You refuse to leave the pool. Why would you? A fireball of sunshine is descending toward the Atlantic Ocean. A few puffy white clouds look like they’ve parted to give you an unobstructed view. The rocky cliffs around you have a purple hue as the sunlight slips away from them. While a small crowd has gathered on the pebbly beach below. Atop the cliff, some people are sitting on wicker chairs on the terrace. Others moved to the lawn with their cocktails. The window seats in the glass-fronted restaurant are already full. But you aren’t leaving the edge of the infinity pool.
You’re watching this perfect sunset from Estalagem da Ponta do Sol, a design hotel on Madeira. You landed in Funchal after a quick flight from Lisbon. You spent the day exploring the hillside capital. Narrow, black-and-white stone streets led to a waterfront promenade, gorgeous botanical gardens, a market overflowing with ugly fish and colorful fruit, and a Gothic cathedral. You rode a gondola high into the terraced hills. Then you followed the winding road along the coast to Ponta do Sol.
Ponta do Sol sits 25 minutes west of Funchal. The small, 500-year-old village is known for having the best climate on the island. It sits in between two rocky cliffs. More terraced hills, these lined with banana plantations, stand in the background. Hiking trails follow aqueducts leftover from the 15th century. Little fishing boats are docked in the harbor. Offshore waves have given the area the nickname the Hawaii of Europe. Plus an old quinta has been turned into the gorgeous hotel where you’re staying.
Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal. The three islands, Madeira being the largest, lie southwest of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. The Canary Islands are 250 miles to the north and Africa is 280 miles to the east, making this the outermost region of the European Union. The uninhabited islands were first claimed by Portuguese sailors in 1419 during the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Settlement began soon after. By the end of the 15th century, the islands, named for the abundance of fennel found on them, had become an important shipping center. Today the volcanic islands are a popular year-round vacation destination due to their perfect weather.
You arrived at Estalagem da Ponta do Sol and rode an outdoor elevator from street level to the hotel’s reception area. The traditional farmhouse is now a modern library, lounge, and bar. Suspended catwalks and metal bridges connect stark white buildings. A second lift leads to the rooms on yet another level. Your minimal room features a black stone floor, crisp white linens, and black-and-white photographs. But the focus is clearly on the view. Huge glass windows overlook the balcony. The endless ocean and the starting-to-set sun are beyond that.
That’s when you decide to head to the pool. The spa, a cocktail, and even a gourmet dinner can wait. The pink sky and the pool, which looks like it drops into the sea, are your only focus right now. Madeira is spectacular.