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The Islands of Cape Verde

Cape Verde - Holiday Islands

Click on the Islands for information.

Santo AntaoSao VicenteSao NicolauSalBoa VistaMaioSantiagoFogoBrava

Santo Antao

This island is a total contrast to the others, with rugged peaks and canyons; it is a hiker's paradise with dramatic landscapes and deep valleys with settlements high on the mountain sides surrounded by trees. After the autumn rains, the mountains become verdant. The island has just a few sandy beaches with all its efforts focused on its green fertile land, with eucalyptus, cypress and fragrant pine trees. This island is accessible only by boat.

A must to visit if you're looking for a destination for a Hiker's paradise or Hiking the Ribera's (make sure you take a guide).

The walks are almost entirely on cobbled footpaths, it's easy to be tempted to stray from the path but not recommended. The hiking can be mixed with public transport so take advantage of planning your ideal route.

The tourist office can provide information on these hikes ranging from 3.5 - 6 hours. At the base of the mountains, there are less demanding walks with spectacular views up the canyons.

Places you can visit whilst you're there include:

Riberia Grande - In the North East with cobbled streets between the cliffs and the sea.

Ponta do Sol - A pretty fishing village.

Porto Noro - A town with smart buildings and tended gardens with views towards the black mountains and the harbour of Mindelo.

Sao VicenteBack to top

This island is the second most populated in the Archipelago with mountains to the west, east and south showing its volcanic origins. The main reason to visit is Mindelo. Mindelo is the capital city of Sao Vicente, it has colonial architecture and cobbled streets. The capital city, with its cultural air, is extremely lively and crammed with artists and musicians to entertain you. You're also spoilt for choice with the vast array of restaurants and bars to eat and drink in or just sit back and soak in the picturesque views that surround the city.

The carnivals here can be compared/are similar to Mardi gras, although they are slightly smaller, they do not compromise on the array of colour and life you expect from festivals. They are a must to see if you are visiting in mid February or join in the music festival in August at the Baia das Gatas which takes place on the sandy beach.

What can you do when you're there?

  • Horse riding - Great for taking in the island at a pace of your choice.
  • Hiking (Recommended to climb to the highest point of the island where you can catch some breathtaking views and photograph the panoramic scenery).
  • Boat trips - Sit on board and soak up the sun or be adventurous and charter a boat over to the deserted island of Santa Luzia.
  • Windsurfing and surfing.
  • Swimming/Relaxing by the beach - Baia de Salamansa and Baia das Gatas both offer shallow bays with fresh, clear water to relax by or take a dip into to cool down. Praia da Laginha in Mindelo is the closest and most popular beach near the capital; expect it to be busy at weekends with locals due to its fantastic seawater and excellent location.

Places to visit during your stay:

Monde Verde - If you do only one thing this holiday, make sure you sit back and experience the sunsets, guaranteed to take your breath a way.

Saamansa and Sao Pedro - They are two pretty fishing villages with colourful boats and a vast choice of delicious fresh fish to buy. (Why not take your catch of the day down to the beach for a barbeque whilst watching the sun set with a cool glass of local beer/wine).

Baia das Gatas - For the magnificent shallow beach and lively festival in August with tropical music from all over the world.

Mindelo - Get amongst the hustle and bustle of the capital and enjoy the friendly atmosphere.

Laginha - A lovely sandy white beach with beach barbeques available on Sundays.

Calhau - An excellent place for a fish lunch and to visit the Caves of Topim.

Sao NicolauBack to top

This island is located between Sao Vicente to the west and Sal to the east, it is volcanic in origin, barren and dry with a fertile centre. It offers peace and quiet, with excellent walking. The capital has narrow streets with colourful homes, lovely parks and is well serviced with shops. Many tourists visit for a relaxing stay. Blue marlin abound so for game fishing it is excellent.

What can you do when you're there?

  • Fish for Blue Marlin
  • Find The Dragon tree - a natural growing endangered species
  • Enjoy the spectacular scenery

Places you have to visit:

Riberia Brava - a busy bustling town of narrow streets with colourful houses and everything available for your stay

Tarrafal - a port town along the southwest coast with black sandy beaches with healing powers for those with arthritis - bury yourself in the sand! There is another cove at Baixo Rocha

Preguica - a fishing port with pretty houses and a pier where cargo boats dock - it offer stunning view of the volcano and a fort built in 1818 by the Portuguese

Carrical - to the southeast, it has a pretty beach and caves to look around. It also has a canning factory for tuna caught locally. Catch a boat from Preguica or take a 4x4

SalBack to top

As one of the Windward islands, the landscape is arid but with beautiful white sandy beaches. It is the most developed of the islands, with international direct flights. For the holidaymaker, it offers a choice of local and European bars and restaurants with nightlife.

