It’s now almost one year that we visited Cape Verde and stayed on the archipelago during more than 1 month. In the context of our boat hitchhiking adventure, we sailed from Tenerife, via La Gomera, to Cape Verde where we were looking for our next boat to cross the Atlantic.
As things didn’t go as quick and smoothly as originally planned, my partner and I had plenty of time to discover this rather not so known travel destination. There’s always something good even if things don’t go as originally planned. This long stay on the Capeverdean archipelago allowed me to create a lot of content on traveling to Cape Verde and to develop my love for the criollo culture. One of the most frequent questions I get from my readers is what is the best place to stay in Cape Verde? What is the best island for holidays and tourism in Cape Verde?
Well, here it goes: The Ultimate Guide on Where to Stay on Cape Verde, one of most vibrant destinations I’ve visited so far.
In total, we stayed during 1 month on the Capeverdean archipelago, which consists of 10 volcanic islands. Even if we got to visit only 3 of them for a longer period, we learned a lot about the other islands by talking to locals, sailors and other travellers. That’s how we got a profound knowledge about Sal Island, Sao Vicente and Santo Antao, but also learned about the best that islands like Fogo, Sao Nicolau or Santiago have to offer.
Lateron I visited Fogo, Maio and Brava for an immersion tour. That's how this travel guide of Cape Verde came to be.
Choosing the “best” island to stay in Cape Verde, heavily depends on your expectations and plans for your holiday.
First of all you have to distinguish between the “barlavento” (windward) referring to Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista; and “sotavento” (leeward) islands including Maio, Santiago, Fogo, Brava.
Hard Choice: What is the best island of Cape Verde for your holiday?
If you are looking for crystal-clear beaches and relaxing time on the beach, then the islands of Sal and Boa Vista are made for your holiday. However, in my opinion, those islands were not very interesting from a cultural point of view. Large hotel complexes and resorts prevent a genuine exchange between locals and tourists.
If you are a hiking and outdoor activity lover, then you'll be the happiest on Santo Antao or Fogo, boasting the highest mountain of the archipelago. Culturally interested people will fall in love with Mindelo, Sao Vicente, the hometown of Cesaria Evora.
So before you head to Cape Verde, first decide if you want party holidays, quieter locations, amazing hiking trails, nature, city life or remote beaches.
If you can’t decide on which island to stay, island hopping is also an option about which I’ll give you more details in each island paragraph.
The opinions of this post are based upon my professional experience in the tourism sector and upon my stay in Cape Verde during which I visited and stayed in many hotels/hostels. In total I stayed 2 months in Cape Verde and 1 week for a familiarization trip.
Accommodation places are categorized location-wise and budget-wise.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. They help me running this site and come without any extra cost for you.
Table of Content
a) Sal Island
b) Boa Vista
c) Sao Nicolau
Best Time to Visit Tenerife
Why travel to Cape Verde?
Because Cape Verde has so much to offer that you’ll be wondering why you didn’t think of visiting earlier! From stunning mountains and hiking trails in Santo Antao, to the vibrant music scene in Mindelo, Sao Vicente, pristine sandy beaches in Sal or wine culture in Fogo: there are a 1001 reasons to visit Cape Verde as soon as possible.
On top, the country boasts a very stable democratic regime and you are generally safe when visiting as a foreigner. Apart of islands like Sal or Boa Vista, Cape Verde is a relatively cheap holiday destination where you get extremely good quality & quantity for your money.
Another reason why I loved Cape Verde so much and would go back, like tomorrow, is the vibrant cultural mix and the Capeverdean people. They are just the sweetest and most generous people I met in a long time. Of course you always need to be a careful and can't trust anybody blindly, but we only had extremely positive experiences (except in Mindelo, where I was a bit scared to walk alone in the streets in the beginning).
The cultural créole mix is breathtaking and the multifaceted music culture is just everywhere. I can’t remember a day in Mindelo where we didn’t hear music in the streets.
