Madeira's dramatic west coast is beginning to open up, thanks to the relatively new duel carriageway from Madeira Airpor. This road now runs all the way to prety Ribeira Brava, cutting through the mountains, reducing the drive from Funchal to Ribeira Brava to a mere 15 minutes. Once at Ribeira Brava, driving inland takes you up through the river valley to the striking Encumeada pass, over the tops and down to Sao Vicente on the north Madeira coast.
From Ribeira Brava, now popular haunt for coach trip excursions, you can push further west along the coast road to chic Ponta do Sol, then on to the pretty beach resort of Calheta. Further up along the coast sits Madeira's main surfing hotspot Paul do Mar.
Camara De Lobos sits just to the west of Funchal on the coast, and is essentially Funchal's quieter neighbour. Camara De Lobos is a particularly pretty fishing village, enhanced by the dramatic rock formation and cliff coast nearby at Cabo Girao (Cabo Girao is the second highest cliff in the world!).
Historic Ribeira Brava is a busy place these days, as a result of the relatively new duel carriageway which cuts through the mountains from Funchal to Ribeira Brava. You can get there now from Funchal in just 15 minutes. Alternatively hop on a boat trip from Funchal Marina to Ribeira Brava which takes in Camara de Lobs and Cabo Girao along the way.
Once there, Ribeira Brava is a delight, crammed with lazy coastal cafes, chic shops and a pretty promenade area. It's a popular stop off point before heading up the Encumeada Pass and river valley.
Driving a little further along the scenic coast road passing through the odd tunnel dripping water and offering free car cleaning service, you'll arrive at idyllic Ponta do Sol. This is a peaceful Madeira south coast hotspot, with an attractive pebble beach bay framed by cliffs, and a choice of lazy beach cafes. Ponta do Sol is renowned for its all year round sunshine and dramatic sunsets!
Calheta is one of Madeira's best beach holiday spots. With Madeira Island's rocky coast, it's rare to find sandy beaches here, but the secrets out, superb family holiday hotspot Calheta has two sandy beach bays.
Other Calheta attractions include the Centro de Artes das Mudas cultural centre and Calheta's little marina which offers a choice of watersports activities.
If you're looking for an idyllic rural location on Madeira, in the heart of Madeira Island's dramatic landscapes, then Serra de Agua is for you.
Situated inland, up from Ribeira Brava, the village of Serra de Agua (meaning sawmill) has a small cluster of charming accommodation. Walking opportunities are numerous in the area, and you're conveniently close to the Boca da Encumeada miradour/lookout and deep in Madeira's most stunning river valley.