How to have an amazing trip to Cape Verde
Mention Cape Verde and everyone immediately thinks of ‘Mornas and Coladeras’ by Cesaria Evora, but what about discovering her home country, an unspoilt paradise spared from the ravages of mass tourism? Why not go hiking among its breathtaking landscapes where the mountains merge with the sea, where colourful villages clinging to rock faces seemingly come out of nowhere, and quaint fishing villages invite visitors to wander around at their leisure. The lush tropical vegetation and arid canyons, the imposing black silhouette of volcanoes, black and white sandy beaches: contrasting colours, landscapes and cultures in a delightful archipelago with a friendly and welcoming population. Somewhat windswept, particularly by the trade winds which attract sailboats en route to the Americas, a trip to the Cape Verde Islands captivates and enchants all who visit, with its contrasting lunar and lush landscapes, its countless outdoor activities and mixed European, African and Latin heritage (typical of Cape Verdean artists) which characterises the beating heart of this island nation.
Boa's tips, local guide
Best time to go to Cape Verde
The Cape Verde archipelago has a tropical and semi-arid climate with high winds throughout most of the year which are at their strongest between November and April. During this period the temperatures vary between 68°F and 77°F and increase from the month of May onwards. They can reach around 86°F in the summer. It is wet and hot from July to the end of October. Rain is sparse; the few tropical rains are generally between August and October, and while they can be few and far between some years, they can also be very intense.
June, an ideal time to discover the island while it is sheltered from the wind and before the onset of the rainy season, which can be synonymous with hot weather and high levels of humidity.
The crescent-shaped archipelago is divided between the southern Sotavento islands ("under" or less exposed to the wind) and the northern Barlavento islands ("on" the wind). The mountainous islands experience a range of microclimates due to the diversity of terrain, altitude and wind direction. Rainfall, temperature and wind differences can be significant. While weather studies offer some insight into the general trends, they cannot really be relied upon as a trustworthy source of information.
What to see and what to do in Cape Verde
Boa answers your most frequetly asked questions
From 1 week, to discover 1 or 2 islands, to 1 month to see the entirety of the archipelago, but obviously it all depends on what you plan on doing whilst there.
Some islands, especially Santo Antao, offer a great diversity of landscapes, activities and historic sites.
We strongly recommend against trying to visit all the islands in 1 trip. Some islands are ideal for hiking and exploring, others for enjoying the beach or water sports. Choose a combination that suits you.
Itinerary 1 Sal / Boa Vista
For a mainly seaside and water sports holiday, one of these islands is sure to hit the spot.
Itinerary 2 Sao Vicente and Santo Antao / Sao Nicolau:For a holiday that combines hiking, beaches and culture, pay a visit to the desert island of Sao Vicente, with its impressive volcanic silhouettes and the city of Mindelo, and the island of Santo Antao with a choice of hikes in contrasting landscapes. These 2 islands also offer water sports and scuba diving. If you have time, make sure to go hiking on the flatter, rural and more traditional island of Sao Nicolau.
Itinerary 3 Itinerary 2 + Sal : Ideal for lazing on the beach or windsports on the waves.
Itinerary 4 Santiago – Fogo / Brava and Maio: Discover the island of Santiago; its history, its capital, Praia, its mountains and beaches, and then the Fogo volcano, where vineyards and coffee await you. If you have time, go to the small and pretty island of Brava, the island of flowers, or Maio, flat and golden, perfect for a dip.
Itinerary 5 Santiago – Fogo – Sao Vicente – Santo Antao / Sal / Boa Vista:A more comprehensive itinerary during which you’ll discover Santiago, the main island of Cape Verde, known for its diverse population and landscapes. Onwards to Fogo, the black coffee island, with vineyards and volcanos, before heading to the north islands: Sao Vicente with its arid and volcanic landscapes and an array of attractions just waiting to be discovered, and finally onto the Santo Antao mountains; and if you’re missing some beach time, finish your stay in Sal or Boa Vista.
- Swimming / lazy days: Sal, Boa Vista, Maio
- Water sports: Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente
- Hiking / nature / adventure: Santo Antao, Sao Nicolau, Santiago, Fogo, Sao Vicente
- Hiking + swimming: Sao Vicente, Santo Antao, Sao Nicolau, Santiago, Fogo
- Turtles, whales and dolphins: Turtles can be seen on all sandy beaches, all year round on the island of Boa Vista and during the summer egg laying season in Tarrafal de Monte Trigo (Santo Antao). Dolphins and whales can be seen from May to October.
