Meet the Experts: An Insider's Guide to Cape Verde

Brendan-McGarry

Brendan McGarry

When choosing the perfect holiday destination, I know it’s always nice to try and get the opinion of someone who has first-hand knowledge of a place. So I thought you’d like to hear from some of our experts here at Thomas Cook, which is why I’ve asked Brendan McGarry, Assistant Product Manager for Cape Verde, to give you the lowdown on all that you need to know about these stunning African islands.

First thing’s first, what’s the best beach and why?

In Cape Verde, life is all about beaches and there’s none better than those in the bay of Santa Maria. TripAdvisor has recently announced the winners of its Travellers’ Choice Award for Best Beaches and Santa Maria Beach came in the Top 25 in their world rankings! Just off the coast, Tchuklasa, is a group of caves reached only by diving. But for those that like life at a slower pace, if you lay back on any of the beautiful beaches, you may be lucky enough to spot the rare Green Sea Turtle; a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Just one look at Santa Maria’s pristine white beach and you’ll know exactly why Cape Verde has been nicknamed the ‘African Caribbean’.

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Surf’s Up! Is Cape Verde good for water sports?

The winds blow steadily from November to June, making Sal an ideal destination for surfing of all kinds. In particular, you’ll find the place crawling with windsurfers and kite boarders in January and February, all keen to make the most of the winter breeze.

What’s the best local restaurant?

Owing to its cultural blend, food in Cape Verde includes a wide variety of interesting dishes. As an island, fresh seafood is also widely popular, with tuna, squid, shellfish and lobster being common options. Typical deserts include a wide variety of tropical sweet fruits. Restaurants along the beach are common, serving grill and seafood menus. There are also great French and Italian restaurants to be found.

What is your favourite local dish?

The most popular traditional dish is Cachupa, made from a mixture of meats, beans, corn and other vegetables.

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What’s your favourite thing to do? Or your favourite excursion?

A full day or half day tour exploring everything Sal has to offer, including the desert mirages in Terra Boa and the Salinas salt mines of Pedra de Lume – remember to bring your swim suit as, just like the Dead Sea, the reinvigorating salt waters will make you float effortlessly!

Just under an hour’s drive from Santa Maria is the bay of Buracona, a rocky black cove where you’ll find the dazzling ‘Blue Eye’. Peep through a gap in the volcanic rock and you’ll see a luminous electric blue display where the sun hits the ocean floor.

One of the most memorable things to do in Cape Verde is turtle watching. Join one of the many guided tours to the beach and catch a glimpse of female loggerhead turtles as they come ashore to lay their eggs. And if you’re travelling to Cape Verde in spring, you may even catch sight of magnificent humpback whales along the coast.

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What’s the nightlife in Cape Verde like?

Evening entertainment is usually hotel-based, but there are plenty of traditional restaurants and bars available in the town of Santa Maria.

Are there good shops or local markets to visit?

Shopping in Cape Verde is predominantly based around local markets. Prices on everyday goods can be expensive but the markets are great for unique souvenirs, such as hand-woven baskets and fascinating clay figurines.

What is the best time of year to visit Cape Verde?

The Cape Verde islands are close to the African continent, which makes them vulnerable to hot and dry wind that carries the desert sand from the Sahara. These islands provide a perfect year-round climate with little temperature variation, between 24˚C and 30˚C.

Is there anything quirky that’s not to be missed, such as festivals or events throughout the year?

Due to the island’s location in the Atlantic Ocean, windsurfing and kite surfing are extremely popular in Cape Verde. In the winter, it is one of the top 5 places in the world for windsurfing. An annual carnival is usually held, but like many destinations, the dates of this change according to Easter. It’s very popular with locals and tourists.

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What would you say is the best hotel for families wanting to visit Cape Verde?

That would have to be the smartline Crioula. Situated on the gorgeous, sandy Santa Maria Beach, smartline Crioula offers a friendly and welcoming stay. There’s something for everyone, whether you fancy a game of tennis or volleyball, or simply just want to relax by the pool with a cool drink under the Cape Verdean sun. The little ones will love the kids’ club followed by an ice cream from the smartline trolley each afternoon! Offering a choice of rooms or bungalows, dotted around the gardens, this is a firm favourite for all.

And finally, what about the best hotel for couples?

There are two that stand out:

Odjo D’Agua Built directly over the seafront, you won’t get a better view from the Odjo D’Agua Hotel. Take to the warm and clear waters off the beach or in the pool and sip on a cool drink from the bar. There’s an amazing seafood restaurant offering one of the most sought after views on the island of Sal; an outside spa facility offering massages, manicures and pedicures; plus a weekly beach-side barbecue available. Perfect after soaking in the heart-warming African sun.

Oasis Salinas Sea HotelOn the warm white sands of Santa Maria Beach, this hotel is a haven of relaxation. With quality dining and attentive service as well as comfortable rooms and a great location, this hotel is the perfect choice for a relaxing stay in Cape Verde. This hotel offers a 24 hour All Inclusive programme and includes an a la carte dinner once per week in the traditional restaurant and beach restaurant. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, a range of sporting activities and a wellness centre available.

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Essential Information:

Flight time from the UK (London) – Approximately six hours

Entry details (for British passport holders) – A visa is required in order to enter Cape Verde, which is included by Thomas Cook in the price of a package holiday. Passports need to have at least six months validity from date of entry.

Tourist Tax – A tourist tax of up to €2 per person per night (maximum 10 nights) is payable locally for all guests aged 16 and over.

Do you have any other questions about Cape Verde? Let me know in the comments below.

  • It gets very cold at night, take a warm jumper or coat!

  • Sue

    We've read only six hours of sunshine a day in july. Is that correct?