Santa Luzia, Cape Verde

The island of Santa Luzia is a paradise for travelers who want to get off the beaten track and experience total privacy. As home to some of Africa’s rarest and most diverse forms of wildlife, it is a perfect venture for hikers, bird-watchers and explorers. At just 35 square kilometers, Santa Luzia is the smallest of Cape Verde’s 10 islands. It was completely uninhabited until the 17th century, when it was used for raising livestock. A small community of farmers lived there during the 1960s, but by the 1990s the island was once again completely deserted. Today, Santa Luzia is a well-kept secret. The only way to reach it is to charter a fishing boat from Calhau, on the east coast of São Vincente. The journey takes two hours.

Whilst part of its charm, the island’s rugged landscape and dry, rocky terrain are largely responsible for humanity’s failure to conquer it. It is also protected by its status as a nature reserve, which was granted to enable the study of the processes which naturally occur on a volcanic island. A meteorology station was recently built on the island to monitor its climatic conditions.

Santa Luzia’s sandy white beaches, vibrant green plants and jagged rock formations evoke images of Robinson Crusoe. The highest point is Monte Grande, at 395 meters. An astonishing array of birds and reptiles survive amidst the arid conditions, including one lizard which is unique to the island. Its azure waters are home to a large and colorful collection of aquatic wildlife.

Like other islands in the Barlavento archipelago, Santa Luzia is blessed with year-round temperatures in the high twenties and virtually no rain for most of the year. There is a rainy season, which generally begins in mid-August and continues until late October. However, weeks can go by during this period without a drop of water falling from the sky. For those visiting in the winter, it may be advisable to bring a sweater. However, temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees. This is partly because a northeast wind carries the heat of the Sahara and the Monsoons to the island between December and April.

Finally, visitors should bear in mind that no provisions are available on the island, which is located between São Nicolau and São Vicente. It is therefore essential that tourists ensure that they have everything they need before embarking on a trip to Cape Verde’s desert island.


Map of Cape Verde Islands

Cape Verde is a island nation consisting of 10 islands situated just 354 miles off of the West coast of Africa. Colonized  by Portugal in the 15th century, Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal on July 5th 1975. Today the island nation of Cape Verde is home to over 500,000 full time residents.

The Island group is divided into 2 main groups of Islands, the Barlavento Islands making up the northern portion of the island nation and the Sotavento Islands making up the southern portion of the Cape Verde archipelago.

Brava Fogo Santiago Maio Boa Vista Sao Nicolau Sal Sao Vicente Santo Antao Santa Luiza

Barlavento Islands

Santo Antão

São Vicente

Santa Luiza

São Nicolau


Boa Vista

Sotavento Islands






Brava, Cape Verde

The green, abundant island of Brava is situated in the Cape Verde archipelago off of the West African coast. Because of its balmy climate, Brava is lushly populated with bright, fragrant flowers such as hibiscus and jasmine, lending it the atmosphere of a tropical garden. It has five major settlements, all of which are verdant valleys surrounded by tall cliffs.

Brava was discovered by the Portuguese in 1462, and Portuguese is still the most commonly spoken language on the island. Along with the surrounding Cape Verde islands, Brava is internationally recognized as an oasis of stability and democracy among the nations of Africa. The residents of this tiny retreat are warm and welcoming to tourists, and take pride in sharing the customs and attractions of their community.

Brava’s largest settlement is the town of Nova Sintra. The old colonial architecture of the many shops and churches in Nova Sintra make it a charming place to stroll around for a day, and the town itself is surrounded by beautiful hiking paths leading to panoramic views of much of the rest of the island. Small bars and restaurants in Nova Sintra serve wonderfully fresh seafood along with local favorites such as hearty stews made with vegetables, meat and hominy.

An easily traveled road connects Nova Sintra with another major town in Brava called Faja de Agua. While most of Brava’s waters are too rough to swim in, Faja de Agua has a natural swimming pool where tourists can enjoy a cooling dip after a day of scenic hiking. There is also a touching monument to the ship Matilde, which sank in 1943 after setting sail for America.

The natives of Brava are chiefly Roman Catholic, and the summer months herald in a series of feasts and festivities commemorating different saints. The largest of these celebrations is the Feast of Saint John, which is celebrated with fireworks, food, music and a special mass given in gratitude for the island’s good fortune.

Brava has been almost untouched by the stress and the whirlwind attitude that accompany modern urban life. Natives on this island enjoy life at a relaxed pace, and never take for granted the beauty and abundance that surround them. The serene atmosphere along with the fresh sea air and spectacular island vistas make Brava a wonderful place to spend a vacation.


Fogo, Cape Verde

Fogo is the Portuguese word for ‘fire.’ However, geographically speaking, Fogo is one of the Sotovento islands of Cape Verde. It is surely the most well-known and prominent of the group, rising to about 10,000 ft above sea level at its famous peak, Pico do Fogo. The island itself is located between the other islands of Cape Verde, Santiago and Brava. The entire island is an active volcano. The latest eruption was in 1995. The largest feature of the islands is a 9 kilometer wide caldera, which is a large, cauldron-like volcanic feature which forms after volcanic activity comes to pass and the land collapses within itself, thus forming a basin. A large peak rises through the center of a breach in the eastern rim of the caldera. The central cone of the volcano, however, is what forms the highest point of the island. A small village sits in the center of the caldera. It is a dangerous place to live, and the residents are oftentimes evacuated every time there is any level of eruption from the volcano. The lands of Fogo are generally quite fertile, perhaps due in part to the volcanic soil that surrounds the island, sometimes said to be the most fertile in the world in certain cases.

Fogo was originally discovered by the famous Genovese Captain Antonio Noli in the year 1460. Many other Cape Verde islands were also discovered during this year, as well. It was first titled Sao Fillipe, which means Saint Phillip in the Portuguese language. In 1500 Portuguese settlers began to work the land. Slavery was also brought to the islands. Emigration to North American began in 1850. In 1910 a civil revolution drew the aristocracy and rich landowners back to Fogo. There is a small museum on the island that explores and discusses more of the history in greater detail.

The entire economy of the island is based off of fishing and agriculture, as they have a climate that is more suitable for bearing produce than some of their neighboring islands that have desert-like terrain. They mainly produce coffee and wine, the grapes and coffee beans are grown in the fertile volcanic soil – some even in the craters. Sao Fillipe is a great place to visit because it holds many cobblestone streets, city squares, colorful buildings and live music. Also, hiking up the volcano has occupied many adventure-seeking tourists’ time.


Santiago, Cape Verde

Santiago is the most famous, most populated and largest of the Cape Verde Islands. It’s the home to the nation’s agricultural center and serves to house more than half of the country’s population. It has a surface area of 991 kilometers, easily beating out the other islands for the title of the biggest. Also, they house the nation’s capitol, Praia. Unlike its sister islands, Santiago is not primarily of a volcanic origin. This brings an entirely different climate and geography to the area in comparison to the rest of Cape Verde. There is a wet, tropical climate on one half of the island and a decidedly drier one on the other half. The capitol city, Praia, is the largest city on the island and all of Cape Verde.

Antonio da Noli discovered Santiago in 1460. He proceeded to build a garrison in Cidade Velha, which was originally titled, ‘Ribiera Grande.’ The introduction and subsequent booming success of the transcontinental slave trade made Santiago an extremely wealthy city and the wealthiest within the Portuguese realm. However, regardless of the wealth and success of the island, Portugal proved unable to protect her colonies. The English, French, Dutch and Spanish took over the slave trade and the island was eventually raided by pirates. Because of the attack from swashbucklers, the capitol was then moved to Praia, from Cidada Velha. Because of the disadvantages the Santiago population had to endure under the Portuguese government, they later supported the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. Since 1975, the population has doubled. Their economy is supported mainly tourism, fishing and agriculture, from which they produce bananas, sugar cane, coffee, mangos and more.

The best place to visit in Santiago is Praia, the capitol city. This town is built into the beautiful cliffs that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. There are colorful fruit, vegetable and fish markets to explore, and plenty of scenic places to view the ocean. The center of downtown is a bustling hubbub of people, brimming with excitement. You will hear locals playing their radios, transmitting everything from rock ‘n’ roll to White Christmas. Prainha is the location of two of the island’s luxury hotels in the diplomatic quarter. They are peaceful and quiet, and slightly out of the way so you will not be disturbed. There is plenty of Latino culture in Santiago. There are also some historical buildings left.


Maio, Cape Verde

Maio is the easternmost of the Sotavento islands of Cape Verde. It is east of the island Santiago, which is one of Cape Verde’s larger land masses, and south of the lovely Boa Vista. The island itself is quite small, covering only 260 kilometers of surface space. The tallest point on the island is a small mountain range known as Monte Penoso. It peaks at about 436 kilometers. One of the most interesting features, geographically, is the plain of salt that it holds in the far north of the island. The northernmost point is a place called Ponte Cais. There are several bays and one major town, next to which the main airport of the island is situated.

