Known as “The Wild Garden of the Atlantic,” the island of Madeira was once Portugal’s vacation and retirement destination, but today more and more young people are moving back from the mainland. Coupled with an influx of digital nomads and remote workers, Madeira is quickly developing as a major remote work destination.
With a year-round tropical climate and well-connected towns, Madeira is an attractive destination for digital nomads. It has almost full broadband coverage, high-speed internet, and more and more co-living and coworking spaces are opening every few months. The island is so welcoming to remote workers that Madeira’s local government even invested in an initiative called Nomad Island, which gives digital nomads the tools and guidance they need to temporarily relocate to Madeira.
New arrivals can register on their website to gain access to a chatroom with separate channels for the nomad communities in various parts of the island. The group has different channels to facilitate all your needs from finding accommodation to meeting new friends and attending weekly meetups, particularly in the capital city of Funchal where you’ll find the biggest community.
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The East Coast of Madeira is where you might settle if you want to be a little more secluded, closer to nature, but still well-connected. You can choose from a few picturesque villages in this area, such as Porto da Cruz, Caniçal, and Santo da Serra. Beloved by outdoorsy digital nomads, these villages form a triangle around Machico, the second largest city of Madeira. Whichever village grabs your fancy, you will still be within a 30-minute drive from the capital, Funchal, and about 10 minutes from Machico.
The Madeira East Coasters community organizes weekly meetups in the villages around Machico. So you can live your secluded mountain village dream, work, and still have options to meet people without much effort. Nomads who choose to live on this side of the island have access to the best hiking, trail running, and mountain biking trails. The climate is generally cooler than down south, but with more precipitation.
Porto da Cruz is popular with surfers and has a well-rounded village center, with cafés facing the ocean, perfect for a quick work session. Some people come here just to eat the great food at A Pipa. Meanwhile, Caniçal has probably the most beautiful shoreline for kayaking and paddle boarding and an impressive black sand beach to chill on a hot day. It has a variety of small restaurants in the center if you want to switch it up and work from a terrace. Santo da Serra is situated deep in the mountains and might seem secluded, but Machico is only a short, eight-minute drive from center to center. Santo da Serra also has a unique co-living place in a vast garden, Home Office Madeira.
Some of the most beautiful trails are in this part of Madeira. Walk the Levada do Caniçal, or one of the most spectacular hikes, Levada do Larano. When it comes to hikes, the levadas are what make Madeira like nowhere else. The levadas are a sophisticated irrigation system carved into the mountains by the early settlers to transport water from the Northern, higher elevation parts of the island to the South.
You can use the Walkme app and website for guidance, which is an app especially designed for Madeira’s levadas. Just know if you live on the east coast, you’ll need a car. Although you might get away with calling a cab or ride-share, or taking the bus to Machico. When you get to the island, get a few cab contacts to save to your phone.
In Madeira, Funchal is often referred to as Little Lisbon, because of its historical architecture, narrow, winding streets, and an ocean view from nearly everywhere. And like Lisbon, Funchal has a thriving nomad community with daily events and meetups for everyone's taste.
Workouts, diving, whale watching, boat and rooftop parties, and an array of workshops are just a sample of the many activities Funchal’s nomad community organizes every week. In the old town, you get weekly farmer's markets, a wide selection of restaurants, coworking spaces, and rooftop terraces you can work from. Wandering the cobblestone streets at night, you can listen to live music and dance.
While you’ll find Portuguese wine from the mainland sold all over the island, Madeira's drink specialty is poncha, made from local rum. The most famous poncha places are in the Ribera Brava valley. If you are feeling like healthy snacks, the Old Town has you covered. You can stop by Prima Caju for a lovely brunch and smoothie bowl, or you can get fresh tropical fruits from the market. Some special ones include tamarillos, maracuja bananas, and the fruit of the Monstera Deliciosa plant.
When it gets very hot by the shore, you can take the cable car up to Monte and to cool off and work from Greenhouse Coffee Roasters, which is surrounded by botanical gardens, healthy food, and probably the best specialty coffee on the island. Another great place for specialty coffee is the Maia Coffee Shop in the town center. The Design Centre Nini Andrade Silva also welcomes digital nomads at their cafe. It’s a perfect spot for afternoon work, crowned with a spectacular sunset, looking over the ocean. Right next door, you can see one of Madeira’s quirks, the Principality of Pontinha, one of the world’s few micronations that sits on a foreboding old fortress.
Only 20 minutes away from Funchal, Machico is one of the few towns in Madeira where you do not need a car to get around and there is a close-knit remote worker community. The Machico lifestyle is all about doing what you love whether that’s diving, windsurfing, jogging, or heading to a sunrise or sunset yoga class. There are also many community dinners and lots of live music.
The most enticing locale for remote workers is the coworking space Amparo, which is free to use, but you will need to register in advance for it. Situated inside the small, centuries-old yellow fort facing the ocean, you’ll be free to take a swim break or pop by the newly-built outdoor gym just two minutes away. There are also many restaurants like O Gala, O Secreta and Bar Solar to work from on streets covered with small, round stones, which were laid one by one by hand by the first settlers of Madeira.
Sunny Ponta do Sol on the South Coast is the official nomad village of Madeira with co-living and a coworking space and weekly sunset parties at the most beautiful hotel, Estalagem do Ponta do Sol. Recently, the popular coliving chain, Outsite, has opened its doors in Ponta do Sol.
A winding, narrow street with a craft beer bar, pubs, and restaurants leads to the shore. Try The Small House for craft beers or Steak and Sun for a hearty meal. You can expect a younger crowd in Ponta do Sol and just about everyone ends up at the beach at the end of the day.
Going from Ponta do Sol towards the West, you drive under a waterfall and reach Madalena do Mar, popular with paragliders, and then the hip Paul do Mar which is a good spot for surfers. In Maktub Pub, you get fantastic food and a laid-back, cosmopolitan atmosphere. This is a great starting point for anyone at the beginning of their digital nomad journey because you will have a lot of community support and will never be short on things to do or people to meet.