Sao Lourenco on Madeira Island: How to Hike It with kids

Sao Lourenco
Are you visiting Madeira with Kids? Madeira has very helpfully categorised its more popular hikes with the letters PR. PR8 is the Ponta de Sao Lourenco Madeira hike. Walking from the car park to the final tip is an undulating but not overly difficult 9km walk which our kids were able to do with ease. If you’re on holiday to Madeira and looking at hiking, here’s how you can do it too.
The cliffs at the beginning of the hike, PR8
The cliffs of Sao Lourenco Madeira

Download This Map Of The hike

We’ve done this walk twice now; once just Emma and the kids and the second time Rich, the boy and Emma.
The first time the kids and I ran out of light to complete it and this is not the type of walk you want to be doing  in the dark! The second time we made it back in time for the sun setting across the rocks which was a great moment to share together.
This is the map of our hike which you can download and use for free via

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Where is Sao Lourenco Point?

Situated on the very eastern point of the Island there are several walks around here ranging from 1.5km – 9km return.
Don’t be put off by the number of coach tours and tourists in the car park. Many don’t make it off the viewing area and some only make it to the very first peak. After that we had the walk all to ourselves on both experiences.

What About Parking?

There is ample parking for at least fifty cars and although it nearly always looks busy most cars just come for a look and a photo to say they’ve been.

The start of hike PR8 on Madeira Island
The start of the walk and the very first peak in the distance. It’s about 1.5km round trip to this hill.

The Start Of The Walk

Leaving the car park you can either circumnavigate the cliffs to the right or walk on the pathway to the left. We chose to do one on the way there and the other on the return.

On the cliffs to the right are sections where people have built stone cairns. It tends to be busy and when I saw all of those people I started to freak thinking it would be the worst hike ever but really they were no where to be seen once we started officially walking.

Viewing point next to PR8 car park
The viewing point next to the car park

Amazing Views Over The Atlantic Ocean

Very quickly into the walk, less than 5 minutes, you’ll notice the spectacular scenery on both sides of you. Definitely take some sort of camera because the views are phenomenal.

To your right (west) you have the calmness of the south side of the Atlantic and to you left (east) you can see often huge waves battering the coast line. There are frequent rock slides on the eastern side of the walk and you can see the giant boulders tumbled and sitting in the water.

The drop down to the ocean is just a small 50m and often the rope barrier to safeguard you is missing. It is frequently quite windy so do watch your step. Saying that, we did this hike in winter and I know many of the repairs to tracks are not completed until the start of summer.

Sao Lourenco Madeira
A seascape of Sao Lourenco Madeira

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The Serentity of the West Ocean

See how calm the west of Sao Lourenco looks. There were virtually no waves which was brilliant for January.

Sao Lourenco
The calm waters to the west
The view over PR8 hike with lush green vegetation and thick clouds
Calm waters

The Rough Sea of the East

In comparison, the sea to the west is really rough and the waves pummel the coast line. There is considerable sea damage to the western side with frequent rockfalls.

If you suffer from vertigo this hike will certainly challenge you. In places you can just glance over the side and see the 50-100m drops and the ocean swirling below.

The western coast as seen from hike PR8
The western coast of Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco’s western coast
 Typically it is on the eastern side of the pathways where the protective railing (if you can call it that) is missing.  Of course, this is the part that is most interesting and you’re tempted to wander off the track to peer down!  Of course we did but we made sure that we didn’t go too close to the edge.
Sao Lourenco
Building stone cairns on Sao Lourenco Madeira
Sao Lourenco
Trying to overlook a rock slide….

Biodiversity of Sao Lourenco Madeira

The vegetation on Sao Lourenco is surprisngly lush all year round. In this vibrant but very windy zone you can discover and enjoy beautiful samples of unique fauna and flora species. The contrasting greens of the lushious grass and the purples and yellows of the newly sprouting flowers were vivid and contrasting.

In comparison to the rest of the island which is full of trees, this part has none. This is due to the semi-arid climate and the WINDS! The wind is strong nearly all the way round the hike.

 The peninsula is classified as a partial natural reserve. Of the 138 species of plant identified on the peninsula, 31 are exclusive to Madeira.

Yellow flowers sitting on green bush on PR8 hike
Flowers along the walk.
Purple bud flowers Sao Lourenco Madeira
Sao Lourenco flowers.
Daisies overlooking the atlantic ocean on the PR8 hike
Flowers on the hike.
Sao Lourenco
Plants growing overlooking the building and final peak.

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Let’s Talk about the Undulating Pathways of Sao Lourenco Madeira

The pathways are well maintained and although they’re nothing too strenuous don’t expect this to be a walk in the park.

