The Rio de Janeiro of Cape Verde. That is also what Sao Vicente is called. There is live music everywhere, there are regular international music festivals and the carnival is celebrated on a grand scale. Mindelo is the island’s capital and also the cultural heart of the Cape Verde Islands. The city is one of the richer cities of Cape Verde and is known for its cozy atmosphere, the music, the colonial architecture and the bustling liveliness. The port city inspired many an intellectual, musician and artist. Outside the city you will find peace and quiet and beautiful unspoilt beaches. Beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts will therefore get their money’s worth on Sao Vicente. An island that is definitely worth a visit.
Want to know more about Sao Vicente?
On this page you will find more about Sao Vicente. For example, what is it you do not want to miss when visiting the island? And which restaurants can we recommend to you? This page about Sao Vicente is divided into the following topics:
- Other sights and activities on Sao Vicente
- Food & drinks
- Where to stay on Sao Vicente?
- Best travel time
- Transportation and getting around
- Frequently asked questions
Sao Vicente is a dry and arid island. Besides the capital Mindelo, the landscape consists of red colored surfaces and mountains, interspersed by desert-like valleys. Sao Vicente measures 24 by 16 kilometers and is centrally located between other small uninhabited islands. In addition, the distance to the inhabited Santo Antao is only 14 kilometers. Sao Vicente is a good base to explore several other Cape Verde Islands to visit.
Sao Vicente was discovered by a Portuguese in 1462. It was long uninhabited and it was used by pirates as a harbour. It was part of the Portuguese empire in recent centuries. When the Portuguese empire fell into decline, Britain temporarily took power. That is why you see both Portuguese and British influences in the architecture.
A nice video made with a drone shows part of Sao Vicente from a bird’s eye view. See the aerial images ‘Sao Vicente from the air‘.
The internationally oriented capital Mindelo is perhaps the most important highlight of Sao Vicente. The city where the world famous singer Cesária Évora was born. Nearly 95% of the population of Sao Vicente lives in this vibrant city. Besides the fact that Mindelo also has the main port of the Cape Verde islands, it is also the cultural capital of the Cape Verde archipelago.
The city has a historic center with beautiful pastel-coloured mansions in sobrado style. In the center you will find a number of old squares where you can relax. There is a diverse range of shops in the streets around the squares. Well-known sights in Mindelo include the Torre de Belem, several churches, the former presidential palace, the cultural center and the fortress d’El Rei. On the water side, a long promenade runs along the large harbour. The harbor is often used by sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Here you have a beautiful view of all the boats and you can enjoy the sunset. And if you need to cool off, go to the beautiful city beach Laginha.
Other sights and activities on Sao Vicente
Baia das Gatas
In the east of Sao Vicente is the fishing village of Baia das Gatas. You have a large lagoon here that is shielded from the sea. In other words, a big natural pool. Which is ideal for a swim and the water is shallow. On weekends, this is a place popular with the locals: an ideal place for a family outing or a picnic. Baia das Gatas really comes alive in August when a major international multi-day music festival is held. It is not only about music, but also about being together and eating & drinking.
At the top of the 744 meter high mountain Monte Verde you have a great panoramic view of Sao Vicente. You can for example see the iconic mountain Monte Cara. In clear weather you can even see the island Santo Antao and the uninhabited islands Santa Luzia, Branco and Raso. You can reach the top by car, but if you prefer to walk up, count on a trip of at least an hour.
Carnival on Sao Vicente – among the best in the world
They can celebrate well in Cape Verde. For a spectacular party you have to be in Sao Vicente! In February, the largest Carnival of Cape Verde (Mardi Gras) is celebrated. Parties start well before the real carnival starts. The parades, the costumes, the feathers, the dancing crowd and the atmosphere are reminiscent of the Carnival as celebrated in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It is therefore not surprising that Cape Verde is one of the best three tropical carnivals, along with Brazil and Trinidad & Tobago.
Extinct volcano crater of Calhau
Near the fishing village of Calhau is an extinct vulcaono of almost 150 meters high. You can easily climb this crater and from the top you have a view of the uninhabited islands of Santa Luzia, Raso and Branco.
