Dolphin & Whale Watching in Madeira: 13 Best Tours for 2023

To experience the wild side on your next trip to Madeira, whale watching and dolphin spotting tours are the way to go!

Besides the breathtaking nature, incredible hikes, jaw-droppingly beautiful waterfalls, and delicious wines, what really sets Madeira is its marine wildlife!

Picture this: you’re cruising through the sparkling blue waters, the salt wind whipping at your hair, and the skyline of Funchal fading into the distance as you get deeper into Madeira’s waters.

You’re starting to stare the horizon, lost in thought, when suddenly, your guides alert you to a whale at one side of the boat, and stop the engine a safe distance away from the whale, pausing to let everyone get a better look.

the fin whale that frequents the waters of madeira at peak times
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Whale watching in Madeira is like having a VIP pass to witness an extraordinary selection of whales, with species like the fin whale, the second-biggest animal on the entire planet, making frequent appearances.

And let’s not forget about the beautiful dolphins, those acrobats of the deep, bobbing up and down like a carousel next to the boat.

Each Madeira whale watching tour boat communicates with other boats out on the sea, sharing their intel, so everyone knows exactly where to go for the best chances of seeing whale life.

So always keep your cameras close at hand, because things can change quickly!

Besides whales and dolphins, you may see dazzling flying fish or surfacing sea turtles, coming up from the underwater world for a brief sip of air.

And even if the sea wildlife isn’t cooperating, the landscapes will blow you away — no wonder that it’s one of the best things to do in Madeira!

Best Time for Whale Watching in Madeira

close up view of pilot whales near the shore with a rib boat full of people behind it

The best time to go whale watching in Madeira is during the spring and summer months, from April to September.

Why then? This time period roughly coincides with the migration of different whale species through the waters surrounding the archipelago.

However, don’t fret if your trip to Madeira is outside of these months: it’s still possible to see whales outside the peak months, as its an important feeding and breeding ground for many whales.

When it comes to whale species, Madeira has a unique variety of species.

The most common sightings include the graceful fin whales, known for their immense size (the second largest on earth, only smaller than the blue whale).

As you can imagine, this is quite an epic sighting!

Sperm whales are another common sighting in Madeira, and these are one of the few whales that actually stay in the islands around Madeira year-round.

If you’re visiting outside of whale season you should keep your fingers crossed for seeing one of these!

a whale with a rigged, interesting back pattern diving down in madeira

Here are a few of the whale species you might see and when:

  • Blue whale (rare, from April through September)
  • Fin whale (common, from March through October)
  • Pilot whale (common, present year round)
  • Sperm whale (somewhat common, present year round)
  • Sei whale (uncommon, from March to October)
  • Minke whale (rare, from June to August)
  • Humpback whale (uncommon, from April to May and October to November)

Best Time for Dolphin Watching in Madeira

Dolphins swimming in the Atlantic waters near Madeira

Dolphin watching is less seasonally dependent in Madeira, because these are resident dolphins as opposed to migratory dolphins.

That said, the spring and summer months are still the best time to go simply due to the fact that the sea conditions are generally more favorable — more chances to see dolphins and not have your trips canceled by bad weather!

Madeira has a pretty wide variety of dolphin species, with the most frequently seen being the the common dolphin and the Atlantic spotted dolphin

On occasion, tours may encounter bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, and Risso’s dolphins — your guides will be able to identify them and tell you more about them!

The 13 Top Whale & Dolphin Watching Tours in Madeira

1. Eco-Friendly Whale and Dolphin Watching Catamaran Cruise

woman on a catamaran looking for whales and dolphins on a whale watching tour in madeira

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (460+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Most eco-friendly option with hybrid engine
– Silent & emission-free electric engine disturbs the whales and dolphins less, letting you get a better glimpse!
– Wheelchair accessible boat and toilets

This dolphin and whale watching tour in Madeira has you on board their eco-friendly, green catamaran for an unforgettable cruise!

Setting sail from Funchal, this purpose-built boat has been specifically designed for wildlife safaris, equipped with a hybrid gas/electric engine.

This ensures that when you approach the wildlife, you can do in a way that is both quiet and emission-free!

You’ll venture out a few miles off the coast in search of the whales and dolphins who prefer deeper waters, as certified guides explain which cetaceans you may see at the time of the year you’re visiting.

But it’s not just dolphins and whales!

You may also see turtles, flying fish, and endemic bird species, and your guides will know all about the different finned and feathered friends that call the waters around Madeira home.

You’ll observe sea life the right way – in the wild, where it truly belongs.

The best part of this whale watching tour, and why it’s our #1 choice, is its silent electric engine mode.

