Sunrise on Sao Vicente Island, Cape Verde
Cape Verde

Things to do on the Cape Verde Islands

A quick overview of the things to do on Cape Verde, including activities offered – diving, trekking, sightseeing and festivals…

On our holiday, we met many travelers who returned to Cape Verde on a regular basis. On Brava, we stayed with a Belgian couple who came back every year, and had been doing so for over a decade. At first, we wondered why – surely, by now, they must have seen everything there was to see. However, by the end of our three weeks, it felt as if we had only scratched the surface of what the islands have to offer. Here, we provide an overview of the things to do on the Cape Verde islands that we have visited (six out of the ten islands).

fogo volcano brava sunset sunrise atlantic ocean
View of the Fogo volcano, across the Atlantic Ocean from Brava, just after sunrise

Cape Verde has ten islands divided into two groups, the windward islands to the north, and the leeward islands to the south. Depending on what you like to do, each has its own unique offering. In three weeks, we only managed to cover six of the islands. Fogo had been on the list as well, but unfortunately, a month prior to our visit, the volcano erupted, making visiting the island inadvisable.

hiking on brava Fajã de Agua Brava island agricultural terraces
View from the hike down to Fajã de Agua on Brava, overlooking terraces used for agriculture

For Hiking

Santo Antão is an island of breathtaking beauty, with stunning high peaks dropping abruptly into deep ravines, its valleys lined with terraces and fruit orchards. It has some of the best hiking in the world for all levels of fitness.

stratus clouds boiling across the peaks of Santo Antão
A thick layer of stratus clouds boiling across the peaks of Santo Antão as we drove from Porto Novo to Ponta do Sol

Fogo would have also offered great hiking. The highlight of our trip would have been the trek to the rim of Pico de Fogo, and the decent, which was a thrilling (possibly neck-breaking and surely terrifying) slide down slopes of fine black gravel (called volcanic lapilli).

brava island caldera cape verde
Clouds slowly descending across the caldera of the Brava island on our hike through its cloud forest

Brava, also known as the island of flowers, is wonderfully lush and has several rewarding, yet relatively easy, hikes.

São Vicente island Mindelo rocky desert cape verde
The dry landscape of São Vicente, on the outskirts of Mindelo

For Culture

Santiago is where Cape Verde’s bustling capital Praia is located, and is home to a UNESCO heritage site, the Cidade Velha. Once a rich city due to the slave trade, it has a colourful but tumultuous past. Praia, unlike most of the other cities and towns on the island, has a distinct continental African vibe (whereas most of Cape Verde have more in common with other tropical island destinations).

african nativity scene middle-eastern jesus praia santiago island cape verde
A nativity scene in the city centre of Praia, Santiago island. What was interesting was that the characters are Middle-Eastern looking

São Vicente offers lots of music and culture, and is host to two of the islands’ most lavish festivals – the Baia das Gatas Music Festival in August and Carnival (the same one as celebrated in Brazil) in February.

live morna band music brava island cape verde pension o castelo
Live Morna music being played at the New Year’s party in Pension O Castelo, where we stayed on Brava Island

For the Sun and Surf

Sal has been a popular tourist destination for a long time, boasting long stretches of beach, and great dive spots teaming with lots of fish. Horse-riding has also become a popular activity on the island. Compared to many other beach destinations, tourism, while making up a large portion of Sal’s GDP, has not overwhelmed the island.

horse riding on sal with santa marilha, on Cape Verde
Horse riding on the beaches of Sal island with Santa Marilha horse excursions

Our three weeks passed by too quickly. Paradoxically, the constant novelty and variety in activities and climates, as we moved from one island to the next, made us feel as if we had journeyed a long time.

cute colourful boats on beach santa maria sal island cape verde
Photo of the beach by the town of Santa Maria, Sal. This was where divers came and went to the dive spots around the island