Which Cape Verde Island Has The Best Beaches?
When you’re planning a trip to Cape Verde, you probably want to know on which island you can find the best beaches. In this article, you’ll find a guide to the best beaches on the Cape Verdean Islands.
The best beaches in Cape Verde are found on the islands; Sal, Boa Vista, Santiago, and São Vicente. Both Sal and Boa Vista are known as a beach holiday destination, and most activities on these islands are beach related. The islands Santiago and São Vicente are perfect for combining a beach holiday with cultural activities and hiking.
Cape Verde is an island group belonging to the African continent and consists out of 10 islands from which 9 are inhabited. You would expect that every island is a tropical beach paradise. Still, because of the rough volcanic landscapes and sea conditions, many islands aren’t suitable for a beach holiday. However, these islands have other great adventures and opportunities to explore.
Ready to prepare for your Cape Verde Beach Holiday? You don’t need to use your sunscreen just yet, but let’s dive in and learn more about which islands have the best beach in Cape Verde!
Cape Verde Islands With The Best Beaches
We spent 10 weeks traveling around Cape Verde and visited almost every island. During this roundtrip, we spent a lot of time with the locals exploring the islands and learning more about the unique Cape Verdean culture. I’ll focus on the best beaches for each island, but also tell you some other essential information about these islands. Sometimes I’ll link to more in-depth guides for a specific island, where you can find even more information that you can use for preparing for your next trip.
Best Beaches in Sal
Sal is by far the most popular destination in Cape Verde. The island is known as a tropical summer destination, and just like the other Cape Verdean islands, it has a favorable year-round climate.
Sal attracts the highest number of tourists to Cape Verde. Its popularity is mainly thanks to the many hotels and resorts, travel companies like TUI built on the island. Almost every large accommodation on the islands is managed by TUI. It makes from Sal a typical holiday island. But thankfully, there are still many authentic things to do in Sal.
The most popular beaches on the island are close to Santa Maria, which is the main town in Sal. However, Sal is a relatively large island and spread out over the island; you’ll find many, sometimes secluded beaches.
Santa Maria Beach
This beach is known as the main beach on the island Sal. You can easily walk up to the beach directly from Santa Maria village.
Santa Maria beach is everything you wish for when thinking of a tropical beach. Soft golden sand, crystal clear and turquoise water. And many places where you can relax in the sun.
Many of the luxurious resorts are directly at Santa Maria beach. Walking along the beach, you will see a lot of secluded areas which are reserved for hotel or resort guests only. These areas are what the hotels refer to as their ‘private beaches.’
The sea at Santa Maira is perfect for swimming and a refreshing dive. At many places, designated as a ‘private beach,’ you’ll also find waterslides, jetski’s (which you can rent), and other great activities to do.
Snorkeling is one of those unique activities. With the crystal clear water, beautiful reefs, and tropical fish, it is a unique place to explore the underwater world. You might even come across the occasional sea turtle as well!
The Santa Maria Pier
For a long time, Santa Maria was a fishermen village. The locals lived off the daily caught fish. Today fishing is still an important activity on Sal. Many popular restaurants offer daily found fish on their menus. The fishermen leave from the Pier in Santa Maria, and often they also sell some of their catch directly to the tourists.
You can say the pier is a mix of a small harbor and a fish market. It is great to walk around and have a chat with the locals. This pier is also the place from where you can hop on a boat and enjoy a fishing trip yourself.
A great activity, which you can end with a beach barbecue on Santa Maria beach, grilling and preparing your freshly caught fish!
Black Beach (Ponta Preta Beach)
A little bit further up north, Santa Maria beach goes over into ‘Ponta Preta Beach,’ better known as Black Beach.
When going on a long beach walk, you literally feel and see the change of scenery. Ponta Preta is much quieter, there are fewer hotels, restaurants, and bars. The sand is somehow a bit darker, almost black, probably from the volcanic surroundings Sal was millions of years ago. The beach gets its name from the dark sand.
