São Vicente is much more than Mindelo! Although 93% of the island's population live in its capital, São Vicente has a lot to offer to its visitors.
And if you need to disconnect from the city's tumult and its almost infinite leisure options, then an excursion to the country side of São Vicente is exactly what you need.
1. Sundays in Calhau
Where to Stay: Hotel Residencial GOA
2. Hiking to Monte Verde
It's by far the best hiking trail of São Vicente. Monte Verde (lit. Green Mountain) is the island's highest mountain and lives up to its name: it's one of the few places of São Vicente covered with lush green vegetation. You get there by aluguer from Mindelo, Praca d'Estrela. (See map.)
The driver will drop you off on the road to Salamanca/Bahía das Gatas. Monte Verde is towering just in front of you. A paved road takes you up to its peak covered by antennas and parabolas. It's an easy hike and it takes you about 2 hours to get there. From the top you'll have a great panorama view on São Vicente, Santo Antão, St. Luzia and on very clear days you can even see São Nicolau. For me there's no better way to disconnect from Mindelo's tumult!
For those you still want to hike around, I can recommend Monte Cara (Face Hill). It got its name due to its lines resembling apparently the profile of George Washington (!)
3. Swimming and Dancing in Bahia das Gatas
Where to Stay: Morada do Mar
Bahía das Gatas is known all over the Capeverdean archipelago for its music festival. The most important names of the national music scene give concerts on a big stage next to the beach.
The big event takes places in August and is transmitted directly on national TV. Nowadays it's one the most important events of the Capeverdean music business and a coveted platform for newcomers.
Throughout the rest of the year, Bahía das Gatas is partly deserted. The place is placked with holiday homes which are only inhabited during the weekends. However Bahía das Gatas holds a hidden gem: a green lagoon. It's very likely that you'll be all alone to enjoy the beauty of this place.
4. Watersports in Sao Pedro
Where to Stay: Hotel Foya Branca
Sao Pedro is a great getaway from Mindelo (15min by aluguer, 1€). Its beach is simply enormous and almost empty. Sao Pedro preserved its fishing athmosphere despite being literally at a stone's throw from the airport. In the village's center you'll see how the colourful boats are being repared and built.
On the beach fishermen help eachother to bring their boats to the shore. Their boats are full with the freshest fish: buzio, garoupa (grouper), esmoregal and sometimes even a tuna fish.
Sao Pedro is famous for its perfect conditions for windsurfing. Boards can be rented at the station, but you better have some experience since the tides are very strong. While my boyfriend was having fun with his windsurf ride, I preferred to enjoy the peace and the views of Hotel Foya Branca's Snack Bar.
For hikers, I recommend to trek to the lighthouse of Sao Pedro. The views are just breathtaking.
5. Cinema and Caipirinhas
Mindelo has almost an infinite number of leisure options. Every night you can assist concerts in its numerous bars. My favorite is Nho Djunga where one of Cesaria Evora's guitarists gives frequently concerts. Casa da Morna, belonging to famous singer Tito Paris, has specialized on the traditional music style called "Morna":
Thursdays in Mindelo were my favorite. Every Thursday night, Centro Cultural do Mindelo, has its cinema night. Entrance is free and the movie is announced a few days in advance.
All of them are in OV with Portuguese subtitles. A great way to improve your Portuguese! After the movie you should go over to Elvis' Bar. His Kiwi and Maracujá Caipirinhas are famous all over town.
6. Shopping in Mindelo
Where to Stay: Simabo Hostal
The capital of Sao Vicente holds a few hidden spots to make great qualitative souvenir shopping. One of them is definitely CapVertDesign+Artesanato. The shop is worth a visit, even if you're not looking for gifts. It gives a fantastic overview on traditional Capeverdean crafts. Many young design talents use this shop as a platform to reach a foreign public. If you're looking for CDs of Cape Verde's most important stars, then you're on the right place.
Just in front of the fish market (please do visit, even if the smell might hold you back for 1 sec.), a local jewelry designer sells beautiful individual pieces made out of natural material like banana leaves, mussels or pea-pods.
I also loved to visit the fruit & vegetables market on Praca d'Estrela. On the end of the square, inside the tiny concrete barracks, you can order tailor-made clothes at the African seamstresses. I couldn't resist and got myself a tailor-made dress and lovely skirt. All at unbeatable prices!
For those who travel with their boyfriends and don't want to drag him along the shops, I recommend to "deposit" your beloved one at one of the numerous vintage barber shops. They'll take great care of him. Mine got pampered during 45min for the unmatched price of 5€.
Map With All Locations
You think my list isn't complete? Of course not! Sao Vicente offers so many things to do and I haven't seen them all for sure. If you know about any other "must-do" on the island, please let me know in the comment form.
If you are looking for a place to stay on Sao Vicente, I recommend Simabo Hostal, run by the Association for Animal Protection in Mindelo.
For more information about tourism on Sao Vicente, Cape Verde I recommend the following webpage: Tourism of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde.
This blog post can also be downloaded on GPSmyCity as an offline city map and self-guided walking tour. Click here, to download this post as an app.