10 Unique Things to do in Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
A travel guide to Sao Nicolau with the best attractions in Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
Located between Santa Luzia and Sal, São Nicolau is a quaint, sophisticated place that impresses with its pristine sceneries and uncontaminated nature.
From all the islands of the archipelago, São Nicolau is perhaps your best bet if you want to avoid mass tourism and enjoy sustainable holidays in Cape Verde.
This tranquil island has somehow managed to stay off the tourist paths and is an excellent place for soaking up the sun, swimming, and snorkeling. Visiting Sao Nicolau is really one of the best things to do in Cape Verde.
Sun and sea apart, São Nicolau also offers excellent walking and horse riding opportunities, either in nature or along the streets of its beautiful cities.
If you look for a local guide, I recommend Ivanildo Fortes (+238 978 9796 or +238 950 2131), he organizes boat trips and turtle watching tours as well.
So, whether you are looking for a different destination or already booked your trip, and wonder what to do on this island, here are some of the best things to do in São Nicolau, Cape Verde. But do not forget to take Cape Verde travel insurance for your holidays!
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How to get to Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
By Boat: from Sao Vicente or Santiago with CV Interilhas. Check the ferry Sao Vicente – Sao Nicolau schedules here.
By flight: from Santiago or Sal to Sao Nicolau airport – Check here the flight rates
Wondering whether you need a visa for Cape Verde? Read the full guide here.
Where to stay in Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
Mid Range: Edificio Magico
Family-Friendly: Zena Star
Luxury: Casa Patio
Read here about the best hotels in Cape Verde
1. Hike Monte Gordo
The Parque Natural Monte Gordo, Sao Nicolau is a real treat for hiking enthusiasts! This magnificent mountain has a volcanic origin and rises to over 4,300 feet above sea level!
Not only you can enjoy spectacular views from the top, but on your way up to the summit, you’ll be able to discover a variety of endemic species of both flora and fauna.
If you are looking for more hikes, check out the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book.
How to get there: located less than 7 km west of the island’s capital, Ribeira Brava, and is easily accessible by car, foot, scooter, and bike.
2. Marvel at Carbeirinho
Have you ever wondered where the science-fiction filmmakers find those breathtaking, unearthly landscapes to film their movies? Well, Carbeirinho is one of them!
The stunning lunar scenery has been shaped by the harsh waters and winds, and what truly impresses, is the color of the rocks that makes it easy to admire the various layers of sediments.
Undeniably, if you do not see Carbeirinho during your stay, you cannot say that you have actually seen Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde!
How to get there: There is no public transport to Carbeirinho but you can easily reach this location with a taxi from Tarrafal.
3. Swim at Baixo Rocha
Tarrafal might be a small village, but it boasts an impressive number of natural wonders! Once you have visited Carbeirinho, you can continue this idyllic day swimming at Baixo Rocha.
Way off the beaten track, this remote beach can only be accessed from a dusty road or from the sea. But you will have one of the best beach experiences in Cape Verde!
It’s definitely well worth the effort of getting there! Completely free of human civilization, this small patch of bliss impresses with turquoise waters and expanses of white sand.
A true little heaven for sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelers!
How to get there: From Tarrafal, take the dusty road towards Casa Aquaria. The remote beach is around one hour’s walk from the village, and it can only be reached on foot.
4. Visit Ribeira Brava
Stretching along the crystalline shore, Ribeira Brava is São Nicolau’s capital, but do not expect any big-city rhythms in this place!
This quaint little town awaits with picturesque cobblestone streets and colorful colonial houses. The perfect place to witness the vibrant West African lifestyle in all its glory!
The paved streets are filled with merchants selling crafted goods, fruits, vegetables and street foods.
The Praça do Torreiro church square with the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário is not only an important landmark. Here, you can also find many restaurants and bars for a well-deserved break.
Nature surrounds the city, and the lovely park with benches and flowers, and which is nestled in the town center is an excellent place to explore in the afternoon.
How to get there: By plane from Praia, Santiago and Sal.
5. Explore Ribeira Prata
Ribeira Prata is a small settlement in the northwest side of the island, situated around 10 km north from Tarrafal.
Counting less than 400 souls, this quaint village is one of the most authentic places in Cape Verde, and also the gateway to some of the best hiking trails on the island. No doubt, a must for both history lovers and hiking enthusiasts!