Because of its tranquility, Ponta Preta Beach is often visited by sea turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. It is an activity which takes place at night. But you might be lucky and stumble upon a turtle nest while walking over the beach. If so, just let it be and don’t touch it. The turtle is still an endangered species, and their reproduction process is fragile. They struggle enough to survive all the other dangers they naturally encounter!
Ponta Preta beach is perfect for getting away from the busy Santa Maria. It is one of the few places where you can enjoy the peace and quiet the island Sal once was.
Okay, this is not your typical beach day, but did you know you can swim with sharks in Sal? Yes, it is a really unique and maybe scary activity, but let me rephrase; You can swim with lemon sharks in Sal.
That makes it less scary, right? Lemons sharks are known not to be dangerous for humans. They rarely attack because they are like the vegetarian version of a shark. Still, they can get quite large, and they’re still sharks!
Shark bay is located close to the old salt mine, and you can go snorkeling with a local guide. The best time to go to Shark bay is early in the morning or at the end of the day (around 5 p.m.) It is the quietest time of the day, and you’ll have the best chance of a great experience swimming with the sharks!
When we were in Sal, Kirsten went for a swim with sharks. I stayed on the beach filming with our drone, the tough guy I am! Anyway, in the video below, you can find out more about this thrillseeking adventure, and you’ll also get a great impression of the other beaches in Sal!
Sal is one of the islands that are perfect for kite and windsurfing. The conditions are favorable almost every day. Kitebeach in Sal is on the east side of the islands. Where you’ll find a long beach and several kiting clubs/ schools.
Kitebeach is an exciting place. Both for the experienced and unexperienced kitesurfer. The conditions vary at specific points on the beach, and with the long sandy beach and shallow bay, it is perfect for taking your first ‘steps’ like a kite or windsurfer.
Close to Santa Maria beach, you also have a small kiting spot, known as Ponta Sino. However, this spot is more for experienced kiters or windsurfers. The conditions can vary, and it is also a small spot with lots of traffic, fishing boats, and sailing boats, which can make it difficult to navigate on the water.
Sal is a unique island to go with many great things to do. Perfect for a beach holiday, combining with some cultural and sports activities. When you’re planning a trip to Sal, make sure to read our article “Best Things To Do In Sal,” which is a complete guide of the activities on the island.
Best Beaches in Boa Vista
The island Boa Vista is the second most popular island in Cape Verde, and just as its neighboring island Sal, perfect for a beach holiday. However, Boa Vista offers many more sandy beaches. The island has even the longest beach in Cape Verde, which stretches over more than 22 kilometers.
Sea conditions at certain places on the island can be rough, but luckily there are many areas where you can go for a swim in the sea and a refreshing dive. And almost every hotel or resort offers at least one swimming pool. (most resorts offer several swimming pools on the island, we’ll tell you later more about these luxury accommodations.)
Boa Vista has perfect wind conditions almost every day. And with many different surf spots, the island is the best island in Cape Verde for surfing enthusiasts. Especially Kite and Windsurfers finding their way to the island.
Santa Monica Beach – Boa Vista’s longest beach
With a length of over 22 kilometers, Santa Monica is the longest beach in Cape Verde. Walking on Santa Monica Beach feels like you’re at an uninhabited island. Santa Monica beach is one of the quietest beaches in Boa Vista.
It’s probably because there aren’t any large resorts or hotels directly at Santa Monica Beach. And restaurants or beach bars are all much closer to the main village Sal Rei.
So, a quiet and deserted beach on a sunny tropical island. It is a travelers dream! However, when you visit Santa Monica Beach, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
There are almost no places where you can hide from the sun, so bring enough water, snacks, and sun protection. Also, sea conditions can be rough in this area, and there aren’t any lifeguards patrolling the beach. So never go swimming when you’re alone. The currents can change rapidly because of the wind conditions, which can be surprising and dangerous.
You might stumble upon the occasional kite or windsurfer and maybe a few other beach lovers, but that’s about it.
