The Atlantic Ocean around Madeira is the natural habitat of around twenty different species of dolphins and whales. Some of these species reside here all year round, and some are just passing through. This makes Madeira a great place to visit these cetaceans. We have made a trip like this several times, and it keeps on impressing me. It is a wonderful experience to be able to see these fantastic creatures in their natural living environments. If you want to see dolphins and whales, Funchal is were you have to be. Here you’ll find many companies offering some kind of boat tour on the ocean. But how to choose between all the different options? Here are our recommendations.


This is our personal favorite. These boats are much smaller and faster than the other options and the main goal of these companies is to make sure you see some dolphins and whales. This boat will be able to cover large distances to search for them. If you want a relaxing boat tour and work on your tan in the meanwhile, this is not a great choice. However: if you want the best chances at seeing dolphins and whales, you should really take one of these boat tours. You´ll travel far onto the ocean, and cetacean viewings are guaranteed! Read on about dolphin and whale watching with this boat type here.


During our first stay on Madeira, we took a catamaran onto the ocean. It was a very nice tour, but if your main goal is to see as many dolphins AND whales as possible, this is not your best choice. The catamaran is not as fast as the smaller motorboats and is therefore limited in its’ possibilities to travel far off the coast to search for the animals. There are lots of dolphins in the waters around Madeira, so you will almost certainly see those. But whales are a bit harder to find. If you’re looking for a relaxing boat trip with great views on Funchal and the Madeira coastline, the catamaran is a great choice. The catamaran will also make a stop at Madeira’s highest cliff Cabo Girão, where you are allowed to take a swim!


We have not been on this boat trip, but have seen it in the harbor of Funchal. It’s an impressive ship and hard to miss when it sails the ocean. As for speed and possibilities to travel far off coast in search of dolphins and whales, this ship is probably comparable to the catamaran. It’s very likely you’ll see dolphins, but probably no whales. If you’re in for a nice tour on a very unique ship, this is a great option though!

ship santa maria at madeira 

Dolphins are very common around Madeira, so your chances of seeing those are almost 100%. Whales are no guarantee though. Even if you don’t see whales (or even dolphins), it is still great to experience one of these boat tours. The ocean is extremely blue and the mountains and cliffs of Madeira are even more impressive than they are when on land. For everyone owning a GoPro camera: hold it underwater when dolphins are swimming around your boat. It’s quite hard to capture them above water, this way you will be sure of some great footage!

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