for travelers of diverse interests and tastes.  The mountainous, volcanic island is one of Portugal’s Autonomous Regions, sitting about 670 miles southwest of the mainland.

But beyond Madeira’s superstar soccer player, what do you know about the island? Why should you go?  First off, go for the jaw-dropping views everywhere you turn, from rugged cliffs falling in the sea, to banana groves and vineyards, to wildflower-strewn mountain peaks overlooking the Ponta São Lourenço península.  Go for the historic villages, traditional straw houses, incredible caves, and exceptional food and wine.

Here’s a taste of our favorite experiences in Madeira:

Ponta do Sol

must have experiences in Madeira-Ponta do Sol

Photo by: Reinaldo Garanito (unsplash)  Landscape view of Ponta do Sol

 

Considered the most happening spot on the island, Ponta do Sol is currently the county seat. The town gets its name from a rocky outcropping that juts into the sea and reflects the sun’s rays. The sun shines for the most hours on the island’s south coast, another reason to extend the day in this beautiful and historic town.

While you’re here, visit the Ponta do Sol Pier, the romantic Lagoa do Lugar de Baixo palace, and the Subtropical Floriculture Centre. Outdoorsy types will enjoy exploring the Paul da Serra, the island’s only plateau, featuring indigenous plants, wildlife, and migratory birds.  Don’t miss the church of Nossa Senhora da Luze, known for its intricate wood carvings.

Traditional Straw Houses in Madeira

santana straw house to experience on Madeira

Photo by:  Reiseuhu (unsplash)

Walk amongst the storybook straw houses of Santana – you won’t be able to stop taking photos! These small, triangular and colorful houses are reflective of Madeiran culture, dating back to the island’s discovery. At the time, straw and wood were inexpensive and abundant in the region.   These materials worked well to keep the interior of the homes temperate. The sloped roofs allowed for rainwater drainage.

The Santana city center is the only place on Madeira where you can view this style of home and the beautiful gardens nearby.  If you visit on the weekend, you can partake in the fruit market located across the street.

Related article:  7 awesome experiences in Portugal  (including mainland)

Sao Vicente Caves

hike in Madeira to see waterfalls and caves

Photo by:  Josefin  (hike to see the beautiful waterfalls and caves in Madeira)

 

Whether or not you’ve ever gone caving, give this experience in Madeira a try.  These volcanic caves, formed some 890 thousand years ago, were the first of their kind opened to the public in Portugal.  Initially created by volcanic activity in Paul da Serra, these caves were first observed in 1885 by locals.  Follow the underground route of the Sao Vicente Caves for a little more than a half-mile, under a ceiling height between 16 and 20 feet.  Take time at the end of your tour to visit the Volcano Center to learn more about the geological formation of the caves and the initial eruption.

Seixal Natural Ocean-Fed Pools

experience the rock pools on Madeira

Photo by:  Tim Roosjen (unsplash)

 

Due to its volcanic geology, there are few sandy beaches in Madeira, but there are plenty of natural volcanic, ocean-fed pools perfect for a refreshing dip. Rocks emerge from the water, creating a calm lagoon area protected from ocean waves.  

Seixal, on the north coast of the island, has some of the prettiest pools. In the long run, Seixal may not be as prestigious as other pool areas such as Porto Moniz and Funchal, but it is more tranquil and idyllic.  These rocks break the wave and leave behind a pool of crystal-clear water.  Here’s a secret about Seixal: There is a black-sand beach here, one of only a few on the island.

Ready to discover the magic and experience of Madeira?  Contact me today for more information or to answer any questions you have.

4 Destinations with pink sand beaches

4 Destinations with pink sand beaches

When you think of tropical places, often you think of clear blue ocean water, swaying palm trees, and the white sand between your toes. Sounds nice, right? Then again, most people are unaware of some that offer pink sand beaches. These beaches are absolutely stunning!

There are quite a few areas with pink sand beaches, but here are some that stand out to us!

How pink beaches get their color

Pink sand gets its color from broken coral pieces, calcium carbonate materials from marine creatures, and seashells.  Sometimes, the sand has the slightest highlight of pink, but the shoreline and the water’s edge are where the pink will be most vivid.

