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Boa Vista, Cape Verde`s Desert Island

The Saharan island of the Cape Verdes

Direct flights from Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and East Midlands

Boavista is an island of sand dunes, long white beaches, and clear sea. Originally named Sao Cristovao when discovered in 1480, Boa Vista caught on after sailors cried from the crow`s nest of sailing barques “Boa Vista” meaning Beautiful View. Settled in 1620, by Captain Rodrigo Afonso who obtained a permit for farming cattle and goats, it also developed potteries and weaving. It is only 20 miles from north to south, but the trip takes hours over sand-swept tracks and costs at least £40.

Boa Vista is a desert island with 35 miles of sandy beaches and an interior of dunes. Its volcanic origins are apparent at Rabil and Fundo das Figueiras and can be recognised from the Pico d’Estancia, althjough only 390m high.

The interior is miles of sand dunes,withone or two oases. Just three hours from Sal by boat, or a short flight, its fine beaches have yet to attract many bathers. Offshore wrecks include the Cecilia (Italy's Titanic) and many English East Indiamen containing guns and coins. It has one of the largest turtle breeding grounds in the world for loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles. They land at night in June/July to breed. Because of poor soil and drought, there is little farming but goats and horses can survive. You may see wild horses running through the sand in the empty south of the island.

Santa Monica or Curralinho and Varandinho beach

The best beach is at Curralinho far to the south over sandswept roads. It is known as Santa Monica because of a similarity to the Californian beach. It is reached over 20 miles of sand swept track passing dead goats and turtles to reach a magnificent empty beach of Australian grandeur. Praia Varandinha nearby features a grotto. This is a half day trip costing £60 or more by Aluguer. Do not attempt it in a rental Land Rover or Suzuki unless you are expert on sand.

Beyond Santa Monica a track leads to a lagoon with coconut and date palm. The old village of Curral Velho has been abandoned, but fishermen's hovels with palm-frond roofs, and the old salt pans are still there..A small islet Curral Velho a bird sanctuary lies just offshore.A from South Africa went there for birds.

"We landed in this beautiful desert island: huge sand dunes, endless, pristine sand beaches, wetlands, small palm groves, stony desert, forested river valleys and low mountains. Parts of the island were typical Saharan landscapes. We stayed in the capital of Sal Rei, and hired 4-wheel Jeep on a daring expedition. Our goal was to get to the south tip of Boavista before darkness, to look for frigatebirds on the small rock island of Ilheu de Curral Velho. The so-called "road" along the south coast soon turned into a track, and eventually disappeared into different, muddy directions in an uninhabited wilderness. However, thanks to a GPS and help from an old shepherd (the only person we met), we made it just in time before sunset to the south tip beach at the small island, but no luck with frigatebirds - only a booby colony. Made it back in darknesswithout trouble, and with good help from the GPS.

Ponta Varadinha has a grotto and a fine beach. Offshore lies the wreck on a 19th Century East Indiaman, name unknown. D from Berskhire invested for the beaches

"Boa Vista was so lovely we are buying there. The hotel was comfortable and food okay but the best part was the cafe on the beach. The owners were lovely and we swapped snippets of Portuguese and English. What can I say about the beaches except that everything in the guides is true."

Sal Rei the main port and chief town

The only real township with an islet of the same name in its bay which has the ruins of the Duque de Braganca’s fort, built to protect against pirates over 150 years ago. The town itself is disappointing, smelly , dirty, litter infested and with very poor bidonvilles right up against the new tourist flats. Locals queue to collect water in plastic pails. Tranport is a racket amongst the aluguer owners who mark prices up for foreigners and there are few bars or restaurants at all. Locals are much less friendly than on Sal and expatriates are mainly Italian. See aerial view. M from Yorks says

"Went to Boa Vista, totally different island. Very poor tourist potential - 10 years behind Sal. The beaches untended, covered in dog muck, empty beer bottles, along with the street in Sal Rei. The town of Sal Rei smelt of urine, as many of the locals could be seen urinating in the street even in daylight. Mosquitos were terrible. After one afternoon and a couple of hours in the morning, severe mosquito bites and food poisioning from the buffet at the hotel, left the island promptly. I would not consider buying on this island, the prices were more expensive than Sal with total lack of facilities and little to do.The beaches on Boa Vista were nice, but having to travel 20km in a 4 wheel drive to get there, they are hardly accessible."

T from Essex found Cabral beach to the north of Sal Rei windswept

"In places the beach is lovely but in others it is quite rocky but in my opinion this adds character. There is a beautiful sand dune at the end of the beach. However, last week it was extremely windy so much so that sand was blowing everywhere and it was even painful to stand on the beach because the sand blew straight at me! My white T-shirt was brown (sand coloured) by the time I came off the beach. The sea was very rough and I wouldn't have risked trying to swim in it. I too have been assured that this is the windy season and that it isn't like this all year."

