Holidays to Santa Maria put you right in the heart of an island paradise, with cocktails on tap! Soft sandy beaches, azure water that’s crystal-clear, and a dramatic backdrop of spectacular volcanic mountains (which are quite safe, so don’t worry!), make this destination a haven of tranquillity during the day, and a party town at night. It’s also loved by the local wildlife too, and if you’re really lucky you may see some of the rare loggerhead turtles that come here to lay their eggs, or a massive humpback whale breach out to sea. Once the sun goes down the party really gets started, and you can dance until dawn and then head down to a breakfast bar on the beach. Holiday in February and join in the fun when the carnival rolls into town.
Santa Maria’s beach is famous for its powder-soft, white sand, and is the pride of Cape Verde. It’s even led to the archipelago being referred to as the ‘African Caribbean’, and it’s not hard to see why! Its gently sloping sands lead down to crystal clear blue water, which is shallow and safe enough for the little ones to paddle about. Traditional local fishing boats in bright colours make a great photo opportunity, and the cooling sea breeze takes the edge off the temperature during high summer. In the winter, it’s a magnet for windsurfers, thanks to the onshore breeze. If you’re looking for a little bit of tranquillity, hop onto a boat to the island of Boa Vista for smaller but almost deserted beaches.
Loggerhead turtles have made Cape Verde their home, and these beautiful creatures come back every year to lay their eggs. The next generation of baby turtles then all make the dash for the ocean a few weeks later. Off the coast you’ll see dolphins and humpback whales, making this one of the most important marine wildlife spots in the world. A guided tour is the best way to see these creatures without disturbing them, so hop on a boat trip to Sal and Boa Vista. March and April is the best time to spot humpback whales.
While you may be happy to boogie the night away at a club, dance and music are incredibly important to the Cape Verde locals, and traditional music and dance is a great way to get to know the culture of the islands on your holiday to Santa Maria. Dances such as the soulful Morna, the dynamic Batuko, and the hypnotic Funana are deeply ingrained in island life, and you’ll hear it wherever you go. Why not put on your dancing shoes and give it a go?
Families: A huge beach and plenty of space makes it great for families who want to spend time enjoying the sunshine. Less crowded than many other hot-spots across the island.
Couples: Indulgent and relaxing, holidays here are perfect for couples who want a romantic break away in the sun.
Party-goers: This sleepy town bursts into life at night, with bars lining the main promenade along the beach. Dance until dawn and step across the road to watch the sun come up on Santa Maria beach.
Language: Portuguese is the official language spoken.
Currency: The currency used is the Cape Verdean escudo.
Local time: Cape Verde is 1 hour behind GMT/UK time.
Fly to: Aristides Pereira International Airport. Santa Maria is 1 hour away.
Flight time from UK: The flight time to Cape Verde is 6 hours.
Tourist Information: Further Cape Verde tourist information can be found here.
Visa & Health: Before you travel, click here for recommendations and advice on visas and health.
It’s fabulous sunshine almost every day on your holiday, thanks to Cape Verde’s position off the coast of Africa. Temperatures range from a balmy 22°C during spring and autumn, through to a scorching 30°C in high summer, when you might also get the occasional shower, but they’re usually very brief. Book a holiday during the winter if you’re a windsurfer, for those famous onshore breezes and still-warm oceans.
By mini-bus: The most popular and cheap way of exploring Santa Maria and Cape Verde in general is by ‘aluguers’, or shared mini-buses. Simply flag them down, hop on, and discover the island.
By taxi: Taxis in Santa Maria are easy to spot thanks to the light blue colour with a distinctive yellow stripe down the sides. Be sure to ask the fare before you start your journey, as costs can vary depending on the time of day.
By plane: Cape Verde is part of an island chain, and small planes let you ‘island hop’ so you can explore a little further afield.
Santa Maria Festival: Bold, bright and colourful, the Santa Maria festival and Municipality Day celebrations in September bring a real carnival atmosphere to this sleepy town. There’s plenty of live music and traditional dancing to enjoy, as well as food and drink stalls to keep everyone partying right through the night and into the next day!
São Vicente Carnival: February sees the celebrations get started to honour Cape Verde’s patron saint, and things kick off with the feast of São Vicente. Celebrated all over the island, it involves street parades, dancing, and the obligatory fireworks once the sun goes down. It’s a chance for the island to celebrate its Portuguese influences, and for you to join in with the revelries.