Quick Madeira Facts & How to Get to Madeira from the U.S.
Like Hawaii (and frequently compared to it as the European twin), Madeira is a mountainous region of Portugal and comprises of four islands with the largest island also called Madeira. Don’t let a map fool you! Yes, the archipelago is actually closer to Africa than Europe itself, but it’s still very much part of Portugal. (And why you must wear at least SPF 50 in sunscreen as you are closer to the equator! Their UV rays are no joke!)
There is only one airport for Madeira, and it’s near the region’s capital of Funchal. Its airport code is FNC, and despite its being in a town called Santa Cruz, locally, you’ll hear it called Funchal Airport as well as Madeira Airport.
As Madeira grows in popularity with American travelers, more and more flights from the United States open up every season. There are now direct flights from JFK Airport in New York City via Azores Airlines. And like any travel to Europe, you can always connect through various routes depending on your departure city and preferred airlines. I have flown TAP Portugal in the past for other romance-focused press trips which was great as you get to have a free layover to explore Lisbon or Porto, but for this trip to Madeira, we flew from London Gatwick (the closest airport to our home) and used EasyJet since we booked an all-inclusive vacation package. It was surprisingly stress-free for a low-cost carrier!
If you’re not sure where to begin planning your trip, we recommend looking at Rome2Rio as a starting point for your potential routes.
Travel Tip: In Madeira, Portuguese is the language spoken, but most all people in the customer-facing hospitality roles also speak English. No matter where we went though, we found only warm, genuine friendly faces and voices. My personal travel rule is to learn a few basic phrases as a gesture of respect, so thank you is obrigada (for women) and obrigado (for men). Hello is olá and goodbye is adeus — which sound like their Spanish equivalents that you might be more familiar with. I also learn my food allergy words to reduce any miscommunication when dining out.
Why We Chose Saccharum
2023 hasn’t been the easiest start, and Robert and I needed a mini-mental health getaway. Being a pandemic couple, we had to cancel our honeymoon, and it’s just been one life thing after another that prevented us from having a proper getaway just the two of us. When we knew Madeira would be our destination, we started looking around at resorts that were away from the hustle and bustle, would allow us to remain on the property for food and drink unless we wanted to explore, and would provide genuine respite. After learning that all of my dietary restrictions could be safely satisfied, Saccharum checked all of our boxes as well as being in our price range.
We booked a vacation package through EasyJet Holidays that included roundtrip flights, airport transfers, and accommodations for 4 nights. We did end up realizing that 4 nights wasn’t enough for our trip, so next year, we are looking to stay for at least 6 nights. For those coming from the U.S., I don’t recommend less than 7 nights so you can acclimate to the time zone differences and truly appreciate the time away together!
Upon Arrival at Saccharum
A 45 minutes’ drive from the airport, Saccharum is located in the seaside town of Calheta on the western part of the island. You can’t miss this modern hotel as its concrete lines and glass-enclosed balconies jut out towards the Atlantic as if being brought to life from the cliffs themselves. The grandeur of the warm tones and height of the lobby invoke its local area heritage of sugar cane production, a still important crop in Madeira today.
Check-in is a straight-forward process, and no sooner after you are handed your unique plastic-free bamboo key card and Saccharum property map with entertainment program, a bellhop takes your luggage on a trolley and guides you to your room via accessible elevators. The earthy yet industrial textures of the spacious hallways offer an undisturbed spa-like ambiance as you walk to your room. Unlike most cookie cutter design hotels that have fluorescent overhead lighting, Saccharum is moodier with soft dimmed lighting which I especially appreciated after a long day in the bright sun.
In Your Room
No matter where on property you stay, every room includes thoughtful amenities such as daily housekeeping and turndown service (which surprises and delights you every night with a new Madeira-inspired homemade treat), bathrobes and slippers, minibar (additional charges), hair dryer, and complimentary tea and coffee supplies. For the eco-conscious couple, you will immediately be impressed by the intentional lack of single-use plastic around the room (unless where necessary for hygiene or food safety). Even the desk’s waste paper basket has a sturdy recycled paper trash bag!
What’s a modern hotel without free WiFi these days? Not a very good one, and thankfully, Saccharum is a good one. You can also charge up your phones through the USB outlets in your bedside lamps while you’re at it. No EU plug converters needed here unless you’re bringing other electronics!
While lovely on the inside, we recommend avoiding the courtyard rooms as they are on the bottom floors of the hotel and don’t offer an ideal honeymoon view. Look for rooms that have “ocean” in their descriptions, and you’ll be happy when you lounge on your balcony. We stayed in a Family Ocean Suite (see our video tour below), and it gave us a panoramic view of the entire property which I personally loved. The Ocean Suites are further back on the property which is my personal preference when traveling as I feel it gives more privacy, but it may not be the best location for those who may have mobility challenges due to the walking and switching of elevators involved. Thankfully you have 194 standard rooms, 43 suites, and 6 deluxe suites from which to choose!
Robert’s favorite part about our Ocean Suite room was the walk-in shower, and I agree! When you live with a tiny British bathtub shower, freedom to move when getting clean is a zen moment all in of itself on vacation!
Spa Experiences for Couples
Like every great resort, a spa center is the cure for slowing down and being in the moment which is so important when connecting with your partner on a honeymoon or romantic getaway. At Saccharum Spa, the professional and friendly therapists give healing and relaxation through Ayurvedic-based holistic experiences.
