The most mountainous island of Cape Verde is Santo Antao. It is an pedestrian island for walking high mountains, fertile green valleys and romantic little villages. The second largest island of Cape Verde is also called the island of mountains, wind and water. The people are enjoying and they are pure. The authenticity that you can experience on this island is unique. Besides a perfect hiking island this is also a good place for nature lovers and to follow scenic driving routes. The mountain route from Porto Novo to Riberia Granda is one of the most beautiful off all Cape Verde. After a tiring day, guests can relax on one of the deserted beaches with white or volcanic black sand.
Want to know more about Santo Antao?
On this page you will find more about Sao Antao. The most important information about this island, supplemented with our personal favourites. This way you get a good impression and you don’t have to miss anything during your trip to Santo Antao. This page is divided into the following topics:
- Interesting sights Santo Antao
- Other nice places on Santo Antao
- Food & drinks
- Where to stay on Santo Antao?
- Best travel time
- Transportation and getting around
- Frequently asked questions
Santo Antao is mountainous, green and the second largest island in Cape Verde. The distance to the neighboring island of Sao Vicente is only 14 kilometers. Santo Antao is about 780 m2 and is home to approximately 45,000 people. The south of the island is more unpopulated. Santo Antao was discovered in the year 1464 and in the 19th century the city of Ribeira Grande was even one of the most important cities of the Cape Verde islands.
The highest point of Santo Antao is the dormant volcano Topo de Coroa (1,979 meters). The two high plateaus are characteristic of the island. The landscape on the island is very varied: from parts with a black lava lunar landscape and dense forests to fertile valleys with coconut, pineapple and mango trees.
Interesting sights Santo Antao
Paúl and the Ribeira do Paúl
Follow the coast road from Ribeira Grande to the east and you will come to the village of Paúl. Paúl is also popularly known as Vila das Pombas or Paúl do Mar. This is a picturesque village with pastel colored houses. It is located near the beach and there are also many sugar cane fields, banana trees and coconut palms. This place makes you feel like you are in Cuba. Here you have a small square and a few cafes. On the rock above the village is the statue of Saint Santo Antonio. Located behind Paúl is the great valley called Ribeira do Paúl. According to many, this is one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Cape Verde islands. Due to levadas – constructed irrigation canals – a layer of water remains in the river and side channels all year round. This creates a green valley where many different vegetables, fruits and other plants are grown and cultivated. Due to the height differences in this valley and the beautiful views, Ribeira do Paúl is a paradise for beautiful walks. While walking in the valley you will pass small villages such as Passagem and Cabo da Ribreira.
Fontainhas is a picturesque village with brightly colored houses. It is located on the cliffs west of Ponta do Sol and is best explored on foot. It overlooks a deep valley with a magnificent view of the ocean. According to National Geographic, Fontainhas itself is one of the villages in the world with the most beautiful views. A must see village.
Away from the world in Tarrafal
Sheltered and isolated, this fishing village lies at the foot of a mountain. Here you come for peace and to relax from the busy life. But to get there you can drive from Porto Novo to Tarrafal on a spectacular road when you go inland. The views along the way are magnificent. The area around Tarrafal is green and it has the longest (black) sand beach in Santo Antao. Enjoy the beautiful walks, the waterfalls and the colored fishing boats on the beach. Or spot sea turtles, whales, manta rays or dolphins. The bay of Tarrafal is located along the migration route of these animals. In the bay of Tarrafal you can swim well and it is a great place for snorkeling, diving or fishing.
In the town of Paúl you can find the oldest cane sugar mill in Santo Antao. The Cape Verdean rum is called grogue and is made from this cane sugar. You have white (young) and brown grogue (old). An average alcohol percentage of the grogue is approximately 45 percent. Grogue is also used to make Ponch; a sweet liqueur of honey and other flavours. In the valley of Ribeira do Paul and other places on Santo Antao you can find and visit many small distilleries of Grogue.
It is hard not to be amazed by the breathtaking landscape of Santo Antao. It is green and the scenery spectacular. The island is known as a good hiking destination for a good reason. Whether you are looking for a multi-day hike or a modest day hike, Santo Antao has it all.
In the east of Santo Antao, the height differences are large compared to the other parts of the island. Here you will find, among other things, the nature reserve at Ribeira Grande. A beautiful area with rare flora and fauna and with beautiful views. The walking route from the old volcanic crater Cova de Paúl over a beautiful and long zigzag road down to the valley is one of the most beautiful walking routes.
In the west of the island the lake is deserted and you will find a large amount of hidden cliffs and rocks. The rocks have acquired bizarre shapes due to the wear and tear of the wind. There are also craters with old lava flows. Due to the deserted area in the west and the secrets it holds, it is advisable to take a guide. In general, the walking routes are easy to follow with a walking map and the starting points are easily accessible by car or aluguer. Since most hiking trails are not very long, you can often combine several. We have further highlighted a number of nice walking routes on the page with hikes on Santo Antao.
Other nice places on Santo Antao
There are so many other nice places on Santo Antao that we recommend to see. Places to go hiking, enjoy the beautiful views or charming villages that you don not want to miss. In the following section we describe a number of other nice destinations on Santo Antao.
You arrive in Porto Novo by ferry. The main port and second largest city of Santo Antao. It is located in the dry southeast and from this place you can experience a beautiful sunset. From here you also can see the mountains of the islands of Sao Vicente and Sao Nicolau. From Porto Novo you have the old inland road that goes over the mountains and valleys to the main town of Ribeira Grande. A hand-built road consisting of 15 million cobblestones. The road is called the Estrada a Corda and is the most beautiful route you can take in Cape Verde. An absolute must see, where you sometimes wonder how the road builders were able to make this. If you want to travel faster to your destination, take the coastal road.
As you follow the road inland, the slopes get steeper and steeper. At some point you will come to the old volcano crater Cova. Vegetables are grown in this valley and a few people live here. From the crater there are beautiful walks to and from Ribeira do Paúl. The hiking trail from the crater down is a must do! In the northeast are two large green valleys. Here lies Ribeira Grande, the capital of Santo Antao. The location is impressive between the cliffs and the sea. The city was founded in the 16th century and you will find a number of beautiful colonial buildings. The valley is a good starting point for walks that pass through beautiful small and colorful villages. This and the surrounding area is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. For example, you can climb or caynoning here. You walk to a starting point and you slide down through the streams, via waterfalls and gorges.
A little further on the peninsula is the town of Ponta do Sol, a nice and attractive place to stay. It is one of the oldest settlements of the Cape Verde Islands and in the center you will find old colored buildings. Ponta do Sol is a great city to spend the night and to start the hike to Fontainhas.
After all the impressions, you may also want to take a dip in the sea and relax on the beach. Due to the tides of the sea, the beaches are best visited in the summer months. In the winter months the sea is more rough. On Santo Antao there are both white and volcanic black beaches. Sinagoga Beach (black sand) is popular for swimming. And at Tarrafal you have a large beach and the sea is generally swimmable. Other recommended beaches are Praia de Escoralet (east of Porto Novo), Praia Formosa (in the south) and Parai de Gi (between Vila das Pombas and Janela). You can also find some beaches along the coast of Cruzinha da Garca.
Food and drinks
You can find the Cape Verdean cuisine in every place on Santo Antao. There are many restaurants where you can enjoy a good meal. You can also go to most hotels and guest houses to have a great meal. The choice on the menu is often limited, but the quality is good. There are also a number of bars and cafes on Santo Antao. In addition, there are several small shops that function as a bar, where you can get an alcoholic snack such as beer or Grogue. Cities like Porto Novo, Ribreira Grande and Ponta do Sol have some places for nightlife lovers.
You can find a number of good restaurants in cities like Ponta do Sol. Restaurant Gata Preto is an excellent address for both Cape Verdean and European dishes. This restaurant is located in a beautiful colonial building. Lovers of views and fish dishes can go to restaurant Caleta. In other cities, some recommendations are restaurant O’Curral in Ribeira do Paúl and Pedracin Village in the Ribeira valley.
Where to stay on Santo Antao?
Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and homestays. There are many different types of accommodations where you can stay on Santo Antao. Ribeira Grande has a limited number of accommodation options. On the other hand, you can find more accommodations in the cities of Ponta dol Sol and Porto Novo. In Paúl and further into the valleys you will only find some simple but fine guest houses.
Based on price, location and amenities, the following accommodations on Santo Antao are recommended. Casa Cavoquinho is surrounded by greenery in Ribeira do Paúl. It is centrally located and therefore a good base for exploring the island or going for walks. If you want a view of the sea, Musica do Mar in Ponta do Sol might be worth an overnight stay. It is a good place for walks and activities in the area.
Best travel time
Santo Antao can be visited all year round. There is a subtropical climate and the temperature is constant. On the coast, the average daytime temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius. If you go more into the mountains, the temperature is a few degrees lower. If you head into the inlands, take some warmer clothes with you just in case. For hikers who make long trips, it is good to know what temperature you can expect. In September the maximum temperature is over 30 degrees and the sun shines a lot. The end of December is coolest with a maximum of 24 degrees. The Cape Verde island is most beautiful when all mountain peaks and valleys are fresh green. This is when the ‘most’ rain falls between August and October. If you want to know more about the weather in Cape Verde, check out our extensive page with all the information about what to expect.
Transportation and getting around
You can only reach Santo Antao by ferry from the island Sao Vicente. There is no longer an airport on Santo Antao, but there is an advanced plan to build an airport near Ponte Sul. From Sao Vicente you can already see Santo Antao, so you can also reach the port of Porto Novo within an hour by ferry. Ferries sail back and forth a number of times in the morning and afternoon. The ferry terminal is within walking distance of Mindelo and is equipped with a number of facilities. You can also buy your tickets at the terminal. Do this at least 30 minutes before departure. You can board the ferry 10 minutes before departure. The price for a ticket (one way) is around 10 euros. For transportation on Santo Antao you can use an aluguer (local van). When you arrive by ferry in Porto Novo, there are plenty of alugueres waiting for you. Each aluguer has its own route across the island. You can of course also take a taxi or use a rental car.
Frequently asked questions
For outdoor enthusiasts, there is much to see on Santo Antao. In the northeast and in the central part of the island are the most beautiful hiking trails and you have the best views. For example, around the Ribeira do Paúl area.
If you are a lover of hiking and nature, make sure you stay at least 3 full days on Santo Antao. In this case you are able to walk the most famous hiking routes. You can easily stay there for a week. If you are not into hiking, a few days is also a good length of stay.
Getting around is easy and the locals are very helpful. Inform the departure times of local vans in advance so that you can make the most of your time. You can find easy the way with your own transport or partly on foot.