What to do in Cape Verde, an under-the-radar winter sun gem

White sandy beaches and beautiful clear seas await in Cape Verde

Cape Verde, situated just off the West Coast of Africa, has remained a bit of a hidden gem.

The group of ten islands were originally discovered by the Portuguese. As such it has a unique and vibrant mix of Brazilian, African and Portuguese influences in its food, music and culture.

There’s also plenty to do for every type of holiday-goer, particularly during the colder months (indeed, it’s one of our best places to visit in February). Here’s why it’s one of our top picks for a winter sun escape.

Why visit Cape Verde?

Known to the locals as Cabo Verde, the islands are still relatively unknown to the mainstream holiday market. Boasting a year-round average temperature of 26 degrees and with very rare rainfall, it’s the ideal spot for escaping a lingering winter. Plus it’s also only a six-hour flight from most major airports in the UK.

Melia Hotel Cape Verde

Long stretches of white sand and crystal-clear waters welcome sun seekers to relax into the island’s ‘no stress’ motto, while Crayola-coloured houses line the streets filled with friendly locals from all walks of life.

Of the ten islands, Sal and Boa Vista are the best bets for beach lovers, with the most to offer in terms of tourist facilities. Other off-the-beaten-track options include São Vincente and Santo Antão – a nature-lover’s paradise.

What to do in Cape Verde

Boat trips

Where to go in February - Cape Verde

Take advantage of the trade winds (which blow from November to June) and book a boat trip. You’ll see white sandy beaches, the volcanic peaks of Fogo and, if you’re lucky enough, some natural wildlife like loggerhead sea turtles. Visit in the last three months of the year and you may even get to see baby turtles hatching.

Alternatively, you can enjoy a fishing trip with one of the local experts to see what goes into catching the delicious seafood that lands on your plate in the evening.

Surfing

Sal is considered one of the world’s best surfing spots, making it a must-do when on the island. Head to Kite Beach to brush up on your skills or learn from scratch.

Water sports

Kite surfers in Cape Verde

The aforementioned trade winds mean water sports like wind- and kite-surfing are readily available. When it’s not so windy, you can also hire jet skis to scoot around at your own leisure.

Snorkelling

The crystal-clear sea makes Cape Verde an ideal snorkelling spot. There’s plenty to see, with exotic fishes and beautiful reefs. You can also take a trip to Shark Bay, where you can walk into the sea and see the fins of six-foot Lemon Sharks as they swim in the wild.

Walking tour

CAPE VERDE SAL Town of Santa Maria Sal, with colourful pink house and traditionally dressed local Santa Maria town, Sal island, Cape Verde, Africa

The locals of Cape Verde are encouraged to paint their houses in their favourite colours, making for many a vibrant walk. In Espargos, for example, locals take real pride in their murals, with poems and pretty colours decorating homes – well worth exploring with cameras at the ready.

Quad bike tour

Prefer to stay on land? Explore the sand dunes of Sal by quad bike. A four-hour tour will take you on an adventure, discovering much of the natural beauty of the island that you might not get to see by foot.

Hit the beach

Sun beds and sunshade on the beach, Santa Maria, Sal, Cabo Verde

Amazing beaches are what originally put Cape Verde on the map, and the island has a coastline dotted with Caribbean-style bays with gorgeous golden sand. Santa Maria and Ponte Preta are amongst Sal’s most beautiful.

Local nightlife

Exterior of a reggae pub and disco club in a side street in Santa Maria, Sal Salina, Cape Verde, Africa

The island comes alive after sunset, with live music at many of the vibrant nightlife spots.

Buddy Bar Club in Santa Maria has live music and an eclectic atmosphere that’ll make you want to practise your salsa moves into the early hours.

Nearby you’ll also find Bikini Beach Club that’s set 40 metres into the Atlantic Ocean, where you can wine, dine and enjoy a party every Saturday night.

Where to stay in Cape Verde

Riu Funana

Riu Funana Hotel

An excellent choice for an all-inclusive stay in Riu Funana. Set by the beachfront, you can have your toes in the sea within five minutes of leaving your room.

There’s also a lagoon pool nestled into a terrace with palms and natural leafy parasols. Here you can entertain the kids with various slides and activities or cool down at the swim-up bar.

Alternatively, if you’re in need of some pampering, head to the Renova Wellness Spa. This on-site sanctuary offers a range of beauty treatments, a sauna and a highly Instagrammable whirlpool bath.

Meliá Llana Beach Resort & Spa

For an adults-only getaway, the five-star all-inclusive Meliá Llana Beach Resort & Spa is perfect.

Although vast, its clever mix of rustic and modern decor gives it a boutique, homely feel. There’s a variety of rooms available, from junior suites to swim-up pool and garden rooms. There’s also an on-site spa offering a range of treatments to soothe sun-drenched skin and restore body and mind.

For the ultimate experience, upgrade your package to ‘The Level’. This premium service gives access to a private pool, priority reservations at the on-site bars and restaurants, and other perks such as fast-track check-in.

Restaurants in Cape Verde

The mixture of cultural influences means that there’s plenty of delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner on offer in Cape Verde. From freshly caught fish to Creole-inspired dishes that burst with flavour.

Barracuda

Try the delicious seafood on offer at the idyllic beachside location at  Barracuda. Dine al fresco on typical Spanish dishes like Paella or order the tuna carpaccio – said to be the best on the island.

Farolin

Farolin, Hotel Odjo D’agua’s fish restaurant, is another great beachside eatery. Expect pretty plates of freshly caught seafood and a romantic sunset.

Kulinarum

The latest addition to Rui Funana’s choice of restaurants offers an indulgent four-course menu. Typical options include freshly caught tuna, local seafood and tender veal.

Nami

Meliá Llana has four restaurants to choose from, most covered by the all-inclusive package. Asian-inspired bistro Nami is the exception, but is well worth a visit for its exciting menu and mouthwatering sushi. Booking is recommended.

Creperia Sol Doce

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For an indulgent breakfast by the beach, choose Creperia Sol Done. This small establishment serves up enormous homemade crepes and waffles to start your day the right way.

Chez Pastis

Sink your teeth into some of the finest Brazilian beef at Chez Pastis. Renowned for serving up hearty fare and local specialities in a vibrantly colourful setting.

Need to know

You will need a visa to visit Cape Verde, which costs €25 (approx £22). Buy it online prior to your trip to avoid long queues at the airport.

Euros are accepted across the islands but the local currency is Cape Verdean escudos so expect your change to look a little different.

Words: Sarah-Rose Harrison, Becky Joiner-O’Riordan and Felicity Barnum-Bobb

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