There are a variety of couples’ massages and spa treatments from which to choose such as Couples’ Ritual with a full body sugar cane massage, Alambique Massage perfect for adaptive relaxation (which we can personally attest this one was perfection!), and even a Couples’ Connect focused on chakra healing.
These treatments for couples start at €100 (roughly $110 USD) which also includes a free spa entrance day pass into the gorgeous private indoor pool, Turkish bath, jacuzzi, sauna, sensorial showers, and other spa amenities.
If you’re a morning exercise person even on vacation like Robert, you’ll be happy to know that gym access is free for all hotel guests. You’ll find all the standard modern equipment needed for a run, cycle, or lift. And depending where you go in the gym, you may even have an oceanview as you work out!
Dining at Saccharum
Between 7 on-site restaurants and bars, you will never even need to step away from the sanctuary that is Saccharum unless you want to. Each dining venue has its own theme and menu, but everything is locally-inspired and -sourced wherever possible. Vegan and vegetarian options abound, so those preferring a plant-based meal won’t be handed a plate piled with lettuce. Approachable gourmet dishes full of flavor and textures will satisfy all tastebuds and tummies.
Saccharum includes a free full hot and cold buffet breakfast with your accommodations every morning at Engenho Restaurant on the 2nd floor. With indoor and outdoor seating available, you have your choice, however the best scenic tables are out on the deck overlooking the ocean. Due to the cliffs, the sun still is making its way across the sky in those earlier breakfast hours, so it’s shaded and not too bright making it a perfect, relaxing way to start the day.
Every day during our stay, we mostly ate at the Trapiche Bar near the infinity pool for lunch since it was easy to step from our sun loungers to the dining area, and it offered the most menu choice for my dietary needs. From the caco febra (pork sandwich with local vilão jam in traditional bolo do caco bread) to gluten-free vegan cocoa crepes, everything was prepared and served with care. Literally not one worry — which is rare for someone with a heavy-hitting book of food allergies.
For a truly memorable experience and a honeymoon must-do, book an all-inclusive romantic dinner for two at Alambique Restaurant and make sure to go hungry! Getting spoiled by the chef, manager, and staff isn’t even the tip of the iceberg! We were warmly greeted and escorted to a private room towards the back of the restaurant with an intimate oceanview and secluded balcony. Candles and love-inspired details decorated the table along with custom designed menus showcasing the evening’s five-course culinary experience with an amuse-bouche to start. Restaurant manager Horácio guided us through Portugal’s top wine selections, and since I don’t drink alcohol, they provided all the soft drinks I could ever want.
By the third course, the golden hour began, and we went out onto the private balcony area to watch the sunset (and try to make room in our stomachs for the remaining dishes!).
Just like Americans, Madeirans show love and hospitality to others through food, so expect to see generous portions at every meal. You will never walk away wishing for more. And if you did, you’ll likely get shown back to your table to be loved some more.
Travel Tip: If you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, be sure to email Guest Services prior to your visit so you can have a seamless dining experience, particularly if you have a more uncommon allergy. I personally have Celiac Disease and have to eat gluten-free, and I have seafood/fish, beef, peppers, and pineapple food allergies. (I’m fun to travel with!) Saccharum accommodated everything for me at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
To help with communication, I prepared a note on my phone with food emojis and Portuguese words of what I could not eat in case I couldn’t pronounce a word properly. It was useful a couple of times just to confirm ingredients as I never expect anyone in food service to remember my long novel of dietary needs. While Saccharum managers were always aware due to the hotel’s intranet, sometimes servers needed further clarification. Emojis: bridging multi-lingual translations since forever!
Activities at Saccharum
While we weren’t available to partake due to our own schedule (since some of our vacation was a press trip!), I was impressed by the amount of activities the hotel organizes. Some have additional costs and some are free. They don’t happen every day, so checking your entertainment program can help with your planning. Portuguese lessons, gardening workshop, outdoor hatha yoga or pilates, food workshop with a trip to a local market, mixology workshop, and more compliment the thoughtful layers of your vacation.
Directly across the street from the lobby, Saccharum’s casual Calhau Beach Club is a lovely change of scenery and gives direct access for swimming in the ocean for all hotel guests. While there aren’t any natural sandy beaches here due to the cliffs, there are beautiful cabana sun beds with striped pillows, thatched sun umbrellas, and an internationally-inspired menu including shrimp tacos, vegan burgers, and other light lunch bites.
And if you’d prefer to venture further out, Saccharum has daily shuttle buses to popular places on island like Funchal and Prazeres. These are available at an additional modest charge and a great way to see the rest of the island if you need a break from all that relaxation.
For a dreamy island honeymoon with a European flair, Saccharum Resort rejuvenates and sets the tone for what a peaceful romantic getaway should be all about. Stunning landscapes of the Atlantic Ocean contrast against their lush gardens as this resort offers couples the opportunity to relax in a world class spa and enjoy exquisite cuisine at many of their on-site casual and fine dining venues. With plenty of activities and cultural experiences to explore, couples can be sure of a unique and memorable honeymoon. “Love is sweet; Madeira is sweeter” and that is something we definitely experienced through the food, people, and sights at Saccharum Resort.
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Disclosure: Some transportation, dining, and activities were provided so we could better experience Saccharum and Savoy Signature. All love and opinions for what’s been mentioned in this feature are our own. Some of the above product links are affiliate-linked and purchasing through these links helps support Tidewater and Tulle and its wonderful partners! You can find our full disclosure policy here.