João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira discovered the island of Porto Santo in 1418 during the reign of Dom João I of Portugal.
According to records the island was at first named ‘Holy Port’ by its discoverers as they found shelter here from a storm that was chasing them. Its first donee was Bartolomeu Perestrelo, appointed by Prince Henry the Navigator, who started with the first settlements. Then cattle breeding and the cultivation of cereals and vines were undertaken successfully, however the sugar cane cultivation did not find favourable conditions.
The discovery of this island was an important first step for other discoveries made later along the west African coast down to the Cape of Good Hope and from there to the East Indies and eventually Japan. Christopher Columbus, who was married in Porto Santo to Donna Filipa (daughter of the first donee Bartolomeu Perestrelo), lived on this island for some time.
Situated in the northern hemisphere on the 32º latitude, its territory of about 42 square kilometres is almost completely covered with calcareous matter, especially on the northern side. It is secured on limestone, which is visible in several places. The island is adorned with peaks, almost all to the north, the highest of which is ‘Pico do Facho’.
Being one of the islands constituting the archipelago of Madeira, Porto Santo is amazingly different from the island of Madeira. Whilst lush green predominates in Madeira, Porto Santo is almost stripped of vegetation and the southern coast is bordered by a 9 km long beach of soft golden sand, which makes it a highly esteemed resort area.
Nowadays many tourists seek out Porto Santo to enjoy relaxing holidays as the island still maintains an air of tranquillity. Due to its isolation some of the good old-fashioned traditions of the first settlers could be kept. The moderate climate felt all year round is also a major attraction.
Tourism has given Porto Santo an economic dynamism, which has been growing year by year. The construction of its excellent airport in 1960, further expanded in 1973, was an important factor to the island's economic and tourism expansion. The existing hotels provide a good accommodation standard and a wide range of outdoor leisure activities such as tennis, volleyball, windsurfing, island tours, among other activities.
The gastronomy, specialized in local dishes, can be enjoyed in several restaurants, from modern to typical, all of which allowing the visitor to make the dream of a perfect holiday come true.