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How to Visit the Doca do Cavacas Funchal Natural Pools

How to Visit the Doca do Cavacas Funchal Natural Pools

Waves crash over the edge of the Funchal natural pools, Doca do Cavacas. While I sip on a gin and tonic, crabs scuttle back and forth over the black volcanic rock pools.

To the east, the Atlantic Ocean washes up against chiselled rocks. To the west, a pebble beach stretches out before the highest cape in Europe, Cabo Girão.

Occupying a quiet groove on the edge of Funchal, the Gomes Pools (as the old name goes) are one of my go-to destinations in Madeira for sunbathing, swimming, seafood and good views.

Doca do Cavacas Funchal is one of four natural swimming pools on the island of Madeira in Portugal. It is the only one on the south coast.

Considering that many beaches in Madeira have dangerous swimming conditions, locals and tourists have been bathing here since the late 1970s.

It’s also easy to access by public transport from the centre of Funchal and one of the best sunset spots on the island.

Let me tell you how to visit Doca do Cavacas Madeira, including the entry fees, facilities, public transport connections, and the best time to go.

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The History of Doca do Cavacas

Doca do Cavacas is one of four natural volcanic pools on the island of Madeira. These pools were formed by a combination of volcanic activity and coastal erosion. 

While the Funchal natural pools are a popular tourist attraction, locals have used them for bathing since the end of the 1970s. They continued to shape and develop the pools way into the late ‘90s.

Blue platforms and natural volcanic pools alongside the Atlantic ocean in Madeira.

Locals still use the pools for relaxation, although you’re far more likely to find a predominantly tourist crowd.

Most locals call the Funchal natural pools Poças do Gomes or Gomes Pools, which roughly translates to ‘man pools’.

Where are the Funchal natural pools?

The Funchal natural pools are located on the south coast of Madeira. They are in an area of the city known as Lido.

This means that they are not located in the inner part of Funchal. They are accessible by public transport or a car or scooter. 

Lido is a popular area for expats and tourists because it has access to Praia Formosa, a two-kilometre pebble beach with a promenade, and a large shopping centre called Forum Madeira.

Ramp and stairs leading down to the Doca do Cavacas Funchal natural pools.

Doca do Cavacas, the Funchal natural pools, are at the east end of Praia Formosa. You can walk from the promenade to the pools through a tunnel called Túnel das Poças do Gomes.

How to Get to Doca do Cavacas Madeira

There are several ways to reach Doca do Cavacas from Funchal. Taking the bus is the easiest.

1. The Bus to Doca do Cavacas

Not being able to speak any Portuguese, I was initially daunted by the idea of taking the bus to Doca do Cavacas. However, it’s extremely easy.

Take the Number 1 or Number 2 bus from opposite the McDonald’s on Avenue do Mar. This is the main street which runs alongside Funchal promenade. 

The bus journey takes 10 minutes. You can track your progress and check the timetables using Google Maps.

Depart the bus at Forum Madeira if you are travelling on bus service 1, then walk downhill towards the ocean.

If you are travelling on bus service 2, depart the bus at the Rua Ponta da Cruz D1A bus stop. It is directly next to the ramp to the natural pools and opposite the CentroMar shopping centre.

The bus stop outside of Doca do Cavacas with an ocean view.

The bus accepts payment in cash.

2. Parking at Doca do Cavacas

If you are driving to the natural pools in Funchal by car or scooter, there are a limited number of paid parking spaces opposite the CentroMar shopping centre. This is directly next to the bus stop and at the top of the ramp to the pools.

A signpost for Doca do Cavacas restaurant and no alcohol at the entrance to the pools.

The ramp to the pools

Alternatively, there are other parking options nearby:

  • Forum Shopping Mall (paid car park): 10-minute walk
  • Praia Formosa (Free car park and paid car park): 20-minute walk 

I’d recommend parking for free in the free Praia Formosa car park. The walk may be longer but it’s very pleasant. You can walk along the beachfront promenade and through Túnel das Poças do Gomes, which has windows to the ocean.

3. Taxi or Bolt

From Funchal, a Bolt taxi costs approximately 8 – 15 EUR depending on the demand for Bolt taxis at the time. The most competitive times to order a Bolt are early in the morning or between 3pm and 6pm (school pick-up time and rush hour). A classic taxi will cost upwards of 10 euros.

4. Walking to Doca do Cavacas from Funchal

You can also walk or bike to the pools from Funchal. From the city centre, the walk takes one hour. Cycling takes 20 minutes via the main road.

What to Expect at Doca do Cavacas

Doca do Cavacas Funchal has a pretty great view. To the west, the pools have a view of the pebble beach Praia Formosa and its two-kilometre promenade. In the background, there is a steep green cliff: the highest cape in Europe, Cabo Girão.

Pebbles at the Praia Formosa beach in Funchal, with Cabo Girao in the background.

Praia Formosa and Cabo Girão

Tucked between the cape and Praia Formosa, you can see a valley dotted with traditional Madeiran houses and farm terraces. Obscured by the hill, these terraces descend to the traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos.

Girl looks at the view of Camara de Lobos, a traditional Madeiran fishing village with a harbour and small beach.

Câmara de Lobos

The Funchal natural pools empty and fill according to the tide, allowing sea life to enter the rock pools.It’s likely that you’ll see large crabs scuttling across the rocks. There are also small fish, including some that will harmlessly nibble at your toes if you stay still for long enough.

There are shallow rocks under the surface in several areas of the pools, so you should avoid kicking your legs too violently or you may scratch yourself.

People swim and sit on the wall at the Funchal volcanic pools in Madeira.

The main wall splitting the pools from the Atlantic ocean is one of the most playful parts of Doca do Cavacas. Waves crash against the wall, showering any swimmers who are leaning against it.

There are several blue sunbathing areas surrounding the rock pools. Visitors are free to spread out their towel wherever they like or rent a sun bed for the day.

When you leave the Funchal natural pools, turn left to explore Túnel das Poças do Gome. The tunnel has windows to the ocean.

It ends at the promenade for Praia Formosa, where there are coffee shops and bars within a 10-minute walk.

Facilities at the Doca do Cavacas 

The Funchal natural pools have:

  • Changing rooms and toilets (male or female).
  • Outdoor showers.
  • A bar and restaurant.
  • Sunbeds and umbrellas for hire.
  • A lifeguard service.

When to Visit Doca do Cavacas 

As I learnt on one sunny, optimistic morning, the pools close when there is a very high tide or dangerous waves. This is for safety reasons. 

You can check the Praia Formosa tide timetables on Tideschart in advance.

The best days to visit Doca do Cavacas are weekdays, when most people are at work.

Try to visit Doca do Cavacas Madeira in the morning or late afternoon. The site gets busy from 12pm and people eventually filter out around 6pm.

Sunset at Doca do Cavacas

As the Funchal pools are south-facing, they have an excellent view of the sunset over the Atlantic ocean. They also get plenty of sunlight throughout the day. 

If you’re visiting the pools in the height of summer, the opening times of the pools do not coincide with sunset (which can be as late as 9pm). However, you can book a spot in the restaurant in advance to enjoy the sunset views from the terrace.

If you are visiting the site outside of summer, look up the sunset time first. Often, the sun sets before 8pm, meaning that you can stay in the pools until sunset.

Entry Fees for Doca do Cavacas 

  • Adults: €5,50 
  • Children (7 – 17 years old): €1,90
  • Children (under 7 years old): Free
  • Over 65s: €1,90
  • Sunbed and parasol: Additional €2,50

Opening Times at Doca do Cavacas 

Doca do Cavacas is open between 10:00 am and 08:00 pm on weekdays and weekends. The opening times may vary on public holidays.

The Doca do Cavacas Restaurant

Doca do Cavacas Restaurant is a seafood restaurant and bar above the Funchal natural pools. If you’re relaxing at the pools, you can order food or drinks to take away to your sun bed.

Volcanic pools with blue platforms at sunset.

The menu is predominantly seafood-based, featuring dishes like scabbard, prawns, and oysters. It sells sandwiches and fries, as well as alcoholic drinks and snacks.

The restaurant gets very popular at sunset, especially during the summer, so you may need to reserve a table a day or two in advance.


Are pets allowed at Doca do Cavacas?

Pets are not permitted at Doca do Cavacas.

Are bicycles allowed at Doca do Cavacas?

Bicycles are not permitted at Doca do Cavacas.

Is alcohol allowed at Doca do Cavacas?

You are not permitted to bring your own alcohol to Doca do Cavacas. However, the restaurant above the natural pools serves alcoholic drinks, which can be taken away to the pools.

Is it safe to swim at the Funchal natural pools?

It is safe to swim at the Funchal natural pools. There is a lifeguard service. Beware of shallow rocks under the surface of the pools and do not sit or stand on the wall of the pools.