1.  Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda

bermuda pink sand beach

This beautiful beach is located on Bermuda’s South Shore and is a great place to visit if you’re looking for some relaxation.  Since the beach resembles a horseshoe (hence its name), it’s sheltered from large waves.  Also, this beach is family-friendly, with many snorkeling, boogie boarding, and paddleboarding activities.

Beachside bars offer burgers and fish sandwiches, ice cream, and Bermuda’s national drink, the Rum Swizzle.

2.  Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

swim with the pigs in Bahamas

Harbour Island is a small island in the Bahamas (it is so small that you can walk around it on foot).  In addition to the beautiful beach, there are several great activities.  One of the coolest activities to do at Pink Sands Beach is taking a boat tour to swim with pigs!  Yes, pigs!  You’ll boat over to a smaller island where you can swim alongside these porkers and even feed them.

Next, head over to another island for a Bahamian food tasting!  If you’re not into swimming with pigs, that’s okay; you can always set up a towel on the beach, enjoy the views, and play in the crystal clear, blue waters!

beach in bahamas

3.  Pink Beach of Barbuda, Caribbean Sea

Photo courtesy:  Antigua Barbuda Tourism Board

 

This island is found in the northeastern Caribbean, consists of small village communities, and is known for its natural beaches.

On one side of the island is the Atlantic Ocean, with its dark blue color and beaches strewn with driftwood. And on the other is the Caribbean sea, with its pink sand beaches and sparkling blue water.

Take in natural beauty, relax and interact with locals. Barbuda isn’t known for its tourism, so you won’t see organized events and activities that you would in larger resort towns, nor will you find tourist attractions or nightlife on this island. Instead, expect blissful peace.

4.  Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece

pink sand beach in Crete

The island lies off the southwest coast of the Greek island of CreteIf you’re hanging out in Crete, you can wade out to the island, but don’t expect to see any beach chairs!

Elafonisi Beach is more of a sandbar. Sometimes it can be submerged under the water at certain times.  You may see rare plants and sea creatures, such as the loggerhead sea turtle, as a reward for your effort.  Take note, don’t remove any plants or animals, you could receive a big fine!

Most of the time, you’ll see the stunning pink sand on the island, and when the sand is pink, it is very pink.  However, there can be times when you don’t see the pink sand due to wind conditions, the season, and even the tide motions.  But even if you don’t see the sand in its pink beauty, you’ll always be able to feel the softness of the sand here.  It’s been described as “soft as dust.” The waters surrounding are warm and calm, so it’s a great spot to bring young ones to play.

Pro Tip:  This island can get busy, so we recommend going during the late spring and early summer if you’re looking for a relaxed environment.

Ready to relax on one of these pink sand beaches?  Let’s get you there!

Best Places to Stay Around the Algarve

Best Places to Stay Around the Algarve

Escaping to the sun-dappled Algarve in Portugal seems pretty dreamy right about now. With the region’s stunning beaches, spectacular luxury resorts, on-point dining scene, and adorable boutiques, the Algarve checks all the boxes for the pampering vacation you deserve … right now. 

Read on for an insider peek at the best places to stay around the Algarve and what you can expect while you’re there.

Algarve’s Best Towns: Where to stay 

Sagres

Sagres-southern point of Portugal

Photo:  L Johnson [view of the rugged cliffs in Sagres]

If you happen to be a surfer – or just enjoy overseeing others’ wave prowess – Sagres’ frothy ocean, rugged cliffs, and splendid beaches make for outstanding conditions. You’ll feel like you’re at the end of the world here in this small village.

Fun fact: This is the only place in the world where white storks nest on cliff faces. Don’t miss the cliffs of Cabo de São Vicente, the southwesternmost point on the European mainland.

Stay Here:

Memmo Baleeira: Perched above Baleerira with a striking minimalist aesthetic, a great spa, and views of golden sands and limestone rock formations.

Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel: Perfect for those traveling with children who still crave an upscale ambiance. Nature preserves of the Costa Vicentina surround it.