It’s a great place for hiking but please make sure to be covered with a Cape Verde travel insurance! I got mine at HeyMondo and I love it for its easy setup.
How to get there: By foot, car or taxi from Tarrafal.
6. Visit the village of Preguiça
Preguiça is another stunning settlement to visit while exploring Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde.
Situated at a stone’s throw away from Ribeira Brava, this fishing village overlooks the turquoise waters of the ocean from the rugged cliffs on which it is perched.
Unlike the archipelago’s major towns, Preguiça does not boast colonial-style architecture, but exploring this place is a must if you want to enjoy some of the best views over the Atlantic Ocean, and learn more about the traditional Cape Verdean lifestyle and their authentic and traditional recipes of Cape Verde.
How to get there: Situated close to Ribeira Brava, Preguiça is home to the island’s only airport, and it can be easily reached by car or taxi from the island’s capital.
7. Visit the village of Tarrafal
Nestled in the western part of the island, Tarrafal, Cape Verde, is the island’s main tourist hub and the main port of the Sao Nicolau.
Obviously, the best things to do here are beach-related; from sunbathing to swimming or diving.
Exploring the town is worthy too. Livelier than Ribeira Brava, Tarrafal boasts a bustling nightlife, loads of bars and restaurants, as well as some of the best hotels on the island. And if you learn a few creole phrases, you’ll even have the chance to get connected with the local people!
Casa Aquario and the Black Fish Club Museu Da Pesca are two of the most popular places where to grab a drink or a bite, while Edificio Magico, located a few steps away from the main beach, could be a great choice if you’re looking for a good hotel in São Nicolau.
Check here the rates and reviews
How to get there: By ferry from all islands or by car/taxi from Ribeira Brava.
8. Photograph Ancient Dragon Trees
Did you know that Sao Nicolau is famous all around the world?! This off-the-beaten-track island fascinates biologists and nature lovers alike with its unique dragon trees.
This endemic tree species grows majorly in the Fajã valley, a place of breathtaking beauty where not only you can admire these amazing trees, but where you can also snap the perfect “Insta-worthy” shot!
How to get there: By hiking or bike from Ribeira Brava.
9. Swim in natural swimming pools
Swimming in São Nicolau, Cape Verde goes way beyond plunging into the ocean! On the northern side of the island, Juncalinho awaits you with its natural basalt swimming pools.
Impressing with their transparent, blue-green waters, and overlooking the ocean, they almost feel like a five-star resort experience! No doubt; an experience to enjoy on those days when the ocean is calm!
How to get there: By minibus from Ribeira Brava.
10. Visit the fertile Fajã Valley
Besides admiring dragon trees and snapping amazing photos, exploring the Fajã valley is also a must while visiting Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde. This fertile land is home to many endemic species, as well as a paradise for birds.
The main hiking trail leads to Ribeira Brava. You could also hire a local guide to explore some off the beaten track itineraries. No matter your choice, rest assured that you will have the experience of your lifetime!
How to get there: By foot or bike, from Ribeira Brava.
Sao Nicolau, Cabo Verde, Map
A short FAQ about Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
How to reach Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde?
You can either go by boat from Sao Vicente or Santiago with CV Interilhas or by a flight from Santiago or Sal to Sao Nicolau airport.
What can you enjoy at Preguiça?
You can enjoy fishing, explore colonial-style architecture, and enjoy some of the best views over the Atlantic Ocean.
Where can you find natural swimming pools in São Nicolau?
On the northern side of São Nicolau, Juncalinho awaits you with its natural basalt swimming pools. You can enjoy transparent, blue-green waters, and overlooking the ocean.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, you’ll find all the tips to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road together!
Wednesday 29th of July 2020
Hi Paulina wow so happy u found cabo verde. Half my family is from sao niclao and the other half is from Praia. U should try the jazz festival in April in Praia. The August music festival in sao Vicente crazy! A majority of cape verdeans live in boston area/USA and Netherland and we all go for Christmas and summer so plane ticket is very pricey.
Wednesday 29th of July 2020
Thank you so much for your kind comment! Oh I absolutely would love to visit these! Unfortunately this year they won't happen... hopefully next year! have you visited maio?