Can You Island Hop In Cape Verde? | Island Hopping Guide

Cape Verde Santa Maria Sal

Many people ask us, ‘ Can you go island hopping in Cape Verde?’ During our ten-week roundtrip through the Cape Verde islands, we experienced it is easy to go island hopping in Cape Verde. However, is does require some planning.

Cape Verde consists out of 10 different islands, which can be separated by hundreds of miles. There are two ways of transportation for island hopping; Ferry and Domestic flights. Ferry connections are not always reliable because of the rough sea conditions between the islands. Flying is the most reliable and quickest option for traveling between the islands.

You probably wonder which route to take when you go island hopping in Cape Verde. And what the unique things to do are on each island. During our 10 week roundtrip through the Cape Verde islands, we had a great time and experienced Cape Verde in the best way possible.

I would be thrilled if you can have the same experience. In this article, I’ll tell you more about each island, and the easiest way to get there, so you can have a unique Cape Verde island hopping tour. Let’s find out more! 

Santo Antao Ponta Do Sol Cape Verde

Best Way of Traveling For Island Hopping in Cape Verde

Flying would be the preferred way of transport in Cape Verde. There are ferry connections between the islands, but these aren’t reliable because of the often heavy sea conditions in between the islands. 

The only reliable ferry connection runs between São Vicente and Santo Antão. There’s is a small sea street that runs between these two islands, and a ferry ride takes about one hour in one direction. This ferry connection is the only way to reach Santo Antão because the island doesn’t have an airport. 

However, since late 2019 it is possible to travel between every Cape Verdean island by ferry. Using these ferry connections takes a lot of time and planning. The distance between some islands is hundreds of miles, so it can take hours to reach one island. There aren’t many direct ferry connections between the islands. Most of the time you need to hop on a different ferry to complete your journey. In this article, we explain in detail how to travel between the Cape Verdean Islands.

Cape Verde Ferry Routes

Island Hopping Guides Cape Verde

When you want to visit the Cape Verdean islands, it requires some planning. So, there are 10 islands, from which 9 are inhabited. The islands can be divided into two ‘groups’; Barlavento (windward) and Sotavento (leeward) island group. 

Barlavento Islands are; Sal, Boa Vista, Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia (uninhabited), São Nicolau.

Sotavento Islands are; Santiago, Maio, Fogo, Brava.

For an island tour where you’ll visit all the 9 inhabited islands, you’ll need at least one month. And even that is quite short. We spend 10 weeks traveling around Cape Verde, and weren’t able to visit all the islands. Exploring the islands takes much time, but it’s also not possible to travel between some islands daily. Domestic flights and ferries leave on specific times a few times a week. 

So, to help you create your ideal island-hopping travel plan, I created a few itineraries. For these ideas, I took the basis of a 10-day roundtrip around the Cape Verde Islands. You can easily combine the first two itineraries when you decide to stay longer. The third itinerary focuses on visiting the most popular islands and is ideal for a 10-day visit. 

For all these ideas counts that you can easily add some days if you want to stay longer. When you have less than 10 days for a visit to Cape Verde, I recommend staying at one, and maybe two islands. This way, you can explore those specific islands the best, and save the other islands for a next travel adventure! 

In our article Which is The Best Cape Verde Island To Visit,’ we tell you more about the differences between each island and what kind of activities you can expect.

Cape Verde Sal Fishing Boat

Cape Verde Island Hopping Guide #1

For this guide, I chose to select the Barlavento islands. Traveling around these islands is an island hopping tour full of sunny destinations, beautiful hiking trails, and exploring the best authentic Cape Verdean Culture. 

Day 1 – 3: Sal

Sal is probably the most famous island in Cape Verde. It is, in fact, the most visited island of all Cape Verdean islands. Sal is a perfect destination when you’re looking for a tropical, sunny getaway. The island is known for its many beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. 

It is also a perfect destination if you want to go kite or windsurfing. The best way to get around Sal is by using a rental car or driving a quad. Exploring the island allows you to visit some beautiful beaches, unique natural landmarks, and even to go swimming with lemon sharks! 

In our article Best Things to Do in Salyou can find all the details (including some local tips!) for visiting this famous Cape Verdean island. 

Day 4-5: São Vicente

The island of São Vicente is known as the cultural heart of Cape Verde. São Vicente has a unique mixture of cultures. The island’s culture grew historically because the natural harbor at the island was an essential stopover for sea explorers on their way to the southern parts of Africa and Asia. 