Exploring Santa Monica Beach
While its more adventurous to explore the best by yourself, renting a quad bike and follow the dirt road that leads to the beach, many people also choose for a guided tour. It saves them the hassle of renting equipment, and you’ll come across a few interesting places along the beach, which only locals know.
When you go for a guided tour, I would recommend booking your trip with SolaCyber. A Dutch family runs this foundation, and when we were in Boa Vista, we spent some time with them. Although we’re from the same country, we never had met before.
I have tremendous respect for this family. They left their life in The Netherlands to built this foundation, where they help the people in Buraca, the poorest neighborhood in Boa Vista. When you book a tour with them, a large part of the amount you pay flows directly back into the community. You can find more information on their website.
It is not only to help the local community why a guided tour is convenient. It also is much easier to reach Santa Monica Beach. There’s only an unpaved road that leads to the beach, and you’ll need a four-wheel-drive or quadbike to be able to drive this road.
Also, the guides can tell you much more about the area and help you with spotting humpback whales during the season. The humpback whales come to Boa Vista every year roughly between March and May, and from the lookout point at the beach, you’ll have a high chance of spotting them!
Praia Das Chaves
One of the most popular beaches in Boa Vista is Praia das, Chaves. This beach stretches out on the east coast of the island and runs from Praia das Dunas until it reaches a point with many cliffs. From that point, you’ll find a small sandy road that leads to Praia da Varandinha. But later more on those other beaches.
Praia das Chaves is, for a large part, also a quiet and secluded beach. But the closer you’ll get to the resorts and Praia das Dunas, the more activity you’ll find on the beach. Many luxury resorts are located directly at Praia das Chavas. And just like with almost every beach on Boa Vista, you’ll have perfect conditions for kite and windsurfing.
It is actually the best surf spots on Boa Vista where you can learn how to kitesurf, because of the long beach and shallow waters. You’ll find the most kitesurfing school located close or directly at Praia das Chaves.
Chaves Beach, which is the English translation for Praia das Chavas, is also perfect for a relaxing beach day. Especially when you’re staying at one of the luxury resorts, which all have ‘private beach.’ A secluded part of the beach which is only available for guests of the resort. You’ll also find a lot of beach clubs and restaurants located on Chaves Beach, so a lot to choose from!
Praia da Varandinha, better known as Varandinha Beach, is a beach where you go when looking for a secluded and quiet beach.
Sometimes, when the wind conditions are favorable, experienced kiters are using this beach as a surf spot. However, it is not the best surf spots in Boa Vista, because most of the time, the heavy wind and currents are creating dangerous sea conditions.
Those conditions are also the reason why it is not recommended to go swimming at this beach. The currents can be dangerous, and no lifeguards are patrolling the beach (just like at many beaches in Boa Vista.)
However, I would recommend this beach as a place to go hiking along the coast. Not many people go to the beach because it is a bit hard to reach. But when you’re renting a quadbike or just go for a long hike along the coast, you’ll have a great time. Praia da Varandinha has beautiful views, and it is also a perfect place for whale watching during the whale season.
Praia Das Dunas
One of the best beaches for a relaxing day on the beach in Boa Vista is Praia das Dunas.
This beach starts where Praia Das Chaves stops. Both beaches are separated by the river of Rabil. A river that begins in the Oasis of Rabil, and runs to the ocean. It is a sweet water river, a unique natural phenomenon for such a small, dry, and sandy island as Boa Vista.
Praia das Dunas is the beach where you’ll find the most luxurious resorts and hotels. Hotel Riu Karamboa and Riu Palace Boa Vista are both directly located on this beach.
Both accommodations are known as the most luxurious accommodations on the island. They offer direct beach access with a private part of the beach, many swimming pools, restaurants, luxury rooms, and many more amenities. Definitely, a recommended place when looking for an all-inclusive beach holiday with nothing to worry about.
