Hiking in Madeira: PR 8 Ponta de São Lourenço Hike – All You Need To Know
Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço (PR8) is one of the best hikes in Madeira. This blog will tell you everything you need to know about hiking the PR8 São Lourenço levada walk.
São Laurenço Point is located on the most eastern side of Madeira island and it is one of the most postcard perfect spot in Madeira.
This article will show you everything you need to know about the PR 8 Ponta de São Lourenço Hike so you know what you are getting yourself into and how to prepare for it!
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How to Get to Ponta de São Lourenço From Funchal?
The easiest way to get to Ponta de São Lourenço is to drive from Funchal. It’s about a 50 minute drive from Funchal in the direction of the airport (and goes past the airport).
If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus from Funchal to São Lourenço point. Bus SAM 113 takes you from Edificio 2000 near the mall ‘La Vie’ in Funchal to Baia D’Abra, the final stop. Round trip bus fare for one person is about $6.1 euros and the driver has change when you pay him. The bus ride from Funchal to São Lourenço takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
PR8 São Lourenço Trail Overview
Length of PR8 hike: 8km round trip (not including the steep stairs at the end)
Time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate with steep climb at the end
The PR8 trail starts in a large parking lot in the Madeira Natural Park. The trail has some ups and downs and wraps around the peninsula with amazing cliff view and ocean view. The trail continues with the option to stop by a cafe and a beach before the final steep climb up a series of stairs for the ultimate view of the islets.
Be aware of strong wind on this hike as the hike is mostly exposed and the wind from the sea can be very strong.
How Strong Is the Wind at Ponta de São Lourenço
I was really worried about the strong wind on PR 8 hike when I was researching what to do in Madeira. All the reviews said the wind was pretty strong during the PR8 hike and some people said they got blown off the path.
I went to São Lourenço area twice, once was to a view point (Miradouro Ponta do Rosto) for photos around sunset and the second time was to hike PR8. It was indeed windy, but it wasn’t to the point that I would be pushed off the hiking trail.
You will feel wind most of the hike but the really windy part on Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço only lasts for about 10-15 minutes. The rest of the hike was bearable but remember that I have only been there twice so maybe it can get really windy but I just didn’t experience it.
Best Time to Hike São Lourenço
Due to its popularity and the ease of access, PR 8 trail is often very crowded so the best time to visit is either early morning or late afternoon.
There is one large parking lot at the PR8 trailhead and during the day the parking lot gets full and hikers have to park along the road. It’s best to avoid the crowd and either arrive before 10am or arrive after 3pm.
I personally got to São Lourenço at 3:30pm and there were many empty spaces as most people were leaving. This also meant we were able to have most of the trail to ourselves without overcrowding.
PR 8 – Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço Trail Detail
Start your São Lourenço hike near the parking lot. If you don’t have snack or water with you this is the time to get some. Depending on the time of the day, there is a cart selling ice cream and water and chips. Even in the parking lot you can already feel the strong wind.
At the start of the hike it’s a series of paved steps going down hill for about 5 minutes until you reach the wood boarded bridge followed by wooden steps uphill.
Eventually the wooden steps becomes a dirt path, followed by some stone steps going downhill until you reach the other side of the hill. Note that this hike basically just loops around the end of a peninsula.
After about 10-15 minutes from the trail head you will come to a view point where you can see the famous rock at São Lourenco.
This view point is extremely windy and most people don’t stay for more than a few minutes but it’s one of the best views of the cliffs on this hike so be sure to not miss it.
After the view point you will continue walking uphill on the PR8 trail. This part of the hike can get really windy because it’s open and exposed but the trail is wide and safe. The good thing is the really windy portion only lasts for a bit (10-15 minutes-ish). Once you hit the narrow path with wired bars the wind disappears.
The hike continues by wrapping around the hill with some ups and downs. I thought it would be really windy but surprisingly this part of the hike wasn’t.
You will eventually come to a view point and it’s a good spot to take a break. It’s an open space to see the ocean and you can look back at the hike you’ve just done and even see the parking lot.
After taking a quick break (and photo) continue along the dirt/ rocky path. This part of the hike has no railing and you don’t really need it.
Continue walking until you start climbing stone steps that leads to a straight path as well as another nice view of the landscape. You might be a little tired at this point and to be honest we actually thought about turning back since we thought this view was already nice enough.
In fact I actually thought this was the famous view (but after verifying with Google I realized we weren’t there yet!)
You can stop now or keep going to the end. One reason we wanted to turn back is because the end stilled looked far away. The trail from here to the steep stairs at the end looked rather boring (in fact it really was boring). But honestly speaking I’m glad we kept going because the view at the end is stunning.