My data said we only climbed a total of 222 metres but I’ll be honest, it did feel more than that. The hike starts out on a boardwalk and a path but as soon as you hit the first hill, the hike seems to become steep steps carved into the rock and it remains that way throughout.

We did the return hike in 3h 15. We didn’t walk fast, we really took our time and took photos, admired the view and stopped frequently! Isn’t that the beauty of hiking though?

Sao Lourenco
Admiring the view
Admiring the cliffs of the PR8 hike on Madeira Island
Admiring the cliffs of Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Steps set into the rock: Sao Lourenco Madeira

Curious Rock Formations

Just in case you’re not interesed enough in the hike; the result of volcanic origin, this part of the island is full of weird and wonderful rock formations. Most are made of basalt although there are also some limestone sediment formations.
They result in wondrous colours sandwiched on top of each other.
Sao Lourenco
Rock formations of Sao Lourenco
Cliffs over PR8 hike
The cliffs of Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco rock formations

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Make Your Way Over The Thin Pensinsula

The moderately undulating paths climb fine cliff scenery along the (at times very) thin peninsulas of jutting rock. The paths are in good condition but whether you get close to the edges is up to you.
Sao Lourenco Madeira view over the PR8 hike
Imogen on thin pathways with jagged rocks below.
Sao Lourenco
Thin passage way paths.
Sao Lourenco
Thin pathways
Sao Lourenco
The boy approching a thin peninsula

Listen to the Birds

Along the route you can often see several bird species such as the Berthelot’s Pipit, the Goldfinch, the Common Canary and the Kestrel. More likely though is that you’ll hear them and not be able to spot them. On one bank in particular, you can see the canaries madly fluttering around but they’re just too quick to photograph.

The Madeiran lizard, which is the island’s only reptile, is very common here. We saw the one below basking in the sunlight on a rock.

Sao Lourenco
A lizard basking in the sun

Did you spot a sea wolf?

In the sea, you may be lucky enough to spot the world’s rarest monk seal, known in Madeira as a Sea-wolf (Monachus monachus). We didn’t see one but if you book a trip to the deserted islands, you’re 100% guaranteed a viewing of the colony that live there.

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Sardinha Point on Sao Lourenco

The Sardinha house, named after its old owners, is easily identifiable as the only building on the walk. From here, in the summer, you can take the short walk down to the port and take a dip! I am told that during the summer it is glorious down there.

The Sardinha house is now a base for Madeiran Natural Park Rangers and who are responsible for maintaining the area.

Sao Lourenco
Sardinha House on Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Sardinha house on Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Sardinha swimming point

Oh that final climb

Climbing up past the house is a steep set of steps which leads to the very end of the trail.  It is by far the steepest part of the hike but it is definitely worth the effort.

Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco peak
Sao Lourenco
The final step of steps leading to the final peak
Sao Lourenco
The penultimate set of steps leading to the peak

360* views over the ocean and Madeira Island

From here, to the South you can see the Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands) and to the North the Porto Santo Islands. You can look back and see the path you’ve trodden as well as Madeira.

Sao Lourenco
The deserted islands as seen from Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Porto Santo faintly glistening on the horizon
Sao Lourenco
The view over to the two islets
Sao Lourenco
The view of the lighthouse and islets.

The islets

At the end of the Point there are two islets: the Desembarcadouro Islet and the S. Lourenço Point or Fora Islet. These are inaccessible on foot as they are not connected to a path.

Such a shame. I think the Madeiran tourist industry has missed a treat here. Imagine having a Himalayan style bridge linking the two islets!

Making it back in time for sunset

Because we cannot get out of bed on time and we always leave late in the afternoon, we only just made it back in time for sunshine. But it was a great moment and there’s nothing like the sense of achievement to polish off a great sunset.

Sao Lourenco
The sunset

Hiking Sao Lourenco Madeira PR8 with kids

We did this hike in 2017 when our kids were 6, 8 and 13 years old.  They are used to hiking and have hiking boots although PR8 could easily have just done been in a good pair of trainers/sneakers.

The one thing I’d say is that despite sweating the wind is bitterly cold and it did really cut round our ears on the first hike we completed. we wore lots of layers to keep us warn and I’m glad we did.  We didn’t need gloves but a lightweight, waterproof jacket was essential. The weather here can change incredibly quickly.

In the car park when we left there was a food truck but he was gone by the time we returned. I’m not sure what type of food he sells but if you were to hike this in the morning, you could have lunch at the food truck?

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How to hike Sao Lourenco, PR8 hike in Madeira with kids

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