With a landscape unlike anywhere else on earth and year round sunshine, the Portugese island of Porto Santo is a destination you never knew existed, that you quickly need to add to your list of places to visit before you die.

Only 12km by 7km, the small island has been considered a paradise by many including Christopher Columbus, who chose to settle there after his many expeditions around the world.

Must sees for free

Praia Do Porto Santo beach should be your top priority as its tropical white sands and gorgeous crystal-clear waters make it a near-paradise. 

Take a stroll along the beach or simply sit and enjoy the view with a cold drink from one of the beach bars that line the coast.

If strange landscapes and geography in action is your thing then there are plenty of places on the island to walk including the beautiful Pico De Ana Ferreira cliffs, where you can find volcanic rock formations much like Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. 

Basalt Columns in Pico De Ana Ferreira

One of the best things you can do for free is to take on one of the many hiking trails.

If you are an experienced walker and like a challenge you’ll enjoy the climb up Pico do Castelo, or around Pico do Facho.

There is a spectacular mountainside path running along the side of Pico Branco to Terra Chã. 

The tourist office publishes a map of three different island walks.

Top sees for a fee

And if you’re a bit of a history buff, you can dive into the island’s rich past by visiting both the Porto Santo museum and the house of Christopher Columbus. Reputed to be the home where Christopher Columbus lived, and where he planned his voyage to America, the museum has a collection of interesting artifacts and covers the maritime history of the island. Entry is €2.

Praia de Porto Santo

Quinta das Palmeiras is a mini botanical garden which houses many species of birds. Wander through the lush gardens and feed the fish, make friends with a chipmunk and chat with a parrot. Entry is only €3. 

One of the top activities in Porto Santo has to be scuba diving on one of the many diving areas. Book with Porto Santo Snorkeling Tour from only €35 per person, you don’t have to have any diving experience and you don’t have to go deep in order to see a wide variety of corals and sea life.

Getting around

Most people on the island get around by taxi or bus with the main taxi rank at the end of Rua João Gonçalves Zarco.

Six buses chug around the island with about one leaving every hour.

Taxi drivers will take you on half-day or day tours of the island for around €30. 

There’s also local bus that will take you on a two-hour island drive (daily at 2pm).

In the summer months you can also get around on a horse and cart if you’d like a more romantic form of transportation.

Picos do Castelo e do Facho - Ilha de Porto Santo

Eating out/going out

Due to a lack of livestock on the island most dishes are either vegetarian or fish.

The island’s pride is its custard flan which is unrivalled in the world 

But you must also try fresh octopus and some of the best can be found at Restaurante Torres, where their recipe has been passed down from generation to generation with love.

For a truly special evening meal, where the restaurant even has its own pick up and drop off service from your hotel, book in at Panorama restaurant where the sunset is unbeatable and the food is to die for!

Although the island is small there is plenty to keep you entertained at night.

Head to Taskaki Bar for colourful cocktails and great music or to Bar de Praia Tia Maria for a cold beer by the sea.

Figurines in Casa Colombo (Christopher Columbus Miseum) Porto Santo


Luxury:Vila Baleira Resort Porto Santo - Although there are no luxury hotels on the island, this resort has absolutely everything you need in order for your stay to be as perfect as possible. With a spa, sports club, indoor and outdoor pool with swim-up bar and right on the beach, the hotel is ideal for couples, families and business travellers alike.

Sitio Do Cabeco Da Ponta Apartado 243, from £51 - £156.

Mid-range:Paraiso Dourado Turistic Apartaments are perfectly located for sun, sea and sand. Only a stones throw from the beach and local shops, the hotel’s wonderfully friendly staff make sure you have everything you need to enjoy your stay.

Francisco Rodrigues Jardim Urbanizacao Zarcoshopping, Lapeira, from £48 - £81.

Madeira Mountains Hiking Rock Porto Santo Island

Budget:Areia Dourada makes it easy to enjoy the best of Porto Santo Island. 

The small hotel rooms offer air conditioning, 24 hour front desk, room service, an outdoor pool and free breakfast.

Estrada Nacional 120 Sitio do Espírito Santo, from £27 - £75.

Fact file

Currency: Euros (€) £1=£1.11

Time zone: GMT+ 1hr

The flight: 3hrs 55mins, connecting flights start from £144 return or fly direct with TUI

Best time to visit: With a location close to the equator, the weather in Porto Santo is consistently warm and clear - the highest temperatures peaking around September, if you do visit during September you can experience the Columbus Festival, where locals celebrate the world-famous explorer Christopher Columbus and his expeditions around the world.

Visas, injections and precautions: None.