Cape Verde travel guide - Times Travel (2023)

Cape Verde travel guide - Times Travel (1)

What to do, where to stay and why you'll love it

  • What to do
  • Where to stay
  • Don’t miss
  • When to visit

Cape Verde travel guide - Times Travel (2)

Amanda Canning


Monday January 23 2023, 10:00am

A scattering of ten islands flung out in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa, Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) is surprisingly little known as a travel destination given its many diverse attractions. Only six hours on a direct flight from the UK, it offers year-round sunshine — with temperatures rarely falling below 20C, it’s the ideal place to head for a spot of winter sun.

You’ve got all the sandy beaches, hotel facilities and water sports you could want; you need look no further than the islands of Sal or Boa Vista if a fly-and-flop holiday is what you’re after. Yet there’s so much more to the archipelago, and each of the Cape Verde islands offers something different — for starters, there’s a thriving arts and music scene on cultural capital São Vicente; colonial history on the largest island Santiago; volcanic landscapes on Fogo; and hiking trails in the verdant hills of Santo Antão. It’s pretty easy to travel between the islands if you’d like to mix it up, with ferry services and domestic flights between most of them. In between exploring (or sunbathing), you’ll get to tuck into some decent food — seafood and stews are a speciality in a cuisine that draws heavily on Portuguese influences, and the quality of the local fruit is exceptional. The icing on the cake is that entry requirements are straightforward for British nationals — you need to fill out a registration form before arrival but can otherwise visit visa-free for stays up to 30 days.

(Video) The Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Cape Verde | Travel Video | Travel Guide | SKY Travel

What to do

For white-sand beaches and turquoise water, you’re spoilt for choice — on Boa Vista*, try Praia de Chaves and Praia de Santa Mónica, and on Sal, head to Santa Maria. Many of the islands’ beaches have facilities to try windsurfing, scuba-diving and snorkelling. For a dip of an entirely different nature, head to Pedra de Lume on Sal* — the centre of the islands’ salt production, the lakes here are salty enough that you’ll float in the water. To the south of the chain, you’ll find Santiago*. It’s here that the previously uninhabited islands were first discovered by the Portuguese in the 13th century, going on to become a stopover between Africa and the Americas during the slave trade — you can learn about Cape Verdean history at Cidade Velha, the old capital. Continue south and west and you reach the islands of Fogo and Brava. Tiny Brava is an excellent place to escape the world, with mountain villages and a laidback lifestyle to enjoy. Fogo looks like it belongs to a different island chain altogether, and is home to eerie volcanic landscapes; it’s possible to climb to the crater of its active volcano, Pico do Fogo*. For more hiking, head north to Santo Antão* — it has multiple walking trails, many delivering incredible views over its crinkled mountains towards the sea. Neighbouring São Vicente* offers another change of pace: spend time roaming the cobbled streets of harbour town Mindelo and you’ll find a lively music and arts scene, with enough markets, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained for your holiday.

As with much on Cape Verde, the type and character of accommodation available is very much dependent on which island you chose to stay on. The more tourist-oriented islands of Sal* and Boa Vista* have the majority of the resort-style, all-inclusives and international chains. These have plenty of amenities for the traveller who doesn’t want to stray too far from the hotel grounds, with direct access to the beach, on-site restaurants, swimming pools, kids’ clubs and water sports. There are good options for villa rentals here, too. The other islands also have a smattering of larger hotels, but they offer you good opportunities to stay in smaller guesthouses and independents.

There’s a dearth of design-led hotels on Cape Verde, but São Vicente and Fogo both have eco-lodges that go some way to raising the style stakes. Their unique natural settings make them appropriate places for accommodation with a focus on natural materials, sustainability and minimal impact on their environments. For nightlife and restaurants on your doorstep, the towns of Sal Rei (Sal), Mindelo (São Vicente) and Praia (Santiago) are going to work for you. Note that some of the smaller islands are easily accessible as day trips from the larger and more popular ones so you needn’t necessarily need to find a hotel you like on them in order to plan a visit.

Don’t miss

While a lot of people plump for Sal and Boa Vista simply to enjoy some sunshine and unadulterated beach time, both islands have incredible opportunities for wildlife-spotting, particularly of the marine variety. A major drawcard is whale-watching; in March and April, pods of humpback whales pass just off the shores of both islands, coming to the waters to breed. They’re occasionally joined by pilot and sperm whales. It’s possible to see them from the land, but the best way to see them is to take a boat tour. You can also spot dolphins year-round; a lovely way to find them is by taking an island-hopping sailing trip. You might also see Caretta Caretta (loggerhead) turtles gliding just beneath the surface of the water, too — if you come any time from July to October, you’ve a chance to see them nest and the eggs hatch on Cape Verde’s beaches. Completing the aquatic picture are lemon sharks. These medium-sized sharks feed on plankton in shallow waters in the appropriately named Shark Bay, near Pedra de Lume on Sal. Many outfitters combine a trip to see them with time spent in Sal’s very own slice of the Sahara — the grains that make up the dunes of the Viana desert are blown in from mainland Africa. If you prefer your wildlife to fly rather than swim, you’ll want to spend time at the Lagoa do Rabil on Boa Vista; the lagoon is home to wading birds, spoonbills and the endemic Iago sparrow.

