What Is Cape Verde Famous For?

Cape Verde

Are you planning a trip to Cape Verde Islands and wondering what Cape Verde is famous for? We traveled for 10 weeks through the archipelago to discover more about Cape Verde, and experience the local life. 

Cape Verde is famous for its tropical climate, low rainfall, warm tropical winds, and many sun hours. Therefore it’s known as the ideal sunny winter destination and a perfect place for Kite & windsurfing. Cape Verdean people are a real melting pot of cultures and praised for their hospitality and friendliness, which is locally known as Morabeza.

There’s a lot to tell about the different Cape Verdean islands. In this article, I’ll start with the basic information about the archipelago. Followed by the famous things you’ll need to know of each Cape Verdean Island. Ready to dive in and learn more about Morabeza? Read on! 

Santa Maria Sal Cape verde

Republic of Cabo Verde 

The official name of the archipelago is The Republic of Cabo Verde, most people say Cabo Verde or in English, Cape Verde. The official language is Portuguese, for a long time the Cape Verdean islands were a Portuguese colony. Since 1975 Cape Verde became an independent republic, officially called the Republic of Cabo Verde. 

The commonly spoken language is Creole, which is basically is a mixture of different languages like Afrikaans, English, and Portuguese. On each island, you’ll find a dialect of Creole. It is the best proof of the mixture of cultures on the different islands. 

Cape Verde is located around 350 miles (570 kilometers) east of Senegal. The archipelago belongs to the Micronesia region, just like the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. There are 10 different islands within the republic, which have a total span of 1500 square miles (4000 square kilometers). The islands can be divided into two groups, Barlavento (Windward) are the islands in the north, and Sotavento (Leeward), the islands in the south. 

The Barlavento Islands are:

  • Santo Antão, 
  • São Vicente, 
  • Santa Luzia (uninhabited), 
  • São Nicolau, 
  • Sal 
  • Boa Vista. 

The Sotavento islands are: 

  • Maio, 
  • Santiago, 
  • Fogo, 
  • Brava

Year-Round Summer Destination

With a moderate tropical climate, almost no rainfall, and always warm temperatures, Cape Verde is the perfect summer destination. Every month of the year! 

The tropical winds coming from the Sahara and African mainland create pleasant temperatures and perfect conditions for watersports like kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Every Cape Verdean island has its own identity. Not all islands are perfect for watersports. And because the islands are volcanic, its not always possible to swim in the sea at the different islands. The currents can be rough around specific islands, which makes it dangerous to go swimming. In our article Where Can You Swim in The Sea in Cape Verdeyou’ll find a complete guide of the best swimming spots for each island. 

Tropical Climate

The warm temperatures, almost no rainfall, and lots of sun hours are the most essential ingredients for the popular holiday destination. 

On average, the rainfall on the Cape Verdean archipelago is limited to 3.6 inches (90 mm) a year. To put this in perspective, in The Netherlands, you get this kind of precipitation almost every month. 

The average daily sun hours in Cape Verde are between 8 and 10 hours a day, depending on the time of the year. Temperatures are always pleasant, sometimes a bit warm, but with an average of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) throughout the year, it is perfect. The warmest months are June and July when it can be a maximum of 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). But with the continually blowing trade winds from the African mainland, it feels a lot cooler. 

Climate is different on every island. The flat islands like Sal and Boa Vista are almost always windy. But when you go to Santo Antão or Fogo, you’ll find a much more different nature because of the volcanic mountains. These mountains, with the trade winds, create their own micro-climates, creating unique environments on the islands. 

Basically, the more mountains on the island, the greener and more vegetation you’ll find.

Most Popular Islands

Tourism in Cape Verde is continuously growing, and according to Cape Verde Trade Invest, the sector grows with an average of 10% annually. Hundred of thousands of tourists travel to Cape Verde every year to enjoy a sunny holiday. Most tourists coming from the United Kingdom, followed by Germany and The Netherlands.

Sal and Boa Vista are the most popular islands. Both islands are flat and known for their perfect white sandy beaches, clear blue sea, and sunny weather conditions. The islands are also the most popular because you’ll find the best hotels, accommodations, and restaurants on the islands. 

Most travelers are going to Sal or Boa Vista to enjoy a relaxing sunny holiday or for an active watersport vacation. The wind conditions on the islands, making it perfect destinations for kite and windsurfing. Later in this article, we tell you more about the different islands of Cape Verde. If you are curious about why Sal is one of the most popular destinations, check out our article, Best Things to Do in Sal, Cape VerdeA complete guide with local tips, and the best things to do on the island Sal. 

Cultural Melting Pot

Cape Verde is known as a melting pot of cultures. Because of its history with the slave trade, many people from African and European countries settled at the Cape Verdean islands. The terrible history of the slave trade was also the beginning of a unique and beautiful culture. People from Cape Verde are widely praised for their lifestyle. 

The mixture of cultures is best visible when you look at the spoken language, Creole, on the different islands. Cape Verdean Creole is a mixture of Portuguese, English, Afrikaans (African), and sometimes also other European languages. Each island has its own dialect, which is influenced by the different cultures that settled on the island. For example, the island Fogo is mostly influenced by the French count Montrond. The Creole dialect is also influenced by the Frenc language. 


When you ask people to describe the culture on the Cape Verdean Islands, they always come up with the term Morabeza. It is a bit difficult to translate this term into one word. Morabeza is more like an understanding, it describes a way of living, a particular lifestyle. 

In The Netherlands, we have a term Gezelligheid, which means coziness and socializing. Morabeza is something similar, but it is even more. 

When I asked around in the local community, the people described Morabeza as the Cape Verdean way of living. The island life, being Cape Verdean, live with an open spirit, welcoming people, and being hospitable.

A local fisherman at the island of Sal described Morabeza as similar to the saying ‘Aloha’ for Hawaiian people. It is the Cape Verdean way of life. 

Cape Verdean Cuisine

Many people say that when you’re taking a look at the local cuisine, you’ll understand more of the cultural history of a specific country. For Cape Verde, that’s a bit different. The local cuisine is not really sophisticated. It doesn’t show the cultural melting pot of the population. The local Cape Verdean cuisine shows still the traces of the slave trade and the poor way of living. 

Of course, the islands are known for their amazing seafood, but most of the captured fish were used for export. Today you can find many sophisticated and local restaurants on the islands. Especially on the famous islands Sal and Boa Vista, it is easy to find trendy, based on European standards, restaurants. 


The national dish of Cape Verde is the best display of the poor history and economic situation on the islands. Cachupa is the name of the dish, and it’s basically a big stew of everything available at the moment of cooking. The basic ingredients of Cachupa are beans, meat, cabbage, fish, corn, cassava. 

Cachupa is eaten both for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Often cooked in a large pan, and made for several days for the whole family. Each island has its own variation of Cachupa, depending on the available ingredients. 


The Cape Verdeans also make their own liquor, which is known as Grogue. Grogue is made of sugarcane and based on the Portuguese liquor Aguardente. A strong brandy. 

Grogue has an alcohol percentage of 40% and comes in different flavors. However, on most islands, the liquor is still made traditionally and thus not controlled. Alcohol percentages can vary between 40% and sometimes even up to 70%! It can be dangerous to drink Grogue because sometimes it’s not sure what the alcohol percentage is. Always check this before buying or trying at a local store. 

‘The official Grogue’ or ‘Grogue Official’ is a controlled version of Grogue, which always has a 40% alcohol percentage. You’ll find this version at most large restaurants on the famous islands. Perfect to use in a caipirinha! 

On our roundtrip in the Cape Verdean islands, we also traveled to the island Santo Antão. It’s one of the islands where they still traditionally make Grogue, we visited the brewery and made a video of the process of making Grogue. The video is spoken in Dutch, but translated in English; 

The Famous Cape Verde Islands

A saying you’ll hear a lot on the islands, or when asking people, ‘What is Cape Verde Famous For?’ is 10 islands, 10 faces. Meaning that every Cape Verdean island has its own identity. 

When we traveled throughout Cape Verde, we visited 6 out of 9 inhabited islands. We stayed for 10 weeks and tried to explore the islands and live with the local community as much as possible. 

We didn’t visit Maio, Brava, and São Nicolau. It didn’t fit our schedule at that time, but we definitely want to go back to explore these islands as well. In the next part, I’ll describe the famous highlights of every individual island. I’ll start with the Barlavento (windward) island group, followed by the Sotavento (leeward) islands. 

The Barlavento Islands

This northern island group of Cape Verde is to divide into the northwestern islands and northeastern islands. 

The northwestern islands, Santo Antão, São Vicente, São Nicolau, and Santa Luzia, are known to be more mountainous, greener, and have more vegetation. You’ll find the most agriculture in Cape Verde on these islands. 

Sal and Boa Vista are the two northeastern islands of the Barlavento Islands. These islands are flat and sandy. They have a dessert-like landscape. Sal and Boa Vista are the most popular tourist destinations of Cape Verde. 

Santo Antão

Probably on the greenest islands of the Cape Verdean archipelago. The island is famous for the village Fontainhas, one of the most beautiful views in the world (according to National Geographic). 

Fontainhas is a spectacular village, built on a mountain cliff, looking out over the ocean. Its remote location and beautiful sunsets making it a unique place to visit. 

Santo Antão is a hiking paradise. The mountainous volcanic landscape creates a unique environment that is perfect for hiking. The village Fontainhas, the valley of Paúl, and other small idyllic villages complete the unique off-the-grid scenery on the island.  

Morabeza at Santo Antão

People say that Santo Antão is the best Cape Verdean island where you can experience Morabeza, the Cape Verdean way of life. When we went to the island, we met many friendly people, but we also found that on the other islands of the archipelago. 

However, we feel like that Santo Antão is one of the most traditional Cape Verdean islands. Probably because the only way to reach the island is by taking the ferry that leaves from São Vicente. The ferry takes up to one hour in one direction, and you can see both islands from the shore.  

When you go to Santo Antão, which we highly recommend doing, make sure to travel at least one time along the old road between the Port and Ribeira Grande (the main village). The old road crosses the mountain, and the Paúl Valley, one of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see. It is recommended to follow this road with a local guide. This is not only a safer way of traveling, but you also help the local community, and can learn much more about the island’s history! 

Recommended Stay Santo Antão

Casa Maracuja (check the latest price and availability on Booking.com) is hosted by a Dutch, Cape Verdean women. We went to her restaurant many times when we were at Santo Antão, but the new hotel was still under construction when we stayed on the island. So we didn’t sleep in here place. Her other place was fully booked at the time. However, they know what there doing at Casa Maracuja, it is the perfect place to stay for a few days and relax after a long hike. 

Their new accommodation is located in the middle of the valley of Paúl. So beautiful views are included every time of the day! It’s also possible to book guided tours via Casa Maracuja. 

São Vicente

The cultural heart of Cape Verde, that’s the nickname of São Vicente. Many people stayed at the island after their ship made a stopover to refill. It created a real melting pot of cultures. 

São Vicente is also the island with the Dutch roots. Because of its natural harbor in Mindelo, the island became an important stopover for the maritime industry. The Dutch, who were the largest maritime trade company during the 17th century, used this island a lot to refill their ships. Also, many Cape Verdeans went to The Netherlands to work in the Port of Rotterdam, which is the largest container port of Europe. 

Rotterdam is the second-largest city of The Netherlands and also the most multicultural city of the country, with a large Cape Verdean community. The annual carnival celebrations in Rotterdam are unique to visit, inspired by the tropical Cape Verdean Carnival. You can read more about it in our article What Is Rotterdam Famous For.

Famous Tropical Carnival at São Vicente

We all know the tropical carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro or Trinidad & Tobago. But did you know one of the most traditional tropical carnival celebrations are taking place annually at São Vicente? 

Every year in February, a week of celebrations, with different carnival groups and parades, is taking place on the island. A bucket list item for many people, absolutely a must-visit! 

It is the busiest time of the year in São Vicente, so when you want to visit the carnival celebrations, make sure to book your accommodation in advance. There are many accommodations to find on the island, but we recommend to stay in Mindelo. Mindelo is the largest ‘city’ on the island, everything is taking place in or around Mindelo. 

Check out the latest prices for accommodations in Mindelo via Booking.com.