Assuming you continue the PR8 hike, the trail eventually becomes flat and you will see a cafe and the final big hill behind the coffee shop that you to climb up.
The path sort of becomes two and you can choose which one you want to walk on. Both paths will pass by the coffee shop but one of the path on the east side actually goes down to the beach.
There are boat tours at the beach according to some reviews but since we didn’t go down there we didn’t see the boats. But people say the boat ride is pretty nice!
I personally didn’t hike down to the beach because it was already later during the day and we had done another hike earlier that day so we were already tired.
Both trails end up going to the steep stairs so it doesn’t really matter what you choose to take.
Once you come to the bottom of the stairs there will be a sign that says the official PR 8 hike ends here. The stairs are not blocked off and most people do hike up the steps for the view so I’m not sure why it says it’s not part of the official PR8 trail. And if you make it this far, you simply have to hike up the stairs till the end.
Depending on how fit you are, most people don’t take more than 20 minutes going up these steps.
The steps at the bottom half of the steep climb have wooden boards stapled into the ground so they are pretty easy to walk on. But as you go up more the steps become less clear and they look more like steps formed by stones/dirt rather than an actual stair.
You will need to take bigger steps here and potentially hold onto the railing to help you get up. I actually didn’t have trouble going up but coming down was a bit tricky during that section.
Once you conquered the steps you will come to the Sao Lourenco Point with that postcard perfect view of the islets! Be careful not to walk too close to the edge since this area is super windy. There was railing at the end but not on the side and even the railing fell down on the ground (probably due to the strong wind) so there really is no railing.
It took us about 2.5 hours to go one way on Ponta de Sao Lourenco but partially because we took a lot of photos. Coming back down the PR8 trail without stopping only took us 1 hour and 15 minutes so I guess the hike is so-able in 3 hours round trip without stopping including the stairs.
Bathrooms on the PR 8 Trail at São Lourenço
There is only one bathroom on the entire PR8 Hike and it’s at the cafe near the end. That bathroom costs 1 EURO and is only open when the cafe is open. When we were there around 6:30pm the place was already closed. There’s no other bathrooms along the way or at the trail head unfortunately.
How Difficult is PR8 São Lourenço Hike?
I personally found the PR8 Sao Lourenco hike to be relatively easy except the steep stairs at the end. But I also hike a lot so most hikes on Madeira are not very difficult for me.
There are mixed reviews from other people; some people thought the hike was not that easy because there were a bit of ups and downs whereas others thought it was easy/ moderate.
What makes the São Lourenço hike challenging is really the windy condition and being exposed to the sun with absolutely no shades the entire hike.
In my opinion, if you are relatively fit, you should have no problem with the Ponta de Sao Lourenco hike. You also don’t need to hike all the way to the end if you just want to experience the hike. The view along the way is quite pretty and you can always turn around (like what we almost did) when you are tired.
What to Wear For the São Lourenço Hike
As with any hikes, you should always be prepared for the rough terrain, sun, wind and rapid change of weather.
Sun protection is vital for you to survive the Sao Lourenco hike. The entire hike is wide open with absolutely no shades and Madeira can be really sunny! You should definitely bring a hat (try to tie it down or it might fly away), sun screen and sun glasses with you to hike PR8.
Hiking Gear like hiking shoes and hiking poles help although not absolutely necessary. Hiking shoes would be good for the Sao Lourenco hike since the grounds are uneven. Poles could help against the strong wind but again, not absolutely necessary.
You need to have layers with you because the weather can change rapidly. Given how windy the hike is, you may want to wear more (and take it off when the wind dies down). I personally had 2-3 layers with me at all times. I also found a hoodie to be very useful since the windy can easily blow away your hat, but having a hood help with that.
Water is absolutely necessary for this hike since there is no other source of water unless you make it to the cafe near the end. Bring snack just in case!
Bring cash for the bathroom and other things you may want to purchase from the cafe (or the cart person at the trail head).
Lastly, of course don’t forget to bring a camera with a standard zoom or wide angle lens to Sao Lourenco.
Final Thoughts On Hiking to the PR8 São Lourenço Point
PR8 hike to the São Lourenço Point is one of the most popular hikes in Madeira. The hike is relatively short but with unique and stunning views along the way. Known for its stunning cliffs, Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço is the perfect hike to see the natural wonders in Eastern Madeira. If you have 4 hours to spare in Madeira, be sure to do this hike!
Other Madeira Blogs You Should Read
If you are planning that perfect hiking trip to Madeira then I have a lot of resources for you!
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