The alternative Caribbean
If you're looking to relax on sandy beaches with clear blue water, holidays to Cape Verde are the choice for you. You can always island-hop once you're there, but one of the most popular destinations for a bit of sun and sand is the fishing port of Santa Maria, located in the south of the island of Sal.
This bustling area with its palm trees, cobbled streets and colourful houses is filled with cafes, restaurants and boutiques. But it's the eight kilometre stretch of fine sand, appearing to disappear off into the distance, that is the real attraction. At a fast walking pace, it takes around an hour to get from one end of the beach to the other.
Enjoy the views of this paradise island by putting your feet up on a sunlounger with a glass of rum – Aguardiente is the traditional tipple and available at most beach bars.
Sal is actually Portuguese for 'salt', as this is a former centre for salt production. If you head to Pedra Lume Salt Crater, you can lie back and experience the strange sensation of floating Dead Sea-style in the warm volcanic water. You can even indulge in a medicinal clay bath afterwards.
The Cape Verde islands offer a fantastic array of marine life. You can whale-watch between May and September, go snorkelling and diving, or experience some turtle-watching on Sal and Boa Vista. Boa Vista – meaning 'beautiful view' – has 55 kilometres of uninterrupted sandy coastline which is abundant with creatures.
The group of islands is one of the most important nesting areas in the world for big loggerhead turtles. You can take a night safari to see the turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, but try to pick a reputable conservation company to guide you so you can have the best experience possible.
If you're a nature-lover and want to see the many species inhabiting the islands all in one place, take a day trip to Santiago. It's the largest of the Cape Verde islands, and also boasts green, or verde, valleys, unusual given its proximity to the Sahara desert.
Culture and food
Old Colonial buildings on the islands serve as a stark reminder of their slave-trade past. In Sal Rei, the capital of Boa Vista, there are colonial buildings as well as an impressive church. However, elegant Mindelo Port in Sao Vicente is considered the cultural capital of all the islands.
There's a rich and varied culture to explore across the islands. This includes Cape Verdean food, influenced by Creole, African and Portuguese flavours. Fresh locally caught fish is incorporated into much of the food, and you can even watch the fishermen sell their day's catch on the piers.
Cachupa rica is a slow-cooked stew with marinated tuna, beans, mashed corn and vegetables, or you could keep it simple with octopus, or sea-urchin linguini. Much of the produce used – onions, tomatoes, cabbage, dried beans and kale – is grown on the islands, and a good way to immerse yourself and have fun is to visit the traditional African markets. If tasting local delicacies doesn't tickle your fancy, you'll also find other styles of food on the islands – including the universally known and loved pizza.
With its fine sandy beaches, clear blue sea, incredible wildlife, great food and bar scene, Cape Verde is the perfect place to lay your hat and – with great weather and discounts on All Inclusive Cape Verde holidays all year round – this destination offers it all.
What is the best month to go to Cape Verde?
Cape Verde has a hot, sunny climate, and is great to visit all year round. The best climate is in late autumn or early winter, where you'll enjoy cloudless skies and temperatures in the high 20s. A light, refreshing breeze means you'll never get too hot. November and December are the best months for sunbathing, hiking in the mountains and exploring the local towns.
Cape Verde's rainy season is between July and October, although the wettest month of September only sees six days of rain. Any showers are likely to be brief and will refresh you after days that reach up to 30°C. You'll also find accommodation to be cheaper during these months, and August is the start of nesting turtle season.
Where is Cape Verde?
Cape Verde is an island country of 10 volcanic islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of mainland Senegal in West Africa. Despite their proximity to Africa, the Cape Verde islands have a distinctive culture all their own. They were discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and today you'll find influences from Portugal, Africa and Brazil in the food, architecture and even dance styles. It's easy to reach the islands by plane from the UK, and you can also hop between them on public ferries or on private boat tours.
How long does it take to fly to Cape Verde?
The time it takes to fly from the UK depends on the departure airport, and whether you fly to the island of Sal or Boa Vista. The quickest flight time between Manchester and Sal is 5 hours 10 minutes, whereas from London Gatwick to Boa Vista, the flight is 6 hours 15 minutes. Most direct flights to the Cape Verde islands take around six hours – and you can rest assured that any package holidays you book to Cape Verde come with direct flights included.
Is Cape Verde a good family holiday destination?
Family holidays to Cape Verde are highly recommended. For a start, it's a family-friendly country, and you'll find that locals will extend a warm welcome to you and your children. The kids will love the beaches as much as you do, although they might prefer making sandcastles to sunbathing. Older children will also check out the water sports on offer, such as kitesurfing and windsurfing, while the whole family will enjoy excursions to forts, mountains and beached shipwrecks. There are plenty of All Inclusive hotels on Cape Verde, offering family-friendly activities and a stress-free break. For example, the Sol Dunas Resort on Sal offers a luxury spa and four bars for adults, and a kids' club and splash park for children.
Which is the biggest Cape Verde Island?
The largest island in Cape Verde is Santiago, which is 1,000 sq km. It's home to the capital city, Praia. More than half of all Cabo Verdeans live on this island, which is also the centre for inter-island transportation. The second-largest Cape Verde island is Santo Antao, with a population of around 50,000. It's renowned for its agriculture and its towering mountain ranges, which are the top tourist destination on the island. Boa Vista is the least densely populated of the islands, and prized for its golden-sand beaches and tourist amenities. Meanwhile, chilled-out Sal is one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, and is a great all-rounder, with beautiful beaches, high-octane water sports and a botanical garden.