The two most popular and famous islands in Cape Verde are Sal and Boa Vista. But what’s actually the difference between these two islands? We tell you all about it in this article.
The most significant difference between Sal and Boa Vista are the activities on the islands. Both islands have various landmarks that make islands worth visiting. Sal and Boa Vista are excellent for beach holidays. Sal offers a wider variety of activities year-round. Activities in Boa Vista, like whale watching and turtle spotting, are seasonal.
During our 10 week roundtrip through Cape Verde, we visited both Sal and Boa Vista. We had a great time at the islands, and I think they both their own charm.
Deciding which island you should visit depending on what kind of holiday you are looking for. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday with some local activities, Sal is your best option. When you also want to be active and go hiking or kite/ windsurfing, and maybe even whale watching, I recommend going to Boa Vista.
I’ll explain the differences between the two islands more thoroughly in the next part of this article. Ready to learn more about the difference between Sal and Boa Vista? Let’s find out!
Sal Cape Verde
Sal is the most famous island in Cape Verde. According to the Cape Verde invest group, Sal is good for 80% of the tourism in the whole archipelago.
The island attracts a lot of people looking for sunny weather and white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters.
Things to do in Sal
You might not expect that this island offers many activities. When you first get to know the islands, you probably only expect sun, beaches, and sea. But luckily, there’s much more to explore.
Sal is famous for its unique activities like quad driving, kite, and windsurfing. Visiting the blue eye, scuba diving, swimming with lemon sharks, and, of course, visiting the salt fields.
The salt fields are the one attraction where the island gets its name from. Until the 19th century, the export of Salt was the primary source of income at the islands. Today the salt mine in Sal is only open for tourists. Cape Verde stopped with the export of Salt. Tourism is now the number one source of income for this tropical island group.
There are many more activities to do in Sal. You can find a complete activity guide in our article “Best things to do in Sal.“
Recommended Places To Stay in Sal
As you might know, TUI is the biggest tour operator in Cape Verde. So it’s most convenient for booking your trip via Tui. They offer many all-inclusive package deals, including flight, hotel, and transport.
It is ideal when looking for a holiday without any worries. Tui offers many hotel and holiday packages. I recommend visiting their website to find the latest offers and for a seamlessly booking process.
Some hotels, like Tui Blue Cabo Verde, have a policy where children are not allowed. So if you’re looking for a quiet hotel, a romantic getaway, this might be the perfect spot for you.
When you’re traveling with your family, there are many other possibilities you can book via TUI.
Boa Vista Cape Verde
Boa Vista is just like Sal, a flat and sandy island. When you translate the name, it means ‘Beautiful View.’ The Portuguese explorers who set foot on the island in the 15th century described it as the most beautiful view they had ever seen. That’s where the islands get its name from.
I think those explorers, one of them was the famous Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes, visited the sandy hills of the Viana Desert when they described that view.
The Viana Desert is a unique natural phenomenon at Boa Vista. It is an official extension of the African Shaara. Trade winds coming from the mainland in Africa dropping sand on the island, and creating a desert strip. This desert, including the Oasis of Rabil, is the only national park in Boa Vista.
Activities in Boa Vista
Boa Vista is also known for its many activities. However, the island doesn’t have a vibrant town, like Santa Maria is in Sal. The largest town in Boa Vista is Sal Rei, and you only find a few shops in this village.
If you want to rent a quad bike for driving around the island, which is a high activity to do in Boa Vista, you must go to Sal Rei village. Most rental shops are located in this town.
What’s different than in Sal are the many beach bars and restaurants on the beach you’ll find in Boa Vista. But that’s probably because most activities are taking place on the beaches on the island.
Whale Watching & Turtle Spotting in Boa Vista
Whale watching and Turtle spotting are both the most unique activities in Boa Vista. Both events are seasonal. The whale watching season in Boa Vista is between March and May. The shallow and partly close bay close to the islands creates ideal conditions for humpback whales to have their young.
During the whale watching season in Boa Vista, several companies offer catamaran tours for a half-day to go whale watching. These tours area easily to book via your hotel or accommodation.
Sea turtles come to the island between July and October to find a spot for laying their eggs. It is a fragile and unique event. Not only because these sea turtles are an endangered species, but also because many of their young don’t even survive the hatching period. Also, the turtles can easily be scared, which can make them decide to turn around and not laying their eggs. Even the slightest sound or light can scare them off.
So, if you want to go turtle spotting in Boa Vista, always make sure by doing this via a certified guided tour. These tours are also easy to book via your hotel in Boa Vista.
Longest Beach in Cape Verde
Did you know Boa Vista has the longest beach in Cape Verde? And because of the consistently stable trade winds, the island has ideal conditions for kite and windsurfing. When you’re into kite or windsurfing, I recommend reading our article “Best Surf Spots in Boa Vista.“
Boa Vista is an island full of surprises. There are many things to do, which you might not expect. You can find out more about this unique island in our article “What Can You Do In Boa Vista.“
Recommended Places To Stay in Boa Vista
Just like at Sal, travel company TUI, offers the best holiday deal for Boa Vista. In fact, most hotels and resorts are own by Tui. So the chances that you end up booking your trip via Tui are very high. One of the famous resorts in Boa Vista is Riu Touareg. It is an all-inclusive resort with a private beach. A very luxurious place to stay. You can find the latest prices and deal for Boa Vista on this website of Tui.
As you might have noticed, the difference between Sal and Boa Vista is not very big. Both islands are similar in terms of landscape, climate, and things to do. It all depends on what kind of holiday you’re looking for.
If you have some time for traveling, you might be interested in exploring other parts of Cape Verde as well.
Island Hopping in Cape Verde
The Cape Verdean archipelago consists of 10 different islands, and 9 of these islands are inhabited. I think it is great to visit the various islands of Cape Verde. Also because I feel that Sal and Boa Vista are both tourist-focused and not an authentic display of the Cape Verdean culture.
Some islands of Cape Verde are only reachable by ferry. It creates a unique, authentic remoteness, which resulted in a different world on these islands. Visiting islands like Santo Antão, Brava, or Maio, you’ll directly forget the rat race we know in the western world.
All these islands are also perfect for hiking and experiencing Morabeza, the Cape Verdean way of life. Other fascinating Cape Verde islands to visit are São Vicente, known as the cultural heart of Cape Verde. Santiago, the island where the government resides, and where you’ll find the capital of Cape Verde (Praia.) Santiago was also the first island that was discovered in the 15th century.
Fogo is the island where you can still visit the only active volcano of Cape Verde. Talking about different worlds, the village next to the volcano feels like a lunar landscape. This village is rebuilt on top of the dried lava, after the last eruption.
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
Recommended Articles Cape Verde
In our articles “What is Cape Verde Famous For” and “Cape Verde Island Hopping Guide” You’ll find much more information about the different islands, how to plan a visit, and the unique things to do on each island.