Other Beaches in Boa Vista
There are many more beaches in Boa Vista, which all are perfect for a day relaxing or a typical kite/ windsurfing session. In fact, Boa Vista is the best island for both kite and windsurfing in Cape Verde. When you’re a surfing enthusiast and want to know where to find the best surf spots in Boa Vista, I recommend reading our article ‘ Best Surf Spots in Boa Vista.’
The other interesting beach in Boa Vista are;
- Bahia Beach:
Close to Sal Rei, where you find the most beach bars and restaurants.
- Praia de Estoril:
Which is located on the south side of the main village Sal Rei. Perfect for relaxing. You’ll also find restaurant Tortuga on this beach, which is known as one of the best restaurants in Boa Vista.
- Praia de Cruz:
Another small beach directly at Sal Rei village. Perfect for relaxing, and also great spot to go kite or windsurfing. The amenities on this beach are all located at Sal Rei village, which means you need to leave the beach if you want to buy a drink or a snack.
- Praia de Atalanta:
This beach is actually one of the most famous beaches on the island. Close to shore, there’s an old rusty shipwreck where people go to for taking pictures. It is also a perfect beach for driving around with your quad bike.
Activities in Boa Vista
The island is not only famous because of the beautiful weather, perfect beaches, and luxury accommodations (which are probably the main reasons.)
There is also a lot to do on Boa Vista. Many activities, which you don’t expect to find on a sandy, flat, and tropical island. For example, Boa Vista has an official extension fo the African Sahara Desert, which is known as the Viana Desert in Boa Vista. A protected National Park of Cape Verde. Next to the Viana Desert, you’ll find the Oasis of Rabil, a unique green valley on this dry island.
Boa Vista is also a great island to spot wildlife, like Humpback Whales, who come to the island to mate and have their young. Or sea turtles, who find in Boa Vista a safe place to lay their eggs.
In our article ‘What Can You Do In Boa Vista?‘, I explain how the Viana Desert can exist. The details about spotting wildlife, when, where, and why these animals choosing Boa Vista as their destination. And many more unique activities on the island.
Best Beaches on The Island Santiago
Santiago is a perfect island if you want to combine an active vacation with hiking, exploring Cape Verde’s cultural heritage, and relaxing on one of the beaches.
Santiago is actually the main island of the Cape Verdean archipelago. The national government resides on the island in the capital of Praia.
Praia is the only bustling city in the archipelago. Santiago was also the first island that got discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. You’ll find a unique cultural heritage in Santiago. If you want to learn more about Cape Verde’s history, I recommend reading our article ‘What Is Cape Verde Famous For?‘
Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde, with many beaches to visit. However, three beaches are worth visiting for a beach holiday; Tarrafal, Quebra Canela, Prainha.
I feel that Tarrafal beach is the best beach on the island of Santiago. You need to travel a bit to reach Tarrafal. Travel like a local, and you’ll experience a great cultural experience!
Of course, you can take a private taxi or rent a car to reach Tarrafal leaving Praia. But I feel its more authentic to hop on an aluguer and travel from Praia to Tarrafal like the locals do. An aluguer is a shared taxi van, and going with an aluguer is a must-do at least once when you’re in Cape Verde.
These vans only leave when all the seats are taken, and if there are still extra seats needed, they just create space for the other passengers. The more people they can bring, the better because that means a higher income. Make sure to reach a price agreement before you enter the van and leave.
Tarrafal is actually a small village with only a few restaurants. The beach is trendy because of its soft golden sand, palm trees that provide perfect shade, and calm sea with ideal swimming conditions.
There are a few places where current can be dangerous, but those places, most to the time, lifeguards are on duty. So when you go there, make sure to follow up on their instructions.
We especially loved Tarrafal because of its relaxing vibe. It was perfect that we could hang our hammock between the palm trees, and just relax. Jump in the sea for a refreshing dive, and enjoy a freshly made cocktail or coconut. It is al possible in Tarrafal!
A common saying in Cape Verde is ‘No Stress,’ and I feel that’s best experienced at Tarrafal Beach.
