Santana and São Vicente are both located in the South of the island of Madeira, approximately one hour from each other by car. Although I visited both places on different days, these visits can be combined in a day trip. The distance between Santana and São Vicente is only 34 km, but the village and coastal roads are full of curves, making the speed limit quite low. However, you’ll be surprised by a beautiful ocean view and typical Madeiran landscapes when you drive this route. Therefore, a day trip to both Santana and São Vicente is a good opportunity to test your driving skills and enjoy nature.
Visiting the Casas Típicas de Santana
Santana is a small village in the South of Madeira and does not really have anything special to offer, other than the Casas Típicas de Santana. These are houses that have a very typical appearance, with thatched roofs and cheerful colors. There are two ways to visit the houses:
Santana houses in Santana
In the center of the village Santana you can find 4 Casas Típicas. They can be accessed from the main road and entrance is free from charge. Around the houses, you will find some flowers and plants, but don’t expect to find a full garden. The houses itself can not be entered, so pictures can only be taken from the outside. If you also want to see the inside of the Casas Típicas, you’ll have to visit Parque Temático da Madeira (more information in the paragraph below). There is also no information available about the houses, other than 4 nameplates for every house.
If you are not willing to pay an entrance fee and you are satisfied with taking pictures of the outside of the houses, I suggest you visit these 4 houses and skip the theme park.
Since there is no entrance, you can visit the houses at any time of the day. When I arrived at 8.30 AM (after my visit to Miradouro de Guindaste) there were no other visitors at that moment. So, if you want to take clear pictures without any other visitors, I advise you to go early in the morning.
Santana houses in Parque Temático da Madeira
Another option to visit the Casas Típicas is by visiting the Parque Temático da Madeira. This theme park offers typical houses in different styles and provides you with a lot of information. The park also offers a garden with tropical and colorful flowers, a playground for children, and multiple indoor and outdoor activities. If you want to immerse yourself in the Madeiran culture, you should definitely visit the Parque Temático da Madeira, especially when you’re on holiday with kids.
The houses in the park are displaying different styles of Casas Típicas and the houses can also be visited on the inside. The staff is wearing traditional Madeiran clothes to complete the experience. Want to try typical Madeiran food? Go to the Typical Gastronomy where you can taste Madeiran bread.
The entrance to the park is only €6 per adult and €4 for children up to 14 years. You can also buy a combo ticket that includes entrance + lunch at the restaurant. This theme park is a great way to get to know the Madeiran culture and is a fun day out.
Caves of São Vicente
Quick tip: Combining São Vicente with Rabaçal also offers a fun road (VE4) to drive next to the mountains and with a beautiful view. There are multiple viewpoints along the road for you to stop and enjoy the landscapes.
We arrived in the afternoon and could immediately join a group that had just left for the tour. There’s a guide that tells you more about the caves and its origin. However, we were at the back of the group and we couldn’t hear the guide very well. If you are visiting and you are really interested in the background of the cave, make sure you are walking in front of the group. Please note that at the beginning of the tour the caves are very wet and there is water dripping down. Protect your equipment like cameras and smartphones because they could get wet.
The complete tour lasted for about 30 minutes. After that, there is an exploration center to be visited for a simulation of a volcano. This simulation is nice for kids but it’s not very interesting since it only lasts for about 2 minutes. There are also two movies that can be watched, of which one in 3D.
Once you get outside again you can walk through the garden which is very well maintained. There aren’t a lot of flowers or exotic plants, but it’s a nice place to relax before you drive to your next stop.
A visit to these caves is nice, but I’ve seen much nicer ones, e.g. in Belgium. The difference is that the São Vicente caves are made of lava, stalagmite caves seem to be more diverse. However, if you are looking for something to do on a rainy day or if you happen to be close by, I can suggest a visit.
The entrance fee is 8 euros per person. There are special prices for children.
Another Quick Tip: On just 5 minutes from the caves you can find Padaria Donna where you can eat a cheap, but delicious meal. We paid 8 euros for 2x fresh orange juice, 2 sandwiches and one espresso.
Have you visited Santana or São Vicente? Please let me know your thoughts on these locations in the comments below!