Cabo Verde Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Cabo Verde, a captivating archipelago off the coast of West Africa, is a hidden gem in the Atlantic Ocean. With its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and welcoming people, this island nation offers a unique and enriching travel experience. From the pristine beaches and vibrant music scene to the colorful markets and historic towns, Cabo Verde beckons tourists to explore its natural beauty and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of its culture. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or a taste of local traditions, Cabo Verde has something special to offer every traveler.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Cabo Verde as a tourist is during the dry season, which typically spans from November to June. This period offers the most favorable weather conditions for outdoor activities and beach vacations. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons to help you plan your trip:

  1. Dry Season (November to June): This is the peak tourist season in Cabo Verde. During these months, you can expect pleasant, dry weather with lots of sunshine and minimal rainfall. This is the ideal time for water sports, hiking, and exploring the islands.
  2. Wet Season (July to October): The wet season in Cabo Verde brings occasional rain and can be quite humid. While some tourists visit during this time, it’s not as popular due to the increased humidity and the possibility of tropical storms, though they are relatively rare.

Keep in mind that the exact weather conditions can vary slightly from island to island within Cabo Verde. However, if you’re planning a beach holiday and want to enjoy outdoor activities, the dry season is generally the most comfortable and reliable time to visit. It’s also essential to check for any travel advisories and monitor the weather conditions before your trip.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Cabo Verde as a tourist can be an adventure in itself, as the transportation infrastructure varies from one island to another. Here are some common ways to get around the islands of Cabo Verde:

  1. Inter-Island Flights: If you plan to visit multiple islands, inter-island flights are the most efficient way to travel between them. Binter Cabo Verde and TICV (Transportes Interilhas de Cabo Verde) operate flights connecting the major islands.
  2. Boat and Ferry Services: Ferries are available for traveling between some of the islands, with the most popular routes connecting Santiago (Praia) to Fogo and Brava, as well as Boa Vista to Sal. Keep in mind that schedules may be subject to change, and sea conditions can affect ferry services.
  3. Local Buses: On some islands, local buses provide an affordable means of transportation. However, schedules may not always be consistent, and routes can be limited, especially in rural areas.
  4. Taxi Services: Taxis are widely available on most islands and are a convenient way to get around, especially within cities and towns. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey.
  5. Car Rentals: Renting a car can provide flexibility and convenience, especially if you plan to explore an island extensively. Keep in mind that roads can be narrow, and road conditions may vary.
  6. Shared Aluguers: Shared minibuses known as “aluguers” are common on Santiago and other islands. They offer a budget-friendly option for getting around. Aluguers follow fixed routes and pick up passengers along the way.
  7. Walking: In towns and cities, walking is a practical way to explore. Many areas have pedestrian-friendly streets.
  8. Motorcycles and Scooters: Renting a motorcycle or scooter is an option for more adventurous travelers who are comfortable navigating the local traffic.
  9. Hiking: For nature enthusiasts, some islands offer opportunities for hiking. This may require a guide, depending on the terrain and local regulations.

Keep in mind that transportation options and the availability of services may vary from island to island. The larger and more tourist-oriented islands, such as Sal and Boa Vista, generally have more extensive transportation options compared to smaller and more remote islands. Plan your transportation in advance, especially when moving between islands, and stay informed about local conditions and travel advisories.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Cabo Verde is Portuguese. Portuguese is used in government, education, and formal communication. However, you’ll find that many Cabo Verdeans also speak Kriolu, a Cape Verdean Creole language that varies from one island to another. While Portuguese is the official language, learning a few basic Kriolu phrases can enhance your travel experience and make interactions with locals more enjoyable. Here are some essential words and phrases:

Portuguese:

  1. Hello – Olá (oh-lah)
  2. Good morning – Bom dia (bohm dee-ah)
  3. Good afternoon – Boa tarde (boh-ah tahr-deh)
  4. Good evening/night – Boa noite (boh-ah noy-tay)
  5. Please – Por favor (poor fah-vohr)
  6. Thank you – Obrigado (if you’re male) / Obrigada (if you’re female) (oh-bree-gah-doo/oh-bree-gah-dah)
  7. Yes – Sim (seem)
  8. No – Não (now)
  9. Excuse me – Com licença (kohm lee-sen-sah)
  10. I don’t understand – Não entendo (now een-tehn-doo)

Kriolu:

  1. Hello – Olá / Foi (ohl-ah / foo-ee)
  2. Good morning – Bon dia (bohn dee-ah)
  3. Good afternoon – Bon tarde (bohn tahr-dee)
  4. Good evening/night – Bon noite (bohn noy-tay)
  5. Please – Pofavor (poh-fah-vohr)
  6. Thank you – Obrigadu (oh-bree-gah-doo)
  7. Yes – Sim (seem)
  8. No – Não (now)
  9. Excuse me – Disculpa (dee-skool-pah)
  10. I don’t understand – Nã ta intendi (now tah een-ten-dee)

Cabo Verdeans generally appreciate when tourists make an effort to speak a bit of Kriolu, even if they primarily converse in Portuguese. Learning and using a few basic phrases can help you connect with the local people and enrich your travel experience.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Cabo Verde offers a variety of accommodation options for tourists, ranging from budget-friendly to upscale resorts. Where you choose to stay will depend on your budget, preferences, and the specific island you plan to visit. Here are some common types of accommodation and the best places to stay in Cabo Verde:

  1. Hotels: Most islands, especially the more tourist-oriented ones like Sal and Boa Vista, offer a range of hotels, including international chains and local establishments. In Sal, you’ll find many resorts along the coastline.
  2. Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts: These are great options for a more personal and locally immersive experience. You can find guesthouses in various towns and rural areas.
  3. Hostels: Some islands, such as Santiago and São Vicente, have hostels that cater to budget travelers and backpackers. They offer affordable dormitory-style or private rooms.
  4. Apartments and Vacation Rentals: On islands like Sal, you can find vacation rentals, apartments, and condos, which are ideal for families or longer stays.
  5. Eco-Lodges: If you’re interested in ecotourism and experiencing Cabo Verde’s natural beauty, consider staying in eco-lodges, which can be found in some remote and environmentally sensitive areas.
  6. Resorts: Sal and Boa Vista are known for their luxury resorts with beachfront locations, offering all-inclusive packages and upscale amenities.
  7. Pousadas: These are government-run inns located on some of the islands, offering basic accommodations and a more local experience.
  8. Camping: Camping may be an option on some islands, although the availability of facilities can vary.
  9. Local Homestays: In more rural areas, some locals offer homestay experiences, allowing you to live with Cabo Verdean families and learn about their culture and way of life.
  10. Boutique Hotels: Some of the smaller islands offer boutique hotels that provide a unique and intimate atmosphere.

Before booking your accommodation, consider the island you plan to visit, the activities you wish to engage in, and your budget. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance, especially during the high tourist season. Be sure to check for reviews, amenities, and the location of your chosen accommodation to ensure it meets your needs and expectations.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Cabo Verde offers a delectable array of dishes that combine African, Portuguese, and Creole influences, resulting in a unique and flavorful cuisine. When visiting Cabo Verde, be sure to try these must-try foods:

  1. Cachupa: Considered the national dish, cachupa is a hearty stew made from corn, beans, and a variety of vegetables. It’s often cooked with meat or fish and seasoned with herbs and spices.
  2. Lagosta Grelhada: Grilled lobster is a popular seafood dish in Cabo Verde, especially in coastal areas. It’s often served with garlic butter or a spicy sauce.
  3. Feijoada: This is a bean stew that typically contains pork, sausage, and various spices. It’s a flavorful and filling dish enjoyed throughout the country.
  4. Catchupa Rica: Similar to cachupa, this is a variation that includes more meat, making it a richer and meatier dish.
  5. Cuscus: Cabo Verde’s version of couscous, made from cornmeal, is often served as a side dish.
  6. Espetada: Skewered and grilled meat, often marinated in a flavorful sauce, is a popular street food and a tasty snack.
  7. Pastel com Diabo Dentro: These “Devil Inside” pastries are deep-fried dough pockets filled with spicy peppers and sometimes shrimp. They are a delightful and spicy treat.
  8. Amilá: A chicken or fish stew prepared with okra, palm oil, and spices, offering a unique flavor.
  9. Pudim: A custard dessert often flavored with caramel, making it a sweet and satisfying treat.
  10. Grogue: Cabo Verde’s local alcoholic beverage, grogue, is a type of rum made from sugar cane. It’s often consumed neat or used in cocktails.
  11. Canja de Galinha: A chicken and rice soup often enjoyed as a comforting and nourishing dish.
  12. Sodade: A refreshing and sweet drink made from local fruits like tamarind or hibiscus, served cold.
  13. Feijão Gajado: A flavorful bean dish cooked with spices, palm oil, and sometimes fish or meat.
  14. Pisca and Cachupa: A common breakfast dish, Pisca is made from cornmeal, and it’s often served with cachupa or other accompaniments.
  15. Kuskus di Kabra: A dish made from goat meat and cornmeal, seasoned with local spices, for those who enjoy trying traditional and local flavors.

