Welcome to the enchanting Cape Verde, a captivating archipelago off the coast of Western Africa. With its diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history, this island paradise offers many unforgettable experiences. From pristine beaches and thrilling water sports to soaring volcanic peaks and mesmerizing stargazing, Cape Verde promises to ignite your wanderlust and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime. So, let’s embark on an adventure through 20 unmissable things to do in Cape Verde in 2023!

Key Takeaways

  • Discover Santa Maria Beach & experience sea turtle watching!
  • Conquer Monte Verde Peak, go whale-watching & swim with dolphins!
  • Savor local cuisine, explore Cidade Velha’s rich history & stargaze in the Viana Desert for an unforgettable 2023 adventure in Cape Verde!

Things to Do in Cape Verde

1. Discover Santa Maria Beach

Pier and boats on turquoise water in the city of Santa Maria, the island of Sal, Cape Verde.
Pier and boats on turquoise water in the city of Santa Maria, the island of Sal, Cape Verde.

Nestled in the Cape Verde islands, Santa Maria Beach on Sal Island is a true gem, boasting mesmerizing turquoise waters, soft and fine sand, and lively beachside restaurants and bars. This idyllic slice of paradise is a dream come true for beach lovers and sun-seekers alike, offering the perfect setting for beach holidays in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean.

Strolling along the pristine shoreline, the vibrant atmosphere and welcoming spirit of the locals will captivate you. From listening to lively live music to browsing quaint craft shops and exploring the charming tiny streets, Santa Maria Beach is a haven of relaxation and excitement.

But don’t think that Santa Maria is the only beach worth visiting in Cape Verde. You can also explore the incredible Praia de Chaves and Santa Monica on Boa Vista, the breathtaking Baia Das Gatas on Sao Vicente, and the unspoiled beaches of Maio, perfect for a truly unforgettable beach getaway.

2. Experience Sea Turtle Watching

Sea turtle on the Great Barrier Reef.
Sea turtle on the Great Barrier Reef.

Imagine the thrill of witnessing sea turtles nesting on the sandy shores of Cape Verde. As one of the most important places for sea turtle nesting, Cape Verde offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience these majestic creatures up close and personal. The sandy islands of Sal, Maio, and Boa Vista are the best places to watch sea turtles, where you can expect to see common loggerhead sea turtles nesting and laying their eggs.

Booking a guided tour through Boa Vista Tourism enhances this incredible experience. Not only will they help you spot turtles, but they’ll also provide invaluable insight into the conservation efforts and the life cycle of these fascinating marine animals. So, prepare for an unforgettable adventure as you witness the magic of sea turtles in their natural habitat.

3. Dive into Cape Verde’s Underwater World

Cape Verde’s underwater world is a treasure trove of marine life, just waiting to be explored. From vibrant coral reefs and mysterious caves to intriguing shipwrecks, the islands offer a diverse range of diving experiences for beginners and seasoned divers alike. As you plunge into the warm waters, you may encounter:

  • Porpoises
  • Barracudas
  • Several species of rays
  • Turtles

Making each dive an adventure to remember.

Consider a guided diving trip to immerse in Cape Verde’s underwater wonders fully. With equipment and hotel pick-up available, you only need to dive in and explore some of the best spots, such as Santa Maria Beach on Sal Island, the Pedro Lume Salt Mines, and the M/S Cabo Santa Maria Shipwreck.

So gear up and get ready to dive headfirst into the captivating underwater world of Cape Verde!

4. Surf’s Up: Learn to Ride the Waves

Have you ever dreamed of riding the waves like a pro? Cape Verde offers the perfect opportunity to learn to surf, with Santa Maria Beach in Sal and Kite Beach in Boa Vista being the top spots for catching some waves. The best time to kitesurfing in Cape Verde is between November and March, when the winds are just right for an exhilarating experience.

Knowledgeable guides and surf instructors are readily available to provide a safe and enjoyable surfing experience, regardless of your skill level.

