The main points of interest in Mindelo are within walking distance from the residence. If needed a map of the town is available within the "Directions" tab of this website to help for directions.
Passing through the famous Praça Nova take a stroll towards the Palácio do Governador and check its architecture. Also check other buildings in the Pracinha de Igreja area. Get a taste of the typical atmospheres of the famous Café Lisboa in the street with the same name, of the covered market just nearby and of the fish market further south. In so doing cross the Praça Estrela and discover artists' workshops and studios that often open their doors to the public. Walk up the Avenida Marginal all the way to the Porto Grande harbor, then follow the road till you reach the Laginha beach.
If you have a vehicle, visit the villages of Baía das Gatas, Norte Baía, Calhau and São Pedro. Climb on top of the Monte Verde from where you will get a fantastic view of the Mindelo bay.
Live music in Mindelo is not as widespread as some advertising companies or tour operators would like potential tourists to believe. This said, many talented Capverdean artists (and there are plenty, especially when including emigrants!) regularly give performances. With a little luck you could attend fantastic concerts in convivial ambiances, sometimes intimate (the reason being that the fare are hardly affordable for the local population ) Places to check on week-ends include: - Casa da Morna, rua de Praia; - Mindel hotel, praça Nova (or praça Amilcar Cabral), bay side; - Porto Grande hotel, praça Nova (or praça Amilcar Cabral), hill side.
Some restaurants (ask us upon arrival because the addresses change according to the day of the week) regularly have live bands to accompany your meals. Also, small and improvised concerts sometimes take place in one or the other open air restaurants located along the Laginhabeach.
Finally, the Baía das Gatasfestival occurs every year in August during a full moon week-end (dear to Vasco Martins, one of the funding members.) Internationally known, this festival attracts numerous artists from the Capverdean scene, but also from the African, Caribbean, Brazilian and European horizons.
Mindelo has a lot of restaurants, some so discretely signaled that they are difficult to spot, but you shouldn't have too much problem for finding one to your taste. To date (July 2006) "big tables" do not exist but excellent "cuisine" can still be found. Prices range from 5 €uros for a traditional "cachupa" (meat stew with corn and black beans) to 30 €uros for a more complete and elaborated meal (grilled lobsters, wine and dessert.)
Here are a short list of our favorite addresses sorted from the lowest to the highest price: - La Bodeguita, in the Alto Miramar neighborhood, less than 5 minutes away from our residence walking down towards the city. Bruno, a native of the French Antilles, cooks delicious Caribbean and African dishes in this little restaurant-tapas-bar. Very friendly, excellent value. - Elvis-Restobar, behind the post office, Parque Nho Roque, excellent dishes at very reasonable prices. - Archotte, Alto São Nicolau (area located behind the praça nova that you pass when walking towards the harbor) near the Cave night club, excellent sea food and wines with live music every nights.
The water temperature varies between 21 and 24 °C depending on the season. Swimming can be hazardous at some beaches due to strong currents and undertows. Unless you are an excellent and skillful swimmer please select watched beaches. Other beaches are perfectly safe, even for young age children, but these are the busiest. On these beaches in particular you need to be aware of the presence of (a few) pickpockets. Thus keep your personal belongings in your field of view or leave them to someone when you go bathing to prevent from unpleasant surprises. But don't get paranoid, you are very far from Copacabana… When going to desert beaches (it still exists!) try to get information from locals before jumping into the water to know the hazards associated to the spot, if any. Usually these are always about currents and undertows; we never heard a bad story about animals with sharp teeth or poisonous…
The beaches: - Laginha : located in the city of Mindelo just beyond the Porto Grande harbor. This beach is not magnificent but still nice and very conveniently located. It is also the busiest. Watched during the day it is very safe for all ages. Perfect for an improvised and quick bathing.
- Salamansa : on the road to Baía turn off left 2 kilometers before the village towards Salamansa. Long and beautiful white-sand beach, some parts dangerous with strong currents. This beach is not watched so use caution if you decide to swim!
