Gay and Lesbian Travelers in Madeira Island

Portugal, in general, has a long history of repression and public intolerance of homosexuality. Gay and lesbian sex and marriage is legal in this part of the World and therefore in the Madeira Island. The age of consent in Portugal is 16.
But in Madeira the (local) gay and lesbian activity is still very discrete. In Funchal there are no specific clubs and bars for gays and lesbians, which is uncommon for a European city with over 100,000 inhabitants. Although the gay and lesbian community seems to be dormant in Madeira, a  notable part of the population enjoys this lifestyle. It seems that being gay in Madeira is actually quite acceptable, as long as you don’t brazenly flaunt yourself in front of the church elders at mass, perhaps. Many individuals enjoy a healthy relationship with like minded persons.

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It may surprise some visitors that there is even two gay beaches in Madeira, although not so popular since the beaches are not really made of golden sand but steep cliffs and rocks. The first is the steep cliff beach just off the Ponta Gorda, below the esplanade that separates it from the “Magic Gardens” near the Pestana Grand Hotel. The other is in Caniço de Baixo.

On Madeira Island, gay and lesbian travelers and indeed locals are becoming more mainstream and definitely more acceptable. The “pink” community is actually much larger than it at first may seem. There are no specific gay and lesbian bars or clubs although you will find that most of the larger nightclubs and mainstream bars are very mixed and gay friendly.

Unfortunately, there are still some anti-gay feeling among more conservative elements in Portugal. The consistently reactionary and influential Catholic church, for example, is still light years from accepting the homosexuality as normal. Also issues like single-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples still have to be resolved, as in other countries.

Before coming to Madeira, you might want to write to the 'Opus Gay Association' (Rua da Ilha Terceira 34- 2º 1000-173 Lisboa) or contact them by phone (+ 351 21 315 13 96). Their e-mail is

On the Internet you will find a few Portuguese gay and lesbian sites. The most comprehensive is that is available in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and German.