An Insider’s Guide to the best things to do in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde incl. hotels, restaurants, and tours
São Vicente is much more than Mindelo! Although 93 % of the island’s population lives in its capital, São Vicente has a lot to offer to its visitors.
And if you need to disconnect from the city’s tumult and its almost infinite leisure options, an excursion to the countryside of São Vicente is exactly what you need!
This guide will share with you the best things to do in Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde. After living on the island for about 2 months, I can’t wait to share my tips with you.
In order to make the most of your time, check the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book filled with local, hidden gems.
Useful Travel Information for Sao Vicente
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⚘ Don’t leave without a travel guide. Be prepared and get the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book
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✎ Never leave without a travel insurance. I get mine at HeyMondo.com. It is easy to set up, reliable and cheap.
✎ Skip the line at airport and get a Cape Verde visa in advance with iVisa.com.
Best Hotels in Sao Vicente – Where to stay in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
1. Sundays in Calhau
Where to Stay: Hotel Residencial GOA
2. Hiking to Monte Verde
It’s by far the best hiking trail of São Vicente! Monte Verde (Green Mountain) is the island’s highest mountain and lives up to its name! It’s one of the few places of São Vicente covered with lush green vegetation. You get there by aluguer (collective taxi) from Praca d’Estrela, Mindelo.
The driver will drop you off on the road to Salamansa/Bahía das Gatas. Monte Verde is towering just in front of you. A paved road will take you up to its peak covered by antennas and parabolas. It’s an easy hike and it will take you about 2 hours to get there.
From the top, you’ll have a great panorama view on São Vicente, Santo Antão, and Santa Luzia, and on very clear days, you can even see São Nicolau! For me, there’s no better way to disconnect from Mindelo‘s tumult!
For those who still want to hike around, I can recommend Monte Cara (Face Hill). It got its name due to its lines resembling apparently the profile of George Washington.
3. Swimming and Dancing in Bahia das Gatas
Where to Stay: Hotel Residencial GOA
Baía das Gatas is known all over the Cape Verdean archipelago for its music festival. The most important names of the national music scene give concerts on a big stage next to the beach.
The big event takes place in August and is transmitted directly on national TV. Nowadays, it’s one of the most important events of the Cape Verdean music business and a coveted platform for newcomers.
Throughout the rest of the year, Baía das Gatas is partly deserted. The place is packed with holiday homes which are only inhabited during the weekends.
However, Baía das Gatas holds a hidden gem: a green lagoon. It’s very likely that you’ll be all alone to enjoy the beauty of this place!
4. Watersports in Sao Pedro
Where to Stay: Flag Hotel Foya Branca ****
Sao Pedro is a great getaway from Mindelo (15 min by aluguer, 1 €). Its beach is simply enormous and almost empty! Sao Pedro preserved its fishing atmosphere, despite being literally at a stone’s throw from the airport.
In the village’s center, you’ll see how the colorful boats are being repaired.
On the beach, fishermen help each other to bring their boats to the shore. They’re often full of the freshest fish: buzio, garoupa (groupers), esmedregal cobia), and sometimes even tuna fish!
Sao Pedro is famous for its perfect conditions for windsurfing. Boards can be rented at the station, but you better have some experience since the tides are very strong! I preferred to enjoy the peace and the views of the Flag Hotel Foya Branca ****.
For hikers, I recommend to trek to the lighthouse of Sao Pedro. The views are just breathtaking!
5. Cinema and Caipirinhas
Mindelo has almost an infinite number of leisure options! Each night, you can assist at concerts in its numerous bars. My favorite is Livraria Nho Djunga where one of Cesaria Evora‘s guitarists gives frequent concerts.
Thursdays in Mindelo are my favorite ones! Each Thursday night, the Centro Cultural do Mindelo has its cinema night. The entrance is free and the movie is announced a few days in advance. All of them are in OV with Portuguese subtitles. A great way to improve your Portuguese!
After the movie, you should go over to Elvis – Restobar. His kiwi and maracujá caipirinhas are famous all over town!
