Choosing which island in Cape Verde is best to visit can be overwhelming. The islands of Cape Verde are known for their sunny weather and tropical climate, but each island has its own unique things to do.
The best islands to visit in Cape Verde for a beach holiday are Sal and Boa Vista. These islands are perfect for families, couples, and watersports. Santiago, São Vicente, Santo Antão, and Fogo are the best islands to visit in Cape Verde for hiking, nature, and cultural experience. São Nicolau, Brava, and Maio are the most authentic islands to visit.
Cape Verde consists of 10 different islands, of which 9 are inhabited. A common saying among the islands is 10 islands, 10 faces, meaning that each Cape Verde island has its own identity. We traveled around the archipelago for 10 weeks and visited almost every island. During our roundtrip, we experienced the differences and similarities of each island.
This article is a complete guide, where I’ll tell you the best highlights of each island. So you can easily choose which Cape Verde island is the best for your Cape Verde Holiday! Let’s find out!
Top 6 Islands To Visit In Cape Verde
Cape Verde is a beautiful country with ten islands with unique attractions and experiences. To help you get started, here is an overview of some of the top islands to visit in Cape Verde:
- Sal Island – Sal is the most popular tourist destination in Cape Verde, known for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s also a hub for water sports like windsurfing, kitesurfing, and diving.
- Boa Vista Island – Boa Vista is another popular island for tourists, famous for its expansive sand dunes, rugged coastline, and beautiful beachfront all-inclusive resorts. It also has several protected marine reserves where you can spot whales and dolphins in the months March-May.
- Santiago Island – Santiago is the largest island in Cape Verde and is considered the country’s cultural heart. It has a rich history, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cidade Velha, and a vibrant music scene with genres such as Morna, Batuku, and Funana.
- Fogo Island – Fogo is known for its active volcano, which is one of the highest points in Cape Verde. The island is home to a unique landscape of lava fields and the picturesque colonial town of Sao Filipe.
- Sao Vicente Island – Sao Vicente is an island known for its artistic and musical culture, with the city of Mindelo, considered the cultural capital of Cape Verde. It’s also home to beautiful beaches like Laginha and Baia das Gatas.
- Santo Antão – Santo Antão is the westernmost island in Cape Verde and is known for its rugged mountain landscapes, scenic hiking trails, and picturesque coastal villages. It’s a perfect destination for adventurous travelers who want to explore stunning natural beauty and experience local culture. It is known to be a hiker’s paradise.
These are just a few examples of the fantastic islands that Cape Verde has to offer. You can even go island hopping in Cape Verde. Depending on your interests and preferences, there is the perfect Cape Verde island for you out there. So let’s find out more about the islands.
Sal Island is the most popular tourist destination in Cape Verde and is located in the northern part of the country. It is the perfect destination for travelers seeking a relaxing beach holiday with plenty of opportunities for water sports and a lively nightlife scene. And here are some of the top attractions and things to do on Sal Island:
- Beaches – Sal Island is known for its stunning beaches, with Santa Maria Beach connected to Santa Maria town being the most famous. This beautiful stretch of white sand and turquoise water is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and watersports. And it’s where most hotels and resorts are located.
- Water Sports – Sal Island is a hub for water sports, particularly windsurfing, kitesurfing, and diving. There are several schools and rental shops along the beaches where you can take lessons or rent equipment.
- Salinas de Pedra de Lume – This saltwater crater lake is one of the unique attractions of Sal Island. Visitors can float in the mineral-rich waters and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
- Espargos – This is the capital city of Sal Island and a great place to explore the local culture. The city is home to several restaurants, cafes, shops, and the Pedra de Lume Salt Mines.
- Buracona – This natural pool is a must-visit on Sal Island, particularly during sunset. Or during noon when it turns into the ‘Blye Eye.’
- Shark Bay is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, with the chance to swim with harmless lemon sharks.
- Nightlife – Sal Island is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with several bars and clubs in Santa Maria offering live music and entertainment.
Overall, Sal Island is a perfect destination for those seeking a relaxing beach vacation with the added bonus of excellent water sports opportunities. Sal Island always has something to offer, whether you want to spend your days lounging on the beach, trying new water sports, or exploring the local culture.
Where To Stay in Sal
#1 Top Pick
Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort
Multiple Swimming Pools
#2 Top Pick
Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria
Six pools, beachfront location, waterpark
#3 Top Pick
Melia Llana Beach Resort & Spa – Sal
Boa Vista Island
Boa Vista Island is located in the eastern part of Cape Verde and is the third-largest island in the archipelago. It’s a perfect destination for a peaceful, relaxed beach holiday with stunning desert landscapes and water sports activities.
Here are some of the top attractions and things to do on Boa Vista Island:
- Beaches – Boa Vista Island is known for its stunning beaches, with Santa Monica Beach being the most famous. This beautiful stretch of white sand and crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
- Desert Landscapes – Boa Vista Island has several stunning desert landscapes, including the Viana Desert. These vast expanses of sand dunes are a must-visit and offer the perfect opportunity for quad biking.
- Sal Rei is the main town on Boa Vista Island and a great place to explore the local culture. The town is home to several restaurants, cafes, and shops.
- Marine Reserves – Boa Vista Island is home to several marine reserves. These protected areas are a great place to spot marine life, including turtles, dolphins, and whales.
- Fishing Village of Curral Velho – This small fishing village is a great place to experience local culture and cuisine. Visitors can watch fishermen bring in their daily catch and try local dishes like fish stew and grilled fish.
- Water Sports – Boa Vista Island is a popular destination for water sports, particularly windsurfing, kitesurfing, and diving. There are several schools and rental shops along the beaches where you can take lessons or rent equipment.
Boa Vista Island offers a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure, with its stunning beaches, desert landscapes, and water sports activities. It’s a perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful and laid-back beach holiday with a touch of adventure.
Where To Stay in Boa Vista
Hotel Riu Karamboa – Boa Vista
Newly refurbished, adults-only & 24-hour All Inclusive
Santiago Island is the largest island in Cape Verde and is known for its vibrant music scene, rich history, and stunning natural beauty. Here are some of the top attractions and things to do on Santiago Island:
- Cidade Velha – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest settlement in Cape Verde and was once an important hub for the transatlantic slave trade. Visitors can explore the remains of the fortresses, churches, and other historic buildings, as well as the restored Royal House of Cidade Velha.
- Praia – This is the capital city of Cape Verde and the largest city on Santiago Island. It’s a great place to experience local culture and cuisine and visit museums and galleries like the National Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.
- Serra Malagueta – This mountain range in central Santiago Island offers stunning panoramic views and is home to several hiking trails. Visitors can explore the lush vegetation and spot rare species like the Cape Verde warbler.
- Tarrafal – This coastal town is home to a beautiful beach and a former prison that was used during the colonial era. Visitors can learn about the town’s history and explore the old prison cells, which now house a museum.
- Assomada – This market town is a great place to experience the vibrant local culture and cuisine. The weekly market is a bustling hub of activity where visitors can buy fresh produce and local crafts.
- Pedra Badejo – This coastal town is a popular destination for swimming and water sports, with several beaches and surf spots. Visitors can also explore the town’s historic buildings, including the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Santiago Island offers a rich mix of history, culture, and natural beauty, with plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you want to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cidade Velha, hike through the Serra Malagueta mountain range, or soak up the vibrant culture in Praia, Santiago Island has something for everyone.
Where To Stay In Santiago
⭐️ Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
🏩 Best Feature:
São Vicente Island
Sao Vicente Island is known for its lively music scene, colorful markets, and stunning landscapes. Sao Vicente Island is a perfect destination for travelers looking to experience Cape Verdean culture, music, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches and stunning landscapes. Here are some of the top attractions and things to do on Sao Vicente Island:
- Mindelo – This vibrant city is Sao Vicente Island’s cultural and economic hub. It’s known for its colorful colonial architecture, lively music scene, and bustling markets. Visitors can explore the city’s museums and galleries, such as the Mindelo Municipal Museum and the Cesaria Evora Museum, or enjoy a night out in a city’s bars or clubs.
- Praia da Laginha – This is the most popular beach on Sao Vicente Island and is located just outside the city of Mindelo. It’s a great place for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching, with several restaurants and bars nearby.
- Monte Verde – This mountain on the eastern side of Sao Vicente Island offers stunning panoramic views of the island and the surrounding sea. Visitors can hike to the summit, take a taxi, or tour the top.
- Sao Pedro – This coastal town on the western side of Sao Vicente Island is a popular destination for surfers, with several surf schools and surf spots. Visitors can also explore the town’s colorful fishing port and enjoy fresh seafood.
- Baia das Gatas – This beautiful bay on the northern side of Sao Vicente Island is known for its calm waters and white sand beaches. It’s a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
- Artisanal Center – This market in the center of Mindelo is a great place to buy local crafts, such as handwoven baskets and pottery. Visitors can also watch artisans at work and learn about the traditional crafts of Cape Verde.
Sao Vicente Island offers a perfect mix of culture, history, and natural beauty, with plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you want to explore the vibrant city of Mindelo, relax on the beaches, or hike to the summit of Monte Verde, Sao Vicente Island has something for everyone.
Where To Stay In São Vicente
⭐️ Rating: 8.4 out of 10 stars
🏩 Best Feature:
Located in the heart of Mindelo.
Fogo Island is known for its dramatic landscapes, including a volcanic peak dominating its skyline. It is a perfect destination for travelers looking to experience a unique blend of volcanic landscapes, historic towns, and local culture and enjoy hiking, wine tasting, and stunning sea views. And here are some of the top attractions and things to do on Fogo Island:
- Pico do Fogo – This active volcano is the highest point in Cape Verde and offers stunning panoramic views of the island and surrounding sea. Visitors can hike to the summit, which takes about six hours, or take a tour with a local guide.
- Cha das Caldeiras – This small village is located inside the crater of Pico do Fogo and is home to several hot springs and geothermal activity. Visitors can hike to the village or take a guided tour.
- Sao Filipe – This colorful colonial town is the largest settlement on Fogo Island. It is known for its historic buildings, including the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao church and the Torre do Relogio clock tower. Visitors can also explore the local market and enjoy traditional Cape Verdean cuisine.
- Mosteiros – This coastal village on the western side of Fogo Island is known for its black sand beaches and stunning sea views. Visitors can also explore the nearby Monte Velha nature reserve, which offers hiking trails and scenic views.
- Salinas de Sao Jorge – This historic salt production site on the northeastern side of Fogo Island offers a glimpse into the island’s past. Visitors can explore the salt pans and learn about the traditional methods of salt production.
- Chã das Caldeiras Wine Tasting – This is an opportunity to taste the locally produced wine of Fogo, grown on volcanic soil.
Fogo Island offers a unique mix of natural beauty, history, and culture, with opportunities for hiking, exploring volcanic landscapes, and tasting local wine. Whether you want to hike to the summit of Pico do Fogo, explore the historic town of Sao Filipe, or relax on the black sand beaches of Mosteiros, Fogo Island is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Cape Verde.
Where To Stay In Fogo
⭐️ Rating: 9.3 out of 10 stars
🏩 Best Feature:
Located right next to the volcano
Santo Antão Island
Santo Antão Island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. With its rugged mountain landscapes, scenic hiking trails, and picturesque coastal villages, Santo Antão offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience. Here are some of the top attractions and things to do on the island:
- Paul Valley – This fertile valley in the island’s center is known for its lush greenery, terraced farms, and stunning mountain views. Visitors can hike the valley or take a guided tour to explore the local agriculture and learn about traditional farming methods.
- Ribeira Grande – This historic town on the northern coast of Santo Antão is known for its colonial architecture, including the Nossa Senhora do Rosário church and the Câmara Municipal (town hall). Visitors can also explore the local market and sample traditional Cape Verdean cuisine.
- Cova Crater – This natural amphitheater on the island’s northeastern side is a popular hiking destination, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Visitors can hike to the crater or take a guided tour.
- Ponta do Sol – This coastal town on the island’s western side is known for its scenic harbor, fishing boats, and vibrant local culture. Visitors can explore the town’s historic center and enjoy the local cuisine and music.
- Monte Verde – This mountain peak on the island’s southern side offers stunning panoramic views of Santo Antão and the surrounding sea. Visitors can hike to the summit or take a guided tour.
- Porto Novo – This port town on the southern coast of Santo Antão is the island’s largest settlement. It is known for its colorful buildings, including the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Livramento (Our Lady of Deliverance church) and the Forte de São João Baptista (St. John the Baptist fort).
Santo Antão Island offers a unique and authentic travel experience, with opportunities for hiking, exploring historic towns, and experiencing local culture. Whether you want to hike through the lush Paul Valley, explore the colonial architecture of Ribeira Grande, or relax in the picturesque coastal town of Ponta do Sol, Santo Antão is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Cape Verde.
Where To Stay In Santo Antão
⭐️ Rating: 9.7 out of 10 stars
🏩 Best Feature:
Ecofriendly & Stunning Views
Lesser Known Islands Of Cape Verde
These lesser-known islands of Cape Verde offer a unique and authentic travel experience, with opportunities for hiking, exploring historic towns, and experiencing local culture. Whether you want to hike through the rugged landscapes of São Nicolau, explore the deserted beaches of Santa Luzia, or relax on the unspoiled beaches of Maio, these islands are a must-visit destination for any traveler looking to discover the hidden gems of Cape Verde.
Known as the “Island of Flowers,” Brava is a small island located south of Santiago. It’s a great destination for hikers and nature lovers, with scenic trails that lead to waterfalls, natural pools, and stunning vistas. The island is also known for its traditional music and dance; visitors can attend local festivals and performances. You get to Brava by taking the ferry from Fogo Island.
This uninhabited island is located between São Vicente and São Nicolau and is a popular destination for day trips and boat tours. Visitors can explore the island’s deserted beaches, volcanic landscapes, and unique flora and fauna.
Located north of São Vicente, São Nicolau is known for its rugged landscapes, historic towns, and local culture. Visitors can hike the island’s scenic trails, explore the colonial architecture of Ribeira Brava, and enjoy traditional Cape Verdean cuisine and music.
This small island located east of Santiago is a perfect destination for travelers seeking a quiet and relaxing beach holiday. Maio is home to some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in Cape Verde, as well as historic towns and local handicrafts. You can go by ferry or take a 5-minute flight from Santiago island.
Best Cape Verde Island For…
Here’s a list of Cape Verde Islands categorized by the type of experience they offer:
Best Islands for Beach Holiday:
- Boa Vista
Beach Islands for Hiking:
- Santo Antão
- São Nicolau
Best Islands for Culture:
- São Vicente
Best Islands for Watersports:
- Boa Vista
- São Vicente
Best Island for Whale Watching:
- Boa Vista (March-May)
Best Islands for Turtle Spotting:
- São Vicente (July – October)
- Sal (July – October)
Best Islands for Music Scene:
- São Vicente
Best Islands For History:
- São Vicente
Best Islands For Carnival:
- São Vicente (February/ March)
Cape Verde Travel Planning Guide
🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Cape Verde?
100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $2 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Safety Wing, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.
💧Can you drink tap water in Cape Verde?
No — It is generally recommended to drink bottled water in Cape Verde. While tap water is generally safe for showering and brushing teeth, it may not be suitable for drinking. Bottled water is readily available and affordable throughout the country. Or you can buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water.
🚗 Is it safe to rent a car in Cape Verde?
Yes — Renting a car in Cape Verde is one of the best ways to see the islands. I always rent with Rentalcars, which checks international and local Cape Verdean companies, so you get the best rates.
🏩 What’s the best way to book places to stay in Cape Verde?
🛫 What’s the best site to buy Cape Verde flights?
⛵️ Where to book the best tours in Cape Verde?
For the best tours in Cape Verde, I highly recommend booking your trips at Get Your Guide.
🛂 Do I need a visa for Cape Verde?
Likely Not — U.S. and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Cape Verde. Most travelers will receive a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival.
😃 Which is the safest island of Cape Verde?
Santo Antão – Although all islands are safe to travel to, Santo Antão is the safest island of Cape Verde. It is known for “Morabeza,” a Creole word meaning very friendly Cape Verdean hospitality. In the capital Praia on the island of Santiago, you must be somewhat careful but not need paranoia.
🗣 Do they speak English in Cape Verde?
Yes – Most staff speak English, and some are multi-lingual. The official language of Cape Verde is Portuguese. The mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans is Cape Verdean Creole. (Read more)
⭐️ What is the best time to visit Cape Verde?
The best time to visit Cape Verde is between November and June. The average day temperature is around 24°C (75°F), the sea temperature is 25°C, and there is almost no rain. Perfect for a white-sandy beach holiday. However, Cape Verde has many attractions and activities throughout the year:
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Hiking: November & December
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Snorkeling and Diving: July – December
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Kitesurfing: December – March
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Whale Watching: March-May
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Turtle Spotting: Mid-July – October
- The best time to visit Cape Verde for Carnival: February/ March