Quebra Canela Beach
I really love Quebra Canel beach! It is close to Praia’s City Center but far enough to get away from the busy city vibe. Quebra Canela is located in an international area, where you find many embassies and global companies. It creates a different vibe than at most places in Cape Verde, more jet-set like.
At the entrance of the beach, you’ll find the beach club/ restaurant Kebra Cabana, which is the best example of this jet-set vibe. It is a great place to enjoy some drinks and live music, after a relaxing beach day.
Quebra Canel beach is located in a bay, creating calm water conditions that are perfect for swimming. There’s a very relaxing vibe on this, where people look out after each other, swimming, sporting, and enjoying the ideal weather together. Quebra Canela is a must-visit when you’re looking for the best place to have a relaxing beach-day in Praia!
One bay further, you’ll find Prainha Beach. A beach with almost the same conditions as Quebra Canela, but there are fewer bars and amenities.
Prainha Beach is a small beach, and popular among local families. The only downside is that there are almost no natural places for shade on this beach. So if you go to Prainha Beach, always make sure to bring an umbrella to create a safe place out of the sun.
Just like Quebra Canela, this beach is perfect for activities like Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, and Surfing.
Best Beaches in São Vicente
You might expect that Santiago is known as the cultural heart of Cape Verde. However, it is actually the island São Vicente that is described as the cultural heart of the archipelago.
The reason for this dates back for centuries. Mindelo, São Vicente’s most famous town, has a natural harbor. A closed part of the bay that was perfect for sea explores to use as a harbor and quickly get on land.
After Cape Verde got discovered in the 15th century, São Vicente quickly developed as an island. People could rest from their journey and refill their ships for their upcoming trips. However, many people stayed much longer on the island once they arrived. Both because of health conditions (people who were to sick to work were left behind). But also healthy people didn’t want to leave the island because of the favorable conditions. The perfect climate and lovely seas and beaches.
It created a unique melting pot of cultures, which São Vicente still is today. The island is one of the best places to visit tropical carnival celebrations!
São Vicente has a few beaches that are great to visit, Laginha Beach, Sao Pedro, Praia Grande, and Baia das Gatas.
Baia Das Gatas
This is actually a small village located in the bay with the same name, Baia das Gatas. It is northeast on the island and an exciting getaway. You won’t find many bars or restaurants at Baia das Gatas, and sea conditions can be rough, depending on the winds.
However, once a year, this village is a popular destination for all people from the island during the Baia das Gatas festival. An international music festival where the unique music culture of Cape Verde is celebrated.
Baia das Gatas is also a perfect place to go snorkeling in the shallow bay. If you want to go snorkeling, make sure that the conditions are favorable. Most of the time, when there’s less wind. When you’re not sure, ask around, the locals are willing to help you!
Also known as Large Beach. This beautiful large beach is often deserted, and there aren’t any amenities (no bars, restaurants, shops, toilets). The sea is very rough at this part of the island. It is not recommended to go swimming here unless you’re with a group and can look out for each other. Still, it can be dangerous because of the large waves and strong currents.
However, Praia Grande is perfect for a long walk along the coast. A beautiful scene, overlooked by large cliffs, which gives the island its unique landscape.
São Pedro Beach
It is not the best beach for a relaxing beach day. Also, swimming is not recommended because of the strong winds and heavy seas. So why it this beach in the list of best beaches in Cape Verde?
São Pedro beach is a perfect spot for windsurfing and hiking. The beach is located very close to the island’s airport, and thus it can be busy with planes arriving or depart the island.
When you go hiking along São Pedro, you first walk along the fantastic coastline, followed by a scenic trail up the hill in the direction of the old lighthouse. Once you reached this point, you’ll have a great view over São Vicente!
Just like many other beaches in São Vicente, you won’t find any amenities here. So make sure to bring enough water, sunscreen, and snacks if you go hiking.
Last but not least, finally, a beach that’s perfect for a relaxing beach day. Laginha beach is the most popular beach in São Vicente, just outside Mindelo’s center.
You can easily walk within a few minutes from Mindelo to Laginha Beach. There are a few beach bars that offer great cocktails and relaxing sunbeds.