Weeks before the carnival celebrations, you’ll notice spontaneous parades, where people are already celebrating. It is like the pre-carnival, the whole community is living towards this unique annual event! 

Travel Show

When we were in Cape Verde, we started making videos for a travel show. We were still searching for the best concept and didn’t exactly know what we wanted to make at that time. However, we did manage to create a fun and informational video about tropical carnival. We speak in Dutch in this video, but there are English subtitles, you’ll just get a nice idea of this unique event (and a good laugh of our bad and uncomfortable presentations); 

If you like the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel! We switched from making these kinds of travel show videos to filming more in-depth cultural documentaries, like our documentary about the Māori culture. You can read more about it on our travel show page

Famous Beaches on São Vicente

The island is not only known for its cultural backgrounds and many festivities. You’ll also find many white sandy beaches on São Vicente, often completely deserted. Most beaches don’t have any amenities, and sometimes the sea current can be strong, so it can be tricky to swim. On the other hand, you’ll probably have a whole beach for yourself! 

Mindelo Beach, close to the port, is probably the beach with the most amenities. You’ll find several beach bars located on this beach. 

Another famous beach village is Baia Das Gatas, located on the northeast side of the island. During the summer period, you’ll find many live music performances in this village. We went to Baia das Gatas in February and found an abandoned beach, so nothing much was going on at that time. But then again, everyone was in Mindelo to celebrate the tropical carnival! 

São Vicente is easy to reach with direct flights from Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and Lisbon (Portugal). Domestically it is most convenient to fly from the islands Santiago or Sal to São Vicente. 

Santa Luzia (uninhabited)

It is the smallest island of the Cape Verdean islands, and also the only uninhabited island of the island group. Santa Luzia was uninhabited until the 17th century. A small community settled on the island. They started raising livestock, which was used on the neighboring island, São Vicente. Around 1960 the island got uninhabited again. Today it is a protected natural area, and you can only visit it via a guided tour.

A boat trip to Santa Luzia leaving from São Vicente takes up to around two hours. There’s nothing much to see and do on the island. Only at night, it might be interesting when sea turtles coming to the island to lay their eggs. But then again, it is not possible to spend the night on the island. So you better off leaving Santa Luzia as it is and visit another island. 

São Nicolau

Landscapes on São Nicolau are similar to Santo Antão. Pristine valleys and mountains. But also nice volcanic beaches, which you can’t find at Santo Antão. 

São Nicolau is probably one of the most fertile islands of Cape Verde, where you can find lots of agricultural lands. Life on the island is slow. Morabeza on São Nicolau means even more relaxed than on the other islands of Cape Verde. 

Highlights on the island are limited to a few hiking and mountain biking routes, which are stunning by the way. São Nicolau is often chosen by the more inexperienced hikers over Santo Antão because the paths are less steep and long at São Nicolau. The highest mountain, Monte Gordo, peaks at 1312 meters. 

Monto Gordo National Park

Monte Gordo is a national park in Cape Verde. It is not only a beautiful area to go hiking, but the mountain is also home to unique plants and trees. Over 32 plant species threatened with extinction are found on the island. And it is the best place to see the Dragon Blood Tree. An ancient tree that you can only find in the Micronesia region.  

Another unique highlight that you can’t miss when visiting São Nicolau is Carbeirinho. A rock formation close to the sea that is carved out by the wind and other weather influences. It is a unique natural site to visit, different colors, and fantastic shapes you don’t see every day. 

Carbeirinho is located next to a lovely beach, which makes it also a perfect place to relax and chill. It is one of the most popular spots on the island! 

Traveling to São Nicolau

The island is most easy to reach, taking a domestic flight from either Sal, Boa Vista, or Praia (Santiago). Flight time is less than an hour, and they leave several times a week from each island. 

Flight schedules and times are often changed, so we recommend visiting the website of Binter Cabo Verde (national domestic airline) for the latest information. 

There’s also a ferry route between Sal and São Nicolau. It is a cheaper way of traveling, but it’s not reliable. Traveling takes much longer, and often the ferry can’t leave because of the rough sea. We don’t recommend traveling by ferry. The only reliable ferry connection on the Cape Verde islands is the ferry between São Vicente and Santo Antão. If you want to travel by ferry, you’ll need to book a ticket at the local ticket office on the island. 

