Tourism made famous two local cocktails: Nikita, a long drink based in cream, and Poncha,a strong short drink with alcohol and honey, both sweet.
Though some places claim "the best of..." it is possible to taste them almost everywhere now, so, if you are not driving...
Serra d'Água is a beautiful area seriously damaged by the flooding in 2010. The works were hard but I don't know if they are already finished, so travelling in the area may have some unexpected difficulties.
The tour operator Strawberry World (http://www.strawberry-world.com) is facing financial problems and many hotels on Madeira and beyond are not accepting guests that have booked through Strawberry World.
Here the hotels warning to clients:
Hiking along the lavadas is one of the most famous things to do on Madeira island and also one of the nicest things to do.
But people should be ware that some of them can be very hard to walk and quite dangorous.
They can be very steep and narrow with drops of several hundred meters.
Remember that these trails were build to transport water and not to transport tourists, so they are not always as wide as you would want them to be.
If you are scared of hights then make sure to do your research before taking a levada walk.
I personally love levada walking and would certainly recommend other people to do it too, but be a little careful.
All the different levadas have graduations depending on how hard they are to walk and try and set out with one of the easy levadas and then move from there.
Dont be fooled by the waiters that areinviting you inside of the restaurant. Take your time to look at the menu, most of the terases have the menu hanged outside so you can decide for yourself.
If you in the restaurant and the waiter comes and showes you something tipical from the island dont agree with him to eat that look at the menu or ask for the price!
Choose your own wine dont let the waiter offer you something you dont like!
Local food is great but should not be expensive.
Mar Azul has waiters like that.
There are relatively few things in the Madeiran countryside that could ruin your vacation, but don't let that make you too careless. The common European blood-sucking tick is also present in Madeira and while relatively few ticks carry the Lyme disease, you are still at risk if you get bitten.
If you go hiking especially outside the main hiking routes, carry a tick remover and check for any ticks when you return home. If you get a suspicious red ring on your skin afterwards, seek medical assistance immediately.
However, the tick is probably the most dangerous animal species on the island, and the risk is small so don't it put you off.
We had a terrifying experience in Madeira. WE hired a taxi to take us to an "easy" walk as we are only recreational walkers, and he left us at Boca de Risco on the cliff path to Porto da Cruz. We were not prepared for the narrow, cliff edge paths or the sheer drops. We had no mobile phone and got frightened with no one to help us. We managed to get to the end but it was extremely dangerous. We could not contact anyone and had no map. The hotel manager said we should never have been allowed to go there. We also had another terrifying experience in the nun's valley. It was raining and the taxi driver said he would drop us off for an easy walk & then pick us up in the valley below. It started off well and then after about 45 minutes we heard rumblings. Then we saw rocks falling. The sound got louder and we ran to try to get some shelter. The rocks landed on the path just a few feet away. Huge boulders!! We were both shaken and had bruises & cuts and a tourist behind us said he saw us and filmed the rocks coming down. We were very naive.
This is not a real danger, but in Madeira the tourist will seek for signs and sign posts pointing out sights (e.g. the Fort Pico) or the "levada"-paths in vain. There are hardly any signs, not even in Funchal. You are forced to ask locals at least ten times in order to find something. It is a pity, since Madeira is a tourist island as well.
There are a few different Lavada walks which start from Ribeiro Frio. The one we took was in 2 parts. The first part, to the view point known as Miradouro dos Balcoes, is all we completed due to the forbidding look of the path ahead. We walked less than 100m along the ledge running round the cliff-side before thinking better of it! Maybe it was easy going the rest of the way, this we will never know. Just didn't want to fall 'off' the beaten track!
As one member of VT pointed out previously, taxi is a tricky thing. Taxi drivers often ask for a fixed price - for example, a driver asked me for 80 € for going to the Botanic Garden. The Garden is a little far and high up in the mountain and the taxi driver told me that he would wait for me there for an hour and takes me back to my hotel. I said no because I could take a cable car from the town which costs 12 € (one way). If I went by the taxi, it cost me 56 € more. Try to walk as much as you can and when you must to take a taxi, don't agree with a fixed two-way price. Anyway , you don't have much time if your taxi driver waits for you for one hour. First, say clearly and loudly to the driver that you want one way and therefore he/she has to use taxi meter!