6. Shopping in Mindelo
Where to Stay: Simabo’s Backpackers’ Hostel
The capital of Sao Vicente holds a few hidden spots to make great qualitative souvenir shopping. One of them is definitely CapVertDesign + Artesanato. The shop is worth a visit, even if you’re not looking for gifts. It gives a fantastic overview of traditional Cape Verdean crafts. Many young design talents use this shop as a platform to reach a foreign public. If you’re looking for CDs of Cape Verde’s most important stars, you’re in the right place!
Just in front of the fish market (please do visit, even if the smell might hold you back for 1 sec.!), a local jewelry designer sells beautiful individual pieces made out of natural material like banana leaves, mussels, or pea-pods.
I also love to visit the fruit and vegetable market on Praca d’Estrela. On the end of the square, inside the tiny concrete barracks, you can order tailor-made clothes at the African seamstresses. I couldn’t resist and got myself a tailor-made dress and a lovely skirt. All at unbeatable prices!
7. Enjoy Cape Verdean Food
Of course, there are plenty of international options such as pizza, ice-cream, and burgers. However, I recommend making the most of your stay and explore the beautiful Cape Verdean hospitality and tasty gastronomy.
The most famous dish is without any doubt cachupa (a stew of hominy and beans with fish or meat). Sometimes, they even add a fried egg or a linguiça (local sausage) on top. Every home and every restaurant has its own recipe.
Some of the best restaurants in Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde are:
- Elvis Restobar (Mindelo)
- Chave d’Ouro (Mindelo)
- Casa Café Mindelo (Mindelo)
- Restaurante Hamburg (Calhau)
- Chez Loutcha (Mindelo and Calhau)
- Dokas (Mindelo)
- Onda Morna Restaurante (Mindelo)
8. Enjoy the Beaches of Sao Vicente
Sao Vicente is home to marvelous beaches. There seems to be a beach for any type of traveler. Whether you prefer to chill out at a cocktail bar or get active with watersports, there is a beach on Sao Vicente for your needs!
The most popular beach in Sao Vicente is without any doubt Laginha Beach. Located behind the harbor, it is famous for its relaxed vibe, cocktail bars, and amazing, turquoise-colored waters. In the early morning, people love to come here to walk or just stand in the water and talk to each other about the latest gossip.
Other beaches that you can not miss in Sao Vicente are:
- Sao Pedro Beach (for watersport lovers)
- Salamansa Bay (for lonely walks)
- Praia Grande (for scenic walks. Dangerous to swim though! Great to be combined with a lunch in Calhau.)
9. Do a Day trip to Santo Antao
In my humble opinion, a day trip from Sao Vicente to Santo Antao is an absolute must! Even if you make it just one day, you should definitely visit the most impressive Cape Verdean island! For me, Santo Antao is the best island in Cape Verde for hiking holidays! That being said, I recommend spending at least two days in Santo Antao.
Nowadays, there are three ferries per day connecting Sao Vicente to Santo Antao. Once you arrive in Porto Novo (the harbor of Santo Antao), you can start your island tour to the best places in Santo Antao.
If you have some time left, make sure to do at least one of the best hikes in Santo Antao!
As one day in Santo Antao may be extremely short, I recommend booking a guided day trip from Sao Vicente to Santo Antao.
10. Visit Torre de Belem
Did you know that Mindelo boasts a mini-replica of the Torre de Belem in Lisboa?! I found this to be one of the most curious attractions in Mindelo!
The main difference between the Torre de Belem in Mindelo and the one in Lisbon is that first, the entrance is free. Second, the building hosts a very interesting exhibition about whaling in Cape Verde. I absolutely loved learning more about this tradition as it had a massive impact on Cape Verde’s society, emigration, and culture.
Considered one of the best things to do in Sao Vicente, the Torre de Belem offers lovely views over the harbor of Mindelo and the colorful fishing boats in the bay. Visit more hidden gems in Mindelo with this tour guided by a local.