Cape Verde is still not very known as a tourist destination. However the “beach holiday islands” like Sal or Boa Vista are becoming increasingly popular thus I recommend to visit as soon as possible. Especially such gems as Santo Antao, Santo Nicolau and Fogo. Maio is ths island with probably the highest potential to become the next top beach destination.
What To Do in Tenerife
Best Time to Visit Cape Verde
...is all year round!
A pleasantly tropical destination, the Cape Verde islands benefit from average annual temperatures of between 26°C and 30°C. January is the coldest month which is perfect to experience the mountainous islands of Fogo, Santo Antao and Sao Nicolau.
February is the best time to visit Mindelo on Sao Vicente as it hosts one of the most important carnivals after Rio de Janeiro. There are daily events during carnival season and percussion and dance groups start rehearsing already in early December.
However you can expect over 180mm spread during summer months (August - October) Autumn and spring are dry with very little rainfall, making them the best time to go to Cape Verde for sunny and dry weather.
Where To Stay in Tenerife if you are a party animal
Where to Stay in Cape Verde for Beach Holidays
If you are looking for beach holidays and do some excursions on an occasional basis, the islands of Sal Island and Boa Vista would be the best choice. They have warm temperatures all year round and especially during the winter months the climate is comfortably warm to escape grey Europe.
Sal and Boa Vista have each an international airport which are serviced by major European airlines.
1. Sal Island
The island of Sal is known for its crystal clear, azure water and golden sand beaches.
The main hub is Santa Maria, in the Southern part of the island, where you’ll find all the resorts and tourist commodities you’re looking for. Sal has a large variety of shops, restaurants and bars.
However Sal also holds some natural gems that I totally recommend to visit. The salt mines of Pedro Luma are remains of the island’s former booming salt trade. The inland, the capital Espargos uncover a barren, vast landscape that will impress you for sure.
The island of Sal is quite small (35x12km) and is made for those who just want to relax at the pool or the beach. Bar hopping is the main activity to do at night.
However I seriously missed genuine opportunities to interact and learn more about the Cape Verdean culture as Santa María is all about large hotel resorts, African dance shows and Italian gelato. I hardly doubt that this form of tourism is sustainable as Sal island is totally desert and the local population often gets their water cut off so that the tourists in the south may take long, hot showers. On top, everything needs to be imported, thus prices are not as cheap as you might initially expect.
I don’t want to be a poor sport, but these facts should be kept in mind when booking you holidays in Sal island.
However this doesn’t change the fact that Sal has some of the most gorgeous beaches of the archipelago and is a hub for beach-goers and kite surfers alike.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Sal
Best Places To Stay in Sal Island
2. Boa Vista
Like its neighbor island Sal, Boa Vista is mostly known for its beaches. Boa Vista has 55km of them, all with blue tides and pristine. Some of them are very remote and are famous for being nesting sites of loggerhead turtles. The island is flat and covered with dunes.
Apart from relaxing beach days, you can do sailing activities, quad biking through the sand dunes or observing the turtles during nesting season. The Turtle Foundation is present on Boa Vista, just email them to get information about the turtles.
As on Sal island, most products need to be imported from Europe or other Cape Verdean islands. However the island is famous for its pottery.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Boar Vista
Best Places To Stay in Boa Vista
Where To Stay in Tenerife fo Luxury Holidays
Where to Stay in Cape Verde for Hiking & Trekking Holidays
Did you ever consider Cape Verde as a hiking destination? Not only does its name (verde = green in Portuguese) suggest lush natural landscapes, but the archipelago also holds some of the most surprising and impressive hiking trails.
Whereas hiking can be done in most of the islands (I wouldn’t recommend Sal or Boa Vista though), Santo Antao, Brava and Sao Nicolau are getting more and more popular among trekkers. All 3 islands are known for the lush greenery and scenic views over the Atlantic.
1. Santo Antao
Santo Antao is the hiking island per excellence. I don’t have enough words to express the impressive mountainous landscapes, the breathtaking lush green valleys, the craters, the rough Atlantic coast, and, of course, its warm-hearted people.