It is regretful that I need to write this tip for this beautiful island and it's warm and friendly people.
However, a factor that we were made aware of by our HPB Reception staff at the site from day 1 was an incident that had occurred in the previous week near our HPB holiday complex on Cabo Girao.
Some residents staying in our holiday apartments had been held up and robbed whilst walking a local Levada walk. HPB said in a printed warning that this was an unusual development and investigations were being made. However, their advice was for only groups of 6 or more people to walk locally for safety in numbers.
I'm afraid that immediately put us off the notion of doing any local walks.
Sadly regrettable...but it happens
Though guidebooks will suggest going here, we'd advise against it. It's a pretty town from afar but as soon as you descent into the town, you get swarmed by drunken, billigerent fishermen flinging beer bottles against the pavement. When we tried parking in the public lot (with a meter) we were immediately 'helped' by a local to park. As soon as we got out of the car, the boy acted as he were the parking attendant and said it was 2 EUR. We were like, 'ok fine whatever, where is a pizza place?'. He told us to go up a hill to a restaurant - churchill's, which was 1. over-priced and touristy and 2. had no pizza. The boy also took more than 2 EUR because he demanded a tip. We didn't feel like getting into a heated argument with him and the rest of the locals so we 'donated' the money and left Camara da Lobos ASAP.
Bottom line: avoid this town!
For years, we have all been told of the importance of water. The general guideline has been to drink 2 litre of water each day. For a person who is not living an active lifestyle this may be enough, but if you are physically active, you need more water than that. That is especially true if you are hiking in the Grand Canyon due to the fact the average temperature is much higher than other areas and the landscape goes up and down.
Water is essential for everyone, especially if you are hiking. Water helps almost every part of the human body function properly. Our bodies are almost two-thirds water, and proper hydration is essential to keep your body functioning properly during the hike. Some of the things water does in the body are:
* The brain is 75% water; even moderate dehydration can cause headaches and dizziness;
* Water regulates body temperature, which is especially important here in the area where the temperatures can be so brutal;
* Water carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
* Blood is 92% water;
* Water protects and cushions vital organs;
·* Water converts food into energy (which is something you will need on a 3 to 4 hour hike…);
* Muscles are 75% water, and you will use many muscles on a trail as you climb above the desert floor.
For many years the sea was the only possible way to reach islands. Madeira was no exception and to get here was, therefore, a privilege. From here people whether emigrated or went on a cruise, since for various shipping companies Madeira was a required passing through for the beauty and exoticness of the archipelago.
But considering the technological evolution, still bearing in mind the natural limitations of that time, the island has entered an era to built an international airport.
The weird thing is that on our ticket it was mentioned that we would fly to Funchal International Airport. When we arrived and we went outside the building we saw a huge sign on the building "Funchal International Airport". Therefore we were unpleasantly surprised when we wanted to drive with our car from Funchal to Santa Cruz. We were not able to find a sign wit Santa Cruz on it. Why? Because the airport lies in Santa Cruz and not the capital Funchal!
We had been told that the luggage would be there in a half an hour and as we stood in the balcony we saw a bus come and a young man began to lift luggage from it. We rushed down and when we reached it we immediately saw that my friend's luggage was there and mine was missing. The bus was leaving and we ran and shouted after it and finally managed to catch the driver’s attention. He spoke very little of English and our Portuguese was even worse but we made him understand that my luggage was missing. He went to back of the car and showed me that although there was a lot of luggage there mine wasn’t. I asked what I should do and he shrugged his shoulders and left. Great! My friend’s nightmare had become true and I was without my luggage. We went back to our room to think what we would do the next. We hadn’t been there for more than 10 minutes when the phone rang. I answered and the girl from the reception said: Here’s a man, please come down. Her English made me smile and I thought ‘do I look like I am in a need of a man?!’ Anyway down I went and there was the luggage man and my backbag was on the table. He asked if it was mine and I said it was. He looked embarrassed but I just gave him a big smile and said thank you and he looked very relieved and left. Why make a scene out of nothing? I had my luggage so no harm was done and I had some extra spice to the holiday as for awhile I didn’t know if I would see my luggage again.