I think that Porto Moniz has the most volcanic look of Madeira - the dark and aggressive rocks, contrasting with the bright blue of the water and the white of the foam compose a very beautiful image, with the secluded natural (?) pools inviting to swim, with the sea raging around.
They call them "natural pools", but the bathing area is artificial enough to be safe. The view is nice, with the black colour of the rocks heavily contrasting with the light blue of the ocean, and the white foam.
There are several natural small ponds in the wild rocks, and the complex is very beautiful.
The use of the pools is paid but cheap, from 0.50€ for locals to 1.25 € to general public.
The old village is not by the sea but a little bit high. This is because of pirates, who liked to pay a visit to Porto Moniz from time to time. As there was not a lot of space left, cultivations were done in terraces, which received water thanks to the famous levadas.
Visiting the terraces is a nice walk from the town centre. Separated by only few metres you can find bananas, potatoes, onions . . . so curious!
The climbing to the top is hard! But not need to say that the views are worth it.
Porto Moniz is famous for its sea natural pools. There are two groups of pools: the west group is more “artificial” with plenty of facilities; the east group are more “natural”. I enjoyed going from one corner to another taking pictures from different angles. The second group was really beautiful! I guess that in summer time it gets really crowded so I enjoyed my time being almost the only person there.
This fort was rebuilt in 1998. The original fort (1730) protected the village against pirates’ attacks. Legend says that Porto Moniz has an ancient furnace hidden in the rocks. It was used by its inhabitants to hide their values from pirates. Maybe a pot full of gold it is still waiting to be discovered!
Nowadays the fort hosts the city Aquarium. It is opened from 10,00 till 19,00. I did not visit it so I can't tell you more.
The Madeiran waters are very rich in cetaceans, with at least 22 species recorded. After 40 years of hunting, whales and dolphins are now legally protected in Madeira. Fortunately, whales were not hunted to extinction, and today the whale and dolphin watching in Madeira can be a great experience of a day boat trip. Many agencies organise these boat trips, with biologists on its crew. You can find them on Google.
The best spots for whale watching are in the south and near Desert Islands. The common whale species to see in Madeira are:
Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera edeni) - April to October
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) - All year but mainly from March to September
Short-finned Pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) - All year but mainly November to April
I was very interested in whale watching. Unfortunately I did not have the time to take a boat trip so I had to satisfy myself with this “cachalote” painted on the wall.
Wandering around the fishing port is a good way to see a little bit of local life. When I was there in the afternoon it was very quiet. I suppose that it is busier in the morning, when the ship market with its fresh products is also opened. The port is small but its colorful boats are a good opportunity to take nice pictures.
Next to the port there is an heliport. I wander who may come here by helicopter!
Leaving the sea area behind, I start climbing some stairs until the old village. This is how the main square looks like. It is a nice place which offers nice wide angle perspectives and where one can find everything he needs in the village: the town hall, a bank, the cultural centre, some fresh water for hot summers . . .
The black and white pavement with some designs is very typical in Madeiran village. In this case there are some waves designed, I would say.
The church is only at few metres upstairs.
This is a nice hike at only few km away from Porto Moniz. This hike will allow you to discover the most wild places in the primary forest . La Levada da Ribeira de Janela was built in 1960 to feed the hydroelectric plant. It took 5 years for its construction because the topography was difficult and weather conditions were very bad at that time.
The walking path follows the levada along its 14km crossing tunnels, small waterfalls and the laurisilva forest. I found this hike very relaxing because I was walking all the time with the sound of the water running. I also had the opportunity to see different endemic birds and plants ( picture 2).
Warning: some tunnels are plenty of water so you have 99% of chances to get your feet very, very wet. A second pair of sockets is not a bad idea at all. Be careful because tunnels are also very slippery. Protect your stuff from water and don’t forget your head lamp.
This is maybe the church that I liked most in Madeira. Standing in the middle of a small square with views over the sea, it is built in the traditional colonial style of Madeira.
Inside, decoration is very simple: wooden furniture and white stucco. The vault is painted with many, many colours but it is not very painful to see. I liked how the local saints are surrounded by colorful birds of paradise, a very common flower in Madeira (picture 2). I found saints + birds of paradise a nice combination :-)
The best part of our journey to Porto Moniz from Cabo Girao was the drive up to the Encumeada Pass summit with great roadside views.
The now fast road that runs North from Ribeira Brava (meaning 'Wild River' or 'Wild Ravine') on the south coast continues over the centre of the island to Sao Vicente on the north coast. This route forms a natural divide cutting through the islands centre.
Several notes about different faces of Porto Moniz:
1. Do not hesitate to ask for info in Moniz Tourist Office (opposite to the natural pools entrance). The service there is unbdouptedly well-oriented and helpfull.
2. Do not be surprised when suddenly in the calm Moniz you see crowds of vistitors. Usually about midday to the town arrive the buses of 'around the island' tours. After 2-3 hours they leave bars, pool, promanade and Moniz became again quiet place.
3. This is really big surprise: in Porto Moniz is only ONE grocery shop. It is located near the church in old part of the town. This situation is specific for Moniz because there are several shops in every (even small) city on the island. Why is that? No idea!!
Things to do in Porto Moniz region in accidental order:
1. Bathing in Seixal (nice dark-sand beach) - see my Seixal tip on Madeira Island Page (MIP)
2. Telesferico in Achadas da Cruz - village situated to south-west of Moniz. You can enjoy the travel of cable railway from hill to the coast.
3. Lighthouse in Ponta do Pargo (west end of Madeira) - museum and stunning view-point. See my Pargo tip on MIP.
4. Walking along the Ribeira da Janela levada - wild madeira in its beuty. See my separate tip on MIP.
5. Relax in Seixal - narrow streets, harbour, ocean-views and excellent cafe. See my separate tip on MIP.
6. Camping in Ribeira da Janela village - not far from Moniz - nice place for tents.
All the places you can reach by Rodoeste line buses.
My MIP (Madeira Island Page)
This is not a metropolis. It's not a corporate holidays resort too. In Moniz you will not find discotheques, kebabs, rollercoasters and thousends shops with Ronaldinho t-shirts or bathing towels with Pamela Anderson.
So what can you do? (in accidental order):
1. Natural swimming pools - main attraction (see my separate tip on Madeira Island page)
2. Walking along the coast - Porto Moniz has nice and recently renovated promenade between harbour nad natural pools
3. Visiting old uphill part near the church - great occasion for drinking cafe in local bar, observing people and ocean far below.
4. Old road - between Porto Moniz and Sao Vicente is constructed comfortable system of road tunnels but along them, glued to the slopes the old road (called Antiga) is leading). Fist part of it is starting just behind the Moniz borders. Marvellous views. Surely you will be satisfied.
5. Eating - along the promenade are located several bars and restaurants. Good local meals for resonable price. I especially recommend Perola do Norte near main Moniz roundabout.
6. Walking between lava islets in old natural pools (near restaurant called Cachalote)
7. Living Science Centre - www.ccvportomoniz.com/en/main.asp
8. Aquarium - www.aquariodamadeira.com. Located in the Forte Joao Baptista. On the upper floor of this building is situated nice cafe where you can taste local liquers.
Before you reach Porto Moniz Village you'll find another really picturesque village known as Seixal. There's a black sand beach with really good conditions. Worth visiting!
Wear sandals on the black sand beach because dark colors absorb heat, making
this sand hotter than at a normal beach. Also, lay a pallet beneath your beach
towel so the black sand won't soil it