Best time to visit Santo Antao is during the winter and spring months as during the rain season many trails can be damaged.
The ground of Santo Antao is so fertile that it’s also known as the “garden of Cape Verde“ as it’s exporting mangos, potatoes, bananas, papayas and much more to all the other Capeverdean islands. My favorite were definitely the passion fruits!
Santo Antao doesn’t have an airport, you can only reach the second largest island by ferry from Mindelo, Sao Vicente. The island itself is very diverse, with a very rough, mountainous landscape in the East and beaches in the Western part. However be careful not to swim in the Eastern part, as the tides can be extremely dangerous.
In total, we stayed more than 10 days on Cape Verde’s “green lung” but it wasn’t even time enough to do all the hiking trails in the Eastern part.
More on Santo Antao:
Best Places To Stay in Santo Antão
Brava is smallest inhabited island and is located next to Fogo. It’s the greenest island of the Sotovento island group. Alike Santo Antao, the economy is mostly agricultural and Brava doesn’t have an airport. As it’s quite remote and doesn’t have a lot of tourist activity, it’s a great opportunity to mingle with the locals and learn more about Capeverdean culture.
The terrain is extremely variated and lush green valleys contrast with high peaks. Brava is also called the “Island of flowers” as its climate is much more humid and not as hot.
Main towns are Vila Nova Sintra and Furnas which is located in a volcanic crater and is the busiest town of Brava.
Faja d’Agua is located in a gorgeous bay and surrounded by fruit trees.Hiking trails mostly start at the main towns.
Best Places To Stay in Brava Island:
3. Sao Nicolau
Sao Nicolau is next to Santo Antao the other green island of the Barlovento island group. However it’s much less inhabited and less visited by tourists. However it has the advantage of some gorgeous remote beaches.
You can reach Sao Nicolau by ferry or plane.
As Sao Nicolau has a very fertile ground, you’ll be constantly surrounded by coffee and sugar cane plantations, banana and papaya trees and much more. Monte Gordo is the highest point of the island (1300m) and the island is only about 45x20 km.
Most hiking trails are in the natural park of Monte Gordo. You shouldn’t miss the Carbeirinho, a giant rock with caves that have been shaped by the wind. The cliffs are of different colors and the area is close to black sandy beaches.
Best Places To Stay in Sao Nicolau Island:
Where to Stay for Quiet Beach Holidays
Where to Stay in Cape Verde for Secludedness and Remoteness
As every archipelago, also Cape Verde has some islands that are busier and others that are real oasis of peace, secludedness and tranquility. Even if the last majority of the Capeverdean islands always has a part that is more remote and laid-back, some islands seem to be particularly made to come to inner peace, disconnect from the stress and be close to nature. If you’re deciding to stay on one of these islands, you’ll get a precious and rare insight to the authentic Capeverdean, creole way of living.
However you should take into consideration that the way to get there is not always the easiest and that your journey to get there might take 1-2 days.
But, as they say, the route becomes the destination.
1. Santa Luzia
Santa Luzia is located only 8km from the vibrant island of Sao Vicente. The island is barren, very dry with dunes and beaches in the south and a very rugged north coast. The island is dominated by mount Topona with 395m and is nowadays inhabited. Even though there were a few attempts in the 1960’s to make Santa Luzia livable, the soil was just too dry and people had to leave again in the 1990's.
But even if the island is not inhabited, more and more visitors come to hike, do birdwatching and enjoy the vistas of the desert island and its total silence. It’s all about re-connecting to the natural surroundings and enjoy the omnipresence of untouched nature and the giant ocean.
The only way to get to the deserted island is by renting a fishing boat from Calhau, Sao Vicente and the journey lasts 2 hours.
There are no facilities on the island, so make sure to take your provisions.
2. North of Santo Antao
The north-eastern part of Santo Antao is probably one of the most beautiful areas of the entire Capeverdean archipelago. As large hotels and resorts are a rather rare thing, you’ll find the calm and secludedness that you’re looking for. Be prepared to be mostly surrounded by fruit trees, coffee plants and breathtaking views. The sharp mountainous profile created the unique profile of the island.