Learn to surf
For kite, wind and board surfers this is one of the best places in the world to go surfing, mainly at Sandy beach at Calhau. If the conditions are favourable, very high speeds can be achieved here. There are also plenty of opportunities for beginners to enjoy the waves and the wind.
Best Blue Marlin Destination in the World
The waters around Sao Vicente are internationally renowned for its blue marlin. These powerful fish with their large sword can grow up to 4 meters in length and weigh more than 500 kilograms. Sao Vicente is counted among the best blue marlin destinations in the world.
Food & drinks
In Mindelo there are many restaurants, cafes and bars. Many eateries also have live music, especially on weekends. In the old center of Mindelo and along the beach of Laginha there is always something to do, our advice is to go there. Some nice eateries and cafes are:
- Drinks – La Pergola: right in the center on the square in the shade enjoy a cocktail or a bite to eat;
- Drinks – Katem Musique: a nice cafe where you can also get a snack;
- Food – Archote: good food and live music;
- Food – Caravela: beautiful view over the sea and good food and drink;
- Food – Chex Loutcha.
Where to stay on Sao Vicente?
It is best to spend the night in Mindelo. This is where by far the most accommodations can be found. There is a suitable place to sleep for every budget. Based on price, location and amenities, the following two accommodations are recommended. At the Praca Amilcar Cabral is one of the best hotels in Sao Vicente. The hotel, called Porto Grande Oasis Atlantico, has a swimming pool and a good restaurant. If you have a smaller budget, you can consider staying at Casa Combo. Other places where you can find accommodations include Sao Pedro and Calhau. However, there are few amenities nearby.
Best time to travel
Are you coming for the music and the parties, then travel to Sao Vicente in February (Carnival) or August (Baia das Gatas festival). Be on time to book a place to sleep for this period, because it can fill up quickly. There is very little rain on Sao Vicente and the sun usually shines here. The subtropical dry climate provides fine conditions. The temperature on Sao Vicente is between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius. The wind is strongest in the winter months. If you want to know more about the best time to travel to Cape Verde, view the extensive page with more information.
Transportation and getting around
Sao Vicente has an international airport (VXE) named after the musical icon Cesária Évora. The island is easily accessible by plane from several countries. There are also domestic flights to/from the islands Sal and Santiago. For up-to-date flight information, view the page with airline tickets. The airport of Sao Vicente is about 10 kilometers from the city of Mindelo. A taxi from the airport to Mindelo takes 20 minutes and costs about 10 euros.
In the city of Mindelo there are city buses that take you to most places for a small price. In addition to bus transport, there are the aluguers (local bus). There are of course also taxis that will transport you in the city for a few euros. Renting a car on the island is also possible, there are several rental companies.
Sao Vicente can also be reached by ferry. For example, between the neighboring islands of Santo Antao and Sao Nicolau, ferries frequently sail to and from Mindelo. The travel time by ferry is relatively long considering for the distance and the departure of the ferries is not always certain.
Are you coming by (sailing) boat? You can then use the modern harbour of Mindelo (Mindelo Marina). The harbour has some of the best fuel, water, docking and boat repair facilities in the Cape Verde archipelago. An alternative to moor is at the bay of Sao Pedro. However, in this place the wind is more treacherous and there are no amenities.
Frequently asked questions
Sao Vicente has a lot to offer for a relaxing, cultural or active holiday. A stay of at least a few days is definitely recommended. In addition, you can also easily make a day trip to the neighboring islands Santo Antao or Sao Nicolau.
Visiting the green neighbouring island of Santo Antao is a lot of fun. Several ferries depart every day from the port of Mindelo to Santao Antao. The sailing time is approximately 1 hour. You can buy tickets for the ferry at the counter in the harbour. Traveling independently to Santo Antao is perfectly doable. In the port of Santo Antao there are plenty of buses or taxis that can transport you further across the island.
Cape Verde and especially Sao Vicente is a melting pot of different cultures. Besides the Portuguese and British influences, many Dutch arrived in the port of Mindelo. In the 17th century the Netherlands was a world maritime power and, with the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), had the largest shipping company in the world. Many Cape Verdeans also went to work in the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.