This ensures minimal disturbance, allowing everyone on board to witness whales’ and dolphins’ natural behaviors up close — and also ensuring their health and safety.

The boat is also very comfortable and designed for everyone to have a chance to get a good view, as the upper deck has panoramic 360-degree views.

Meanwhile, the bridge deck has a shaded area as well as large catamaran nets to relax on, and also a lower-deck observation area.

As you head back, you’ll spot the sea cliffs of Cabo Girão and the charming fishing village of Camara de Lobos, a favorite of Winston Churchill.

Note: This boat is also accessible to guests with disabilities, with two wheelchair-accessible toilets on board!

2. Swimming with Dolphins in Madeira Tour from Funchal

seeing dolphins during a surface interval - a person in a shortie wetsuit and five dolphins swimming qiute close, approximately 15 feet away

⌛ Tour Length: 2 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.6/5 stars (560+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– 80% chance to swim with Madeira’s common and spotted dolphins
– Tour refunded if no dolphins are sighted; tour partially refunded if dolphins are sighted but you can’t get in the water
– Speed boat ensures smaller groups and faster transit

Maybe just spotting the dolphins from the boat isn’t enough –  maybe you’ve always dreamed of swimming with wild dolphins.

If that’s the case, this swimming with dolphins tour is the right pick!

The tour promises a 99% chance of seeing dolphins, and they allow you to enter the water if the conditions are safe! 

Madeira has strict regulations for swimming with wild dolphins (as it should!). The rules are as follows:

One, you can only enter the water with common and spotted dolphins, not the rarer kinds of dolphins.

Two, you can only enter the water in groups of 4, safely connected to the boat.

As a result, you may not always be able to get into the water, but the guides here say they have an 80% success rate of people getting in the water! 

Keep in mind these are wild dolphins and this isn’t Sea World.

The dolphins will likely not interact with you at all, and you’re there more to observe than anything else.

This tour also is one of the few that offers a sighting guarantee: if you don’t see any dolphins or whales, you can take another free tour.

And it goes even further than that — if swimming is not possible but you do get to see dolphins, you will be refunded the difference between a dolphin watching tour and the swimming tour, which is more expensive. 

Furthermore, this boat is a small group tour, limited to merely 12 people, and they use speedboats vs. catamarans.

The benefit of this is one, that speedboats are faster (well, duh), but also speedboats give you less of a chance of motion sickness than the catamarans!

This tour is only two hours, so it is a bit shorter, but make no mistake, there’s a whole lot of ground (er… sea, rather) to cover here in two hours!

Your guides will be there to support you every step of the way, so just relax and enjoy the experience!

3. Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruise with Marine Biologist Guide

a rib boat in madeira looking out onto the coastline on a very sunny day in the beautiful island while searching for whales and dolphins

⌛ Tour Length: 2 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (240+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Led by a marine biologist guide & expert crew
– Small RIB boat means fast speeds, close access, & small groups
– Land spotters assist in scouting the wildlife before you go

This marine biologist-led tour is quite a bit different, and it’s for serious Madeira whale watching!

Seeing cetaceans up close and personal is one thing, but a dolphin and whale-watching tour in Madeira with a marine biologist is something else entirely!

This tour is the one to take if you want the best possible chance to see cetaceans and the best knowledge on your whale watching tour. 

Powered by some of the most powerful engines and in a light RIB boat, you’ll be able to cover larger distances than any other cruise, giving you the top chance to see the wildlife. 

Plus, you’ve got an incredible team: your crew also includes a marine biologist guide, who will give you the most useful and interesting information on the local cetaceans and other animals in the region.

Not only is there a great crew on sea, there are people working on land too — wildlife spotters on land scout out the waters for you, so they can point your captain in the right direction of sea life. 

With a boat this small, you can get rather close to whales and dolphins without disturbing them, but always remember to be respectful. 

4. All Inclusive Whale and Dolphin Watching Luxury Tour

small whales or dolphins in a pod, with the view of the landscape of madeira in the background

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.9/5 stars (320+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Get greeted with a glass of sparkling wine
– Unlimited drinks and local snacks while on board
– 30-minute swim or snorkel stop at Cabo Girão (gear included)

Madeira dolphin and whale-watching tours generally offer amazing boat trips, but this luxury catamaran cruise takes things to the next level!

You’ll be met with sparkling wine as soon as you board from Funchal, and you can get unlimited drinks at the bar the entire trip, and as many snacks as your heart desires.

Does it get more VIP than that?

