Vereda of Ponta de São Lourenço (PR8) is a completely different hike from the other popular treks in Madeira. It is probably the best-known coastal trail in Madeira and presents us with different landscapes from what we are used to in Madeira.
There are no trees on the Ponta de São Lourenço hike – the wind and land don’t allow it – but the landscape is still spectacular. At times it reminds me of the topography of Fishermen’s trail, but with much larger ravines and rock formations.
This is not a very long trail, nor does it have long steep slopes. However, we are constantly climbing up or down during the 6 km of walking (3 km going + 3 km back).
Vereda Sao Lourenço – quick information
- Name: Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço
- Start – Baia d’Abra
- End – Baia d’Abra
- Distance – 3 km (+3 km back)
- Time required – 3 hours
- Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
- Max/min altitude: 126/23 meters
- Altitude gain: N/A meters
- Type – Linear, with return to start
- Signalization (1-5) – 5
- Highlights: Coastal Views and lookouts
- You can download the official map here
Our experience on Vereda de São Lourenço
This route starts at Baía d’Abra, next to the car park. Since it is well-marked, it is easy to see where the trail begins. In fact, you can immediately see the entire route to be taken, as there are no trees and the path is perfectly visible in the landscape.
This hike takes place in the Natural Park of Madeira, presenting us with a landscape of volcanic origin with ravines of several tens of meters toward the sea, with an undulating path that oscillates up and down for not very long.
The first stage of the route is descending, but then we have to climb to a similar altitude until we reach a viewpoint from which we can observe a good part of the island’s northern coast. There’s an exit that goes down to a pebble beach a little further on. It will undoubtedly be quite appealing to go to the sea on hot days.
Continuing forward, we reach several other viewpoints, each one more spectacular than the other. You can usually see the deserted islands to the south, and on clear days, you can even see Porto Santo (to the north), far away.
After just over 2km, we cross a part of the much narrower peninsula, and we have clear fabulous views while feeling the sea on both sides at the bottom.
Eventually, we will start descending until being close to sea level. In the meantime, there is a junction where we have to decide whether to go right or left, but in reality, it makes no difference. Both routes lead to Casa do Sardinha and make up a circular path. The ideal is to go one way and come the other.
At Sardinha’s house, we have a bar/restaurant where you can drink and eat something. On the west side, we also have a pier, where you can take some tours to see the coast from the sea. If interested, this is an excellent opportunity.
Officially, the route ends here, and from Sardinha, you must go back. However, it is possible to continue a little further to the headland where the São Lourenço cape ends and from where you can see the islets of Desembarcadouros and the islet of Farol. It’s an arduous climb up there, more challenging than any other on this trail.
However, when we made this trail, the route was closed, and we have read that it has been closed for a while. So, if it continues to be closed when you visit, we advise against going there – as tempting as it is, it’s a risk not worth it.
This is a relatively short trail, but it features fascinating landscapes where you can see the forces of nature in action. Finally, with a bit of luck, you can see the famous sea lions of Madeira on some days. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky, but stay tuned; you may get lucky!
Best time to go to ponta de São Lourenço
This trail can be walked all year round, as long as the weather conditions allow it. It won’t be very pleasant to do in the rain, and it can even become dangerous as the rocks become slippery. Note that the path is likely to be closed if conditions are terrible. And if so, don’t put yourself in danger!
Although it is perfectly possible to walk this vereda at any time of the year, each one has its peculiarities:
- In summer – It hardly rains, so it will almost certain to be possible to walk. On the other hand, as there are no shadows, the strong summer sun can make the path much harder than at other times.
- In winter – Much more humid, it is important to be careful not to slip. It is much more likely to have rain and bad weather and as a result the trail may be closed. On the positive side, there will be a lot less people but don’t forget that Madeira is popular all year round.
- Mid season – You can have both dry or wet weather. Even if it’s sunny, it’s never as hot as in summer, and there aren’t as many people. That’s why it’s our favorite time to do this hike.
Is the trail family-friendly?
We saw hikers of almost all ages, including children and even some tiny ones in backpacks or baby/child beds, when we did this route. Although it’s not something we would do because it looks exhausting, it’s a way of showing how accessible this vereda is.
So, as long as you can walk for a few hours (with some climbs), you will be able to hike this trail. Despite always ascending or descending, the short distances and relatively gentle slope don’t require high physical resistance. The route also does not have any technical difficulties.
On the downside, those with vertigo or fear heights may have some problems as they walk relatively close to some ravines. But if you don’t go off the rails, you’ll never be close enough to be dangerous. The narrowest parts, or those close to the cliffs, have security balconies.
What to take?
As previously mentioned, this is not a tricky hike, neither physically nor technically. In addition, there is the possibility of recharging batteries halfway through at the Sardinha house. There is a restaurant where you can refresh yourself and have a snack. There are also several good spots where you can eat and drink what you take with you. Therefore, we recommend that you bring:
- Lots of water (about a 1l per person);
- Comfortable hiking or running shoes;
- Comfortable clothes;
- Rain jacket if it’s winter;
- Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen if it’s sunny;
- Waterware if you plan on diving in the sea;
- Hiking poles if you enjoy hiking with them;
- Camera and smartphone, there are plenty of photo opportunities here;
- A daypack to take everything with you;
As always, please do not make any trash. Bring back everything you take with you.
How to go to the trail?
Accessing this trail couldn’t be easier. The Cape of São Lourenço is on the tail of Madeira (the peninsula on the east of the island). If you are in Funchal, take the VR1 towards Caniçal and then the ER109 towards Ponta de S. Lourenço. The trail starts at Baía d’Abra, at the end of the ER109 road. There you will find a vast car park, where you can park.
Although the park is large, it is normal to be filled as this is a very popular and well-known trail. We strongly suggest you go early. In addition to being easier to park, you will avoid crowds and the strongest sun.
Quick tips for Madeira’s levadas and veredas
In this and all the levadas and veredas in Madeira, we advise you to:
- First and foremost: When the course is closed, don’t venture out. You are taking unnecessary risks.
- Don’t go hiking alone. The trails are safe but you never know what could happen.
- Always have your cell phone with you. Pay attention to battery levels.
- Always stay within the signposted tracks. Don’t take shortcuts or cuts that you don’t know about.
- Confirm the walking time, and make sure you finish the walk before nightfall.
- Wear appropriate clothing, note that the weather is very volatile in Madeira, especially in the mountains.
- It is common for the floor to be damp and therefore slippery – Wear suitable footwear.
- It is forbidden to cycle on the levadas and veredas.
- Do not damage plants, do not scare animals, do not litter or smoke.
- In narrow places, always facilitate the passage of other hikers in an unfavorable position by placing yourself in a safe area, away from abysses.
- If any trail or levada is blocked for any reason, go back the way you came.
Where to stay?
Madeira is a small island with a maximum length of only 57 km; thus, it is possible to cross it in less than an hour. This path is right on the tail of Madeira island, but wherever your accommodation is, you will always be less than an hour away from this and any levada.
Therefore, it is not necessary to choose accommodation near this trail. The most usual thing is to stay in Funchal as that’s where you will find a greater variety of accommodation, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. From there, it’s about 35 km that takes half an hour by car.
If you don’t have a hotel booked already, see the map below for the best accommodation in Funchal.