There aren’t many places to stay at São Nicolau. On Booking.com, you can only find 8 different listings. Check the latest prices for accommodations on São Nicolau.

Cape Verde Sal Fishing Boat

Most Famous Island of Cape Verde: Sal 

The most famous and popular island of the Cape Verdean islands is Sal. And when you think of it, that’s actually a bit weird. Sal is a flat desert island, and there aren’t many natural highlights to find. It became a perfect holiday destination when large holiday parks and hotels were built on the island. A development that’s good for the local community because they’re entirely dependent on tourism.

There are leaving several flights a day, both from Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and Lisbon (Portugal) to Sal. Companies that fly most often to Sal are Tui (travel agency) and TAP Portugal.  

You go to SAL for a relaxing or active (or both) holiday. The island is ideal for chilling at the beach or your hotel swimming pool. Or for activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, kite, and windsurfing. It is even possible to go swimming with sharks at Sal! And that’s not as dangerous as its sounds. One of our other videos about Cape Verde is filmed at Sal when we went swimming with the lemon sharks. This video is also in Dutch, but with English subtitles; 

Sal is perfect for spending a few days on a tropical vacation. I love the fact that you can combine several activities with relaxing on one o the beautiful white sandy beaches. In our article Best Things to Do in Salyou’ll find a complete guide of the things to do on the island and the best places to stay and the best restaurants. A must-read when you’re visiting Sal! 

If you want to book your accommodation at Sal directly, we recommend visiting this page on Booking.com, where you can find the latest prices and availability on the island. 

Second Most Popular Island Of Cape Verde: Boa Vista

Boa Vista is Sal’s neighboring island, and means literally ‘Nice View.’ The island is flat and has a desert landscape, just like Sal. After the Portuguese discovered the island, the navigator Diogo Gomes, described the island as ‘Boa Vista.’ According to his journals, he loved the view you had over the island when standing on one of the sand dunes. 

There’s not much to do at Boa Vista. You go to this island either for chilling at one of the luxury holiday parks or for an active watersport adventure like kite or windsurfing. 

You can, however, visit a small part of the Sahara desert on the island! It’s one of the most unique things to do in Boa Vista, next to the whale watching. 

The desert on Boa Vista is created by the trade winds bringing Sahara sand to the island, and creating a small desert, a real extension of the unique Sahara! 

Whale Watching at Boa Vista

Whale Watching is another excellent activity at Boa Vista. The shallow waters close to the island are ideal for humpback whales to get their young. The best time to go whale watching in Boa Vista is between February and May.  

There are many accommodations to find at Boa Vista. We recommend booking a place that gets good customer reviews. You can check the latest prices on Booking.com. The holiday parks, like the RUI hotels, are the most luxurious and all-inclusive accommodations on the islands. 

The Sotavento Islands of Cape Verde

The island group in the southern part of the archipelago has a lot of surprises. The Sotavento Islands are the four southern islands combined. Fogo is the island with the only active volcano in Cape Verde. Fogo and Maio are known for their population, from which the people are considered to be the most beautiful worldwide. 

Brava is, according to many people, the most tranquil and authentic island of Cape Verde. It is the least visited islands of all the Cape Verdean islands (except for the uninhabited Santa Luzia). 

Santiago is the main island of Cape Verde. The capital Praia is a bustling city and has a lot to offer. 


It is the largest island of Cape Verde, and as we said, the main island of the island group. Santiago has a rich history, as it was the first island of the island group that was discovered. Cidade Velha was the first European settlement on an island in the Micronesia region. A must-visit when you’re at Santiago and want to learn more about the islands and Europeans history of human trade. 

Today Santiago is a modern island with a lot to offer. The capital Praia is a unique and modern city. With a large fresh food market, it is an important economic center for the local community. 

Praia is known for its music scene, many great jazz musicians from all over the world came to the island to make music at one of the most popular restaurants Quintal da Musica

Another great place to go in the city Praia is the beach Quebra Canela, where you can find a great bay to swim, and a lovely restaurant to relax. 