Once you’ve had your fill of whale watching and dolphin seeking, you’ll be stopping over at Cabo Girão for a thirty-minute swim or snorkel stop — or just a good old-fashioned soak in the Madeiran sun on the catamaran!

As you head back to Funchal, don’t put your camera away — the area around Madeira’s capital has an unbelievable coastline, so this is a great chance to snap some once-in-a-lifetime photos!

5. Sunset Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour from Funchal

sunset whale watching seeing a humpback whale tail going back down under the water

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (230+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Combine a sunset cruise with a dolphin and whale watching tour!
– Complimentary drink on board
– Pre-sunset swim or snorkel in the waters of Cabo Girão

A dolphin and whale watching tour in Madeira is always a treat, but doing a sunset whale watching tour makes the experience that much more special!

Heading up to three miles off the coast of Funchal, you’ll get the chance to see some of the region’s most incredible cetaceans led by expert guides.

Your yacht has a maximum capacity of 20 people, so you won’t feel crammed in like a sardine, as it’s rather spacious.

Before sunset, you’ll also be stopping at the beautiful Cabo Girão to go for a swim or a snorkel (gear is included).

If you don’t want to swim, you can simply admire the beautiful coastal landscapes from the boat. You will be offered one complimentary drink on board and be able to admire the beautiful sunset over the sea.

You’ll definitely want to do this at least once when you’re in Madeira… as long as the water is warm enough that is!

If you’re not up to it, there’s always the option of grabbing a complimentary drink and enjoying the sunset views from the comfort of the boat!

6. Dolphin & Whale Watch Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling

view of dolphins near a boat in madeira

⌛ Tour Length:  3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.4/5 stars (500+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Comfortable, high-end catamaran 
– Relax in the nets above the water
– Chance to go snorkeling in Cabo Girão

A luxury catamaran, the crystal-clear waters of Cabo Girão, and a chance to go snorkeling. 

What more could you want from this dolphin and whale watching tour in Madeira?

To call this boat luxurious would be an understatement – the interior is incredible, and there are those wonderful catamaran nets out on the deck if you want to bask in the sunlight.

As you make your way to the deeper ocean in search of dolphins and whales, the guides will share all their fascinating knowledge about these wonderful creatures.

Your boat will anchor at the foot of the sea cliffs of Cabo Girão, towering nearly 600 meters above your head.

This is where you’ll have the chance to jump in and go for a snorkel!

After snorkeling about, you’ll slowly sail back to the Funchal Marina, admiring the coast as you head back in. 

Note: This boat is not wheelchair-accessible

7. Funchal Dolphin and Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise with Snorkeling

a dolphin seen from a boat's edge on a partly cloudy day

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.5/5 stars (2110+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– One of the most reviewed whale watching tours in Madeira
– Chance to go snorkeling or swimming near Cabo Girão

This dolphin and whale-watching tour in Madeira is one of Funchal’s most popular tourist activities as it’s one of the cheaper options for whale watching in Madeira.

You’ll see all kinds of different animals out at sea, no matter what time of year you decide to visit, though the spring and summer months have the best chance of dolphin and whale sightings.

That said, you should try to go in the summer since you can snorkel and see schools of silvery fish up close!

After all, the water is particularly clear near Cabo Girão, so you might as well make the most of it!

Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, you can grab a drink from the catamaran’s bar (not included, so bring some cash!) and unwind on the deck.

8. Santa Maria de Colombo Ship Tour with Dolphin & Whale Watching

view from a madeira boat tour of the city of funchal and the landscape of madeira

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.6/5 stars (360+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Sail on a replica of a historical ship navigated by Columbus
– Very family-friendly and fun for kids
– Adults can sample Madeira; all can try local honey cake

Want to feel like a historic sea explorer for a day? 

This Madeira dolphin and whale watching tour takes you aboard a replica of Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria!

Although it’s (obviously) a recreation, you can really feel the soul and the history in the boat’s construction. It genuinely does a great job of sending you back in time!

This is a great tour for families traveling with kids as it has a bit of a pirate ship vibe to it – it’s certainly unique, and it’ll really get the kiddos’ imaginations going!

You’ll be making your way to Cabo Girão for a swim, and you’re all but bound to run into some adorable dolphins along the way, perhaps even a whale or two!

On top of that, you can sample Madeira’s distinct wine as well as a treat of their local honey cake. Hey, no reason to turn down a local delicacy!

9. Madeira Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour from Funchal (With Guarantee)

jumping atlantic spotted dolphin with the coastline of madeira behind the dolphin

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.4/5 stars (650+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– One of few tours to offer a sighting guarantee
– Swim at Cabo Girão in summer weather
– Wheelchair accessible

Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing in Funchal, take this Madeira whale watching and dolphin tour to learn a thing or two about cetaceans!

