Although Portugal is generally a tolerant country, there is still some distrust on the topic called “naturism”.
Unfortunately here on Madeira island there are no (by me) known beaches officially dedicated to naturism. Nor known locations in which practice is tolerated by those who attend to get rid of prejudices and enjoy the sun and sea without any clothes on the body. I would have written “sun, sea and sand” but I omitted the sand part due to the lack of sandy beaches here on Madeira island. It may be also one of the reasons why nudist beaches have not started here.
However the proximity to nature and the integration of the human being are, as a rule, factors that lead some people to adhere to this lifestyle. A pebble beach will therefore, for most hardcore naturist, not be an obstacle.
And how about topless?
Although topless will cause here lots of frown, is some hotels nowadays it is tolerated. A few years ago, even men were not encouraged to walk around without a (T)shirt and the police would ask them to cover up, but now this is a bit more accepted. Still due to the fact that there is a large amount of elderly people who visit Funchal, people in general expect that you show respect.
But isn’t naturism actually a sexual thing?
The answer is short and simple: NO! On the contrary, naturism is a lifestyle associated with not wearing clothes and a proximity to nature, seeking to make its practitioners feel free and in harmony with the environment that surrounds them.
It is also very different from exhibitionism. In this case, people who practice it seek to shock each other through the obvious display of their sexual organs. Naturists, however, seek only to undress themselves without any sexual intent.
Besides the general rules in these kind of beaches, apply to any other beach, the rules are not very different: do not photograph or film other practitioners without their authorization, do not practice acts of exhibitionism, respect the privacy of other bathers or use towels and similar in public seats for hygiene reasons. Basically, the essential rule is, as it should be in any situation of life, to respect the other.