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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Paul do Mar - Surf Capital Madeira Island

If you continue up the western coastline of Madeira, the views will only get better (and better!).  You leave the gentle harbors and reach the more rugged coastline of Madeira.  

Our final destination was Porto Moniz, the northwestern corner of the island, but I had scheduled a quick stop in Paul do Mar along the way.  Paul do Mar was noted in my Lonely Planet guide as being one of the Best Villages of Madeira Island.  After reading about big waves and surf competitions, we made a quick stop at Madeira's surf capital to see the waves in a sleepy surf town.  

Location of Paul do Mar on Madeira Island (Google Maps)

Surfing started on the island of Madeira in the 1970s but didn't become a well known surfing destination in the mid-90s, when several magazine featured spots like Paul do Mar.  Even though the rest of the island was quiet, the waves breaking at Paul do Mar were impressive.  

More about the islands waves:  Source
 In 2001, the World Big Wave Championship was held here on Madeira Island.  This part of the island is donned as the surfing capital due to its 8 meter (26 feet) waves and tubular tunnels for surfing.  While the waves didn't look gigantic when we were here, we did see some of the famous tubular waves.  Paul do Mar is best known for its Barreling Waves (Tubular Waves, Tunnel Waves).  

Surfers at Paul do Mar
The wave here breaks 50-100 feet in front of the long road and seawall running parallel to the shore.  You can sit on the seawall and watch the surfers relatively close to shore. This part of the island is very quiet, and really only known to surfers (and travelers with their nose in a guidebook like yours truly).  

Far enough from the city, this sleepy town is all about the surf.  The cafes are quiet and the surf is nearly guaranteed.  When we stopped into one of the cafes to grab a coffee, the town was very quiet, with just a few older men playing cards outside a cafe, and a few surfers catching waves in the water.  This is a great place to stop for a coffee on your way to Porto Moniz, and watch the surfers off the shore. 

Road and seawall bordering the surf in Paul do Mar

Getting here: From the capital Funchal follow the Fast road ('via rapida') to Ribeira Brava, then follow the signs to Ponta do Sol, Madalena do Mar,Calheta. At the Calheta marina roundabout go straight on and then descend to Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar.

GPS:  N 32.759070    W -17.230439

Surfing in Paul do Mar
Seawall in Paul do Mar
Surfer in Paul do Mar

Other Attractions:
from WikiTravel  
  • See and walk the PR19 Caminho Real do Paul do Mar walk up a valley with a waterfall to Prazeres 400 metres above. Start at the harbor (It takes about an hour).
  • See Engenho da Calheta a museum and a sugar cane processing factory in the Calheta district of Madeira  There are two mills for crushing the sugar cane. The waste or bagasse falls down a chute and is removed by a conveyor belt below the mills.  Some of the machinery is 200 years old and steam powered.  The museum and factory with a cafe is situated about half-way down the hill between the Calheta Marina roundabout outside the two tunnels and the ocean front road next to the white sand beaches of Calheta district.

Bananas in Paul do Mar 

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