After a brief experience of the local lifestyle, you might wonder why on earth anyone needs leisure activities on this island. Hurried is not a word that comes to mind when contemplating the pace of island life and stress doesn’t seem to affect to the locals. Luckily, the climate in Madeira is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities both on land and sea.
Perhaps the most unique activity on the island are the walks along the levadas. These water channels that run along the contours of the island transporting water from the north side to the south side and from rivers to the ridges are an ideal way to see the island. The walking is easy, if on occasion a little vertiginous, and the countryside spectacular. For more advanced walkers and climbers there are challenging routes over the interior mountains.
Sports addicts can satisfy their desire to play golf on both 18-hole courses - Santo da Serra Golf Club and Palheiro Golf - that would test the calf muscles of a mountain goat. There are also tennis and squash courts offered by many of the hotels and available as public facilities at the Quinta Magnolia. The armchair sportsman can go to the Barreiros football stadium to see Marítimo, usually on a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon. In Madeira there are also two other teams in the top tier, the National Sports Club, which plays in the Madeira Stadium, and the Madeira Union, whose games take place in the Ribeira Brava Sports Complex.
If you are a water baby then head for the coast and try the Lido or Ponta Gorda swimming pools in Funchal with their excellent salt-water pools and access to the sea or try the natural rock pools at Porto Moniz. Deep-sea fishing is popular from June through to September, when the best in the world come to try and land the Blue Marlin and Blue Fin Tuna found in the Atlantic waters around the island. Check with your hotel for boat excursions that are available and that will take you down the coast past Cabo Girão, the highest cliff in Europe.
Botanists and nature lovers should head for the Jardim Orquídea and the Botanical Garden, and other beautiful gardens open to the public at the do Monte, Palheiro Ferreiro, Palmeira and Boa Vista. Hire a car and travel into the countryside to see the natural beauty of Madeira, with colourful hydrangeas and agapanthus growing wild along the roadside.
To enjoy the favourite weekend activity with the locals, you must find a suitable festa, which usually occurs every weekend throughout the summer. Festas are the place to hang out with a cool Coral beer and maybe eat some chicken or espetada. There are regular local festas featuring traditional music, live rock bands and municipal bands. Listen out at midday on Saturday and you will hear, and maybe see, the fireworks that announce where the local festa will be held.