Visit 5 different places in 7 days. Sounds pretty stressful? But it doesn’t have to be, because that’s possible in a relaxed way with a cruise. This is evident on the popular Canary Islands and Madeira cruise route, which many shipping companies operate during the winter months.
You have booked such a Canary Islands cruise or are thinking about it? Then sooner or later you will ask yourself the following question: Should I book the shore excursions through the shipping company or rather organize them myself? The best arguments for independent planning: it is cheaper and the excursions are more individual.
Now I’ll tell you exactly how self-organized shore excursions on the Canary Islands and Madeira can look like and what interesting things there are to discover.
#1 Funchal, Madeira
In addition to the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain, the cruise ships also usually call at the nearby Portuguese island of Madeira, the so-called Island of Flowers.
My tip for the shore excursion: take a cab and let it take you to the most beautiful places on the island. Cabs wait for passengers right in front of the ship and offer routes around the island at a fixed price. Knowledge of English is an advantage here; if necessary, you can otherwise ask ship’s staff for help.
For a tour fixed and extensive by the cab companies you pay €80-100 per cab. Since I already had a smaller route in mind, after a short negotiation we agreed on €60 for 3 people and were on the road for a good 2 ½ hours.
If you travel in pairs – or even better as a group of three or four – the trip quickly becomes a bargain. Otherwise, if you are open-minded, you can ask fellow travelers to share a cab. After all, everyone is happy about the money saved in the end.
Here are our stops in detail:
Pico dos Barcelos
This is a lookout point at 355 meters above sea level. From here you have a great view of Funchal and can even see the cruise port. Admission is free and the cab driver waits patiently until you have had enough.
Cabo Girão is a cliff with a height of about 580 meters. The associated skywalk, which boasts a glass floor, offers a beautiful view of the deep blue sea and the lush green landscape of Madeira; however, it is only for those with a head for heights.
Admission is also free here. This stop was definitely the highlight of our trip. Absolutely recommend it!
Câmara de Lobos
The small fishing village between Cabo Girão and Funchal looks authentically Portuguese and original. The place is worth a short walk, but there is not much to discover here.
Mercado dos Lavradores
Back in Funchal, we ended our tour at the Mercado dos Lavradores. The large vegetable, fruit and fish market is ideal to try exotic fruits.
An absolute must are the philodendron fruits. They have the shape of a pine cone and the pulp tastes like a mixture of banana and pineapple. So delicious! The many different varieties of passion fruit are also recommended. For example, there is orange passion fruit or banana passion fruit (mega!).
BUT ATTENTION: Fresh fruits and vegetables are not allowed to be taken on the ship. Therefore, you should buy only ripe fruit and eat them immediately. Unfortunately, we had to learn that the hard way…
From the Mercado we walked towards the ship, passing the CR7 Museum. A quick photo with the Ronaldo statue had to be for my father, and then the successful Madeira trip was already over.
In total, we were on the road for a good 3 hours, saw a lot and absolutely stress-free.
Madeira by foot
If you don’t want to take a cab, there are also alternative places to visit in Funchal.
One of the most popular places is Monte Palace Tropical Garden. The Botanical Garden can be reached by the cable car Teleférico Funchal-Monte, whose bottom station is near the Mercado dos Lavradores. From the ship it is about 20 minutes walk. The cable car ride costs €16 per person; a combination ticket of cable car and botanical garden costs €31.40. The view and the colorful garden are said to be impressive.
The very brave can then descend in a basket sled ( what kind of thing?), an original means of transportation in Madeira. The basket sleigh rides start below the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Monte. The 2-kilometer ride can reach up to 48 km/h. For one person the unique fun costs €25, for 2 people you pay €30. More info can be found here.
If you still have time after visiting the Botanical Garden, you can take a walk through Funchal. Because besides the oldest church in Madeira, you will also find some inviting parks to linger.
With a little planning, a varied and – depending on your wishes – inexpensive shore excursion can be realized.
book a cruise to the Canary Islands with AIDA.
#2 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife
Similar to Madeira, the cruise ship on Tenerife parks just a few meters from the island’s capital. Thus, a tour on foot is easily possible. Sights within walking distance briefly explained:
Plaza de España
In the center of the spacious square is a lake with a fountain. The Plaza de España is surrounded by several historical buildings and monuments. Under the square there is even a museum dedicated to the history of the Castillo de San Cristóbal; a fortification built at the end of the 16th century.
Auditorio de Tenerife
If you always walk along the coast towards the south, you will reach the Auditorio de Tenerife. With its futuristic, curved design, the concert hall is already striking from the harbor. A special eye-catcher here are also the portraits of musicians and famous personalities painted on the stones in front of the auditorium.
Palmetum de Santa Cruz de Tenerife
A few meters away, and a total of about 30 minutes walk from the cruise port, is the Palmetum; a botanical garden that is said to house the largest collection of tropical palm plants in the world.
The garden is nicely landscaped and you can see impressive large palm trees from all over the world. The entrance fee is just €6 per person.
Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África
Behind this simple name is a large market hall, which you can or should pass on the way back to the ship. There you will find a wide variety of local products that will encourage you to try them. Besides fruits, vegetables and pastries, spices, Spanish tapas, cheese and wine are also offered. Gourmets are likely to get their money’s worth here.
On this trip, you’ll be out for a good 3-4 hours – depending on how long you spend in the Palmetum, for example. The total distance of about 6 kilometers is also still doable on foot.
For alternative excursions it is recommended to book a rental car or just book through the shipping company. Candidates would be:
Nationalpark Canadas del Teide
In the center of the national park is a volcano, which shapes the landscape accordingly. Pico del Teide is the highest mountain in Spain and a popular destination, especially for hikers. But don’t worry – you can also get to the top by cable car.
The journey from the ship takes about 1.5 hours. An excursion organized by the shipping company costs around €60 per person. However, you also spend quite a bit of time on the bus. I personally don’t find that great.
For the Loro Parque experience, you have to drive to Puerto de la Cruz, which is about a 45-minute drive. The park attracts with a bird paradise and various animal shows. With the shipping company you pay around €50 per person for the 5-hour excursion.
With a rental car you definitely drive cheaper. In addition, it is usually faster to travel by car than by bus; especially because you don’t have to wait for dozens of fellow passengers. My recommendation for car rental booking: Cicar. The company is widespread in the Canary Islands. We were fully satisfied with the service as well as with the car. For the car you pay about €50 per day and gain absolute flexibility.
#3 Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura is known for its white sand beaches and is a paradise for windsurfers and water sports in general. That’s where a relaxing day at the beach comes in handy, right? The sand dunes in Corralejo are ideal for this. Unfortunately, these are not in the direct vicinity of the cruise port. However, getting there is easy and extremely cheap.
To do this, you just have to take bus number 6 from the central bus station in Puerto del Rosario, which is about 15 minutes walk from the ship. The ride costs €3.40 per person per way – of course much less than the transfer offered by the shipping company. The detailed timetable is available here.
The exit point can be freely selected. You can either get off at the dunes to spread out right on the beach and jump into the waves, or continue on to the town of Corralejo and look around.
Take a leisurely stroll through the old town and along the beach promenade, or head to the shopping center to grab some souvenirs. Family fun is available at the centrally located Acua Water Park adventure pool. However, the entrance fee of €25 for an adult is quite high.
If you want to be a bit more private, you can also take a ferry crossing to the small, uninhabited island of Los Lobos. The ferries run several times a day and tickets are available for €16 per person.
Whether beach or city – Corralejo offers something for every excursionist.
#4 Arrecife, Lanzarote
Lanzarote is only a stone’s throw away from Fuerteventura. The extremely small island is ideal for an individual road trip. The rental car can also be booked in advance through Cicar.
Since we were not the only ones with this great idea, the rush to rent was very big. Bring patience or get off the ship early to avoid the crowds if possible. We had paid €55, and for about €10 we filled up the tank at the end.
Here are possible stops and recommendations for your island trip:
Jameos del Agua
Behind the name is an art and cultural site built in natural lava caves. In addition to a concert hall and a restaurant, it also houses a salt lake that is home to a species of albino crab that is unique in the world.
For the entrance fee you pay €9.50 per person and for the visit you should plan a little over an hour.
Cueva de los Verdes
A few hundred meters from Jameos del Agua is the entrance to the Cueva de los Verdes lava tube. The one-hour walk is allowed only with a guide and also costs €9.50 per person.
Tours start approximately every 15 minutes and are given in English and Spanish only. The lava tube is quite impressive. But the best part was the intriguing surprise at the end, which should not be spoiled by extensive research in advance.
Mirador del Rio
The Mirador del Rio is a viewpoint in the extreme north of Lanzarote. This is located at an altitude of 400 meters and provides a magnificent view of the 8th of the Canary Islands La Graciosa.
The entrance to the platform costs €5 per person. This offers, in addition to the view, a restaurant with delicious cakes and coffee. A small snack for in between in a great atmosphere.
On this tour, we covered a total of 70 kilometers, which corresponds to a pure driving time of about 1.5 hours.
If this is not enough, you can visit the Timanfaya National Park, located in the southwest of the island, about 30 minutes by car from the port. The park is characterized by its volcanic landscape devoid of vegetation, with black lava fields and red glowing mountains. The entrance fee is €10 per adult.
Thus, a half-day or full-day shore excursion on Lanzarote can be arranged as desired; at your own pace and tailored to your personal interests.
#5 Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
If your cruise starts and ends in Gran Canaria, there is usually not much time to explore the island extensively. But since the ship also docks here near the center of Las Palmas, you can at least visit the city center.
For example, right at the harbor there is a shopping center that is perfect for quick last-minute shopping. Also visible from the ship is the Poema del Mar Aquarium and the Castillo de la Luz Castle Museum, which might be of interest to history buffs.
If you want to splash around in the sea a bit, you can head to Playa Las Canteras beach, a 10-minute walk away, for a leisurely end to the cruise.
I hope I was able to give you some helpful tips for planning shore excursions in the Canary Islands with this article.
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