A must to visit if:

  • You want fabulous white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal clear waters.
  • Diving - best between June & September when the ocean waters offer the chance to swim with large schools of big fish, for the more experienced diver, you can take wreck, cave and reef dives up to a depth of 45m Deep Sea Fishing - best between July and October
  • Surfing and Windsurfing - various centres are now available around Santa Maria offering equipment and private tuition. For windsurfing, go to Ponta Preta where serious waves provide an exhilarating ride for the thrill seekers. Snorkel round Murderia Bay
  • Wildlife - Turtles frequent some of the eastern beaches which they use as breeding grounds. Birdwatchers will find interesting waders around the Saltpans. A glimpse of the rare Black Winged Stilt or the Cape Verde Peregine would be a total treat.

Places for you to visit:

Esapargos - the capital town found in the middle of the island. It does offer some good restaurants and is lively at night around the main square where you can drink local beers listening to Cape Verdean music

Santa Maria - is the main tourist place it will offer you all you need - white sandy beaches for the day and restaurants/bars for the night

Pedra de Lume - a pleasant village with attractive houses and church, where you can sit in the silence on the crater slope of the Saltpans soaking up the lapping water of the lake and the colours of the salts, for the more daring, you can always take a dip

Buracona - has a natural swimming pool enclosed by lava rock

Boa VistaBack to top

Boavista is the most eastern of the Cape Verde islands and the closest to Africa. It is barren, flat and covered by sand dunes. This aside, this island alone offers over 55km of the most idyllic white sandy beaches so for the beach lover it is a perfect choice. The hot winds blow in from the Sahara so even windsurfing is possible. Birds, shells, sand and turtles are some of the joys of the visit. Going out on a 4x4 into the dunes can add a further thrill.

Visit here for:

  • Fantastic beaches with emerald green warm waters all year round, and the marine life around
  • Wildlife, the marine turtles use the wide choice of beaches of the east for their nesting grounds from late May to late Oct, see the baby turtles hatch from late August to late December
  • Game Fishing
  • Dune Tours are offered by local operators or you could try quad biking
  • Windsurfing is international recognised here as an ideal spot for a wide range of abilities

Places to visit during your stay:

Sal Rei - has a nice port and a bay with turquoise waters, a charming town where from the main square sipping a cool drink in the shade, all can seem well with the world

Islet of Sal Rei - pay a fisherman to take you over for a visit for a lonely swim with waters no more than 1.5m

Rabil Lagoon - is good for birdwatching particular with migrant birds making their way home

Praia de Santa Monica, Praia de Curralinho - well worth a visit for the beach take water & suncream

Baia das Gatas - for dolphin and tiger sharks spotting, also to buy salted fish for supper from the fisherman

MaioBack to top

Maio is part of the Leeward islands. It's 25Km East from Santiago. To get there it is only accessible by ferry or internal flight, great if you want to visit somewhere untouched by human pollution. The island is flat, although volcanic in its origins, it has fabulous white sandy beaches with warm turquoise waters. This destination is ideal if you want to get away from it all and have your own private beach to soak up the warm sun and relax with nothing to listen to but the sea. With space to spread out and relax on the beach and clean air to breath whilst you unwind and take the holiday at your own pace. Maio has the only Acacia forest in the whole of Cape Verde, the trees are mature and bright with lush greenery.

A must to visit if:

  • You long for empty, sandy, white beaches with clear water to bask in
  • Walking with panoramic views and fantastic opportunity to explore an untouched island
  • A quiet and relaxing holiday with an opportunity to explore other surrounding islands at a small cost if you wish

Places you can visit whilst you're there:

Vila do Maio - a gracious town with a large square and a Baroque church. South East of the town, there is a peer and a beach which stretches for miles/as far as the eye can see. Saltpans are available about 5Km North of the town

Calheta - a quaint fishing village, ideal for swimming and to buy the catch of the day Ponta Preta - a pretty little bay to spend an afternoon in

Morro - yet another of the islands fabulous beaches. If you visit in the summer, be sure to take your camera for some fantastic shots of the visiting turtles! A real must see

Ribeira de Jo - a stunning beach, worth taking a day there with a picnic.