The cruise itself is plenty luxurious, but what sells this tour is just how knowledgeable the guides are about dolphins and whales.

It’s great if you’re a worrier, because they offer a sighting guarantee!

On the off chance you don’t see any whales or dolphins, you get a free-of-charge tour to get another shot!

Note that if you only see dolphins but no whales, the guarantee doesn’t apply — it’s only if you see neither.

Tip: Take the tour earlier in your Madeira itinerary, so if you don’t get to see the dolphins or whales, you have time to reschedule.

Either way, there’s the obligatory swim at Cabo Girão after sightseeing if the weather is nice. 

Be sure to visit in the summer to get the most out of this offer!

Note: This tour is wheelchair accessible!

10. Madeira Whale Watching Excursion in a Traditional Vessel

madeira boat with coastline behind the boat while out on the sea or bay

⌛ Tour Length: 3 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (60+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Explore in a traditional, restored Madeiran wooden fishing boat
– 85% chance of seeing marine mammals
– Leaves from Lobosonda, not Funchal; good if you’re staying elsewhere on the island or want to travel outside the city

Keeping things traditional, this Madeira dolphin and whale watching tour lets you ride the quaint Riberia Brava. 

This wooden fishing boat is unlike any other in Madeira – it’s been restored to perfection, and it perfectly captures a piece of the island’s history.

Besides cetaceans, you can expect to see some turtles, endemic birds, or possibly even monk seals too.

There’s always a small chance to not run into animals during these tours, but this is one of the most consistent options you can find, with over an 85% marine mammal spotting rate!

All of this is complemented by the gorgeous Madeira coastline, so even if you don’t spot wildlife, you’ll be quite happy.

Note: The tour starts at Lobosonda, so if you want to get out of the capital for a bit, getting here makes for a fun and scenic road trip!

11. 5-Hour West Bays Sailing Tour with Lunch

madeira dolphin jumping with the coastline of the island in the background on a partly cloudy day

⌛ Tour Length: 5 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.8/5 stars (10+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Longest whale watching tour = most chances to see cetaceans!
– Explore several different bays other tours don’t see
– Delicious seaside lunch (included) + snorkel stop away from the crowds

If you have a little more time to spare, this 5-hour dolphin and whale watching tour in Madeira with lunch has your name written all over it!

Besides seeing the animals, you also get a scenic boat tour of Ponta do Sol Bay – not just the Bay of Funchal, like most tours.

You’ll be passing places like Ribeira Brava Bay, Cabo Girão, and Calhau da Lapa, among others, so expect to take lots of pictures along the way!

Coming in at 5 hours, this is one of the longer whale watching tours in Madeira… but that also means way more chances to spot some cetaceans!

Thankfully, it includes a seaside stop for lunch, made up of delicious local dishes.

Also, lunch is included in the price of the tour, which makes this tour an excellent value.

It’s not that much more expensive than other tours, despite being 2-3 hours longer and including lunch.

If you have the time, you can even try your hand at snorkeling after lunch.

12. Skywalk, Madeira Wine 4×4 Tour & Dolphins Watching from Funchal

person stepping on the skywalk at cabo girao looking over the atlantic ocean below them

⌛ Tour Length: 8 hours | 🌟 Rating: 4.7/5 stars (30+ reviews) | 🐬 Book Now

Tour Highlights:

– Great full-day itinerary of multiple Madeira itinerary must-sees
– Perfect for those who are not renting a car in Madeira but still want to see its sights
– Inclusive of 4×4 tour, Skywalk, wine tasting, and cruise

Sometimes you just don’t want to think and you just want to be led on an incredible, multi-stop day trip. Vacation’s for turning off your brain, right?

This is the tour for you, then: it includes a 4×4 tour, a visit to Madeira’s Skywalk, a delicious wine tasting, and a dolphin watching tour! 

Launching from the capital, this Madeira whale-watching tour doubles as an amazing wine-tasting experience – it’s a long day, but it’s worth every minute!

You’ll head out from Funchal to see the panoramic vista of a lifetime over at Miradouro Boca dos Namorados, then soak in the incredible views of Nun’s Valley.

The Skywalk at Cabo Girão tends to be the show-stealer during these tours, and you’ll get some stunning glass balcony views before trying the wines at Câmara de Lobos.

From Funchal Harbor, you’ll board a catamaran and go whale and dolphin watching along the south coast.

If you play your cards right and visit in the summer, there’s a good chance you’ll go for a cliffside swim before heading back to Funchal!

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