Pousada de Sagres: Clifftop hotel with views of Cape St. Vincent, Sagres Fort, and Mareta Beach. Fabulous dining, extensive grounds, and a spa are all modern settings with historic flair.

Portimao/Praia da Rocha

view of buildings in Playa da Rocha

Photo:  L Johnson [landscape from the mirador lookout point]

 

This alluring holiday destination is renowned for its calm, sandy beaches, maritime heritage, beautiful historic churches, and lively Marina promenade. When you stay here, you have front-row seats on Praia da Rocha, the best-known beach in the Algarve. Be sure to explore Praia da Rocha Fortress, with its far-reaching views of the city, river, and sea. Don’t forget to try the grilled sardines at any of the local restaurants.  They’re a favorite Portimao dish. 

Stay Here: 

Bela Vista Hotel & Spa: A chic boutique hotel set in a turn-of-the-century villa, right on the best beach in town. Michelin-starred dining, palm-lined pool, and abundant character. 

Penina Hotel & Golf Resort: A favorite of families and golfers who love the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course. You’ll find the Algarve’s largest swimming pool here, as well as a great kid’s club. 

Tivoli Marina Portimao Algarve Hotel: Just steps from the bustle of the Marina, the hotel offers one- and two-bedroom, brightly decorated apartments. Waterfront dining and several pools.

Alvor

stay in Alvor

Photo:  L Johnson [inlet bay from boardwalk]

To be conveniently close to Portimao and Praia da Rocha, yet soak up a smaller, fishing village atmosphere, consider Alvor. Notice hints of the charming town’s Moorish roots, narrow streets, and traditional white-washed houses. History buffs will enjoy touring the Castle and lovely medieval churches.

Stay here:

Prainha Clube: A clifftop gem overlooking Alvor Bay with direct beach access. Beautiful grounds, oceanview pool, sleek rooms with kitchenette and balconies, and a stunning restaurant built right into the cliffside. 

Dom Joao II: A noteworthy upscale hotel where every colorful room has a balcony. Direct access to the excellent Tres Irmaos Beach and within walking distance of Alvor’s shops and restaurants. 

Luna Alvor Village: Set in a quiet spot north of downtown, Luna Alvor Village offers an elevated guest experience with apartment-style rooms with private balconies and jetted tubs. Wide-open lawns for sunbathing and a large outdoor pool.

Vilamoura

Wide,Sandy,Beach,In,Touristic,Resorts,Of,Quarteira,And,Vilamoura,

Photo:  Shutterstock

 

This upscale area surrounding Quarteira is in the center of the Algarve coast. Easy accessibility from Faro has catapulted the resort town into the limelight as one of Europe’s largest beach getaways. Expect excellent golf, monied yachts bobbing in the Marina, luxury accommodations, chic bars and restaurants, ample watersports, and sea excursions. And Portugal’s biggest nightclub, Kadoc.

Stay Here:

The Lake Resort: A romantic resort steps from Falesia Beach, plus home to a natural, sandy beach pool and a floating restaurant. All rooms have balconies to make the most of the stunning views. 

Anatara Vilamoura: A quiet retreat overlooking a golf course, just a 10-minute drive from the Marina and Falesia Beach. Heated outdoor pool available in the cooler months. 

Hilton Vilamoura: A couple favorite, the resort is set among five of the best golf courses in the Algarve, including the Pinhal Golf Course right on the hotel’s doorstep. An expansive spa and outdoor pools with cascading waterfall features.

Ready to go? I love to chat about Portugal. Let’s find the perfect spot for you.

Let Go of Languishing – Book Your Next Vacation Right Now

Let Go of Languishing – Book Your Next Vacation Right Now

In today’s topsy-turvy travel landscape – what’s open?  What’s not?  What tests do I need? – When to book your travel is a conundrum.  Do you wait and book at the last minute in case of new Covid restrictions? Do you book well ahead of time, hoping for the best in 2022 or even 2023? While there is much to be said for the last-minute vacation, even in non-pandemic times, we feel the benefits stack up on the side of booking early. Here’s why you should book your next vacation now.