SantiagoBack to top

Situated between Maio and Fogo, this is the largest island. It offers a varied landscape from craggy peaks, lush valleys to some beautiful beaches in the north and southeast. The capital Praia, is situated on a plateau with its districts surrounding it on lower levels the centre is quaint and charming. The market here is an absolute must see and it offers the opportunity to take in some history and sightseeing. As with any capital of this size, there is plenty of choice for food and drinks and for those that need it, nightlife with various nightclubs and music venues available. With one beach to the east, it would be better to go further afield for a little peace and quiet. The rest of the island is easily accessible by hire car or taxi.

A must to visit if staying here:

  • Cidale Velha, once a proud town but now robbed of its wealth, it is where the history of Cape Verde began. It is a very pleasant wander and lovely walks into the hills
  • Music is an absolute must in Praia , with all the variety of local tunes to experience
  • Hiking - some beautiful and rewarding hikes with spectular mountains edged with high peaks, to lush verdant valleys and plantations
  • Top quality beaches for that well deserved dip
  • Birdwatching where most of the endemic species abound
  • Fishing - take a trip out with the local fisherman for a price or go game fishing
  • Diving which is only available at Tarrafel
  • Surfing when the swell is at its best during the months of January to March

Places to spend some time:

Praia - naturally being the capital and for the busy bustle having spend a quiet day on the beach

Sao Domingos - for the artists pottery and other local arts/crafts for that ideal momento

Sao Jorge dos Orgaos - with a botanical garden where the people are trying to preserve the endemic species some of which are threatened with extinction

Assomada - for its African market held on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a museum dedicated to the local traditional music, sometimes hosting concerts and cultural events

Sao Francisco - for its magnificent beaches and little bays

Tarrafal - on the northwest coast for beautiful coves suitable for a dip, diving or fishing, for the more energetic it is a good starting point for some lovely hikes.

FogoBack to top

Fogo is the fourth largest island in the archipelago, it towers towards the heavens with an active volcano gently smouldering. Mainly covered with dark lava rock to the east, it has a soft interior with fertile soil producing coffee and vines so local good vinos is readily available here with the vines being brought over by a Frenchman many years before. It offers a quiet capital with excellent hiking and caves to explore. Not a lot of swimming is available as the seas can be dangerous.

Worth visiting for:

  • Hiking - explore the Pico de Fogo, the volcano and the surrounds
  • Swimming at Ponto Salinas - stunning cove made by black lava rocks and white sea spray, or just take photographs
  • Cave exploring but always with a guide
  • Festival - Bandeira De Sao Filipe at the end of April, with horse racing, dancing and processions through the town

Places you can visit whilst you're there:

Sao Filipe - a large pretty town with a distinct Portuguese twinned with African flavour. Cobbled streets, Sobrado architecture with bougainvillea growing and views towards Brava, whilst gazing down at black sands and white sea spray, whilst sipping a cold glass of wine. There are plenty of bars/restaurants to supply you some choice , some with traditional music

Mosteiros - a useful stopping point on a trip round the island with a pretty centre

Cha das Caldeiras - the plain of the craters - to see views of the volcanic landscape spilling into the ocean

Sao Lourenco - enjoy the green of the Fogo lowlands with stunning views towards Brava

BravaBack to top

Only 20km from Fogo, the only way to visit is by boat into the port of Furna, this can be booked in Fogo. Known as the wild island due to high winds and rough sea, the interior provides fertile land so it is also known as the island of flowers due to their abundance. It can be cold here between December and April. The coastline composes of steep cliffs with a fertile valley to the west. Whaling ships used to stop here before heading onto the Amercias.

Must visit for:

  • Hiking where several circular walks available from the main town
  • Swimming in the lagoon near Faja D'Agua
  • Relaxing

Places to visit:

Vila Nova Sintra - is the capital, a charming quiet town circled by volcanic mountains

Faja D'Agua - is a pretty village on the northwest coast with a bay protected from the winds. The lagoon nearby offers the only swimming spot on the island

Nossa Senhorado Monte - a typical Mountain village