For my first international trip post covid, I treated myself to a relaxing stay at Saccharum Resort & Spa in Calheta, a small beach town on the west side of Madeira Island, Portugal. It did cross my mind that I was paying to travel around the world just to gym, spa, and lie at the pool, all things I could do at home…but once I arrived at the resort, I felt a wonderful mix of serenity and invigoration from the terrain that would be hard to replicate.
The Saccharum resort is built into the side of a hill, and our side sea view room came with a balcony that looked at both the ocean and the hill. The stunning contrast of the vibrant blue and green landscape was breathtaking and made for magical sunsets.
As the hotel was full of European tourists, English was the primary language spoken. As Americans, we found the staff very pleasant and welcoming to communicate with. With four restaurants, bars, a beach club, gym, spa, and four pools, the resort made it easy to not leave. However the main strip of Calheta is also an easy 5-minute walk away and has cute restaurants and a sizable Pingo Doce grocery store.
I was surprised that the hotel restaurants closed fairly early, but their indoor/outdoor rooftop Fly Lounge Bar was a reliable go-to for sunset drinks, live music, and casual bites. Trapiche restaurant serves a larger dinner menu with an equally impressive outdoor setting overlooking their infinity pool.
The daily buffet breakfast at Engenho has a large selection, plus a made-to-order hot bar, an impressive parfait station, Nespresso machines, and a pour-your-own mimosa station with fresh-squeezed juices. I definitely wish I made it out to more than just one breakfast, it is worth getting up for!
I had one meal outside the hotel at Leme Marisqueira, a seafood restaurant serving traditional Portuguese food with a water view. Fresh poncha (the traditional Madeira rum cocktail) and vinho verde were our drink of choice. The raw oysters were a tad dry and didn’t seem as fresh, but the rest of the meal was solid. The octopus in olive oil was extremely tender and generously portioned. Their popular scabbardfish dish (a local lean fish) with banana and passionfruit was also a large portion and delicious with the tropical flavors. Service was very friendly, though quite slow as expected for this part of Europe.
I also grabbed an excellent salted caramel gelato and passionfruit sorbet nearby at Manifattura di Gelato. They had the best sorbet/gelato I tried on the island.
I felt very safe here walking around both alone and with my friend. As this was a sleepy, small town, three nights felt like a suitable amount of time for staying in this part of the island.