Maio was settled during the period of European Exploration and discovery. Although Spanish, Dutch, French and English explorers vied for the right to have colonies on the Cape Verde Islands, it was ultimately Portugal who won that right. Therefore Maio has been primarily Portuguese to this day. Alcatraz, Barrerio, Calheta, Joao, Lagoa, Monte Branco, Morro, Santo Antonio, Morrinho, Porto Cais and other settlements are among the many that were established here and are still inhabited by the locals of the island. It was named after its first initial sighting on May 1st, 1460, the same year in which many other Cape Verde islands were discovered. The economy of Maio prospered for a short time through salt collection, grazing and agriculture. Unfortunately, none of these industries now prove profitable.

Much like its sister islands of Boa Vista and Sal, Maio is surrounded by blue waters on every side and boasts white, sandy beaches on all sides of its land area, as well. There are also lovely, natural salt ponds in the south of the island. It is yet a lesser-known tourist destination, which keeps the area quite clean and experience more authentic. It is still quite wild, in both natural and cultural terms. However, if the hustle and bustle of the busy tourist cities of other islands like Santiago or the beach resort of Santa Maria bother you, then Maio is perfect for you. It is quiet and tranquil, the perfect spot for sunbathing or engaging in lots of water sports. There are several rustic seafood restaurants where you can sit and listen to live music. The music is always live in Maio. You may also enjoy chatting with the friendly locals.


Boa Vista, Cape Verde

Boa Vista is the Portuguese word for ‘good view.’ The island of Boa Vista certainly provides everyone with that. It is the easternmost island of Cape Verde. These series of islands sits off the coast of Africa, boasting bright blue Atlantic waters and everything from volcanic formations to white sandy beaches. It is the third largest island of Cape Verde, with an area of 620 kilometers. It is also 455 kilometers off the coast of Africa. Although it is a tropical island that echoes its sisters in dry climates and subtropical temperatures, it is largely flat. The highest point on the island is the Monte Estancia, which peaks at 387 meters. There are several small cities in which a great part of the population is located.

Boa Vista was discovered during the period of exploration, which saw the Dutch, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese vying for control of as many colonies as possible. The Portuguese settled Boa Vista, however, and established many small colonies. Baforeria, Cabeco dos Tarrafes, Curral Velho, Estancio de Baixo, Fundo das Figuerias, Norte, Rabil, Gata and Sel Rei are just a few of the settlements that were established in Boa Vista. Today the settlements are still inhabited and most of the population is rural. The economy of the island was originally built on agriculture, but the discovery of salt mines eventually took the focus from farming and moved it onto mining. Today its main industries are date farming and tourism continues to grow as a large supporter of their economy, as well.

The beaches of Boa Vista are, indeed, a “good view.” They stretch for an incredible 55 kilometers. It is also situated closest of Cape Verde’s islands to the African mainland and has a large abundance of marine life along the coast. The nightlife in the area is generally quite tranquil. There are, however, some bars and restaurants in the area. Boa Vista is also unique when compared to the other islands of Cape Verde. It is almost completely covered in sand. Many buildings have been swallowed up by the sand, both housing and factories alike. The beaches also provide some of the most famous loggerhead nests in the world, which means that turtles make their nests here and the young turtles hatch before making their journey to the sea. There are also plenty of water sporting activities to enjoy, from boating to sunbathing.


São Nicolau, Cape Verde

São Nicolau is one of the Barlavento islands of the nation of Cape Verde, right off the coast of Africa. It has a population of about 12,000 people, with a surface area of about 388 kilometers. A large part of the population is quite rural. Unlike many small islands in the Atlantic, however, São Nicolau is not volcanic in origin. It is mostly mountainous, but is subject to enduring many long and dry droughts. The economy is mainly supported by agriculture, so these droughts have a tendency to hurt the local community. The eastern half of the island is covered by a large peninsula, although the rest of the island is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. The highest point of the region is their famous Monte Gordo. There are other mountains, as well, but they do not reach the high of Monte Gordo.

São Nicolau was first inhabited during the 16th century, a period distinguished by its periods of exploration from English, French, Spanish and the Portuguese. It is primarily famous for its beautiful mountains and its only major city, Ribeira Brava, which is the seat of the Cape Verde diocese. The other town that it houses is the fishing port of Tarrafal. During the 1940s the island was struck with a terrible famine which drove the inhabitants to temporarily immigrate to other islands. The municipality of the island used to include the parishes of Sao Joao Baptista and Santo Andre. Today it administers one parish only. The island holds a few colleges, schools and local community assets, such as coffee shops and clothing stores.

