Your guide to the best beaches in the Cape Verde islands

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The exotic archipelago of Cape Verde, which lies off the west coast of Africa, has some of the most beautiful beaches for those after sun, sea and sand. However, while there are nine inhabited islands, not all are easy to get to for visitors or, indeed, where you'll find the finest stretches of sand.

Cape Verde's best beaches, island by island guide © Cabo Verde Tourism
Cape Verde's best beaches, island by island guide © Cabo Verde Tourism

Here we take a peek at the most accessible and effort-worthy islands to help you plan your beach-hopping break to Cape Verde.

Getting to Cape Verde: check out the latest deals from TUI*, which offers holidays to two islands, Sal* and Boa Vista*, from numerous airports.

Sal

Sal* is the undisputed main island when it comes to Cape Verde's visitor-friendly beaches. Sal means the town of Santa Maria, the booming resort that's nearly dropping off the island's southern tip and is rimmed with gorgeous white sands.

The main beach of Santa Maria runs for 3km from east to west, with the town itself plonked in the middle. This has something for everyone, so it's the archipelago's busiest and yet, it is never packed, even in the high season of November to April.

Swim in sparklingly clear waters, use the gentle conditions to learn to wind or kitesurf or take to the sea on a yacht, jet-ski, glass-bottomed boat or paddleboard.

The massive beach at Santa Maria on Sal Island, Cape Verde © Samuel Borges - Fotolia.com
The massive beach at Santa Maria on Sal Island, Cape Verde © Samuel Borges - Fotolia.com

For sunbathers, the beach is deep as well as long, so you'll never feel hemmed in by other holidaymakers. A full range of beach bars stretches along the promenade: choose between basic kiosks, popular with adrenaline-pumped water-sport fiends, and posh restaurants with fresh fish grilling on the BBQ.

Santa Maria's pier is another attraction, drawing crowds of onlookers as young locals land and gut fish before the womenfolk carry them to market on their heads. No hands, perfect balance, pure Africa!

Just up Sal's west coast is Ponta Preta, firmly established on the international wave-jumping circuit and strictly for the experienced surfer. If you're not quite at that level yet, a solitary wooden beach bar gives you the chance to kick back and watch the experts. More beautiful sands and a giant dune provide the backdrop.

Kite Beach, Sal Island, Cape Verde © Anne-Marie Palmer - Alamy Stock Photo
Kite Beach, Sal Island, Cape Verde © Anne-Marie Palmer - Alamy Stock Photo

On the east coast, a bumpy taxi ride across the sands from Santa Maria is Kite Beach, a 2km long nature reserve. The clue is in the name, though it was once known as Shark Bay until the marketing gurus wisely rebranded it (there are no dangerous sharks here, by the way!).

The wind is constant, dividing into sections for beginners and intermediate kitesurfers, as well as a part popular with experts. This is also a turtle nesting beach and between August and December you can join the NGOs and volunteers who are busy at night warding off predators and relocating eggs to a safe hatchery. A worthy alternative to another all-night party in Santa Maria's nightspots!

Where to stay on Sal: check out Sol Dunas Resort* and Melia Dunas Resort*.

Boa Vista

Boa Vista* is the other island which lures beach-loving visitors from afar. Mile after mile of white sands, the island is like a part of the Sahara Desert, stranded in mid-ocean.

Cabral Beach is the place for surfers, while novice wind or kitesurfers should stick to the calm of the bay in Sal Rei, the principal town of the island.

Here you'll find Estoril Beach, just a stroll from the town centre and backed by a string of laid-back beach bars and restaurants equipped with sunbeds and parasols for that pre or post-meal laze-about. Occasionally, in high season, there will be a theme night at one of these: reggae night, lobster dinner or something else.

If your swimming is strong, you can splash out for the island a kilometre offshore, knowing that the water is never much more than two metres deep.

Pool beside the ocean at ClubHotel Riu Karamboa, Cape Verde - photo courtesy of ClubHotel Riu Karamboa
Pool beside the ocean at ClubHotel Riu Karamboa, Cape Verde - photo courtesy of ClubHotel Riu Karamboa

If you've chosen to stay in one of Boa Vista's all-inclusive hotels, then you're likely to stay near Chaves Beach, a healthy half-hour walk from Sal Rei town, by the white sands of Praia de Salines or in Lacação, which is a beautiful but isolated spot on the distant south coast.

These huge expanses of perfect white sand are excellent for sunbathing but be aware, the red warning flag sees a lot of action, meaning that you might find you do most of your swimming in your hotel pool.

Where to stay on Boa Vista: check out ClubHotel Riu Karamboa* and Riu Touareg*.

Maio

Maio may be Cape Verde's third island blessed with a few white-sand beaches but it's rarely visited. Why? Unlike Sal and Boa Vista, it has no direct international flights, so logistics keep visitors away.

It's capital town can boast the delightfully named Bitcharotcha Beach, where swimming can be enjoyed with caution; take local advice. A short taxi ride up the coast, Bashona Beach is maybe the island's calmest and also host to a rare, sail-driven fishing fleet.

Maio has little in the way of visitor facilities and makes for a peaceful day trip from the country's capital of Praia on the island of Santiago.

Santo Antão & Santiago

If black is your favoured colour of sand, Cape Verde can certainly oblige. On Santo Antão island, the beach at Porto Novo is put to good use during festivals for... horse-racing. There are no watersports here and swimming needs caution.

In the west of the island, a bumpy two-hour ride will land you in Tarrafal, a beautiful stretch of black sand which offers swimming most of the time. You might have to share the sands with salted fish, drying out before being transported. You can snorkel or dive, take a fishing trip or watch the fish eagles swoop for their lunch; a magical experience.

Tarrafal Beach, Santiago Island, Cape Verde © Caroline Granycome - Flickr Creative Commons
Tarrafal Beach, Santiago Island, Cape Verde © Caroline Granycome - Flickr Creative Commons

Another island, another Tarrafal. This time it's on Santiago, the most populous of the islands. Beach lovers can join the locals on the capital Praia's modest beaches but it's best to head north to Tarrafal where fishermen and sunbathers share a golden arc of white sand. You can snorkel, dive, swim, fish and surf in this northern part of Santiago.

And the other four islands? Not really for beach-lovers, though you might enjoy the city beach at Mindelo on São Vicente island, which sports 'new' white sand (imported from Sal).

Meanwhile, Brava, São Nicolau, and Fogo islands are better suited to hikers.

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Fancy beach hopping in Cape Verde? Don't miss the latest offers on holidays to Sal or Boa Vista with TUI.

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Murray Stewart

Murray Stewart
Article updated on Monday 8th November 2021 in: Africa Beach TUI Winter sun

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