Sample these dishes to savor the unique blend of flavors that Cabo Verde has to offer, and don’t forget to try local fruits like papayas, coconuts, and mangoes, which are readily available. Be adventurous and explore the vibrant cuisine of this island nation.

What to See? 🔍

Cabo Verde boasts a diverse range of attractions, from pristine beaches to vibrant cultural hubs and stunning natural landscapes. Here are some must-see places for tourists in Cabo Verde:

  1. Praia, Santiago Island: Explore the capital city of Cabo Verde, Praia, known for its lively markets, historic sites, and beautiful beaches. Don’t miss the old town of Cidade Velha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  2. Fogo Island: Visit Fogo to witness the mighty Pico do Fogo, an active volcano, and explore Chã das Caldeiras, a unique and fertile crater. Taste the local wine produced from the volcanic soil.
  3. Sal Island: Enjoy the beautiful beaches of Sal, which are perfect for water sports and relaxation. The natural salt pans at Pedra de Lume offer a unique swimming experience.
  4. Boa Vista Island: Discover Boa Vista’s stunning sand dunes, including the famous Praia de Santa Mónica, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
  5. São Vicente Island: Explore Mindelo, the cultural capital of Cabo Verde, known for its vibrant music scene, colonial architecture, and the famous Baía das Gatas Music Festival.
  6. Santo Antão Island: Experience the lush and mountainous landscape of Santo Antão, ideal for hiking and exploring picturesque villages.
  7. Maio Island: Relax on the unspoiled beaches of Maio, known for their tranquility and clear waters. It’s a great place for birdwatching too.
  8. Tarrafal, Santiago Island: Enjoy the beautiful and serene beach town of Tarrafal, which is also known for its historical prison and a peaceful atmosphere.
  9. Pico de Antónia, Santiago Island: Explore the green and fertile Pico de Antónia region, which is perfect for hiking and offers picturesque views.
  10. Sal Rei, Boa Vista Island: The charming town of Sal Rei is an excellent place to immerse yourself in local culture, dine on fresh seafood, and explore the local markets.
  11. Rabil, Boa Vista Island: Visit the small town of Rabil to see local crafts and pottery being made and enjoy its traditional feel.
  12. Calhau, São Vicente Island: Discover the unique and striking rock formations along the coast of Calhau, offering breathtaking photo opportunities.
  13. São Felipe, Fogo Island: This charming town provides insight into the island’s culture and history. The colonial architecture and local markets are worth exploring.
  14. Buracona, Sal Island: Visit the natural swimming pool at Buracona, where you can see the “Blue Eye” phenomenon, a magical optical illusion.
  15. Praia Dona Maria, Boa Vista Island: Explore the picturesque and secluded beach of Praia Dona Maria, which offers peace and tranquility.

Cabo Verde’s diverse landscapes and cultural heritage make it a captivating destination for travelers. Be sure to explore the unique features of each island to get a well-rounded experience of this island nation.

What to Do? 📸

Cabo Verde offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists, from exploring vibrant cultural scenes to enjoying the stunning natural beauty of the islands. Here are some must-do things when visiting Cabo Verde:

  1. Relax on Pristine Beaches: Cabo Verde is renowned for its beautiful beaches. Whether you’re on Sal, Boa Vista, or any other island, spend time relaxing on the sandy shores, swimming, and enjoying water sports.
  2. Explore the Local Music Scene: Cabo Verde has a rich musical tradition, and you can experience various genres, including morna and coladeira. Attend live music performances in bars and restaurants, especially in Mindelo on São Vicente Island.
  3. Hike and Explore Nature: Many islands in Cabo Verde offer excellent hiking opportunities. Discover the lush landscapes of Santo Antão or explore the volcanic terrains of Fogo and its Pico do Fogo.
  4. Visit Cultural and Historical Sites: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cidade Velha on Santiago Island, a historical town with colonial architecture, and learn about Cabo Verde’s history.
  5. Try Local Cuisine: Savor the flavors of Cabo Verde by trying traditional dishes such as cachupa, feijoada, and fresh seafood. Don’t forget to sample local fruits like mangoes and papayas.
  6. Watersports: Cabo Verde is a watersports paradise. Try activities like windsurfing, kitesurfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
  7. Island Hopping: Explore multiple islands to experience the diverse landscapes, cultures, and traditions of Cabo Verde. You can take inter-island flights or ferries to do so.
  8. Engage with Local Communities: Interact with the friendly Cabo Verdean people, visit local markets, and learn about the local way of life. Participate in cultural festivals if your visit coincides with one.
  9. Enjoy Beachside Activities: Besides swimming and sunbathing, consider beachside activities like horseback riding, beach volleyball, or simply enjoying a beachfront meal.
  10. Birdwatching: Cabo Verde is home to unique bird species. Birdwatchers can explore the diverse ecosystems and spot indigenous birds.
  11. Watch a Sunset: Cabo Verde offers stunning sunset views from many locations. Enjoy a tranquil evening watching the sun dip below the horizon.
  12. Visit Local Artisan Markets: Shop for local crafts, artwork, and souvenirs in the colorful markets of Cabo Verde.
  13. Learn About Local Fishing: Fishing plays a significant role in the culture and economy of Cabo Verde. You can observe traditional fishing practices and enjoy freshly caught seafood.
  14. Experience Carnaval: If you’re in Cabo Verde during the Carnaval season, don’t miss the vibrant parades, music, and dancing.
  15. Stargazing: Due to its low light pollution, Cabo Verde is a great place for stargazing. Visit observatories or simply look up at the night sky.

Remember to respect local customs, ask for permission before taking photographs of people, and stay informed about local conditions and travel advisories for a safe and enjoyable visit to Cabo Verde.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture:

  1. Respect for Local Customs: Cabo Verdeans are known for their warm and friendly nature. It’s important to show respect for local customs, traditions, and etiquette. When in doubt, ask locals for guidance.
  2. Greeting: Greetings are an essential part of Cabo Verdean culture. A warm handshake is a common greeting. Saying “Olá” (hello) and “Boa tarde” (good afternoon) or “Boa noite” (good evening/night) with a smile can go a long way.
  3. Language: While Portuguese is the official language, many Cabo Verdeans also speak Kriolu. Learning a few basic Kriolu phrases can enhance your interactions and show your respect for the local culture.
  4. Dress Modestly: While beach attire is acceptable at coastal resorts, it’s best to dress modestly when visiting towns and rural areas. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing revealing clothing.
  5. Music and Dance: Cabo Verde is known for its rich musical heritage. Enjoy live music and dance performances at local bars and restaurants. Don’t be shy to join in and learn a few dance moves.
  6. Local Markets: Exploring local markets is a great way to experience the culture and interact with locals. Be respectful and consider purchasing local crafts and products to support the community.

Safety:

  1. Travel Advisories: Check for travel advisories or safety recommendations from your government or relevant authorities before your trip. Stay informed about local conditions and any potential health or safety risks.
  2. Health Precautions: Ensure you have the necessary vaccinations before traveling to Cabo Verde. Malaria is present on some islands, so take precautions like using mosquito repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.
  3. Food and Water Safety: Be cautious about what you eat and drink. Stick to bottled or purified water and consume well-cooked food. Avoid street food in places with questionable hygiene.
  4. Petty Theft: While Cabo Verde is generally safe, petty theft can occur, especially in crowded areas and markets. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings.
  5. Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs and adhere to them. Drug use, including marijuana, is illegal.
  6. Emergency Contacts: Know the local emergency numbers, the location of your country’s embassy or consulate, and have a way to communicate in case of an emergency.
  7. Road Safety: Be cautious when driving, as road conditions can vary. Keep an eye out for unexpected obstacles and drive defensively.
  8. LGBTQ+ Travelers: While Cabo Verde is relatively more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals compared to some other African nations, it’s essential to be discreet about your sexual orientation to avoid potential discrimination.
  9. Water Safety: Be mindful of ocean currents, especially if you plan to swim or engage in water sports. Follow safety guidelines provided by local authorities.

By respecting local customs and following safety guidelines, you can have a rewarding and safe travel experience in Cabo Verde. The welcoming nature of the Cabo Verdean people and the country’s unique culture and landscapes make it a memorable destination for those willing to explore and appreciate its diversity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Cabo Verde is an enchanting journey through a tropical paradise, where you can bask in the sun on sandy shores, explore lively streets filled with music and color, and immerse yourself in the warm embrace of its culture. From the tranquil beaches to the lively festivals and the intriguing blend of African and Portuguese influences, Cabo Verde promises a unique and unforgettable travel experience. Come and discover the vibrant beauty and vibrant spirit of this island nation in the Atlantic Ocean.