Unless you’re on a plateau, Madeira is intensely steep, and as such, space to grow crops comes at a premium. Since being by Portuguese sailors in 1420, generations of islanders practising agriculture became adept at using terraces — or socalcos — to farm the grapes, sugarcane, bananas, sweet potatoes and avocados that flourish on Madeira’s volcanic soul.
Socalco Nature Hotel, perched above Calheta, one of island’s few sandy beaches, follows suit.
The hotel’s sundry buildings are gathered across an amphitheatre of rough stone terraces with a laid back vibe that immediately makes one feel at home in the sky, whilst paying homage to Madeira’s rich natural history. The hotel features 20 separate rooms huddled across the property’s unique multi-layered layout, with eight standalone houses and ten standard rooms. To reach mine, I walked beyond herb gardens and grapevines to reach a long stone bungalow with uninterrupted views of ocean. Some rooms even include water features coursing through them, crafted from the levada irrigation system. There’s a freshwater pool, solarium, wine cellars and a very impressive hotel restaurant, making it an idyllic bolthole to sample local delicacies and an ideal homebase for adventuring.