Sarah and Ian (the owners of Archipelago Choice) took their children Theo (10) and Lara (8) on a family holiday in Cape Verde for 2 weeks last month along with Sarah’s Dad (72).
It was a real family affair with lots of activities, unusual weather, travelling around and some unscheduled stops! Here’s a summary of their trip which we hope you find useful if you’re considering visiting the islands, whatever your age…
A 6 hour flight took us to Sal for our one night stop at the lovely Hotel Morabeza positioned right on the silky smooth sandy beach at Santa Maria. We’d stayed before so knew what to expect but what we didn’t expect was rain. The previous year, Sal had had half a day’s rain – our first two and a half days it rained!! But after that it was back to Cape Verde’s normal sunshine.
The next day we flew to Sao Vicente staying in the family friendly Foya Branca, set on a long sandy windsurfing beach with 2 lovely swimming pools. The children didn’t want to leave but we dragged them into Mindelo to experience some Cape Verde culture visiting the colourful bustling fish and vegetable markets and then a jeep tour round the island.
Highlights of this were the deserted beaches, the incredible off-road driving, our guide/singer Gabriela Mendes who has her own album and jumping off Saharan sand dunes.
Next up, Santo Antao, a one hour ferry trip away from Sao Vicente.
We were collected from Porto Novo port and driven up to Cova do Paul. This is the crater at the top of the island and is ‘green’ compared to most of Cape Verde. Not ‘green’ from lots of rain but from the cloud that hangs over the crater much of the time. The walk out of the crater and down along cobbled farm trails passed through small settlements and magnificent steep terraces. My Dad found the steep downhill path a bit hard on his knees so walking poles recommended!
Our walk ended at the modest but very comfortable Casa das Ilhas replete with cats and dogs for the children and honesty bar for us adults.
Our second walk started just above Sinagoga and finished at Lombo Branco and took around 5 hours (much quicker if you don’t have children with you). Our guide Ailton, brought pasta and rice salad picnics cooked by his wife which were delicious. This walk undulated through terraces and villages again but there were coastal views and not so much steep downhill. We saw farmers working in the manioc terraces and others carrying breeze blocks on their heads.
A lady in one of the villages even made us some coffee on her wood stove.
Sad farewells to Kath from Casa das Illhas and all her animals the following day, but the 4 hour drive on the back of a pick up truck quickly made up for it.
We headed to the very remote Tarrafal on the west side of the island only reached by a dirt road stopping on the way to gaze at the impossibly high Topo de Coroa at 1982m.
We stayed at Mar Tranquilidade run by New Yorker Susi and her German husband, Frank. Staying here is a real treat, nestled at the end of the beach, serving the best food we had all fortnight and as the name suggests providing tranquillity.
Theo got to fulfil his ambition of scuba diving by doing a baptism dive with David, an ex French navy diver who runs his business there.
Reluctantly we left Tranquilidade and got back on the pick up to Ponta do Sol on the north east tip of the island. It’s not a very inspiring town but the drama of Lara getting sea urchin spines in her foot and the welcome help from the locals endeared us more to the place. As did an excellent meal at the seafront restaurant with great live music and company from fellow diners from all over the world.
Next day was the most spectacular walk of the holiday – the coastal path from Cruzinha to Ponta do Sol. It took us 7 hours with lots of stops and motivational speeches… The cobbled path contours the edge at the bottom of 1000ft high cliffs and all that separates you from the crashing white foam below is a low wall. It was superb and the snaking zig zag path up to Fontainhas village could be a world heritage site in its own right. If you only do one walk on your family holiday in Cape Verde, make it this one!
Then, our holiday took an unexpected turn. We boarded the ferry the following day to Sao Nicolao for 3 days walking there. We got as far as Sao Vicente which was a scheduled stop and they cancelled the ferry. Despite beautiful sunny weather, the 6m waves made it just too dangerous to continue. Ian and I were really disappointed – Sao Nicolao has some wonderful walking – but the children made the most of their extra few nights back at Foya Branca before our flight to Sal. A visit to a guitar workshop and seeing the winning float from the previous weekend’s carnival in Mindelo filled our extra days.
Back for our last two nights on Sal at the Morabeza for some well earned Caipirinhas (local cocktail), body boarding, horse riding and kite surfing lesson.
This was a very busy itinerary with mostly 1 and 2 night stops which my Dad and the children found quite tiring although it did feel like a real grown up back packing adventure to Ian and I. A family holiday in Cape Verde is different enough culturally and scenically to feel like an adventure but safe enough that you can relax and explore happily and it’s fantastic for children.