For us, the best and most relaxing place in Santiago was Tarrafal. This small settlement in the northern part of Santiago is a perfect tropical beach. There’s not much to do except for relaxing at the beach and swimming in the sea. 

If you like to go hiking, there are a few hiking paths close to Tarrafal. The middle part of the island Santiago is known for its unique green mountainous landscape. 

When you’re traveling to Santiago, we recommend staying a few days in Praia, and at least one or two nights in Tarrafel. Going from Praia to Tarrafal with a local taxi (which is called an ‘aluguer‘) is a unique thing to do. But you must prepare to sit very close next to the locals, who sometimes bring chickens or other living animals they just bought at the market. Then again, you’re still in Africa 😉  

The latest prices and available accommodations in Santiago are listed on this page at Booking.com


It’s known as the forgotten island, closely located to the island Santiago. You can reach Maio with a domestic flight from only 15 minutes, which leaves from Praia airport. It is the most reliable way of traveling to the island. The ferry connection is often canceled due to rough sea conditions. 

You can find flight tickets and the latest information about the schedules on the website of Binter Cabo Verde

Maio is known for its white sandy beaches and beautiful crystal blue seas. It is the quietest island of Cape Verde, and not many tourists find their way to Maio. Because of its tranquility, it is the perfect island for sea turtles to lay their eggs on the beaches. A unique natural phenomenon that is protected by the local community. 

Humpback Whales are also passing by Maio during the spring months. You can easily spot these magnificent mammals from the beach! 

There are not many listings and accommodations on Maio. Visiting this island is something you do when you’re looking for an authentic Cape Verdean experience. Follow this link to find the latest available accommodations


One of the smallest islands of Cape Verde is Brava. Its diameter is only 10 kilometers wide! Brava is like Maio, a ‘forgotten island.’ Not many tourists are traveling to this island. There isn’t even a domestic flight connection, because the island doesn’t have an airport. 

The only way to reach Brava is by taking a ferry that leaves from Santiago and sails via Fogo. The ferry takes several hours, and because of the rough sea conditions, it gets canceled a lot. It is probably one of the reasons why many travelers choose to skip Brava. When the sea is too rough, you can get stuck on the island. 

When we were on Fogo, the ferry was canceled for four days in a row! So we ended up taking a domestic flight back to the mainland. 

On the other hand, Brava is a perfect island if you want to experience the authentic Cape Verdean Morabeza lifestyle. And because of its rough, volcanic landscape, it is ideal for hiking. There are only 7 listings in Brava on Booking.com, so not much to choose from if you’re looking for accommodation. 


Fogo is the island with the only active volcano in Cape Verde, Pico de Fogo. The island is entirely different than all the other islands of Cape Verde and absolutely worth a visit if you like to explore some rough nature and a village at the foot of an active volcano. 

If you have to change to visit the island, we recommend doing so. It is a once in a lifetime visit, and you’ll experience a completely different vibe. 

Cha das Caldeiras, the village on the foot of Pico de Fogo, is like visiting a lunar landscape. In 2014 the volcano erupted and covered the village with volcanic ash and lava. Almost the complete village got destroyed, but most people got away in time. Many people went back after the volcano stopped erupting, building their new homes on the lava. 

We went to this village and slept for two nights in a guesthouse. I find it hard to describe the feeling, but it was one of the most unique places we ever visited. The peace and quietness, on the one hand, but the constant threat of the active volcano on the other makes it a crazy, but unique experience. 

Famous Fogo Coffee

The land on Fogo is exceptionally fertile, because of its volcanic grounds. Resulting in the production of one of the best coffees in the world. Fogo coffee is added to the special coffee program of Starbucks. 

Except for visiting Cha das Caldeiras, the volcano, and tasting the unique coffee, there’s not much to do in Fogo. 

The island is easy to reach with a short flight from Santiago (10 minutes). So when you plan it in advance, you can visit the island for one or two days. 

Fogo: Famous for the most beautiful people in the world

We made one of our travel show videos in Fogo, mainly because the island is known for the most beautiful people in the world. The french count Montrond, who was on its way from French to Brazil, made a stopover in Fogo. He ended up staying at the island and helping with the development of a road network and agriculture. 

