Our trip to Cape Verde was a year ago now so I thought it was about time I finally wrote about it seeing as it’s one of the places I get asked about most often. A lot of people have either never heard of this small collection of islands dotted just off the coast of West Africa or they don’t know much about the destination. In all honesty I didn’t know much about the islands either and was under the impression that it was just a relaxing holiday destination with large all inclusive resort hotels and not much else to do.
Me being me, I obviously looked into what there is to do on the island because there’s only so long I can sit on the beach or around the pool before getting bored and I always like to get out and explore somewhere new. Boa Vista literally translates as “good view” in Portuguese so it only seemed fitting that we venture outside the resort in search of these good views.
With a bit of research I came across Giggling Gecko Adventures, a local tour company run by a Scottish couple who moved to the island of Boa Vista several years ago and started the company both to show visitors a different side to the island as well as providing job opportunities for the locals. Yes, you can do tours with TUI or whoever your package holiday is booked with, but I always prefer to do a more local tour. Not only are they cheaper but you get much greater in depth knowledge with a local guide and a more personal service tailored to your interests. This was definitely the case with Giggling Geckos. We were able to do a private tour with our own car, driver and guide. No big coach full of other tourists; no being chaperoned from place to place or only having a certain amount of time at each stop. We could take our time, go wherever we wanted to go, I requested a couple of places that my family and I wanted to see, and we let ourselves be guided around the island to the best spots as well as some hidden gems that you would never get the chance to see on a TUI tour.
We marvelled at the island with its high sand dunes and barren volcanic red landscape. There was often no sight of another person for miles which had us feeling like we had landed on the moon! Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of a stray goat by the road in search of food or a local walking by carrying baskets of fruit on their heads, which reminded us were actually in Africa.
Our first stop was the heavenly Praia de Santa Mónica, one of the top 10 beaches in the world according to Tripadvisor, with a stretch of 18km of pure white sand. It was absolutely beautiful. The stretch of untouched sand ran along as far as the eye could see next to the sparkling turquoise ocean with not a single other person in sight.
Despite very much wishing we could stay on this idyllic beach for longer, this was not a day for relaxing, so some off the beaten track adventures followed with a bumpy but extremely fun drive over the sand dunes of Praia de Chaves.
I left Evie in the front of the 4×4 with the grandparents while I happily sat in the open topped back, the tropical sun shining down on my skin and the wind whipping my hair across my face. In that moment I felt completely free and content, reminiscing on previous adventures I’d had in Africa when I was young(er) and child free!
The bumpy ride somehow sent Evie off to sleep so a few of us we wandered down to another beach where the hidden caves of Varandinha looked out onto the sea. It was so so peaceful inside. Again, I could have stayed here all day, the only sound the waves gently lapping the shore.
We then made a stop at a small local village, one of the oldest settlements on the island, for a refreshing drink – much needed after a morning exploring under the heat of the African sunshine – and had a browse in the little trinket shops as well as the chance to try cachupa, a traditional Cape Verdean stew dish of vegetables and fish. We did a bit of bartering with the friendly smiley locals and Evie made friends with a lady dressed in her finest most colourful African attire.
Sal Rei is the pretty capital of the island where I loved wandering around, soaking up the Cape Verdean culture and the relaxed stress-free atmosphere that comes with living on an African island. Locals waved to us as we walked past, fishermen sat idly along the water, children were playing with a ball on the sand or in the main square’s little playground next to the pastel coloured church.
Walking down the cobblestone streets lined with the most colourful colonial houses reminded me of Cuba’s vibrant capital of Havana. I thrive on visiting places that have such a different culture to ours at home and I fell madly in love with the African culture when I spent four months travelling across Sub-Saharan Africa several years ago, so I got a real thrill from this place.
We ended the trip with a stop at Morabeza beach bar where we were served up the strongest most delicious pinã coladas – like seriously so strong that myself, my mum and nan were all in fits of giggles after just one cocktail and my grandad was left looking after Evie!
The waves were too rough here to go in the water as the island can be pretty windy during the winter months but we dipped our toes in, played with the bar’s beach toys in the sand and watched the wind surfers out at sea. People were sitting around the large tables chatting or chilling out in the hammocks. I, of course, spotted the beach swing in a split second so spent all my time here swinging away while sipping on my pinã colada. It was my birthday after all and I was definitely in my happy place!
After a full day of exciting explorations we headed back to our hotel, still a little tipsy from the pinã coladas! We stayed at the 5 star Riu Touareg and we loved it here. It never felt too busy or overcrowded and the colourful Cape Verdean vibe, rows of giant palm trees, luxurious pools and spas had us feeling like we were in a tropical paradise. Getting out and seeing the more real and raw side to the island though was without a doubt the highlight of my trip.
Have you ever visited Cape Verde or somewhere that surprised you in exceeding your expectations? Let me know in the comments below or at: