If you are looking for a cultural, but relaxed holiday, then Sao Vicente is the place for you! The island has much more to it than the city Mindelo, although this is where most of the population lives. If you are looking to explore São Vicente, there are many fun activities to do so.
Maxime has completed an international internship for her Belgian university and loves to share her favorite spots. “After a 4 month adventure on this island I can't wait to give you the best tips. My advice to you: Leave the crowds behind and get immersed in the Cape Verdean lifestyle.”
#1 Swimming with turtles in Sao Pedro
The highest on my list is swimming with turtles in Sao Pedro. An experience like no other! The clear blue water, the cosy fishing village and of course the amazing animals ensure that you won’t forget this dive into the water.
Step into the local fishing boat and float over the smooth ocean waters. After a short ride the turtles will start to appear next to the boat. The turtles are attracted to the sound of the engine, which gives you a 99% guarantee of seeing them! Time to get our flippers and goggles on and dive in. “It felt a bit unusual at first, but then I got so amazed at swimming between these beautiful animals. ” The turtles are curious and like to swim close to you, so get ready for your best underwater selfie with one of them!
Get ready for a dream come true, the experience of a lifetime!
The turtle experience is easily combined with a hike to the lighthouse in Sao Pedro. Take this incredible walk along rocks and cliffs and enjoy the amazing views. Back at the beach we had a refreshing drink and fresh local lunch in the turtle bar. We enjoyed this day tour with a local guide who told us many interesting local stories, showed us the best spots and even brought us to a secret place at the end of the day. Today we truly had the full Sao Pedro Experience.
Views on the coastline walk towards the lighthouse in São Pedro
#2 Full day island tour 4x4
São Vicente is a small island, so even during a short stay you can discover all the highlights in just 1 day!
An island tour with a guide is highly recommended, so you will be taken into the real Cape Verdean life on the island. All this without having to wonder where to find transport or a nice restaurant.
My favorite 2 stops on the island tour were Baia das Gatas and Calhau. In Baia das Gatas there is an insane natural pool. The contrast of the roaring ocean and the calm waters in the sleepy fisherman's village is amazing. You get the time to take a swim in the crystal clear waters. Calhau is one of the many fishing villages on the island. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Mindelo behind, you arrive here in a completely different atmosphere. Calhau was also the place where I enjoyed a fantastic grilled tuna for lunch. The other stops are equally beautiful, you will be amazed at the hidden gems Sao Vicente has to offer.
Dive in the natural pool of Baia das Gatas
#3 Visit local markets in Mindelo
There is no better place to soak up the local atmosphere in Mindelo than the street markets. The place to be is the local fruit and vegetable market in the mercado municipal in Rua de Lisboa. Walk into this colonial style trading house and take it all in. I liked buying products from the local stalls and bars, to do my part in supporting the local economy.
Tip: Have a look in the local souvenir shops on the first floor and look at the market from above.
Mercado municipal, the biggest fruit- and veggies market
Another local market to visit is the fish market near the ocean. The catch of the day is brought in directly from the fishermen’s boats ready to be sold on the spot. Praça Estrela or the African square is also worth the visit. Here you’ll find fruits from other Cape Verdean islands, souvenirs and other handcrafted items from the mainland of Africa.
Tip: Have a fresh coconut from Santiago island at Praça Estrela for about 200 escudos.
#4 Climb the highest mountain Monte Verde
With a peak of almost 750 meters, Monte Verde is the highest point and ideal place to see the island from a different perspective. The population tried to plant green trees and corn here, but due to the many droughts the vegetation is quite limited today. This doesn’t take away that the top is a breathtaking point for photo souvenirs.
For the sporty types, it is definitely worthwhile to climb Monte Verde by foot. Challenge yourself with a 3 to 4 hour climb to the top of the mountain. Once arrived, enjoy the view with a homemade herbal tea and liqueur from Mr Miguel. A local guy who grows herbs on Monte Verde and uses a genius system to catch water from the clouds.
For those who don't feel like walking, you can of course go up by car. Combine this stop with an island tour to get the most out of your day.
Climb the highest mountain Monte Verde on a hike or by car
#5 Mansa Floating Hub
The floating Mansa music studio and bar is a unique place to catch a sunset with a drink. You are literally floating on the water, overlooking the harbor of Mindelo and the Atlantic Ocean.
The floating triangles offer much more than just drinks. They organise cultural activities during the week and nightlife during the weekend. Experience the multi-purpose room where you can dance, witness fashion shows and listen to local live bands. From Carnaval sounds to smooth Cape Verdean Jazz. Definitely not to be missed on your vacation in Mindelo!
Shakes your dance legs on the floating music bar