The forgotten island where there is pure tranquility. Secret white beaches, beautiful dunes and a blue ocean. You come to Maio to relax. There is a relaxed atmosphere and the residents are friendly and hospitable. In other words, here you will find the typical Cape Verdean lifestyle “morabeza”. Maio is not overrun by many tourists, so the authentic atmosphere can be experienced everywhere. It is home to endangered animals such as the white-tailed eagle and the Caretta Caretta turtle. The island can easily be combined with a visit to the neighboring island of Santiago or during a tour of the Cape Verde islands.
Want to know more about Maio?
If you are looking for white sandy beaches, tranquility and authenticity, Maio is the place for you. There are plenty of paradise spots on Maio, if you just know where to look. We have collected the most interesting places and other relevant information about Maio for you. This page is divided into the following topics:
- Interesting sights on Maio
- Food & drinks
- Where to stay on Maio?
- Best time to visit Maio
- Transportation and getting around
- Frequently asked questions
Maio was discovered by the Portuguese in 1460. The island was discovered in the month of May, this name was also given to the island (Maio = May). At the end of the 16th century, it was the English who began to exploit the abundantly available salt. The salt was mainly in the salt lake in the southwest of the island where a settlement was created, named Porto Ingles (port of the English). In the 19th century, salt production went downhill and a large part of the population left. Today, Maio is one of the poorest islands of the Cape Verde archipelago. Luxury is not to be expected here, but an unique experience.
Maio is an old and eroded volcano and is located about only 25 kilometers from the island of Santiago. That is why many travelers combine a trip to Maio with Santiago. The island is 25 by 16 kilometers and can be easily explored by bicycle on a single road that runs over most of the island. It is a fairly flat island and a part is also wooded with acacia trees. A desert-like landscape predominates in the south. The island is also designated by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. The main town is Vila do Maio with about 7,000 inhabitants.
Interesting sights on Maio
Vila do Maio
Vila do Maio is the capital of the island with many small colored houses leading to the harbour. Officially this town is called Cidade do Porto Ingles. It is a simple and quiet town. And there is a friendly and authentic atmosphere. In the center of the city, the large church stands out.
Located on a pleasant and large square is the Igreja Matriz (1873), a large white church in Portuguese baroque style. In the southeast of the town you will find an 18th century fort with some cannons. On the boulevard of Vila do Maio is the beautiful and extensive white sandy beach of Biche Rocha. A good place to enjoy a nice cool drink. From this beach you can see the neighboring island of Santiago. On the other side of the city is Ponta Preta beach. This is also miles of pristine sandy beach.
Maio has fantastic white sand beaches. Tropical beaches from your dreams that are even more beautiful in real life. They are long and pristine. The beaches in the west are in general perfect for swimming and easily accessible. In the east and south of Maio you will find idyllic beaches that are a bit more difficult to reach. So take extra drinking water, food and sunscreen with you to be sure.
In the north of the island, the beaches are just as beautiful as anywhere else. However, because of the current, these are not suitable for swimming, but they are ideal for a nice long beach walk. Sea turtles also lay their eggs in this area in the summer.
To the west are the beaches of Biche Rocha and Ponta Preta. Both located near the main town of Vila do Maio. The sandy beach stretches for miles north to the town of Calheta. At Calheta there is a beach (Praia de Pau Seco) with more rocks and a good spot for snorkelling and fishing. To the northwest near Morrinho is the beautiful white sand beach of Santana. The bay is shaped like a crescent moon and is hidden behind a row of dunes that can be more than 20 meters high. The wind can blow a little harder here, but it is a good place to swim. Near Morinho you will also find such a beautiful and secluded beach called Porto Cais.
The salt lake of Salina de Porto Ingles
Salina de Porto Ingles is located on the outskirts of Vila do Maio. The largest salt pan of the Cape Verde Islands. It is 5 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide. The pink, purple and white colored salt hills give a great picture and the lake is still in use today. The production of the salt is no longer at the level of the past, but is now more focused on selling the salt on the local markets on the various islands in Cape Verde. Especially in the period between April and June most piles of salt form. At springtime, some salty seawater flows into the lake. When the salt water slowly evaporates due to the heat of the sun and wind, some salt remains. Due to its location near a wetland, Salina de Porto Ingles is an important breeding and feeding area for various birds such as the Kentish plover and the Osprey. It is an ideal place for bird watchers.
Turtles and whales
The second largest population of Carreta Carreta turtle nests on Maio. The long sandy beaches and the relatively unspoiled state of the island make this an ideal environment for the turtle. In the summer months up to and including November, the turtles come to the beach to bury their eggs. So you can admire them from the beach. Maio is a real hotspot for spotting turtles. Do not do this alone, but accompanied by a guide. For example with one of the guides from the Maio Biodiversity Foundation. The turtles are endangered and should not be disturbed.
Whales pass Maio from December through May. With a bit of luck you can spot a whale from the shore. You can also ask a fisherman or someone else with a boat if you can go out on the water to spot a whale from there. You may also see dolphins or fly fish.
Other villages and places on Maio
To the north of Vila do Maio are the three towns of Morro, Calheta and Morrinho. Between the palm trees is the first village Morro located. In the Ribeira do Morro valley you can find the oldest rocks of the Cape Verde islands. Highly recommended for those who are interested in archeology. The highest rock is almost 300 meters.
A little more to the north, the fishing village of Calheta is tucked away in a beautiful bay. Calheta is the second largest town on Maio. A small church can be admired on the central square. In addition, there are also a number of buildings with a colonial architecture. The fishermen in this village still use traditional sailing boats to bring their catch to the harbor.
From Calheta you can see the largest contiguous forest of the Cape Verde islands. There are acacia trees in the forest and it covers an area of over 35 km2. Four kilometers from Calheta is the village of Morrinho located. It is known for its handicrafts. In the vicinity of the village you can admire beautiful sand dunes and deserted beaches. The remains of old salt pans (Terras Salgadas) can also be found here. The north coast of Maio is a protected marine reserve. There are two shipwrecks near the coral reef off the coast. Swimming on this side of the coast is not recommended due to the strong current.
There are a few beaches on the east coast. The village of Pedro Vaz is located in the north between the palm trees. The highest mountain of Maio (437 meters) is located near the village of Penso. If you want to hike up this mountain, it is best to start from the church of Rosaria. If you follow the main road further you will pass a few small hamlets. If you would you like to taste a local specialty then make a stop in Figueira da Horta. Here you can see how grogue is made. And of course you can also taste this delicious rum immediately.
Food and drinks
For a small island like Maio, there are still relatively many dining options. The best meals are generally found in your hotel, guest house or in Vila do Maio. Some good eateries and cafes are:
- Drinking – Bar Tropical: on the beautiful city beach in front of the main town you can enjoy tasty snacks and drinks. A wonderful place to sit for a long time and enjoy the view. Small parties on Saturday evenings are sometimes held here;
- Eating / Drinking – Kabana Beach bar: at the city beach Bitcherocha you can find this bar. It is a good place for some food and drinks. On Friday and Saturday nights they play music;
- Food – Chez Pastis: a charming restaurant with high quality food. Booking in advance is wise.
- Food – Kulor: in the south of Vila do Maio, this is a popular restaurant with a cozy terrace where you can order daily specials.
Where to stay on Maio?
Accommodations to spend the night can mostly be found in Vila do Maio or in the immediate vicinity. The range of accommodation options is growing rapidly. On Maio you will find mostly guesthouses, apartments and a single hotel. Often simple accommodations, but of excellent quality. We can recommend the more luxurious Stella Maris and the mid-range accommodation Kaza Tropical.
Best time to visit Maio
During the year there is little variation in the temperature on Maio. In the summer months, the humidity is a bit higher, which makes it feel a bit warmer. The average daytime temperature on Maio is around 28 degrees Celsius. At night the temperature rarely falls below 24 degrees Celsius. The warmest time to visit Maio is from August to October. There can be some rain every now and then, but this is very limited. In the months of January to April, the temperature is a few degrees lower. You can visit Maio all year round. For more information, see the page about the climate in Cape Verde.
Transportation and getting around
Maio has an local airport, so international flights are not arriving here. This means that you fly from the neighboring island of Santiago to Vila do Maio Airport (MMO). From Santiago you can reach Maio within 10 minutes by plane. View the page with flight tickets for all current flight information. From the airport it is only a few kilometers to the main town of Vila do Maio. When a plane arrives, there are plenty of alugueres (local vans) and taxis that can take you to your destination.
You can also reach Maio from Santiago by ferry. The sailings are irregular and not always guaranteed. Check the departure times well in advance. Adjust your planning accordingly.
For transport across the island you can take an alguer or taxi. In the early morning, alugueres depart from villages such as Alcatraz and Ribeira do Joao towards the main town of Vila do Maio. Later in the morning and afternoon they will leave from Vila do Maio. Prefer to drive by yourself? You can also rent a car in Vila do Maio. In addition, Maio is also ideal for exploring by bicycle. Mountain bikes are recommended to give you a little more comfort on the bumpy roads. You can also rent bikes or squads in the main town.
Frequently asked questions
Officially there are 15 beaches on Maio. Most of them are very long, of white sand and deserted. It is not for nothing that Maio is known for its beaches.
The turtles come to the beach from June to November to bury their eggs in the sand. In the month of August you can expect the most turtles. In addition, you may also be lucky enough to see them swimming in the sea.
In and around Vila do Maio there are the most options for accommodation and facilities such as a supermarket and a restaurant within walking distance. Maio is not that big and there is a good road. Staying in other places is also a great option.
Johanna Hoffmann says
Is the fast ferry operating again (Jan 2023)? Where could I get prices for a private boat hire?
I would like to go to Maio from Praia from Jan 31 2023 to Feb 4 2023.
Torsten Rosen says
As of today (Jan 15) not. And no one seems to have any info on the ferry situation and future plans….
What is the best way to move around Maio?
Mark Smith says
I will be in Santiago from May 18th 2019 for 10 days . I would like to attend the Gamboa music festival ( from 17th to 20th ). I tried searching for a rent a car company at RAI Airport in Praira and can’t find anything . Can anyone please tell me the name of a car rental company, their website, phone number and how much they charge a day as well as how much deposit they hold on a credit card?. Also the details on how I can travel from Santiago to Maio and Boa Vista while I am there..thanks in advance .
Maybe this article helps you further: car rental
Are there any other ways to get from Maio to Praia in January 2019, than to fly?
Are there ferries? (No info on cvfastferry)
Is it possible to get hike with other boats?
Besides flying you can get a ferry or private boat transfer between Praia and Maio. Due to maintaince the regular ferry service is not available, but you can take the cargo ship Sotavento (service is running 2 times per week).
did someone ever take the (fast)ferry from santiago to maio? if so could you please tell me the price
thanks a lot
Expect prices around 13 – 25 euro’s for a single trip depended on the class. Note, it seems that till June 2018 the fast ferry to Maio is not a available.