- Culture: Santiago and its capital, Praia, home to a fascinating history and numerous festivals; Sao Vicente and Mindelo, carnival hotspot, festivals a plenty and renowned artists. To find out more about national holidays and celebrations see the "National holidays and celebrations" section.
- Photography: Although always a little unpredictable, the brightest months are October / November and from April to July.
It’s possible to travel by plane between all of the islands except Brava and Santo Antao. There are a number of direct flights from Praia, Sal and Sao Vicente.
Santo Antao and Brava are only accessible by boat: from Sao Vicente to Santo Antao (1h); from Fogo to to Brava (45mn).
Sea links exist between most islands, but they can take a long time and are often irregular. It’s best to find out more before you come. For travel times and distances between each island, please consult our travel map.
The national dish is catchupa, made from local hominy and dried green beans with vegetables, fish and meat (depending on the chef).
Caldo de peixe is a traditional fish soup.
Feijuada (bean stew), fish or chicken guisado (stew), cabri and dishes featuring oven cooked, fried or grilled fish are also a real treat. The pork is also excellent in Cape Verde.
The seafood is delicious: lobster, octopus, buzio (sea snail) and lula (squid) cooked with butter and garlic or grilled.
Oueixo de cabra, a traditional soft and mellow goat’s cheese.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the sweets served at lunchtimes (local snack) or breakfast: banana fritters, funghi and cuscus (made from wheat semolina and corn), molasses cake, queixo pudding ... natural fruit juices.
And let’s not forget ‘grogue’, a fruity and fragrant local rum produced on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Nicolau and Santiago, as well as the punches which use it as their main ingredient. The most traditional is ‘mel punch’ (made from molasses, sugar cane juice cooked to form a dark syrup). The creativity of women saw rise to the creation of all kinds of punch: coconut, mango, maracuja, lemon, strawberry, peanut, chocolate, verbena, etc ...
Clothing and accessories – While shorts and t-shirts are usually enough, a fleece or windproof jacket may be necessary at altitude or in the evenings from mid-October to May. For hikers, make sure you have good walking shoes (not necessarily ankle boots). Sneakers with smooth soles just don’t do the trick. Cap and sunscreen: while it rarely feels too hot with the wind, don’t be fooled! The sun is intense and it’s easy to get sunburnt. Drink plenty to avoid sunstroke that can even happen without any exposure to the sun.
Important - Due to frequent baggage delays and possible losses by the airlines, make sure you keep important items and medication in your cabin baggage.
Most islands have sandy beaches where the sea is calm. If your children love walking and nature, or if you are carrying young children, hikes and excursions can be adapted and done with them. Donkeys may be available to take the children on a hike.
In the larger towns and villages, there are often free Wi-Fi zones in some squares, in front of the town halls. They’re not always great but good enough for sending and receiving emails. Some hotels and restaurants offer Wi-Fi to their customers. There are cyber cafes in many villages and it’s sometimes possible to connect to a shop or bar’s computer. It’s also easy to get hold of a 3G key or to buy internet credit for your phone. There are, however, regions with no access at all.
The mobile phone network does not extend to some more remote places. You can pick up a local card, convenient for local calls. You can usually use your own provider but be aware of roaming charges.
1st January, New Year’s Day
13th January, Freedom & Democracy Day
20th January, Heroes’ Day
24th February, Mardi Gras
Throughout February, Carnival (Sao Vicente and Sao Nicolau)
8th March, Women’s Day
1st May, Labour Day
1st June, Children’s Day
5th July, Independence Day
15th August, Assumption
12th September, National Day
1st November, All Saints’ Day
25th December, Christmas Day
Each island and region have their own festivals relating to their individual history and saints. Among the most important are:
Santo Antao - Fêtes de la Saint Jean (St John’s Day), June
Fogo - The Festivals of Bandeira de São Filipe, between 25th April and 1st May
Santiago – 15th August, Our Lady of Grace Day, widely celebrated
Brava – Santa Cruz celebrations, 3rd May, Our Lady of Navigators, August
Maio – Sao Jose celebrations, 19th March
Baia das Gatas (Sao Vicente) in August
Escurralete (Porto Novo, Santo Antao), beginning of September
Santo Cruz (Boa Vista) during the summer
- The sea currents and the strong waves in some places
- The poor public transport infrastructure
- The wind, which is commonplace
- A land seemingly at the end of the world, still unspoilt by mass tourism – an authentic experience
- the range of water sports available
- the richness of the marine life, perfect for magical scuba diving experiences
- the unspoilt beauty of the landscapes
- The lively town centres