Boa Vista (Cape Verde)
In summary, fantastic beaches and hot sunshine - with some interesting culture / music and good food. The downside is the prices you'd in Europe with the infrastructure of a low-income country.
Boa Vista is the third largest island of the Archipelago Cape Verde. Similarly to the island of Sal, it is flat and has a surface of 620 Km2. The Peak of Estância is the highest point of the island measuring about 390 meters. It is covered with white sand dunes, including the Deserto Viana which was (and still is being) formed by Saharan sand blowing over from mainland Africa. Oases of date palms are found here and there and are the typical vegetation of the island. Boa Vista has 55 Km of white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Circa 20,000 people live on the island.
Boa Vista is primarily a tourist destination with little other economy. Sal Rei is the largest town and the main place to stay other than major all-inclusive resorts.
This island considered to be the birthplace of Morna, one of the main musical genres of the country, went through some economic improvement only in the beginning of the 17th century when a great amount of salt was found in it. At that time, salt was already sold in the island of Maio. Before the discovery of this product, the island's economy was based on cattle breeding, just like the other arid islands of the Archipelago Cape Verde, which had little or no water available.
The airport is in Rabil, approximately 5 minutes drive from the West coast hotels, 10 minutes from Sal Rei, and 30 minutes from the Southern coast resorts. Taxis await all flights outside the entrance.
The TUI travel group provide flights. This means from the UK Thomson are the provider, flying to Boa Vista from Manchester, Gatwick and Birmingham airports. While the airport is currently small and can only handle one aircraft at a time, there are plans for an expansion and increasing the capability of the airport.
Airlines that fly into Boa Vista International Airport: Thomson TAP Cabo Verde Airlines TUI TUIfly Netherlands TUI Nordic
Ferry services to/from the other islands are not generally a viable option. Flights are available but do not go every day and are relatively expensive. They can be booked from travel agents in Sal Rei near the main square.
Car is the main way to get around the island. There are few concrete roads, most being made of volcanic cobblestones. Many beaches are only reachable by off-road tracks (including Santa Monic and the ‘Shipwreck’). There are also very few signposts. Taxis are relatively expensive and due to the poor roads trips take longer than you'd otherwise expect. To get to some beaches and places of interest you'll need to go off-road for what can be a bumpy ride.
Organised excursions with your holiday provider will be using 4X4 Land Rovers or rugged coaches/minibuses. Otherwise, local taxis can be called upon - these are benches bolted onto the back of a pickup. A round trip to Sal Rei from the Riu Touareg will cost around 50€ or 5500 Cape Verde Escudos. Don't expect cheap travel - fuel costs are comparable with the UK. A full day will cost around 10,000 Escudos, a half day around 8,000.
Mile upon mile of stunning beaches, some untouched and remote. Famous as the nesting sites of loggerhead turtles.'Santa Monica' is considered the best beach. Currently remote but with a resort being built. Praia de Atlanta is famous for a 1950s rusted shipwreck. There are no direct roads and reaching it requires traveling over sand dunes.
The island is a mix of arid volcanic landscape and Sahara like sand dunes (the sand blows across from the Sahara). Two prominent volcanic peaks provide a backdrop. There is little wildlife on land except for goats, donkeys, cows, and bird life. There are however humpback wales March-October and turtle nesting grounds.
While on the island it is worth booking excursions with operators as to see the gems of the island, visiting beaches, villages, farmlands, and workshops. With certain tours, this offers a unique opportunity to see parts of the island that otherwise would be missed on the trip to and from the hotel and airport.
Apart from enjoying the beaches, the holiday providers will upsell their excursions; ranging from relaxed afternoons sailing on a catamaran to exciting quad biking along the many dirt trails and through the sand dunes of the Deserto Viana.
These excursions can also be provided by local companies, who also make sure to donate to local projects to give back to the Boa Vista communities.
Do a nighttime beach patrol during Loggerhead turtle nesting season and watch in amazement as these elegant creatures come ashore in shimmering moonlight to lay their eggs. The Turtle Foundation  is the main charity on the island and may invite you along if you email them.
Whale (humpback) watching tours from around 60 Euros are available March-October. Sea-Adventures Boa Vista is one of the better tours for finding the whales, speaking English and German, and has a biologist on board.
Research and make contact prior to departing on your travels - the tour operators will provide similar excursions but at a higher cost and in larger group sizes which gives a much less personal experience.
Boa Vista's desert ecosystem doesn't provide for much local produce. There is however a lot of rocks and stones! Traditionally made pottery is made at the pottery school (Escola de Olaria) in Rabil, this is an initiative designed to re-introduce these old fashioned skills back to the young population.
Almost everything is imported - food and drink included, so expect prices to be comparable with Europe.
The tourist shops (and the persistent street sellers) sell interesting wooden carvings and general tourist items. Most of these shops also sell artwork.
Nice to be Nice - is an art and tourist shop near Cafe Pescador. The artwork is original and reflects contemporary Cape Verde, unlike much of the other art that is offered to tourists. Chico is also an excellent guide and can organise authentic tours of the island.
The food is generally very good, although at broadly European prices. It mixes Italian /Portuguese and African influences. The seafood is excellent, with tuna, marlin, wahoo being common catches.
The local fish market sells excellent and cheep fresh fish between 8 and 11 am. (Next to bar Pescador).
Blue Marlin - located in the central square does fresh seafood and traditional dishes (requiring pr-order). Only four seated spaces so reservation required. Dinner is in 7:30 and 9:30pm sittings.
Cabo Cafe - upstairs dining with lovely atmosphere seafood and traditional dishes. In central Sal Rei not far from the square. Seared tuna and fish tartar are especially good.
El Mirador - Spanish African fusion restaurant overlooking the beach. Serving inventive dishes such as muscles with serrano ham and blue cheese crockets. One of the best in Sal Rei and at a comparable price.
Ca'baby - Italian style restaurant serving pizza etc as well as seafood. Prawns with garlic and rum are particularly good.
Morabeza beach bar - provides freshly cooked fish and steak dishes in a relaxed setting on the Western coast, not far from the Riu Karamboa resort. Ideal for an afternoon lazing away with great beer.
Tortuga beach bar - reasonable quality food and drink. Sunbeds cost 1,000 Escudos or a similar minimum spend.
Portos beach bar - pirate themed beach bar with free sunbeds and better food than the other beach bars. On the other side of Sal Rei from the other beach bars (mentioned above), so quieter.
In Boa Vista, the local rum is called Grog a spirit that is available across the island. The local beer Strela is reasonably good and cheep, it is available across the island (300E). Cocktails are widely available and cost 5/600E. Caipirinhas are particularly good.
Wakan bar - boat-shaped bar in the middle of the street serving cocktails, beer, and snacks. Seating is outdoors with views of the sea. Happy hour offers cut-price drinks and buy-one-get one free cocktails.
Pescador - bar providing good views for sunset overlooking the port. Situated next to the fish market.
Tortuga - beach bar with sun loungers. Serving food and drink. 1,000E price or minimum spend required for the sunloounger.
The town square has a bar in its center serving good caipirinhas with local music on weekends.
Apartments are available to rent in Sal Rei.
In Sal Rei, locals will tell you its fine to walk around after dark but to take a taxi if traveling home after midnight.