Montrond also had an eye for the Cape Verdean women and ended up having children with over 11 different local women. The Cape Verdean Montrond family became one of the most beautiful people in the world, a mixture of white and dark skin, curly hair blond or dark blond hair, and blue eyes. It is something you don’t see that often! 

As for all these videos, it is spoken in Dutch, but there are English subtitles available;

History of Cape Verde – Portuguese Colony

Until the 15th century, Cape Verde was uninhabited. It was the Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes that first discovered a few of the islands in 1455, and set foot on the island Santiago. There is, however, some discussion of who was the first. History books say that Antonio de Noli, a Genoese navigator, who was exploring the seas at the same time as Diogo Gomes, was the first that reported about Cape Verde when he got back from a journey in Lisbon. 

It took the Portuguese until 1462 to reach the settlement at Santiago, which they gave the name Ribeira Grande. It became the first European settlement at a tropical archipelago. Ribeira Grande is now known as Cidade Velha, which means Old City. 

Santiago, and later the other Cape Verdean islands, became an important hub for the Atlantic Slave Trade. Cidade Velha was basically a human trade market for a long time. People who weren’t able to work, women, children, they all stayed on the islands. And with the arrival of European settlers, Cape Verde quickly became a melting pot of cultures. Luckily the times have changed, and the slave trade stopped, which happened in Cape Verde during the 18th century. 

Economic Crisis

With the stop of the transatlantic slave trade, the economic growth for the Cape Verde islands also came to a stop. The only two sources of income were the natural harbor at the island São Vicente, which was used as a refill stopover for navigators on their way to South Africa and Asia. And the island of Sal, which had huge salt lakes. The export of Salt became one of the most important sources of income for the Cape Verdean islands. 

Portugal built an economic center and refill station at Mindelo, the capital of São Vicente. Many sea explorers, and working men stayed for a much longer time than initially planned on the island to enjoy the warm climate and relaxing vibe. São Vicente became the cultural heart of the Cape Verdean islands. 

Unfortunately, it was not enough. Both the salt export and Mindelo’s harbor couldn’t provide the complete archipelago. Also, because of the climate agriculture is almost impossible. So the islands were dependent on importing food and goods from elsewhere. Portugal lost its interest in the island group and stopped its investments. Which resulted in a deep economic crisis. 

Thriving Tourist Industry at Cape Verde

Fast forward a few years, Cape Verde knew to create a thriving tourist industry. Tourism is the primary source of income in the republic and growing steadily every year. 

Many European travel companies are investing in the island’s industry. It is a safe way of doing business for these companies because Cape Verde is one of the most stable and democratic republics in Africa. 

Cape Verde is still a developing country, many local people are poor and living on low standards. However, it is a great summer destination to visit. Especially the islands Sal, Boa Vista, are easy for a quick summer holiday. 

And when you want to experience the authentic Cape Verdean culture, we recommend that you’re going to one of the other islands like São Vicente, Santo Antão, or Santiago. 

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, 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 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

We wrote several articles about Cape Verde, which you might find interesting to read. You can find the complete list here. And can be helpful by preparing for your trip to the Cape Verdean islands.

Best Things To Do In Sal 

A complete guide with local tips, restaurants, places to stay and things to do on the famous island SAL. It is a must-read when you plan to visit SAL. 
Sal is, of course, the most popular, and most visited island in Cape Verde. It is particularly famous because of the beautiful beaches. But there’s much more to explore on the famous island.

How To Get Around The Cape Verdean Islands?

It can be challenging traveling between the Cape Verdean islands, mainly because of the long distance between the islands. However, if you take enough time planning it is straightforward to travel around. You can find out in this article what is the best way to travel around between the Cape Verde Islands.

Do They Speak English in Cape Verde?  

This was a question people often asked us, so I decided to write a short article about how to get in touch with the local people, and which language they speak on the different islands. Did you know the official language in Cape Verde is Portuguese? However, the most commonly spoken language among the locals is Creole. So there’s a lot to discover language-wise!

Can You Swim In The Sea in Cape Verde?

When you’re traveling around the different islands, it is not always safe to go swimming in the sea. The various currents can be rough and creating dangerous conditions. In this article, you’ll find the places on different islands where it is safe for swimming. We always recommend following up on the local instructions! 

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