Once known as a stuffy holiday spot for ‘newly-weds and nearly-deads’ (charming), flora-filled paradise Madeira is suddenly attracting a much younger crowd. And it´s easy to see why.
Spanking brand new super-hotel NEXT is carving itself a niche…. as the mega-capital of Madeira cool. I spent a couple of days there scouting out the best bits (and taking a *lot* of photos for the ‘gram)…
Beating 11 competitors to win Europe’s Leading Island Destination 2021 at the World Travel Awards, it’s safe to say Madeira is having a moment. In-the-know travellers will tell you it’s been cool for almost a decade – picking up the same gong eight times in total – but if this is all new to you, let us get you up to scratch.
The first thing you need to know about Madeira is that the sea views are mind-blowing. Second, it’s a year-round destination for serious sunbathing. Get you a hotel that has both – Savoy’s NEXT offers tons of space to lounge around in, and direct sea access – perfect when the water never dips below 20C. The island has no sandy beaches (save for a couple of man-made stretches, outside the main city of Funchal) so seaside positioning is a big deal.
Being subtropical, one should expect sunshine and showers on any trip, but when the skies are clear, the UV rays are always super strong. Even in December, you’re gonna need to cool off, and quickly. There’s something about jumping straight off your lounger and into the sea that makes you feel like a rockstar.
The first thing you need to know about Madeira is that the sea views are mind-blowing. Second, it’s a year-round destination for serious sunbathing.
Challenged only by neighbour Belmond Reid’s Palace (favoured by a wealthy, super traditional older crowd), NEXT is the best place on the island to have this experience. You’ll want to sink cocktails straight afterwards, and happily the bar is teeming with ridiculously nice staff.
A plethora of Madeiran and Hawaiian-inspired dishes experiment with colour and texture at Recharge restaurant, too. Order up quinoa poke bowls, octopus yakitako and sweet potato-filled Malasada (Portuguese fried dough) while you dry off.
Speaking of bars, another prime spot for sun lovers is the hotel’s vibey rooftop, complete with day beds and a swimming pool with an underwater sound system. We tried pork tacos and a lemongrass crème brûlée one evening, then stuck around to see the sun disappear below the never-ending horizon.
Order up quinoa poke bowls, octopus yakitako and sweet potato-filled Malasada while you dry off...
Inside, there’s a decent gym area and a small spa, where you can jump in the steam room or book yourself a massage. If you fancy a truly spoiling treat, check out the sister hotel next door, home to Laurea Spa – Portugal’s biggest, and definitely most impressive.
Day passes start at just 50 Euros, which is a bargain considering the state-of-the-art facilities and mind-boggling Nini Andrade Silva designs.
Most rooms come with a balcony showing off those jaw-dropping views straight out to the water, but city rooms are the cheapest if you’re travelling on a budget. Stepping out onto the main street, you can follow a straight road all the way to Funchal centre (just a 20 minute walk) to do some shopping or grab dinner. AKUA, Kampo and Informal are the most modern spots on the island, best followed by drinks and dancing to the in-house DJ at Threehouse rooftop.
In search of a proper party? Nightclubs are sadly still closed, but there are plenty of thumping Poncha bars to be explored on the promenade, peddling the sickly sweet (and very strong) local hooch. Barreirinha bar brings chilled Balearic beats, perfect for a sundowner – the perfect place to toast another epic holiday.
Heavily reliant on tourism, Madeira continues to welcome all visitors from the UK and is offering free pre-departure tests to everyone before flying home. They’ll also provide a rapid antigen test for every seven days you’re there.
At the time of writing, you do not need a Fit to Fly PCR or lateral flow test to enter, provided you’re fully vaccinated or can produce a medical document certifying you have recovered from Covid-19 within the last 90 days (note: mainland Portugal has different procedures). As ever, check Gov.uk before travelling.