1.  You’ll Save Money and Gain Flexibility

cruising in Budapest

With more availability for plane tickets, train fares, cruise itineraries, and hotel rooms, you’ll have more choices and flexibility. As those options narrow, the price inevitably goes up. In fact, when you book early enough and the slate is wide open, the airlines and hotels will be vying for your dollars, offering better rates, more amenities, payment plans, and more.

Booking early also gives you plenty of time to think about special extras you may want to include – a private wine tasting, perhaps, or a spa day. Your travel advisor will have more choices to offer you, whether it’s tour options, reservations, or massage sessions. You can add days to your trip, include a stopover in another city, tack on a post-trip extension – with time between now and your trip, these options are easier to make it happen.

2.  You’ll Have a More Authentic Experience

island hopping vacation from Willemstad

 

Most travel advisors certainly won’t balk at planning a last-minute trip for you and, in fact, might relish the challenge of putting together a fun, spontaneous itinerary. But if it’s a long-awaited vacation – like a grand tour of Europe, a trip to Machu Picchu, or island hopping in the Caribbean – you’re going to want an expert taking their time to research the flights, accommodations, tours, activities, dining, and more.

With this additional time, your travel advisor can tap into their network and connections in your chosen destination, setting up hard-to-get reservations, behind-the-scenes tours, and elusive theater tickets.

3.  You’ll Have Something to Look Forward To

book your Greenland vacation to see the icebergs

Don’t discount this reason for booking early. Especially in today’s world, having a super vacation to look forward to can do wonders for our outlook on life. All the languishing we’re doing right now? 

Whether it’s a bucket-list destination like Greenland or Tokyo or a carefree ski or beach getaway with extended family, you haven’t seen in years. Let yourself get excited and book your next vacation right now – you’ve waited long enough! One of the best antidotes is working with your trusted travel advisor to create your dream getaway. 

 

The Prettiest, Must-See Beaches in Portugal

The Prettiest, Must-See Beaches in Portugal

With more than 500 miles of coastline, Portugal has no shortage of staggeringly beautiful beaches. Plus, with a temperate Mediterranean climate and more than 300 sunny days a year, it’s the ultimate beach destination. So how does one choose where to set up their umbrella? Thankfully, with so many swaths of sand from which to pick, you can enjoy several different beaches in one Portugal vacation. For surfers and sunbathers alike, here are our picks for the very best beaches in Portugal, in several country regions.

Algarve

praia-da-falesia-best beaches in Portugal

Praia do Camilo: Walk the 200 wooden steps down to tiny Praia do Camilo, just outside the pretty town of Lagos (be sure to spend a little time in this adorable resort town full of cobblestone alleyways and town squares surrounded by 16th-century walls). The golden sand in this cliff-lined cove leads to shallow turquoise water perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Come early to nab the best spot. Ready for lunch? Check out the small restaurant atop the cliffs, famous for its coastline views from Lagos to Albufeira.

Praia da Falesia: Another cliff-backed beach, Praia da Falesia stretches for nearly 4 miles. It’s one of the most-visited beaches in this area of Portugal, yet long enough that you’re likely to find a nice quiet spot. The cliffs are dazzling – with earthy tones of rusty red, gingerbread brown, and burnt ochre, they’re the perfect Insta-worthy shot.

Praia do Amado: If you’re a surfer visiting the Algarve coast, don’t miss Amado Beach, one of the best beaches in Portugal for big waves. The half-moon beach, within Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejana e Costa Vicentina, is backed by rolling sand dunes. Somewhat remote, the beach is a favorite for those seeking a less traditional but achingly pristine setting.

Praia da Rocha: Accessible via boardwalks and walkways along a busy seafront avenue. Praia da Rocha near Portimao is one of the best-known beaches in Portugal. It has everything a beach-goer could want, from hotels to cafes to full-service restaurants to water-sports operators. There’s some cool sightseeing to be done here as well – don’t miss the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina fortress at the east end of the beach and the Tres Castelos viewpoint at the west end.

Alentejo

best beaches in Portugal-alentejo beach

Praia do Malhao: This one’s a bit of a local secret – ideal for those seeking seclusion on the sand. Find it on the Alentejo coast between Vila Nova de Milfontes and Zambjeira do Mar. For those seeking gentle, ankle-deep water at low tide, head to the northern stretch of beach (great for families with young kids). The southern section of the beach is a picturesque scene of rocky shoreline and craggy cliffs.

Praia das Furnas: Another great family option, Praia das Furnas boasts sandbars that are perfect for kids who want to frolic in the waves. Drive here or take the Maresia Milfontes Ferry from the charming town of Vila Nova de Milfontes.

Lisbon Area

best beaches in Portugal-lisbon

Praia da Comporta: Drive an hour south of Lisbon to Comporta Beach on the Troia Peninsula. What you won’t find here is the crush of mass tourism and high-rise resorts. Instead, you’ll find a shabby chic beach vibe, thatched-roof cabanas, and colorful restaurants along bleached-wood boardwalks. The village of Comporta is equally enchanting, with its rice paddies, salt pans, and ubiquitous white storks.

Praia de Carcavelos: Accessible via a 20-minute train ride from central Lisbon, Carcavelos Beach is a perennial favorite of locals and visitors alike. There’s plenty of room to spread out, lots of water sports and fantastic surfing conditions. Take a walk along the esplanade for the best views and don’t miss the 16th-century Forte de São Julião da Barra, a reminder that you’re not just at the beach but in one of the country’s most historic spots. 

Ready to pack your beach bag? Let’s chat about customizing your Portugal beach vacation.

3 Destinations Where You Can Experience Overwater Bungalows

3 Destinations Where You Can Experience Overwater Bungalows

Nothing screams luxury and seclusion like overwater bungalows. From St Lucia to Bora Bora, these destinations offer the most alluring overwater bungalow experience that nobody can resist. 

These floating accommodations boast breathtaking panoramic views, pristine warm seawater outside your door, and even outdoor showers. As of late last year, we had around 225 overwater resorts all around the world. Most of them are in the Maldives.

For your next chic tropical vacation, here are the top 3 destinations where you can experience overwater bungalows.

1.  St. Lucia

sandal overwater bungalow

Only one resort has overwater bungalows on this beguiling island. Indeed, Sandals Grande St Lucian in St Lucia is the epitome of paradise. Sandals offer everything from luxuriance and romance to serenity and tranquility. 

To top it off, you will get to enjoy the sparkling Caribbean waters and the stunning mountain views. The ambiance is very serene, and being an adults-only resort, expect sophistication and high luxury levels. I cannot leave out the 24-hour personal butler service. 

 

sandals balcony view
sandals grande st lucien bungalows

I found the general level of service at this resort to be top-notch. However, there are only nine overwater bungalows. I would suggest you book in advance so you won’t get disappointed.

2.  Maldives

maldives-relaxing oceanviews

Want a relaxing vacation in a private overwater bungalow in the middle of the ocean? The Maldives has got you covered. Several resorts offer luxury and seclusion to anyone looking to take advantage of the sunshine and unwind.     

The Maldives isn’t cheap, but the vacation will be money well spent. One of the things people say is that you can never return from a bad vacation. Waking up to the views of the gleaming lagoon and spending lazy days lounging on your outdoor daybed is the dream. 

beautiful coral in the maldives

Some of the most expensive and luxurious overwater bungalows in Maldives include; Velaa Private IslandKudadoo Private Island ResortRaffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort, and Soneva Jani Residences.

3.  Bora Bora

bora-bora-mountain views from bungalows

The South Pacific region is the perfect destination for those in search of overwater bungalow experiences. Bora Bora is only a 50-minute flight away from Tahiti.

There are about ten overwater bungalow resorts in Bora Bora that emphasize romance, privacy, and class. Most people would agree that the facilities are second to none!

bora-bora-beach view of overwater bungalows
four-seasons-beach view

Many people think it is the most beautiful island on earth. It’s hard to top when you throw in the luxurious overwater bungalows. The best resorts on the island include the Conrad Bora Bora NuiInterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso SpaSt Regis Bora Bora Resort, and Four Seasons Bora Bora. Book your accommodation well in advance. 

For more information on the destinations where you can experience overwater bungalows, contact us here.