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The cable car from the seafront is a spectacular way to visit Monte; but it can be very busy at times, especially when cruise ships are in the harbour.
As an alternative, consider taking the bus to Monte and then the little publicised 'other' cable car to the Botanical Gardens made an excellent day visit.
From the hotel district take the number 48 bus. Check the timetables at the bus stops before you intend to travel, as the 48 only runs about every hour. This journey is an experience in itself and is a good inexpensive way of seeing other parts of Funchal.
From the bus stop at Monte, walk forward towards the gift shop. One can either walk up the slope to the church or follow the path to the right until the start of the tobaggan run. Further on along this road is the entrance to the Monte Palace tropical garden and the station for the Funchal cable car. A little further and one comes to the 'other' cable car which takes you to the Jardin Botanico. This is a really spectacular trip along a deep ravine with spectacular views.
The garden are of interest to anybody with an interest in plants, but also houses the Museum of Natural History and a bird park with freely roaming peacocks and a giant tortoise. There is also a coffe bar in the grounds.
Although it is possible to make the long downhill walk back to Funchal, there are several buses; including a rather infrequent 31A which runs from the cable car car park. Taxis are also freely available and should cost 5 or 6 euros back to town.