Cape Verde has a booming tourism sector and they don’t treat it lightly. You can have an absolutely luxurious and indulgent vacation in Cape Verde. In February, I visited 2 islands in Cape Verde, Praia and Sal with my friend and here are my tips for vacationing in Cape Verde.
Travelling to Cape Verde
For Sierra Leoneans travelling from Freetown, there’s no direct flight from Sierra Leone to Cape Verde, you have to go via Dakar, Senegal. From there, there are about 3 or more flights every day to Praia and Sal. Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands but flights from other African countries land mainly at Praia and Sal. If you have sufficient time, spend a night or 2 in Senegal. Please note that the new (beautiful and oh-so-grand) Blaise Diagne airport is about 2-3 hours from the city Dakar. So, if you choose to do this, I would advise that you stay in the seaside town of Saly to enable you to get to the airport in good time for your flight to Praia. You can also enjoy what the beautiful beaches of Saly have to offer whilst you wait.
For West Africans with an ECOWAS passport, you do not need a visa of entry to Cape Verde. However, you need to pre-register through the portal www.ease.gov.cv before your departure. You will be provided with an application number to present to the immigration desk. Ensure that you print a copy of the email of completion of registration. The registration cost is €30 and that covers Airport Security Fee. They may ask you to show cash which you have to spend on your vacation; I didn’t see any pattern in this, it seemed indiscriminate. If you do not carry cash, I advise that you have your bank statement accessible. The airport at Praia has free Wi-Fi so you can log into your account to pull it up if need be.
There are flights connecting almost all of the islands of Cape Verde though you can also travel by Ferry but even the local people will tell you that they aren’t reliable so don’t risk it. Unless being stuck on a ferry in the middle of the sea is your idea of fun, then go for it!!
There’s no shortage of hotels, beach resorts and private homes for short term rental in Cape Verde. All inclusive, self-catered, you choose what suits your needs and budget. On Sal Island, we stayed at a private villa in Melia Tortuga Beach Resort and Spa that was self-catered. However, we still had access to the pools and spa and could have meals and drinks at the restaurants and bars for an additional charge. The resort offered all-inclusive packages but we planned to explore so that option didn’t suit us. If you don’t already have it, download the Airbnb App to make finding accommodation easier. There’s a designated area for resorts and hotels on Sal Island and it is only a 10 mins taxi drive to Santa Maria, the center of town.
Don’t take US Dollars to Cape Verde, they have absolutely no use for it. You will be quoted prices for goods and services either in Euros or Escudos (the local Cape Verde currency). The two are used interchangeably; if you pay for something in one currency, you may receive your change in the other. But if you do bring USD, you will get the best exchange rate at the bank (surprise I know!!) and you will need your passport for this. Also, a lot of the establishments have POS so you can pay via visa, debit, credit or master card.
If you do not opt for an all-inclusive package at your hotel of choice, you may spend an average of 50-70 euros per day on food and drinks. It is cheaper to eat in Santa Maria than it is at the hotels and far more interesting. You can have your pick of restaurants, bars and pubs from a wide variety.
The weather in Cape Verde, at least in Sal and Praia is mild. It is usually sunny (but not hot) during the day and cool at night. However, it is very windy due to it being surrounded by the ocean so bring a sweater or a light jacket that you can throw over your outfits especially at night. According to a local guide, Sal Island gets maybe 2 or 3 days of rains a year in the month of December. He also told us that most storms that hit the Americas start there and move away.
The winter season, (very different from your normal winter in UK with temperatures dropping only to as low as 24°C) November-March is a great time to visit Cape Verde for water sports enthusiasts as the heavy winds lead to large waves. The rest of the year is great for chilling on the beach or hotel pool with unlimited cocktails/mocktails in hand or doing other outdoor activities.
Whatever your idea of fun, there’s something for everyone in Cape Verde. Water sports such as snorkelling, diving, sailing, kite surfing. Hikes, historical visits to popular sights, boat tours and parties, fishing trips, quad biking, off road driving, cycling tours are some of the activities that you can participate in. Visit Trip Advisor to book your preferred activity at least 2 days in advance. We did a tour of Sal Island with Cabral Tours booked via Trip Advisor and I would absolutely recommend it. We visited popular sites such as the rocky beach of Murdeira, the Mirage in Espargos and The Blue Eye. We swam with the sharks in Shark Bay and had lunch at a small fishing village in Palmeira. We ended our tour by floating in the Salt Lake of Salinas salt mine.
You can dance salsa in the bars and pubs of Santa Maria all night. Our favourite hangout spot was Ocean Cafe in Santa Maria, they make absolutely delicious cocktails, great food and the vibe is just amazing! The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists and the staff will teach you how to salsa! How fun!!
The Sao Vicente Carnival is held in February every year in Mindelo and is Cape Verde’s version of the Brazil festival; Mardi Gras. Several other festivals are held on other islands throughout the year.
Everyone needs to pay a visit to Cape Verde; the beautiful crystal blue waters of Sal or the rising mountains of Praia will soothe your tired body and soul. Bonus; you will look really hard to find trash; it is amazingly clean.
PRO TIP: Pack an outfit or 2 in your hand luggage if you are flying from Praia to Sal. The airplanes are small so quite a number of luggage is left behind. You will most likely receive your luggage in a day or two but you do not want to do any shopping on Sal Island. Trust me on this. I had to buy an outfit at the little boutique at our resort for our evening out. That was a big minus on cocktails that I wasn’t happy with it.