It is the best island to celebrate the tropical Carnival, which is annually held in February. So when you’re visiting Cape Verde during February, make sure to visit the Carnival! 

Day 6 – 8: Santo Antão

Many people say it is the most beautiful island of Cape Verde, and I think they’re right. However, every Cape Verde island has its own charms. But I still can remember my visit to Santo Antão like it was yesterday. We traveled to many places over the last few years, and Santo Antão is alway in my top-5 most authentic destinations. According to National Geographic, the village Fontainhas has one of the most beautiful views in the world. 

The only way to reach Santo Antão is by taking a ferry from São Vicente. This ferry runs two times a day, and only take one hour in one direction. When you reach the island, I recommend traveling to the village of Paúl, which is a great place to stay in Santo Antão. To start your adventure in Santo Antão the right way, make sure to book a ride in advance, which takes you via the old road to the village of Paúl. It is one of the best road trips you’ll ever make! 

You can find more information about the island in our article What is Cape Verde Famous For?

On the last day (day 8), you’ll travel from Santo Antão via São Vicente to Boa Vista. First, you’ll take the ferry, and from Sao Vicente, you can catch a direct flight in the direction of Boa Vista. 

Day 9 – 10: Boa Vista

Boa Vista literally means Beautiful View. It gets its name from the Portuguese explorers who discovered the islands in the 15th century and described the island as one of the most beautiful views they had ever seen. 

Boa Vista is the second most popular island in Cape Verde, and perfect for a sunny getaway. It is a bit similar to Sal, but there aren’t as many hotels and restaurants to find in Boa Vista. 

It is the island that is perfect for kite and windsurfing. Trade winds from the African mainland, creating the ideal conditions for this extreme sport. Boa Vista has a lot more to offer. 

When you visit the island in the right season, you can go whale watching and turtle spotting. Both seasons vary throughout the year, so, unfortunately, it is not possible to do both on the same trip (or you have to stay a few months on Boa Vista). 

If you want to know more about the activities in Boa Vista, make sure to read our blog, What Can You Do In Boa Vista?

The island of São Nicolau is also great for a visit, but it’s a bit harder to reach. So I would only recommend visiting this island when you have more time. 

Cape Verde Island Hopping Guide #2

For this next island itinerary, I focus on a trip visiting the Sotavento islands. By doing this, you can also combine these two itineraries and create a more extended trip visiting the most islands of Cape Verde. 

Day 1: Santiago

The first day you’ll arrive in Santiago. I recommend staying in the capital Praia because on the next day you’ll travel to the neighboring island of Maio. Take your time to relax and explore the city a bit. In the last few days of this itinerary, you’ll spend much more time on Santiago.

Day 2 – 3: Maio

Maio is known as the forgotten island and a perfect getaway with its white sandy beaches and beautiful crystal blue seas. Not many tourists find their way to the island because of its remote location. But this also creates a unique tranquil vibe in Maio. The only way to reach the island is by taking one of the shortest flights on the planet. Flight time between Santiago and Maio is a maximum of 15 minutes. 

In our article ‘What is Cape Verde Famous For,’ you’ll find more information about this remote Cape Verdean island. 

Day 4: Santiago / Fogo (travel day)

You’ll need this day to travel from Maio to Fogo. And the only way doing this is by taking several short flights. Both flights are one of the shortest flights in the world. It is also possible to travel by ferry from Santiago to Fogo, but this isn’t the most reliable way of transport. The ferry connection often gets canceled because of the rough sea conditions or a technical problem with one of the ferries. 

Day 5 – 8: Fogo

Fogo means fire, and it is literally the island of fire. It has the only active volcano of Cape Verde, which is Pico de Fogo. The volcano is also the highest point of the Cape Verdean islands. You might think that 4 days exploring Fogo is a long time, but there’s a lot to explore on the island. 

The main attraction is, of course, Pico de Fogo, and the village Chã das Caldeiras, on foot of the volcano. It is an entirely different world. The only way to reach the village is by taking an aluguer, which leaves daily from the main town Sao Filipe. You can hike up to the volcano, explore the unique village, taste the best wine of Cape Verde, and visit coffee plantations.

Exploring the village Chã das Caldeiras is a unique experience, it feels like walking in a different world. And you can still see the remains of the last volcano eruption. The village is rebuilt on top of the lava of this eruption. 

Day 9 – 10 Santiago  

Santiago is the main island of Cape Verde. It was the first island that got discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Santiago has it all. 