So grab your board and dive into the thrilling world of surfing in Cape Verde, where the sun, sea, and perfect waves await!

5. Embark on a Buggy Adventure

Looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure? A buggy tour in Cape Verde is just the ticket. Exploring the diverse landscapes of Sal or Boa Vista on a thrilling off-road vehicle island tour, you’ll discover:

  • Salt flats
  • Deserts
  • Breathtaking volcanic craters
  • Charming fishing villages

These tours typically last two or four hours, with more than half offering a nighttime option for those seeking an extra thrill.

Your hotel concierge can conveniently arrange your dune buggy adventure in Boa Vista upon request. So buckle up and prepare for an unforgettable journey through Cape Verde’s stunning terrain!

6. Sail Away on a Catamaran Cruise

Don't miss out on this harbor if you go to Pedra de Lume.
Don’t miss out on this harbor if you go to Pedra de Lume.

Set sail on a catamaran cruise along the western coast of Sal Island aboard the exciting Sodade catamaran. This lively cruise offers:

  • A perfect blend of relaxation and adventure
  • A cocktail bar
  • Local music
  • Swimming and snorkeling opportunities

These activities will keep you entertained throughout the journey.

The atmosphere on board is nothing short of electric, with a bar serving cocktails to a soundtrack of local music that will have you dancing on the deck in no time. And if you’re traveling with children, don’t worry – a family-friendly version of the catamaran trip is available, ensuring a memorable experience for all ages.

With your swimsuit and sunscreen, prepare for an unforgettable catamaran cruise adventure!

7. Hike the Majestic Pico do Fogo Volcano

Conquer the highest peak in Cape Verde, the majestic Pico do Fogo volcano, on an exhilarating guided ascent through otherworldly landscapes shaped by ash and lava. Standing at an impressive 2,800 meters, the Pico do Fogo crater offers awe-inspiring views and a unique hiking experience suitable for both beginners and experienced trekkers.

The best hiking trail on Fogo Island is the trek from Cha das Caldeiras towards the remains of Pico do Fogo, taking you through a spectacular landscape that will leave you breathless. Guided tours through Viator ensure expert guidance throughout your adventure.

So, lace up your hiking boots and conquer the mighty Pico do Fogo!

8. Explore Cidade Velha’s Rich History

Step back in time as you explore Cidade Velha, the first city built by Europeans in the South of the Sahara and the capital of Cape Verde until 1770. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cidade Velha boasts a rich history and an array of fascinating landmarks, including:

  • Traditional stone houses
  • A fortress
  • An old slave market
  • A convent

Discover the city’s role in the Atlantic slave trade and its significance as one of the birthplaces of the first developed Creole societies in Western Africa. As you wander the narrow streets and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Cape Verde’s rich history and culture.

With your walking shoes laced up, get ready for a captivating exploration of Cidade Velha, transporting you to a bygone era.

9. Get Up Close with Sharks at Shark Bay

Imagine standing just a few feet away from a lemon shark, one of nature’s most fascinating predators. At Shark Bay on the eastern coast of Sal Island, this thrilling experience becomes a reality. On a guided tour, you’ll have the opportunity to watch or even swim with these captivating creatures in their natural habitat, offering an unforgettable encounter with the marine world of Cape Verde.

Lemon sharks, which can grow up to 2.5m-3m long, are known for their curious and playful nature, making for a truly awe-inspiring experience as you share the water with these magnificent animals. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, gain insightful knowledge about the sharks, their behavior, and their significance to the local ecosystem.

So take a deep breath and dive into the exhilarating world of lemon sharks at Shark Bay!

10. Immerse Yourself in Cape Verdean Music

Music is an integral part of Cape Verdean culture, and there’s no better way to experience the vibrant local scene than by attending live concerts, music festivals, and cultural events in cities like Mindelo and Praia. From traditional music halls called tocatines to bustling bars and private houses, the sounds of Cape Verde will captivate your senses and immerse you in the rich local culture.

Some of the most famous Cape Verdean singers hail from Mindelo, such as the legendary Cesaria Evora, and the city is renowned as the cultural capital of Cape Verde. Whether you’re swaying to the rhythms of morna, the national music of Cape Verde, or dancing the night away to live performances in the vibrant venues of Mindelo and Praia, you’ll be swept away by the irresistible charm and energy of Cape Verdean music.

11. Horseback Riding on the Beach

Experience the thrill of horseback riding on the beach in Sal, covering dunes, salt pans, and picturesque stretches of coastline. Led by experienced guides, this guided horseback tour offers a unique way to explore the island’s diverse landscapes and enjoy an unforgettable adventure in Cape Verde.

No matter your riding experience, expert guides will accompany you on this exhilarating journey through Sal’s breathtaking terrain. What better way to connect with nature and create lasting memories than by galloping along the beach with the waves crashing at your feet and the salty breeze in your hair?

Saddle up and get ready for a horseback riding adventure like no other in Cape Verde!

12. Experience Cape Verde’s Green Oasis: Santo Antao

Escape to Cape Verde’s green oasis, Santo Antao, an island known for its lush and verdant landscapes that starkly contrast its neighbors’ arid terrain. Guided hiking tours through the island’s valleys, remote villages, and stunning landscapes showcase the unique flora and fauna found only on Santo Antao, offering a truly unforgettable experience.

One of the most scenic trails on the island is the trek from Cova Crater through the breathtaking Paul Valley, taking you past small villages, farms, and fields brimming with yams, bananas, sugarcane, and coffee plants. As you venture deeper into the heart of Santo Antao, you’ll be captivated by the island’s natural beauty and the warm hospitality of its inhabitants.

With your hiking boots laced up, prepare to immerse yourself in the lush paradise of Santo Antao.

13. Float in a Salt Crater at Pedra de Lume

For a truly unique experience, head to Pedra de Lume on Sal Island and float in the salt lake of a crater, surrounded by evaporation pools and an intriguing factory. With a mineral content even higher than the Dead Sea, the salt lake at Pedra de Lume offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to float effortlessly in the water, allowing you to relax and rejuvenate in this remarkable setting.

As you lay back and let the buoyant waters support you, take a moment to appreciate this fascinating site’s extraordinary beauty and history. From the remnants of the old salt production facilities to the stunning natural landscape, Pedra de Lume is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the unique wonders of Cape Verde.

14. Birdwatching on Boa Vista Island

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark - Eremopterix nigriceps in the desert of Boa Vista looking for food.
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark – Eremopterix nigriceps in the desert of Boa Vista looking for food.

Boa Vista Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to over 20 species of birds that flock to its wetlands to breed, including Egyptian vultures, red-billed strawtail, and white albatrosses. As you explore the island’s untouched areas, lakes, and beaches, you’ll have the opportunity to spot some lesser-known bird species, such as Alexander’s Swift, Cape Verde warbler, Iago sparrow, and Raso lark.

Maximize your birdwatching experience by bringing binoculars, wearing muted colors, and respecting the birds and their habitats. With its diverse avian population, captivating blue-eye species, and stunning natural beauty, Boa Vista Island offers an unforgettable birdwatching adventure for nature lovers and enthusiasts.

15. Visit the M/S Cabo Santa Maria Shipwreck

Rusting shipwreck Cabo Santa Maria stranded on the northern coast sand beaches of Boa Vista, Cape Verde.
Rusting shipwreck Cabo Santa Maria stranded on the northern coast sand beaches of Boa Vista, Cape Verde.

Step off the beaten path and venture to the iconic M/S Cabo Santa Maria shipwreck on the north coast of Boa Vista Island. This fascinating site, accessible by 4WD or guided tour, tells the dramatic story of a large cargo ship that ran aground in 1968 while crossing the Atlantic.

As you walk along the beach and see the rusting shipwreck, you’ll be captivated by the history and intrigue of this maritime tragedy. With its striking silhouette and haunting beauty, the M/S Cabo Santa Maria shipwreck is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Cape Verde.