The refreshing, crystal clear water is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. However, the sea is getting very deep quickly, so be aware when you go in the water for the first time. Almost every day, there are lifeguards on duty. Conditions can change because of the wind, so always make sure to follow up on their instructions.
From Laginha Beach, you’ll have a perfect view of the neighboring island Santo Antão, which is easy to reach with a ferry from São Vicente. This ferry connection is actually the only way to reach Santo Antão because there’s no airport on that island.
Santo Antão is not recommended for a beach holiday. Still, it is perfect for hiking, exploring nature, and learning more about Morabeza, the Cape Verdean way of life.
I highly recommend combining your visit to São Vicente with a visit to Santo Antão. When you’re short on time, you also can go to the island in the morning and take the ferry back at the end of the day. The ferry ride only takes up to one hour. Read more about these islands in our article “Which Cape Verde Island Is Best To Visit?“
Are you curious about how those beautiful islands look like, and what kind of beaches you’ll come across while visiting São Vicente and the other islands? Watch our compilation video of our roundtrip through Cape Verde. The beginning shot is Laginha Beach in São Vicente, followed by Santo Antão, and shots from the other islands. Enjoy! And if you like the video, it would be great if you hit that subscribe button for our YouTube channel!
Beaches on The Other Islands in Cape Verde
The Cape Verdean islands Maio, Brava, São Nicolau, and Fogo are all exciting islands to visit. And a few of these islands also have great beaches to discover. Especially the island of Maio is known for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.
You’ll also find beaches at Brava and São Nicolau, which are great for a relaxing day on the beach.
I just told you about Santo Antão, which is not the best island for a beach holiday. Simply because there aren’t any beaches with good conditions. The island Fogo has similar conditions. There are a few beaches on Fogo, but these aren’t good for swimming because of the rough sea. It is simply too dangerous to go into the water.
The island Santa Luzia is uninhabited close to São Vicente, and kind of like a no-go area. It is a national park, not officially closed, but very hard to reach.
The thing with all these islands is that they’re all interesting to visit, and all have a unique vibe.
These islands all have their unique highlights and landmarks that are worth visiting when you’re looking for more than just a beach holiday. But most of these islands are very difficult to reach.
A few islands are only reachable by taking a ferry. And when you can travel with a domestic flight, it’s not always possible to fly every day. These flights just leave a few times a week. So when you’re looking for a beach holiday, I wouldn’t recommend choosing one of these islands.
However, if you’re looking to island hopping and combine activities like hiking, exploring the local culture, and enjoying the tropical beaches. It would be perfect to combine these islands on your trip.
I wrote ‘Cape Verde Island Hopping Guide.’ Which is a helpful article that you can use when planning an island hopping tour in Cape Verde.
Swimming In The Sea in Cape Verde
With all those different islands and beaches, you also find different sea conditions. On some islands, the sea conditions are even too dangerous to go swimming. Luckily, on the most popular islands like Sal and Boa Vista, it is safe to go swimming in the sea in most places.
If you want to know more about the best places to go swimming in the sea in Cape Verde, I recommend reading our article ‘Where in Cape Verde Can You Swim in The Sea?‘
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 — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water, so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Cape Verde and helps keep you hydrated while traveling to Cape Verde.
🚗 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?
For Cape Verde hotels, Booking.com is the best site. If you’re considering an (all-inclusive) resort, I recommend TUI since they have the best resorts on the islands.
🛫 What’s the best site to buy Cape Verde flights? For direct flights from UK and Europe, I recommend TUI Airways. For finding alternative flights to Cape Verde, I recommend Skyscanner.
⛵️ 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)
I wrote several articles about Cape Verde to tell you more about the beauty of these islands, and help you choose where to go. When we were traveling to Cape Verde, I felt that a lot of information was missing, and it can be helpful to learn more about the different islands. You can find the complete list of articles here.
Some articles I always recommend reading when preparing for a trip to Cape Verde are;