Porto Santo Beaches from Vila Baleira to Ponta de Calheta
Porto Santo’s greatest attraction is without doubt its long sandy beach, stretching over nine kilometres from Vila Baleira to Ponta de Calheta – one of the island’s favourite swimming spots, and also a great place for a meal or sunset cocktail. The beach is popular with people from Madeira, as their own island has no sandy strands to speak of. The water, warmed by Gulf Stream currents, and the mild weather is increasingly attracting foreign visitors too. But the ample space means you won’t find shoulder-to-shoulder sunbathers as in so many other European resorts.
The soft sands are said to have healing properties for ailments as diverse as rheumatism, rickets and varicose veins, and from time to time you’ll see people buried up to their necks. Reports have it that the sands do indeed effect cures, though whether that is because of their inherent properties, or simply because on Porto Santo beach you can totally relax – free from vendors and the usual seaside hassle – is open to debate.
Just inland from the dunes, near the car-park for Ribeiro Cochino Beach is the 17th-century Capela do Espírito Santo, which contains paintings by the Flemish artist Van Cleve. Most of today’s church, though, is a 19th-century rebuild. It is the focus of a mid-summer island festival. A little further west, the Capela de São Pedro, also in the 17th-century mannerist style but restored in modern times, celebrates its saint’s day on 29 June, in a very popular island festival.