Island by Island Guide to Sailing in Cape Verde

29 September | 7 min read
Santiago coast Cape Verde

Comprising of 10 individual islands, the sub-tropical Cape Verde archipelago lies some 500km off the coast of West Africa. With a unique geography, landscape and culture like nowhere else on earth, sailing in Cape Verde is the best way to experience all that life has to offer in this corner of the world.

Whilst a typical package holiday to Cape Verde may offer a day trip or two to the lesser known islands, a sailing holiday remains the best way to travel between the islands and uncover all they have to offer. Part of the magic of sailing in Cape Verde lies in its variation of landscapes and activities, meaning that there really is something for everyone to discover. Enjoy relaxing on golden sandy beaches, exploring a colourful African market or hiking through a volcanic forest landscape! With so much to discover, we have put together this handy island guide to prepare yourself for an adventure sailing in Cape Verde. 

Sailing in the Barlavento Islands 

The Northern band of the Cape Verde islands are known as the Barlavento Islands. They include Sal, São Vicente, Santa Antao, São Nicolaus and Boa Vista.

Sal Cape Verde
Local boats moored in Sal, Cape Verde


One of the most popular islands for holiday makers in Cape Verde, Sal is home to the majority of beachside resorts, restaurants and bars. The island also has the better transport options, with direct flights from the UK arriving here. This makes it the perfect starting point for sailing in Cape Verde. Those who make the effort will be rewarded – the coastline here showcases an endless stretch of golden sands and crystal clear waters whilst inland offers a desert, a lunar-like landscape. It’s worth a trip to the hidden mirage at Terra Boa appearing as an ocean in the middle of the desert!

Santa Antao Cape Verde
A mountain village in Santo Antão, Cape Verde

Santa Antão

Considered the most beautiful island of the archipelago, Santa Antão is a paradise of lush mountain peaks and native flora. A must see destination, all our vessels sailing in Cape Verde call in to visit this beautiful island. Spend the day exploring the island at your leisure before returning to the boat in the evening. The adventurous traveller will particularly enjoy hiking the Riberia Grande trail. The trail dramatically winds its way along the edge of a volcanic crater providing stunning sweeping views across the island. 

Cape Verde Sao Vincente
The mountainous shoreline at Sao Vicente, Cape Verde

São Vicente 

Considered the cultural hub of Cape Verde, São Vicente has excellent international transport links. Along with Sal, this makes it a great place to start your venture sailing in Cape Verde. The capital Mindelo is home to the islands famous music scene, with a rich local culture and a vibrant nightlife. Take in the local cuisine with dinner in the city before a crew member guides you to the best spots for live music and dancing! Beach lovers will enjoy the world renowned wind surfing beaches, or the natural lagoon for swimmers at Baia das Gatas. 

São Nicolau 

An unspoilt paradise, São Nicolau is home to undoubtedly some of the most breathtaking scenery in Cape Verde. One of the least visited islands due to its secluded location, São Nicolau is a fine example of how sailing in Cape Verde can unlock the hidden gems of this diverse archipelago. Breathe in fresh crisp air on a mountain walk amongst sweet smelling pine forests or climb the inactive volcano of Mount Monte Gordo. Wander through volcanic landscapes, discover the islands beautiful national parks and meander through the colourful town of Ribeira Brava, before heading back to the ship.

Cape Verde Boa Vista
Sweeping sand dunes in Boa Vista

Boa Vista

One of the most visited islands, Boa Vista is home to dazzling sandy beaches and glorious landscapes. It’s name translates to ‘beautiful view’ and it’s little wonder why. Added to this, the island is undeniably a snorkellers paradise with plentiful tropical fish, native coral and mysterious shipwrecks to bubble down to. Time it right and you’ll be able to admire the world’s largest Loggerhead Turtle breeding sites – a once in a lifetime experience, and all part of our sailing adventures with crew arranging for guests to meet with a local guide from the turtle foundation.

Sotavento Islands

The southern cluster of islands are known as the Sotavento islands. They include Santiago, Fogo, Saint Luzia, Maio and Brava.

Santiago coast Cape Verde
The coastline of Santiago, Cape Verde


The largest island in the archipelago, Santiago is home to colourful local markets brimming with the unique Creole culture and a landscape bursting with lush green valleys. Santiago is often the first island sailed to from Sal, and with a crossing of 110 miles between them there’s likely to be night sailing, celestial navigation, and incredible starry skies! Following our arrival into Santiago – and a well-earned hearty breakfast on the boat – guests are free to step ashore and explore the island at will. We suggest taking in the peaceful mountain village of Rabelados as well as making a visit to the reservoir of Agua Barragem or The National Park of Serra Malagueta. 

Fogo Cape Verde
The volcano Pico do Fogo, Cape Verde


Thousands of years ago the island of Fogo was formed from a volcanic eruption, and remains known for its fiery landscape. The dramatic volcano of Pico do Fogo dominates the landscape with fantastic hiking opportunities. Pretty Portuguese squares, local coffee and traditional wine combine to create a fascinating island brimming with culture.

Santa Luzia

The smallest of the islands in Cape Verde and the only one that lies uninhabited. Santa Luzia is a mysterious place, with a wild and rugged north coast, and beaches and dunes to the south. Become one with nature as you experience the unique flora and fauna of Santa Luzia. The island is well known for it’s plentiful fish – guests are welcome to throw out a fishing line and you may even catch your own dinner!

Maio & Brava

Maio and Brava are two of the most untouched islands in Cape Verde, both brimming with flora and fauna. Our sailing adventures in Cape Verde tend to forgo these islands for the more dramatic scenery found elsewhere in the Sotavento islands, however be sure to look out for them on deck as you sail by!

With all this to explore and more, discover this tropical island paradise with us on a skippered sailing holiday to Cape Verde.