C from London found it quiet

"Sal Rei itself is very quiet and not much to do but you can hire a vehicle for island trips and we highly recommend doing this. We went to some fantastic isloated beaches only accessible with a 4x4 by somebody who knows where they are going! Also worth walking round to Estoril Beach to Bahia de Estoril beach bar where you can hire sun loungers, enjoy lunch and watch the kite surfers."


Along Praia de Chaves beach are the ruins of old kilns once the centre of an established industry on Boa Vista. Ceramic work remains the main artisanal activityt today. It was introduced from Africa around 1850 .In Rabil, once the island`s capital, and now near the airport is the small church of San Roque, built in 1801, and the oldest on the island. There are still small-scale handicraft potteries in the village itself, open to visitors.

Just past Rabil, the low dunes, dry pastures and villages of Monte de Santo Antonio and Provoacao Velha show little sign of life. Founded in the seventeenth century, this was the oldest settlement and rises at the foot of the Rocha Estancia, a large sand dune with caves used in times past by fugitive slaves. A few miles south is a small pretty church .

From Rabil you can drive to the small oasis of Deserto de Viana with huge dunes almost hiding the coconut and date palms.

Morro Negro

A lava block pave road leads to the only agricultural part of the island around Joao Gallego, Fundo de Figueiras and Cabeco de Tafares. The disused lighthouse at Morro Negro, built on a large rock 150m high offers a fine viewt. Punta do Roque and Praia dos Balejas beyond the lighthouse are littered with the bones of dolphin and humpback whales blown ashore. Ocho de Mar makes a natural swimming pool carved out of lava by the waves. When it rains a small waterfall and stream form here.. Joao Galego, is the most eastern point of Cape Verde with its sentinel disused lighthouse, where so many ships foundered.

Praia da Boa Esperanca and Ponta do Sol

Ponta do Sol is a long, lovely sandy beach, forming the northern shore of the island and is commonly called Boa Esperanca or Coast of Good Hope. The Costa de Boa Esperanca extends to Ponta Antonia. In the miiddle lies the wreck of the Spanish cargo ship Cabo Santa Maria, which was beached here in September 1988. A group of birdwathchers searched fror red kites.

" Ponta do Sol is on the north-western tip of the island, but it was not possible to get all the way to the tip. In the hope of finding a remaining Cape Verde Red Kite in Boavista, we drove to the old village of Norte and further on towards east to the coast of Ponta do Porto Ferreira. From here, we could overview the booby rock of Ilheu do Baluarte, which is the other frigatebird option in Boavista. This time our frigatebird efforts were rewarded. We followed the Via Pittoresca to Sal Rei, and returned to the river of Ribeira Grande. We walked along the river from the road bridge to the outlet in the sea. Back again to Norte, desperately hoping for kites coming in to roost for the night in the forested valley between Joao Galego and Norte - in vain though. Back through rain to Sal Rei after sunset, finishing a fine day. ";"

At Ponta Antonia the remains of the abandoned village of Espingueira can be seen with a small harbour still used by local fishermen. To the south east lies the village of Bofareira, reached by a partially paved track leading off the road fromt Sal Rei

B from Oxon thinks it will improve
"I was in Boa Vista a few months ago and yes the island is different from Sal in terms of tourism development. The three beaches I walked on around Sal Rei were clean and free of broken glass etc and I was told the local council are making an effort in that direction. It`s the classic chicken & egg situation, tourists expect perfection but few visit at the moment. As for food poisoning and mosquitoes I heard no mention whilst there but I did get sunburnt! Boa Vista is a stunning island, a sun lovers` paradise but it will take a year or two before tourism starts to increase dramatically. The infrastructure needs to be radically improved, everyone knows this but again in a year or two the situation will be resolved. Maybe Santa Maria was similar only a few years ago! Progress has a habit of marching rapidly on."
J from Hampshire poses some questions
"Boa Vista property prices seem to be the same as those in Santa Maria (with the exception of beach front properties) yet Boa Vista has a very poor infrastructure when compared to Sal. The roads are rough compared to the new cobbled roads being constructed around Santa Maria. Santa Maria is overrun with taxis which makes it very easy to get around, this is not the case on Boa Vista where there did not even seem to be taxis at the airport (maybe I was just unlucky) There appear to very few or no nice bars or restaurants in Sal Rei. What does one do for entertainment. There appear to be very few facilities - medical and other - on the island. There appears to be no regular boat service between Sal and Boa Vista (I do not count the trimaran as a regular passenger service!). The only way to get there is with an expensive internal flight. Admittedly Boa Vista has most of the white sandy beaches in Cape Verde so there will be no problems in the future finding a place to put your towel down (this could be a problem in Santa Maria in the near future!) Can anyone enlighten me to what are its advantages?"

Spinguera the resort is the middle of nowhere

This is something of a delusion

Hotels and Restaurants on Boa Vista

Cape Verde boutique charm hotels on Boa Vista and other islands

Car Hire on Boa Vista

Day Trip to Boa Vista

Green Concerns