The villages located in the mountains are more remote and thus difficult to reach. The main villages in the valley with paved access are Ribeira Grande, Ponta do Sol, Cidade das Pombas etc.
Some of these villages don’t even have an asphalted road access, thus tourists are not very common. However that will be the main reason why you’ll immerse in the beautiful Capeverdean culture and enjoy the “no stress” vibe at its best.
Best Places To Stay in Northern Santo Antão
Where to stay in Tenerife for trekking holidays
Where to Stay in Cape Verde for Volcanoes
The archipelago of Cape Verde is located on a volcanic hotspot of the West African coast. Even if most islands have a volcano and some even boast several spectacular craters, only Fogo had eruptions after the fifteenth century when the first settlers arrived.
Fogo has the most active and prominent volcano, Pico do Fogo (2829m) on the Capeverdean archipelago. The almost circular island mostly consists of a single massive stratovolcano. The volcano had its last eruption in 2014.
São Felipe and Mosteiros are the 2 main cities of the island and great bases to explore Fogo island by hiking or rides. The terraced hillsides filled with Arabica coffee plants are, along Pico de Fogo volcano, one of Fogo’s natural tourist sites. The wine of Fogo island is one of the most prominent wines of the Capeverdean archipelago.
The volcano can only be visited with a guide.
Staying at Fogo island isn’t complete without visiting the 1000 inhabitants village of Chã das Caldeiras. The village is located inside the crater and is famous for the excellent quality of its grapes. Due to the fertile soil, even pears, peaches, figs and apples are grown on what, at first sight, might be a dry volcanic island.
In the north-east, above Mosteiros, the weather can become more chilly, especially at night. The only safe place to swim is La Salina in the north of the country.
How to get there: Connecting flights to Praia/Santiago or by ferry from Brava or Praia
Best Places To Stay in Fogo
Where to Stay in Cape Verde if you want Water Sports
Cape Verde is a very attractive destination for active travellers. Not only will hikers enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Santo Antao or Fogo, but also watersport lovers will fall in love with the excellent conditions for all types of surfing or sailing.
From November to March wind conditions are the best for surfing in Cape Verde.
Where to stay in Tenerife for city life
1. Sal Island
Sal Island is especially famous among the international kite surfing community for its legendary “Kite Beach” which is located a 5 minutes’ drive from tourist hub of Santa Maria. Some of the most famous kite surfers in the world are training here for upcoming championships.
You’ll find specialized surfers hostals that will arrange your lesson, no matter if you are a beginner or an intermediate surfer.
The months between November and March are the best for kitesurfing in Sal Island as the winds are increasing.
Even if you’re not into water sports, I totally recommend visiting “Kite Beach” for its laid-back vibe and watching the artistic kite moves.
Sal Island is also the perfect place to take your first sailing lessons. Several operators are offering their services in Santa Maria, in the south of Sal and main tourist hub.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Sal
Best Places To Stay in Santa María, Sal for Water Sports
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Maio is pone of the less visited island of the Capeverdean archipelago, but that’s why you can still enjoy the authentic Capeverdean lifestyle and enjoy pristine beaches with amazing conditions for water sport lovers.
The intact ocean fauna will be a paradise for divers and wind surfers will appreciate the perfect breeze on Maio’s beaches.
Beaches are mostly desert and hotels are limited. For me personally Maio is the next top beach destination to be. The beaches are huge and there's just nobody!
Best Places To Stay in Maio
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
3. Sao Vicente
Sao Vicente, home to the famous Morna singer Cesaria Evora, is not only the cultural hub of Cape Verde, but also heaven for windsurfers.
The main beach for water sport is located in Sao Pedro, at a stone’s throw from the airport of Sao Vicente. But don’t be mistaken, the beach is wide and mostly desert. However this beach is recommended only to proficient surfers as currents and tides are very strong. In the twinkling of an eye, it will take you to Brasil.
Also wind conditions can be literally mind blowing in the bay of Sao Pedro where speed records of more than 40 knots have been recorded.
The time we visited, there was a shop near the Hotel Foya Branca which would rent suits and boards.
Other surf spots on Sao Vicente are Praia Grande, Salamansa and Praia Branca.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Sao Vicente
Best Places To Stay in São Vicente for Water Sports
Puerto de la Cruz
Where to Stay in Cape Verde if you want City Life
City life and urban vibes in Cape Verde may be much more frequent than you’d initially think.
Music, art and dance are omnipresent in the streets of any Capeverdean island. However the most emblematic towns for their cultural offer are Mindelo on Sao Vicente island and the capital Praia, in Santiago island.
One of my favourite things of Capeverdean towns was that you’re never really far from nature whether it’s a gorgeous beach, an impressive mountainous landscape or lush vegetation.
Where to Stay for Digital Nomads
1. Mindelo, Sao Vicente
Mindelo is also known as the cultural capital of Cape Verde. Indeed Mindelo is not only the hometown of the most famous Capeverdean singer of all times, Cesaria Evora, but is also home to legendary artists such as Tito Paris, Bau and Fantcha.
Music in general and especially the “queen’s” songs, Cesaria Evora, are omnipresent in the streets of Mindelo during night and day. Many bars along Avenida 5 de Julho and Rua de Lisboa offer special music dinners where you can listen to traditional Cape Verdean music like Morna and Coladeira.
My favorite bar was a bit farer away, but a very cozy place to listen Cape Verdean music among locals: Livraria Nho Djunga. Be prepared for seeing some of the best Mindel’ artists that sometimes show up very spontaneously.
Art galleries and local craft shops are sprouting up...The bright blue Praia Laginha beach is the perfect place to spend lazy beach days...
The market at Praca d’Estrela and the old fish market are the most vibrant hot spots in town. I loved just to get there and soak up the atmosphere.
Mindelo is also well renowned for having one of the most legendary carnivals right after Rio. During these days the streets are alive and full of vibrant colors and bold rhythms.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Sao Vicente
Best Places To Stay in Mindelo, São Vicente
Accommodation Sights map
2. Praia, Santiago Island
Praia is Cape Verde’s capital and also the busiest city of the archipelago. Praia can be easily reached from all other Cape Verdean islands and has international flight connections to Europe, United States and the African continent. A large part of the city doesn’t have house numbers or names yet, but they do in the city center.
The “plateau” is the city center of Praia and is the perfect location to have coffee in its numerous bars, strolling around in town and visit the local markets. Interesting places to visit are the town hall of Praia, the supreme court, the cathedral, Praça Alexandre Albuquerque and Palácio da Assembleia .
Gamboa (not suitable for swimming), Praia Negra and Quebra Canela are the main beaches of the town.
Praia is known for its festive mood and events are taking place all year round. The most important one is the carnival including colorful parades and dances. Praia is also a good destination for water sport lovers as you’ll find several options for surfing and water skiing.
Please be aware that being the biggest city of Cape Verde, Praia has a higher crime rate than any other island. Even if Praia is a safe city, you shouldn’t go very far from the city center during night, flaunting expensive gadgets and jewelry. Like Mindelo, some parts of Praia are badly illuminated at night thus I’d avoid these places and always walk in pairs or groups. Generally I recommend to take a taxi at night.
The stairs at the edge of Achada Santo Antonio towards Plateau are unsafe, also during the day, avoid that neighbourhood.
How to get there? Check flight rates to the International Airport of Praia
Best Places To Stay in Praia, Santiago
Accommodation Sights map
Site & Accommodation Map
I hope this article helps to find your best place to stay in Cape Verde.
You still have doubts? Please do not hesitate to contact me, I am sure there will be a place on Cape Verde that perfectly meets your needs. Just remember that Cape Verde's got it all!
Have you already been in Cape Verde? I would love to hear about your favorite places to stay.
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