São Nicolau is generally an extremely quiet and tranquil island, since the tourism industry has not yet taken off. The island has stunning mountain ranges all along its face, and the most stunning can be found in the archipelago. Ribeira Brava, the capitol of the island, is a beautiful little city that sits in the green slopes of the mountainsides. The natural beauty, coupled with the colonial housing and lovely, lush gardens within the city limits all combine to make a very enjoyable setting.

Because of the mountains and their subsequent trails, it makes São Nicolau a perfect place for horseback riding and hiking. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views during the entire experience. The island is also home to the famed fairytale dragon tree, which attracts birdwatchers from all around the world.


Sal, Cape Verde

Sal is Portuguese for ‘Salt.” It is also the name, however, of one of the islands of Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa and nestled in the midst of the blue Atlantic Ocean. It is part of a northern group of islands that is known as Barlavento. The island is basically controlled by a single municipal division, the Sal Municipality. It also houses the main airport of Cape Verde, the Amilcar Cabral International Airport. The island is decidedly small, only 30 kilometers long and 12 kilometers wide. It is one of the eastern three sandy islands of the archipelago. Sal is mostly flat and boasts beautiful white sandy beaches. The highest point on the island is at Monte Grande, at about 406 meters. The climate of Sal is extremely dependable. They have sunshine for about 350 days out of the 365 day year. Clouds do drift over the island, but they rarely bring rain. The rainy season, no matter how small it is, stretches from August to October.

In 1460, like its sister island Santiago, Sal was discovered. It was named Llana until salt deposits were found at what is now called Pedre de Luma. Geologically speaking, Sal is the oldest islands of all that belong to Cape Verde, springing into formation long ago from the rising an undersea volcano. Most of the economy was supported by the salt mining that went on at Pedre de Luma, but that trade eventually shifted to fishing, and today 50% of the economy depends on the tourism market to support it. Most of the tourism is attracted to the beach resort of Santa Maria.

The island of Sal is primarily a beach resort. The island itself is long and flat, comprise mostly of white sand overlooking a beautiful turquoise sea. North of the main city, Santa Maria, you will find a salt lake that lies inside of an extinct volcanic crater. The entire area is a haven for natural wonders like colorful tropical fish, turtles and dolphins. Live music is also a huge part of Sal’s culture. In Santa Maria you will find that live music is played almost every singe night down by the beach. The beaches at Santa Maria are also a prime spot for water sport enthusiasts. Deep-sea fishing and simply relaxing on the beach are also popular activities. There are also several festivals that take place on Sal.


São Vicente, Cape Verde

São Vicente is one of the Barlavento Islands of Cape Verde off the coast of Africa. They sit as a series in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are primarily volcanic, formed by volcanoes and thus much of their landscaping is volcanic in nature, boasting volcanic plains and formations from eruptions of the past. All of the islands, São Vicente included, share a subtropical climate that ranges from dry to jungle-like depending on the area of the island. The island of São Vicente is roughly shaped like a long rectangle, about ten miles long. It is, therefore, a fairly small island. Even though the island is volcanic, it is relatively flat. There has taken place a great amount of erosion, but there are still some very interesting natural craters to observe on the island’s face.

The history of the island is short but simple. It was discovered in 1462 on Saint Vincent’s Day, hence the name. Because the island was very dry, it was used only as a cattle pasture by neighboring islanders. Also, its lack of resources rendered it virtually unsettled and uninhabited until the 19th century, when a coal deposit was established for ships on their way through the Atlantic Ocean. It was then that the population grew. To this day, however, their resources are slim and they base most of their economy on both commerce and services.

The cultural mix of São Vicente’s locals and the British who have settled there since the successful coal depository of the 19th century, it is nearly the Atlantic version of a Creole city, where the cultures mix and create something entirely new. Mindelo is a beautiful seaside town, filled with both rustic, comfortable bars and great shops for the eager tourist to slake their need for buying souvenirs about the island. For staying at a great beachside hotel, the Froya Banca is perfect. The airport is surrounded by a gorgeous, flat region. Laginha is a beautiful white beach to explore and Baia das Gatas sits in a bay about an hour from lovely Mindelo, boasting a unique shallow paddling lagoon no more than 1 meter deep. It hosts a festival of tropical music from all over the world during August, but year round features an array of Portuguese-style restaurants. Monte Verde is the highest point – and the only high point – on the island, providing a stunning contrast and view.