Cape Verde is good to visit year-round but bear in mind that rainy season falls from July to October.


What is the best month to visit Cape Verde?
Our money’s on November. Rainy season is finished, temperatures are a balmy 28C on average, you get seven hours of sunshine each day, and you’re not sharing the islands with the relative crowds of the October half-term or Christmas holidays. Sea breezes mean that the temperatures are rarely uncomfortable, so hiking and other activities are pleasant at this time of year.

Is Cape Verde safe to visit?
Cape Verde is a safe destination for tourists, with generally low crime rates. Do follow local advice before swimming in the sea, though, in case of strong currents and tides. Some poor local driving, particularly on intercity buses, can also occasionally make road trips a little hairy. Get up-to-date travel advice from the UK government site, as well as info on travel health.

(Video) Why Cape Verde Is The PERFECT Eco Destination! | 🇨🇻Cape Verde Travel Guide🇨🇻

Which part of Cape Verde is best?
It entirely depends what sort of holiday you want, but if you only have time to visit one, Santiago island is a good bet. It has white-sand beaches and good swimming; a diverse landscape of mountains and valleys that are good for walking; excellent nightlife, shopping and dining in current capital Praia; and history and culture in the old capital Cidade Velha.

Currency The Cape Verde escudo (CVE), though the euro is widely accepted

Take me there

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What are the best months to go to Cape Verde? ›

The best time to visit Cape Verde is between November and June – at this time of year, you can make the most of the white-sand beaches the islands are known for. The temperatures sit around the mid-to-high twenties, and there's hardly any rain.

How many days are enough for Cape Verde? ›

Two weeks allows you to visit four islands, or even five for the fastest. It is possible to spend 5 days on the islands of São Vicente and Santo Antão, then 5 to 6 days on those of Santiago and Fogo.

Is it easy to travel around Cape Verde? ›

Getting around in Cape Verde

The easiest way to get around is to fly with local airline TACV. However, flights get overbooked, and travelling without an advance reservation is unreliable. The (far cheaper) alternative is ferries. While safe and reliable, crossings can be rough.

Can US citizens travel to Cape Verde? ›

Visas: Effective February 24, 2020, U.S. citizens entering Cabo Verde for tourism for less than 30 days do not require a tourist visa. For tourist visits longer than 30 days, two types of visas are available: a single-entry visa valid for up to 90 days or a multiple-entry visa valid for five years.

What is the cheapest time to go to Cape Verde? ›

Fares dip slightly from June to August and in December, the optimum times for cheap trips to Cape Verde. Last-minute summer deals are also common.

Is there a hurricane season in Cape Verde? ›

Hurricanes only occur occasionally in Cape Verde. On average, they happen about 2 times a year. The hardest hit regions are Boa Vista and Tarrafal de São Nicolau. The hurricane season usually lasts from early June to late November.

Is it worth going to Cape Verde? ›

Cape Verde is a safe destination for tourists, with generally low crime rates. Do follow local advice before swimming in the sea, though, in case of strong currents and tides. Some poor local driving, particularly on intercity buses, can also occasionally make road trips a little hairy.

Can you swim in the sea in Cape Verde? ›

Praia da Laginha is a small beach on the north coast of Sāo Vicente island in Cape Verde. This picturesque little beach is home to some of the best beach swimming in Cape Verde; the calm, tranquil nature of the sea makes it easy to swim in for even the most precautious of swimmers.

Are things cheap in Cape Verde? ›

Yes, prices in general are lower than in most countries in Europe and also the United States. But in my opinion Cape Verde is not a very cheap country. I've traveled to countries where almost everything was cheaper.

Do you get hassled in Cape Verde? ›

The people of Cape Verde are generally friendly and welcoming – and you won't experience the same type of aggressive hassling as you do as a white person in continental Black African countries such as Senegal.

Can I island hop in Cape Verde? ›

Island Hopping in Cape Verde. Island hopping is one of the best ways to experience the beauty and diversity of Cape Verde's breathtaking archipelago.

Which is the safest island in Cape Verde? ›

Santo Antao is extremely safe. It is said that Santiago and Fogo less so, you must be somewhat careful in Praia (but no need for paranoia).

Do you need malaria tablets for Cape Verde? ›

Malaria precautions are essential. Avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers especially after sunset, using insect repellents on exposed skin and, when necessary, sleeping under a mosquito net. Low to no risk areas: antimalarial tablets are not normally advised.

What immunisations do I need for Cape Verde? ›

Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for Cape Verde. The National Travel Health Network and Centre and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for Cape Verde: COVID-19, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies and tetanus. Jab lasts 3 years.

What language do they speak in Cabo Verde? ›

The official language of the islands is Portuguese, which is used in most written communication, including newspapers; however Creole tends to be used in conversation and it's this you'll hear being used on a day to day basis. Creole is based on African languages but with additions from several European languages.

Which airlines fly direct to Cape Verde? ›

Currently, TUI is the only airline that flies direct to Cape Verde.

Is Cape Verde hotter than Egypt? ›

We found Cape Verde to be hotter than Egypt although the wind in Cape Verde made it a more bearable heat. I would advise you to take a higher factor than 4 to start off with cos the wind will burn you even on a cloudy day. I'm a sun worshipper but i used factor 15 for the first few days and dropped down to 10.

Is Cape Verde a long haul flight? ›

With flight times of around six hours, the Cape Verde islands slightly stretch the definition of short-haul. But this exotic archipelago off the western coast of Africa is practically in the same time zone as the UK, so you can holiday without the jet lag.

Are there mosquitoes in Cape Verde? ›

It's recommended to take a vaccine against hepatitis There are no mosquitoes in Cape Verde islands so you don't need to take Malaria medicine / vaccine as in other African countries.

Is malaria a risk in Cape Verde? ›

Malaria. There is a very low risk of malaria in Cape Verde, mainly due to P. falciparum, so: test any unwell patient who has travelled to-and-from affected areas of Cape Verde in the last year.

Is there Zika virus in Cape Verde? ›

Serious complications and deaths are not common. However ZIKV is a cause of Congenital Zika Syndrome (microcephaly and other congenital anomalies) and neurological complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. There is a risk of ZIKV in this country.

Is Cape Verde like the Caribbean? ›

Cape Verde has often been referred to as The African Caribbean but, in reality, it perhaps only now has the quality of hotel, activities and restaurants to rival the likes of Barbados and Jamaica.

What is Cape Verde best known for? ›

Cape Verde is famous for its warm tropical climate, volcanic islands, wonderful musicians, and delicious cuisine. Americans may not have heard much about Cape Verde, but Europeans are much more familiar with the islands as a winter escape.

Is the water drinkable in Cape Verde? ›

A few other illnesses can occur in Cape Verde, such as filariasis, leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis. Avoid freshwater lakes and rivers to prevent risk of these illnesses. It's also possible you'll get diarrhea from drinking water or from just not being used to the microbes in Cape Verde.

Are there sea snakes in Cape Verde? ›

There are no predators in Cape Verde, no snakes and very few poisonous animals. However, there are a few animals that you might want to watch out for, in case you come in contact with them. That is the case of the very rare Portuguese Man o'war (1).

Does Cape Verde have nightlife? ›

Cape Verde is famous for its love of music and relaxed lifestyle. Nightlife in Cape Verde is low key but there is more than enough to keep you entertained. The main nightlife centre for tourists is the town of Santa Maria on the Island of Sal.

Does Cape Verde have white beaches? ›

Laginha Beach, Mindelo, São Vicente. A stretch of powder white sand lapped by shimmering turquoise waters, you won't be disappointed with your visit to Laginha Beach in Mindelo.

Can I use my credit card in Cape Verde? ›

Paying with a credit card (VISA or MasterCard) is rather unusual in Cape Verde and usually it only works in large hotels and very specific shops. The majority of restaurants and bars do not accept credit cards. Travelers checks can be exchanged at the banks, but they are not common.

Is the sea warm at Cape Verde? ›

A comfortable 25°C is the average maximum temperature, and sea temperatures average at 23°C, making it ideal for water sport enthusiasts.

What food is in Cape Verde? ›

Corn and beans are staples of Cape Verdean cuisine. Also popular are rice, fried potatoes, cassava and vegetables such as carrots, kale, squash, fish and meat such as tuna, sawfish, lobster, chicken, grilled pork and eggs.

Do you get food on flight to Cape Verde? ›

If you're on a short or mid-haul flight – that's anything less than seven hours including Cape Verde – you'll find our Café menu on board. It's packed with tempting treats, snacks and drinks, plus great-value meal deals and a range of hot food, too. Check out the full Café menu here.

Do you need mosquito repellent in Cape Verde? ›

Insect repellent – while there is no malaria present in Cape Verde (with the exception of Santiago from September to November), we recommend taking insect repellent to help avoid annoying insect bites.

What money can you spend in Cape Verde? ›

The Cape Verde Escudo is tied to the euro at CV Esc 110.265 = 1 Euro. Banks will exchange hard currencies. Large hotels and restaurants accept some credit cards and payment in euros.

Which is the better island to visit in Cape Verde? ›

Sal. Sunny, salty and sandy Sal is Cape Verde's most popular island for visitors, who come for the gorgeous beaches and watersports (surfing and diving in particular). The distinctive landscape also features the Pedra de Lume salt pans and Buracona with its natural swimming pools and underwater caves.

How do I spend a week in Cape Verde? ›

Without further ado, here's our one week itinerary for Cape Verde:
  1. Day 1: Boa Vista Check-In & Quad excursion.
  2. Day 2: Boa Vista island adventure in a rented 4×4.
  3. Day 3: Boa Vista sailing trip, snorkelling & visit of Sal Rei city.
  4. Day 4: Flight to Sal, Check-in & visit of Santa Maria fishing village & pier.

Do you need passport Cape Verde? ›

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Cape Verde.

What foods should be avoided in Cape Verde? ›


Raw vegetables and salads should be avoided due to the danger of contamination.

What is the hottest month in Cape Verde? ›

Cape Verde has an enviable climate and good to visit at any time of the year. The hottest month of the year is September with an average daily maximum of 31 C and an average low of 25 C. The coolest month of the year is February with an average daily maximum of 24 C and an average low of 19 C.

How soon before travel should I take malaria pills? ›

Begin 1-2 days before travel, daily during travel, and for 4 weeks after leaving.
  1. Some people prefer to take a daily medicine.
  2. Good for last-minute travelers because the drug is started 1-2 days before traveling to an area where malaria transmission occurs.
  3. Tends to be the least expensive antimalarial.

Can you flush toilet paper in Cape Verde? ›

Toilet paper can be flushed down the toilet. Sanitary napkins, etc. need to be thrown in the bin.

What sickness bug is in Cape Verde? ›

A food and water hygiene reminder

A reminder of the risks of diarrhoeal illness, including shigellosis, and the importance of food and water hygiene. Since August 2022, an increased number of shigellosis cases, caused by Shigella sonnei, have been reported in travellers returning from Cape Verde [1].

Do I have to wear a face mask in Cape Verde? ›

The Cape Verde health authority still recommends that you use a face mask when in crowded areas and in enclosed spaces.

How long does typhoid vaccine last? ›

Typhoid vaccines are not 100% effective. Always practice safe eating and drinking habits to help prevent infection. Typhoid vaccines lose effectiveness over time. The injectable vaccine requires a booster every 2 years, and the oral vaccine requires a booster every 5 years.

Are there mosquitoes in Boa Vista Cape Verde? ›

The location's weather patterns over the past several months can determine how many mosquitoes emerge. The risk for mosquito activity is extremely high. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors to prevent bites. The risk for mosquito activity is high.

Do they speak English in Cape Verde? ›

Language in Cape Verde

The official language is Portuguese. Creole is spoken by most of the inhabitants. Some English, French, German and Spanish are widely spoken.

What is the difference between Cape Verde and Cabo Verde? ›

It's Cabo Verde across the West African archipelago where Portuguese and Creole are the languages. It's known as Cape Verde in the English-speaking world. It's Kap Verde in Finland, Sweden, and Germany. And in Italy, it's Capo Verde.

Is Cape Verde European or African? ›

Cape Verde or CV (Portuguese: Cabo Verde, Kriolu: Kabu Verdi) is a country in West Africa. It is located in a cluster of islands of the Atlantic Ocean, 570 km (350 mi) off the western coast of Senegal.

What's the coldest month in Cape Verde? ›

With an average of 8 sunshine hours a day, January is Cape Verde's coldest month.

Which island is the best to go to in Cape Verde? ›

Sunny, salty and sandy Sal is Cape Verde's most popular island for visitors, who come for the gorgeous beaches and watersports (surfing and diving in particular). The distinctive landscape also features the Pedra de Lume salt pans and Buracona with its natural swimming pools and underwater caves.

What airlines fly to Cape Verde? ›

Popular airlines flying to Cape Verde
  • TAP Portugal.
  • TUI fly Deutschland.
  • Royal Air Maroc.
  • Air Senegal.
  • Neos Air.
  • Luxair.
  • TUI fly Belgium.
  • Swiss International Air Lines.

What money do they use in Cape Verde? ›

The Cape Verde Escudo is tied to the euro at CV Esc 110.265 = 1 Euro. Banks will exchange hard currencies. Large hotels and restaurants accept some credit cards and payment in euros.

Is it safe to go out at night in Cape Verde? ›

Avoid unlit areas after dark. Petty crimes e.g. pick-pocketing or handbag snatching can occur, including on beaches. Make sure your holiday accommodation is secure. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out.

Can you drink tap water in Cape Verde? ›

Therefore, it follows, if you rinse with tap water, you can also drink it! Save the planet and don't buy bottled water. Cabo Verde has no recycling facilities and plastic waste is engulfing the islands.


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