11. Visit the Local Markets
Visiting local markets is one of my favorite things to do in Cape Verde! No matter on which island I am, I always watch out for the market as it is the best place to mingle and soak up the local vibe.
There are several markets in Sao Vicente and more specifically in Mindelo. That means that you’ll have plenty of things to visit and to photograph. In case you want to buy stuff on the local markets, you always can (and even should!) negotiate the price if it seems too high for you! If not, let it be and be happy to support the local economy.
I tended to go always to the same places, as people started knowing me then and gave me immediately the correct price. But, when you are a newbie in town, make sure that you don’t pay double the price!
Some of the best markets in Sao Vicente are:
- Fish Market (Mindelo)
- Old Market (Avenida, Mindelo)
- Praça Estrela (Mindelo)
12. Do an Island Tour
Sometimes, it may happen that you are short on time. For example, if you visit Sao Vicente from Sal or Boa Vista, I strongly recommend booking a guided island tour, in order to make the most of your time.
The good thing about guided island tours is that you’ll travel with a guide that can share some great insights into the local culture. On top, you won’t have to worry about where to eat or how to find a taxi.
This tour takes you to the best photography spots in Sao Vicente and to Baia das Gatas, Calhau, and Salamansa which are all fisherman villages in the north of the island. Check here the rates for an island tour
13. Go Diving and Snorkeling
The seas surrounding Sao Vicente boast a gorgeous underwater world.
If you are looking to get active and for unique things to do in Sao Vicente, I absolutely recommend booking a snorkeling or diving tour.
Plenty of diving clubs have opened their doors in the last years and you can find their offices in Sao Pedro and in Mindelo.
14. Take a Surf Lesson
Where are the active travelers here?
One thing that I particularly like about Sao Vicente is that it holds so many offers for any type of traveler. Whether you are interested in culture, hiking, or just chilling on the beach, you can do it in Sao Vicente.
For those who love being in the water and being active, I recommend taking a surf lesson in Sao Vicente. Not only is it great fun, but on top, it is a fabulous way to meet new people.
In most cases, the instructors are locals. Thus, you can also get some insights into the local culture. The main hub for surfing in Sao Vicente is Sao Pedro bay.
15. Visit Small, Independent Shops and Bars in Mindelo
Do you want to see the fewer know parts of Mindelo, but you find it hard to find small, independent shops?
I had the same issue when I was in Mindelo. The non-international shops seemed really hidden and secluded. It took me more than one month to get familiar with them and find the best small shops in Sao Vicente!
Visiting small shops is a great way of supporting the local community! That’s why I strongly recommend spending some of your money here. On top, you’ll get a unique souvenir from Cape Verde as they boast a large offer of goods!
If you want to explore the authentic side of Mindelo, Sao Vicente, I recommend going on a hidden hotspot tour in Mindelo.
16. Swim with Turtles in Sao Pedro, Sao Vicente
Did you always dream to swim with turtles? Your dream can come true in Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde!
Indeed Diddy offers turtle watching and turtle swimming tours in Sao Pedro. Located at 10 minutes car drive or by colectivo from Praça d’Estrela, Sao Pedro is a small village that has preserved its original fishermen spirit.
It’s one of my favorite places in Sao Vicente since I really enjoy the vast beach here and the calm setting.
Swimming with turtles is definitely a unique thing to do in Sao Vicente and I haven’t seen it on any other island so far.
In order to arrange your tour, you can drive to Sao Pedro and ask for Diddy, the Tartaruga/turtle guy. Prices start at 20€ per person. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sao Vicente Map With All Locations
Do you think that my list isn’t complete? Of course not! Sao Vicente offers so many things to do and I haven’t seen them all for sure! If you know about any other “must-do” on the island, please let me know in the comment form.
If you are looking for a place to stay on Sao Vicente, I recommend the Simabo’s Backpackers’ Hostel, run by the Association for Animal Protection in Mindelo.
For more information about tourism on Sao Vicente, Cape Verde I recommend the following webpage: Tourism of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde.