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Natural Paradise: Exploring Madeira's 6 top natural swimming pools

The captivating island of Madeira, tucked away in the Atlantic Ocean, is is renowned for its jaw dropping hiking, extraordinary landscapes and rugged coastline. After a long day walking levada trails and scaling peaks, the best way to relax and recover is by immersing yourself in one of Madeira's spectacular natural swimming pools: crystal-clear waters surrounded by stunning volcanic rock formations, breath taking coastal views and crashing Atlantic waves.

The fact that Madeira is essentially the tip of an ancient volcano in the middle of the Atlantic means that it isn't safe to swim in the rough and challenging waters that surround the island due to strong currents and high waves, particularly on the northern and western coasts. Created by the volcanic activity and unique geology of the island, Madeira's natural swimming pools offer a serene and safe alternative to the ocean and an idyllic setting for tourists and locals to enjoy a refreshing dip surrounded by awe-inspiring beauty.

From the legendary swimming facilities at Porto Moniz to the hidden gems of Seixal, Faial and Calheta, we'll uncover the most idyllic spots for your aquatic adventures. So grab your swimwear and let's explore the 6 top places to swim that Madeira is so famous for.

1. Porto Moniz: Our absolute favourite natural swimming pool on Madeira! Located in the village of Porto Moniz on the northern coast of Madeira, these special natural pools are among the most famous on the island. With sparkling blue water and chunky walls of volcanic rock, they reminded us of a tropical version of Iceland's Blue Lagoon!

Porto Moniz's large sea water main pool is reaches 2m at its deepest and has a natural rocky bottom with plant life and even some fish that have been washed in by the waves that constantly refresh the water. The pool has an extensive lovely warm sunbathing area around the water where you can spread out your towel or rent a sunbed and enjoy the dramatic views of the power of the Atlantic - massive waves smash into the surrounding rocks throwing spray over the ocean side edge of the pool. Feeling brave? Join your fellow daredevils, sit on the ocean side wall and wait to get knocked back into the pool in by the waves.

Other facilities include a small shallow kids pool, changing rooms, lockers, showers and cafes. €3 entry (free for ages 3 and under), pay and display parking on the road approaching the swimming pools.

Beautiful natural swimming pools at Port Moniz, Madeira. Blue water and sky, black volcanic rock
Porto Moniz's glorious natural swimming pools - Madeira's best!

2. Seixal Beach: also known as Praia do Seixal, Seixal Beach is a beautiful coastal area located on the northern coast of Madeira, offering a dramatic combination of volcanic rocks, dark sand, and the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Tucked away from the main road above, the beach is nestled beneath towering cliffs, providing a sense of seclusion and tranquillity.

Unlike the majority of Madeira's beaches which are stony, one of the notable features of Seixal Beach is its black sand, typical characteristic of volcanic regions (we saw it in Iceland an Japan's Kamakura). At the right hand side of the beach, a waterfall plunges from a cliff onto the rocks below. Madeira is known as the Hawaii of the Atlantic and Seixal reminded us the most of our honeymoon on Kauai - sunbathing at Hanelei Bay with the craggy green volcanic island rising around us and skinny little distant waterfalls gushing down the ravines in the hillsides.

Unlike Seixal's enclosed rocky swimming pools a few minutes away you are swimming in the Atlantic here as you would do at any beach, and while a long harbour wall protects the beach from the worst of the Atlantic, there are still medium sized rolling waves here. Wading out to waist deep water will take you beyond the break point for calmer swimming, or you can sit or paddle on the edge.

Facilities here include a restaurant and bar, toilets and a surf school! Seixal Beach is free entry and there is free parking on the street leading down to the beach.

Enormous green headland stretching into the distance with blue ocean and a black volcanic sandy beach in the foreground. Seixal, Madeira
The Hawaii of the atlantic - stunning coastal views from Seixal Beach

3. Faial natural swimming pool: Faial, a small village located on the northern coast of Madeira, is home to a beautiful rocky swimming pool known as the Faial Natural Pool (Piscina Natural do Faial on Google Maps). This natural pool is surrounded by a stony beach and a man made harbour wall that creates a sheltered area, providing a safe and calm swimming environment. The pool is filled with crystal-clear seawater, allowing visitors to enjoy a refreshing swim while being surrounded by the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. While waves can break hard against the wall at the front of the pool, the water inside is calm and sheltered.

The location of the Faial Natural Pool is particularly picturesque, with interesting twisted volcanic rock formations similar to Iceland's Reynisfjara and views along Madeira's dramatic cliffs and coastline as you flop on the warm concrete floor at the top of the stony beach that surrounds the pool.

In high season there is a restaurant and toilet facilities open on site, with fresh water outside beachside showers available all year round. Free entry, free parking in the facility's car park.

 Faial's rocky beach with steps leading down to a natural swimming pool. Unique volcanic rock formations can be seen in the cliffs behind.
Faial's fascinating twisty volcanic rock formations.

4. Seixal natural swimming pools: Just round the corner from Seixal Beach, these two seawater pools are known for their striking natural beauty. Natural and rocky, one pool boasts a sea arch and small cave, the other has more flat space for sunbathing.

When we visited in May there were no real facilities apart from a toilet block and what looked like a small bar that was closed - maybe it only opens in summer high season? Best to bring your own drinks and snacks as the pools are accessed via a very steep short walk down a hill. Despite what you might see locals do, do not attempt to drive down! The road is bonkers 33% incline with some wicked turns.

Seixal's natural swimming pools are free entry, free parking on the main road above the pools.

5. Funchal Lido: If you're staying on the south coast in Funchal without the means to visit the natural pools on the north coast, Funchal Lido is a lovely way to enjoy swimming in Madeira.

This was the most expensive swimming facility we came across on Madeira at €5.50 for adults (7-17 year olds are €1.90 and 0-6 year olds are free), but it's definitely the fanciest. with seawater swimming pools, one large, one small, refreshed by the tides, spacious sunbathing areas, equipped with loungers and umbrellas (extra charge) and a little kiddie pool. You're also a short walk from numerous cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops.

There is pay and display parking just behind the Lido.

6. Calheta Beach: on the southwestern coast of Madeira, about a 40 minute drive from Funchal, Praia da Calheta is a man-made beach with golden sand imported from Morocco. You'll still want to wear water shoes as the water's edge and the bottom of the swimming area is gravelly, but the water is beautifully calm and clear - similar to Seixal Beach, you swim in the actual ocean, sheltered from waves by a harbour wall.

Calheta Beach has sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent for only a couple of Euros, a restaurant with beach side tables and a bar.

The beach is free entry and there is pay and display parking on the road next to the beach.

Praia da Calheta, Madeira's only yellow sand beach. a palm tree and beach side dining in the foreground, with calm blue waters and fluffy clouds in a blue sky behind.
Praia da Calheta, Madeira's only yellow sand beach

Which of Madeira's top natural swimming pools would you try first? From the spectacular Porto Moniz pool to Seixal's black sand beach, when it comes to crystal clear waters and stunning views you'll be spoilt for choice for beautiful protected swimming spots.

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