A vibrant city, Praia, which is Cape Verde’s capital. Beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. You’ll find stunning beaches close to Praia, but the best way to enjoy a tropical beach day is at the village Tarrafal, on the other side of the island. 

Santiago is also great for hiking and exploring nature. The middle of the island is known for its many mountains and fantastic hiking trails. 

Read more about Fogo and Santiago in our articles What is Cape Verde Famous For and Which Cape Verde Island is the Best To Visit

Brava is also a great island to visit. It is located next to Fogo, and the only way to reach Brava is by taking a ferry from Fogo (or Santiago). It is the same connection that runs from Santiago to Fogo, and thus not reliable. For example, when we were on Fogo, we initially traveled by ferry, but when we planned to leave the island, the ferry didn’t run for 4 days. So if you’re a bit on a schedule, you might better go flying. 

I think Brava is, just like Maio, a unique island to visit and perfect for exploring the authentic Cape Verdean culture. However, I would only recommend it to visit when you have enough time.

Santo Antao Cape Verde

Cape Verde Island Hopping Guide #3

For the third itinerary option, I selected a visit to the most popular islands. You can easily add or skip some days or visits as you prefer. 

A 10-day island hopping trip along the most famous Cape Verdean islands looks like; 

  • Day 1: São Vicente
  • Day 2 -4: Santo Antão
  • Day 5 -6: Santiago
  • Day 7-8: Boa Vista
  • Day 9-10: Sal

When you’re looking for a roundtrip where you’ll explore more nature and have the chance of hiking, I recommend swapping Boa Vista and plan a trip to Fogo instead. 

Rabil Boa Vista Cape Verde

Best Way To Book Your Island Hopping Trip In Cape Verde

Tui is the biggest tour operator in Cape Verde, so you probably best of booking your trip via TUI. Usually, I would recommend planning a trip not using a large travel company. Still, in this case, I think it is the best option. 

They offer the best quality hotels, prices are affordable, and they have several offices on different islands. So in case you need help with something, you can quickly contact them. 

When you’re traveling from the United States and plan your trip with TUI, you need to fly to a different city in Europe first. TUI offers direct connections from cities in the United Kingdom, Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and Lisbon (Portugal). The domestic flight company of Cape Verde is making plans for direct flights to the United States, but as far as I know, this is not possible yet. Also, you aren’t able to book a complete package deal, which you can do with TUI. 

Check out TUI’s website to find the latest deals for an Island Hopping trip to Cape Verde

How To Get Around The Cape Verdean Islands

Most islands don’t have a public transport network like we know in Europe and the United States. The islands Sao Vicente and Santiago do have buses running between the most important villages of the island. 

Traveling in between villages on the islands goes in a traditional African style, with small taxi vans, in Cape Verde known as Aluguers. 

Aluguers Local Taxi

On all the islands the local form of transport is traveling with an aluguer. These small taxi vans are driven by local drivers, and for just a few Cape Verdean Escudos, they bring you to your destination. 

They don’t have a strict time schedule, and their route runs basically between points A and B (for example, two considerable villages), but can vary each time in between. It depends on where the passengers have to go. 

The time schedules vary every day, and they only leave when they have enough passengers. 

Traveling by aluguer is a unique experience, though. Don’t be surprised if an aluguer is filled with what you might feel is way too many people. They all bring some food, and maybe even chickens they just bought on the local market. Everything is possible. Remember, you’re still traveling in Africa! 😉 I would say it is something you’ll need to experience when in Cape Verde! 

Rentalcars or Quads

Many islands are easy to drive around yourself. However, because of the rough terrain, the roads are often dirt roads. It is recommended renting a four-wheel-drive or a quad to go around the islands. 

Most islands have a few asphalt roads, but if you want to reach the remote areas or the most beautiful beaches, you often need to follow unpaved roads or even drive around the dunes. So it is much easier to drive around with a 4×4.

When you’re not used driving in a four-wheel drive, you might feel more comfortable renting a quad. When you don’t want to drive at all, you can always rent a car with a driver. 

Whenever we need to rent a car when we’re traveling, we’re using Even when we were on the Cape Verdean islands, they had very affordable offers. 

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?

For Cape Verde hotels, 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 the 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)

⭐️ 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

Recommended Articles Cape Verde

As you might have seen, I wrote many different articles about Cape Verde. When we were planning a trip to the islands, I felt that there wasn’t enough useful information available. I decided to write several articles so that you can find the best information to plan your trip to Cape Verde. You can find the complete list of Cape Verde articles here. 

Some recommended articles you might find interesting while planning an island-hopping trip to Cape Verde are; 

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