16. Whale-Watching Excursions

Experience the majesty of nature as you embark on a whale-watching excursion in Cape Verde, with boat tours departing from Boa Vista between March and May. Led by marine biologists, these tours offer the chance to see blue whales breaching, providing a breathtaking and unforgettable spectacle.

Cruising through the waters, marvel at these gentle giants’ sheer size and grace as they emerge from the ocean’s depths.

A whale-watching excursion in Cape Verde is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

17. Swim with Dolphins off Sal Island

Embark on a guided tour to Sal Island for an unforgettable encounter with the playful and intelligent dolphins. Departing from Santa Maria. Pier, you’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these fascinating marine animals, either watching from the boat or diving in to swim alongside them.

As you interact with the dolphins in their natural habitat, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of their behavior and the vital role they play in the ocean ecosystem. So dive in and experience the magic of swimming with dolphins in the crystal-clear waters of Cape Verde.

18. Conquer Monte Verde Peak

Standing tall on Sao Vicente Island is Monte Verde, the island’s highest peak and a must-visit destination for hiking enthusiasts. The beginner-friendly hike up Monte Verde offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, with a paved path leading to a teahouse near the summit, Cabana de Cha do Monte Verde.

Ascending the mountain, the breathtaking panoramas and the sense of accomplishment from conquering Sao Vicente’s highest peak will enchant you. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting, the journey up Monte Verde promises an unforgettable adventure.

19. Savor Local Cuisine: Cachupa

Savoring the delicious local cuisine, especially the traditional dish cachupa, is a must-do to complete any visit to Cape Verde. Made from corn and beans, topped with a fried egg and sometimes fried linguiça (sausage), this hearty dish can be found on every island in Cape Verde, with varying recipes to suit different tastes.

From street food vendors to cozy family-run restaurants, cachupa offers an affordable and authentic taste of Cape Verde’s culinary culture. So pull up a chair, dig in, and discover the mouthwatering flavors of this beloved local dish!

20. Stargazing in the Viana Desert

Venture into the Viana Desert on Boa Vista Island for a night of stargazing, an awe-inspiring experience that will surely leave you starstruck. With its remote location and minimal light pollution, the desert offers an unparalleled view of the cosmos, allowing you to marvel at the vast expanse of the night sky.

Tour operators in the area offer dune buggy and quad-bike tours of the dunes, followed by a traditional Cape Verdean dinner and guided stargazing experience, providing an unforgettable evening under the stars.

So pack a blanket, lie back, and let the universe’s wonders unfold before your eyes in the Viana Desert.


Cape Verde is a land of endless adventure, with stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and incredible experiences waiting to be discovered. From beachside relaxation and thrilling water sports to soaring volcanic peaks and mesmerizing stargazing, these 20 unmissable things to do in Cape Verde in 2023 promise to ignite your wanderlust and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime. So pack your bags and embark on the adventure of a lifetime in this enchanting island paradise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a lot to do in Cape Verde?

There’s plenty to do in Cape Verde! From learning to surf and kitesurf to taking a dune buggy tour, trekking through the verdant mountains, or spotting dolphins and turtles, you’ll have an exciting and memorable experience.

You can learn to surf or kitesurf in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Take a dune buggy tour and explore the area.

What is Cape Verde best known for?

Cape Verde is renowned for its stunning volcanic islands, warm tropical climate, Creole Portuguese-African culture, traditional morna music, delicious cuisine, and beautiful beaches – making it the perfect winter escape for Europeans.

Is Cape Verde good for tourists?

Cape Verde is perfect for tourists, boasting pleasant temperatures, a calming sea breeze, and low crime rates – an ideal getaway!

How many days do you need in Cape Verde?

Experience four or five islands in Cape Verde in just two weeks by spending five days on Santo Anto and 5 to 6 days on Santiago and Fogo.

What is the best time to visit Cape Verde for beach holidays and water sports?

Experience the best beach holidays and water sports at Cape Verde between November and March – the perfect time for your vacation!