PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço – The complete hiking guide

PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço – The complete hiking guide

Ponta de São Lourenço or St. Lawrence Point is a peninsula located at the eastern end of Madeira. Its volcanic rocks and semi-arid environment offer a unique experience on the island.

Madeira is mainly known for its lush nature and its levadas. The PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike allows you to discover a drastically different side of the island. Here you will discover the steep cliffs drawn by the wind and the sea. You will observe simultaneously the north and the south coast of the island. You will plunge your eyes and your mind in the clear waters that border the cliffs.

You will have understood: this coastal path is incomparable to the other hikes in Madeira. And it deserves to be one of the island’s must-sees!

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Starting point

Distance

Loop or not

Duration

Difficulty level

Elevation gain

Path type

Exposure

Our complete hiking guide

Key information about the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço, a hike like no other on the island

Distance and duration of the hike

The PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike is 7 km long round trip and it will take you 2 hours and 40 minutes to cover this coastal trail. If you take the alternative path that we will talk about in this article, you will extend the hike by less than a kilometer and only 15 minutes.

Difficulty and elevation difference of the hike

According to the Madeira Tourism Office, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike ends when reaching the Casa do Sardinhas, which has a restaurant where you can have a coffee break or lunch if you wish. Nevertheless, we advise you to continue to the top of the Ponta do Furado culminating at 160 meters and from where you will have a breathtaking view of the rocky islets and the lighthouse of the Saint Lawrence point. Including this last ascent, the cumulative positive difference in elevation is 400 meters and is spread over several steep but short climbs. The same difference in elevation downhill is obviously to be expected on the way back.

Generally speaking, this hike is not the easiest on the island but couldn’t be labelled as difficult neither. We have seen families with children of 6-8 years old doing it entirely, including Ponta do Furado. So take the time to go at your own pace and stop to catch your breath if necessary.

Despite its moderate character, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço requires vigilance for two reasons:

The trail itself

If the beginning of the path is paved, it quickly becomes rocky. In the last ascent, the steps are not very practicable and require our attention and our thighs! So mind your step and be careful not to approach the edge of the cliff. The environment is fragile and the risk of landslides is real.

The weather

This hiking trail is very exposed to the elements and there are no shelters. When the weather is clear, you will spend the entire hike exposed to the sun without an ounce of shade. When the wind blows, the progression on the trail can be delicate and even dangerous in places. We therefore advise you to check the weather forecast before setting out on your hike and to change your plans in case of strong winds.

If you take the alternative path we recommend, you will add about 60 meters of positive elevation gain to your hike.

La randonnée PR8 Punta de Sao Lourenço

Frequentation of the hike

Because of its unique character, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike is extremely popular. It is undoubtedly one of the must-do’s on Madeira Island and deserves its place in the top of the hikes not to be missed. It can therefore be crowded.

For this reason, we advise you to do this hike very early in the morning, before the first hikers and groups arrive around 9:30/10:00.

Equipment needed for this hike

As mentioned before, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço is relatively easy and takes less than 3 hours. Nevertheless, we advise you to equip yourself properly for this hike:

Depending on when you are in Madeira, you should also bring your bathing suit for swimming. There are several smaller trails departing from the main one that lead to a pier or a beach.

Weather in Ponta de São Lourenço

The weather in Madeira is extremely changeable. During the same day, you can experience the 4 seasons. And if the weather is great in one place, the situation can be very different a few tunnels away. In order to check the weather before your hike, we recommend you to use the MadeiraWeather application (download from Google Play here or from the Apple Store here).

Note that the weather conditions of the previous days as well as those forecasted for the day may favor the risk of landslides and/or make the hiking trails not very practicable. Before setting out on your adventure, we therefore also advise you to check the following official websites to verify the condition of the hike:

La randonnée PR8 Punta de Sao Lourenço

How to get to and park at the starting point of the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço?

By car

The starting point of the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike is located at the eastern end of Madeira Island, next to the Baía d’Abra roundabout at the end of the ER 109. It is a 35-minute drive from Funchal or Santana, or a 20-minute drive from Machico.

To get there, you will take a fast road through several tunnels. So you won’t have to go through mountain roads and hairpin bends to get to this hike, which is rare in Madeira!

The best way to get around the island and from one hike to the next is undeniably to rent a car. Alternatively, cabs are widely available and will wait for hikers at various strategic points on the island.

Depending on the time of day you start the hike, the question of parking varies greatly. If you arrive early enough, you can easily park near the starting point of the hike. There are plenty of parking spaces along the route. However, the later you arrive, the further away you will have to park. Every afternoon, the road between Quinta do Lorde and the starting point of the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço is lined with cars parked on the side of the road. It is also not uncommon to find hikers’ cars on the left-hand side of the road just before Quinta do Lorde, which is about 1.5 km from the start of the hike.

By public transport

If you want to avoid the hassle of driving, you should know that the bus 113 of the company Sam connects Funchal to São Lourenço in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, passing through Machico and Caniçal. You can find all the timetables of this connection here.

What to expect on the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço?

If you’ve been in Madeira for several days before heading to the St. Lawrence Point, you’ve probably noticed that the island is extremely green. When you head to the São Lourenço Peninsula, forget about the lush nature. The eastern end of Madeira is 9 km long and is in fact the only semi-arid area on the island. The change in atmosphere and vegetation is obvious even before you reach the starting point of the hike.

The PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço takes you to the steep cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The sometimes violent winds and the sea encircling the rock have sculpted it in a striking way, and it is easy to understand why only ground-level vegetation has managed to make a place for itself in this environment subjected to the elements.

After this change of scenery, the thing that will strike you the most is probably the color of the rock: ochre to reddish with yellow and purple reflections in places. Incredible.

As you embark on the PR8 hiking trail, you have two options: follow the paved trail in front of you, or take the alternative path that we’ll talk about a little later. In this section, we will only talk about the classic hike. Go to the next section to learn all about the alternative route we suggest you to take.

On the first 300 meters of the Ponta de São Lourenço hike, the path you will follow is paved or covered with wooden slats, making the progression very easy. However, it quickly becomes rocky, so you will need good walking shoes, even if the progression remains relatively simple. After about one kilometer, you will arrive at the Miradouro de São Lourenço indicated on Google Maps. The view on the north coast of the island is magnificent here and deserves to be observed for a while.

Just in front of it, a path goes down between the hills to reach Praia São Lourenço, a pebble beach located on the south coast of the island, in front of which sailboats anchor and where it is possible to swim. Always good to know if you want to refresh yourself before continuing the hike or on the way back.

Continuing on the hiking trail, you’ll take wide stone-paved steps for a few hundred meters to gain about 60 meters in elevation. Take the time to stop and look back along the way as the views on both sides are spectacular.

After these steps, the trail is slightly less visible as it is no longer paved and is right on the rock, but the many crossings (and potentially other hikers) will make it easy to find your way. Over the next kilometer, you’ll pass through a slightly rougher trail, steps, and the narrowest part of the St. Lawrence Peninsula.

You will soon come to an information board and directional arrows. From here, you have an unobstructed view on the Casa do Sardinhas, which appears almost like an oasis in the middle of a semi-arid environment. We recommend that you take the path to the left on the way up and return on the path that goes around the house to the right.

Officially, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço ends here. If you are ready for a last climb, we strongly recommend you to climb the steps, which are not very practicable in some places, to the Miradouro Ponta do Furado. If you do the hike in the middle of the day under a blazing sun, the climb can be laborious. And even when the weather is milder, your thighs will be well strained. But remember, it’s only a 40-meter climb spread over 300 meters. And believe us, the view at the end is well worth it!

For the way back, take the path along the cliff that you did not take on the way back. There you will find a stone picnic table but also stairs going down to the Cais do Sardinhas. There, you will have the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters at the foot of the Ponta São Lourenço as well.

After this refreshing break, simply follow the hiking trail in the opposite direction. Even though you probably stopped to admire the view behind you on the way out, you will discover the surrounding landscape from a new angle on the way back and be just as amazed as on the way in.

An alternative path if you want another point of view

The PR8 is crowded by hundreds of tourists every day. So you might be looking to get away from this mass of people for a moment. We suggest an alternative path that will make you take a breath of fresh air before returning to the “classic” trail of this hike.

From the parking lot at the beginning of the hike, instead of going down the stairs, take the small path on the left. It will take you through a canyon to the north face of the island. Once you reach the edge of the cliff, turn right to climb the small hill that will give you an incredible view of the Ponta de São Lourenço. From there, go straight down to resume the classic hiking path.

When is the best time to do the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço?

The best time of the year

The PR8 hike is very popular because it runs along a peninsula of volcanic origin that is unique on the island. It is a must-do and it is likely that all tourists visiting Madeira will go to Ponta de São Lourenço during their stay.

As you can imagine, if you have the opportunity to discover Madeira outside the high tourist season, we obviously recommend you to do so. As an example, between December and March, we observed significantly fewer cars parked along the road and in the parking lot near Quinta do Lorde where our marina is located. Since April, cars are present in large numbers every weekday from mid-morning. Needless to say, it is more and more crowded as the months pass by.

The best time of the day

Since the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike is extremely popular all year round, the best way to avoid the crowds is to arrive relatively early. A good indicator of how busy the hike is when you arrive is – not surprisingly – the number of cars parked in the parking lot and along ER 109.

Generally speaking, cars and buses start to arrive around 9:30/10:00. We therefore advise you to start the hike before 9am and to enjoy the calm of the place by being among the first hikers of the day. This will give you the opportunity to observe the landscape as the daylight progresses and to take advantage of the slightly cooler temperatures of the early morning.

The first time we did the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike was on a Sunday afternoon in February. Already then, although there were few vehicles parked outside the classic parking places, the hike was very busy. We repeated the experience on a Sunday in April just before 9am, and we were among the first hikers of the day. Of course, we met groups of hikers on our way back. But what a great experience to discover this trail almost empty, with only the sound of our footsteps to disturb those of the nature. It was magical. And we were all the more delighted to have started this hike early when we realized on the way back that cars were parked on the side of the road for more than a kilometer.

La vue sur Quinta do Lorde depuis la PR8 Punta de Sao Lourenço

Is it possible to eat on the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço?

We have mentioned it several times in this hiking guide: Casa do Sardinhas appears as an oasis on the PR8 and will allow you to have a lunch break or a coffee if you feel like it.

As far as we are concerned, we always take our picnic with us when we go hiking. As loops are rare on the island, we usually stop at the arrival to eat in a quiet place with a nice view before going back the other way. On the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço, you will have the possibility to have a picnic break on a stone table overlooking the pier where it is possible to swim.

Finally, you will probably have noticed them when you arrive: several vans located at the starting point of the hike offer snacks, sandwiches, and ice cream, as well as fresh fruit juices and the famous poncha to quench your thirst after the hike.

Is it possible to run/trail run on the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço?

Absolutely – Jérémy actually ran stage 3 of the Golden Trail Series finals there – but under certain conditions! In the middle of the day and because of how crowed the trail may be, I think it will be more of a fast walk than a run. Choose an early morning run, or one at sunset. The terrain is very hilly so if you are a beginner runner, we don’t necessarily recommend this section.

Is the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço suitable for a child?

As we mentioned before, the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike does not have any big difficulty. The advantage of this hike is that it is not a loop but a round trip. This means that you can start with a child and turn back when the trail becomes too rough for him/her.

Specifically, if your child is under 6 years old and has never hiked before, you may want to stay on the beginning of PR8 where the trail is relatively wide and paved.

If your child is confident and able to walk 7 km without any issue, go to the Casa do Sardinhas with him. And if he or she still has energy to spare, you might want to try climbing the remaining steps to reach the Pico do Furado.

You are obviously in the best position to define what is best for your child. But from a general point of view, we don’t see any danger in doing the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço with a child as long as you don’t deviate from the hiking trail (so exclude the alternative path mentioned in this guide).

Can I take the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço with a stroller?

Unfortunately, no. The rough path on a good part of the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço and the steps scattered here and there during the hike make it impassable with a stroller. On the other hand, we met many parents with a baby carrier on their back (and a child in it, of course).

La randonnée PR8 Punta de Sao Lourenço

Download the GPS track of the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike in GPX format

During our hikes, we record the GPS tracks in order to share them on this blog with you. The PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço is well marked and very busy, but our GPS track will help you if you take the alternative path that we recommend. Be careful not to follow it to the nearest meter and use common sense. The GPS signal is not always perfect and the track may indeed be a few meters off the actual path.

Activities near the PR8 Ponta de São Lourenço hike

St. Lawrence Point is unique because of its semi-arid environment and its cliffs cut by the elements. You may want to spend a little more time there after doing the PR8 hike. Here are two nearby places that will make the pleasure last:

Ponta do Rosto

From this viewpoint, you will have an incredible view of the Ponta São Lourenço peninsula as well as the cliffs of the north coast of the island sculpted by the wind and the ocean. Don't hesitate to move away from the parking lot and walk on the surrounding paths. Depending on the weather, you will discover shallow crystalline waters at the foot of the cliffs or a rough sea that crashes violently on the cliffs, digging little by little the rock. And when the view is clear, you can even see on the horizon the silhouette of Porto Santo, the second inhabited island of the Madeira archipelago.

Prainha do Caniçal

This beach of coppery sand of volcanic origin is nestled in a small bay at the foot of the dunes of Caniçal. Facing south, the beach is sunny at almost all hours. Swimming is most pleasant at the end of the day, when the water has warmed up a few degrees during the day. Note that this is one of the only natural sandy beaches on Madeira Island, the sand of Machico and Calheta having been imported from Morocco.

And if you want to discover the richness of this peninsula in an unusual way, here is a selection of activities that should interest you:

To go one step further

Prepare your trip to Madeira

Here is a checklist with the key elements to prepare your stay in Madeira and leave with peace of mind:

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About us

We are Gaëlle and Jérémy, a couple in their thirties and we left everything to live full time on our sailboat Kerguelen.

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