- Baía das Gatas : this is a natural swimming pool, big and roughly circular, with white sand. Quite nice off-season, it is less attractive in summer and worse after the festival when it is almost insalubrious… During high-season (July-August) it is recommended to go on week-days as it can get crowded on week-ends: it is one of the favorite destinations of the "Mindelenses". No particular hazards if you stay within the limits of the swimming pool, suitable to all ages.
- Norte Baía : on the road to Baía turn off right to a little dirt track some 500 meters before entering the village. Very beautiful white sand beach, with the arch dreamed up and designed by Vasco Martins that dominates the area (check pictures on this website.) There is current and this beach is not watched, so please use caution if you decide to swim!
- Praia Grande : on the road to Calhau turn off left to a dirt track a few hundred meters before the village entrance. You will end up in a beautiful long and white-sand beach. It is watched, but the shore break can be quite impressive at times. For experienced and skillful swimmers only.
- Praia Palha Carga (a.k.a. Topona) : on the road to Calhau you will need to find "the" dirt track to your right that will lead you to this beautiful black-sand beach, which is not watched.
- Flamengos : drive towards the airport and turn left about five kilometers before reaching it towards the windmills. Drive another kilometer then turn right and follow up to the end. Beautiful white-sand beach, with rocks. It is not watched, remote and fairly dangerous, for sunbathing only.
- São Pedro : superb long and white-sand beach close to the airport. It is watched on one side (North end only) but fairly dangerous with well known currents. Use caution if you decide to swim.
There are other beaches to discover. Most notably a thread on a Forum mentions Flamenguinhos that would be located on the South coast, difficult to access, with pebbles but also fantastic natural swimming pools… To your 4WD!
São Vicente offers good waves and excellent wind suitable to a public ranging from beginners to experts. If we had to justify our investment in this Hotel kitesurfing would be a significant one… Trade winds blow from November till June and it is very rare to have 7 consecutive days without good conditions to go on the water. The predominating wind is the Nordeste, which strength usually ranges between 14 and 25 knots and which is regular (very few gusts.) Wave conditions vary depending on the spots. Water temperature ranges between 21 et 24 °C depending on the season and a short-sleeves suit is recommended (we use "shorty".)
The spots are : - Salamansa : starboard side-shore wind, perfectly parallel to the shore. Over one kilometer of white-sand beach, very rare swimmers. Waves are small and reach a maximum height of 1m50 except exceptional sea conditions. A few rocks, some currents, but the place is safe and unless you happen to loose your board far away from the shore hardly anything bad could happen. This beach is not watched. For advanced riders.
- Natural swimming pool of Baía das Gatas : port side-on-shore wind. Practicable in winter only (from October till June) and preferably on week-days as it is likely to be too crowded with swimmers in summer and on week-ends. For beginners.
- Fishing harbor of Baía das Gatas : port side-on-shore wind. It is really a shame that there are so many rocks lying underwater, otherwise this spot would be just perfect for beginners. No particular hazards beside for your feet and ankles, and make sure to land your kite on the sand when you come back to the shore as it is fairly rocky. For intermediate riders.
- Norte Baía : wind port side-on-shore. The beach is smaller than Salamansa and has occasional swimmers. It is actually better than Salamansa when the wind is North and strong, the sea can be stronger (stronger currents and waves) and there are a few rocks. This beach is not watched, so use caution. For advanced riders only.
- Praia Grande : side-on-shore wind, more "on" than "side". Wide beach where you may meet occasional swimmers in summer. A few big rocks easy to locate. The waves and shore break can be really strong, so use caution, even if that beach is watched. For motivated and expert riders.
- Calhau : port side-off-shore wind, rocks, very few patches of sand. Occasionally beautiful waves that finish their run on the rocks. This beach is watched. For motivated experts!
- Sandy Beach, Topim, Praia de Palha Carga (or Topona) and all the South-East coast : off-shore wind, for the waves' addicts. Those beaches are not watched and remote. Don't go out in the water alone! For motivated and expert riders !
- Baía São Pedro : close to the airport. Straight off-shore, the wind is accelerated by an additional 5 to 15 knots thanks to a venturi effect resulting on the passing through a natural mountain corridor. There is also the presence of strong currents. Safety boat mandatory for riders or you will end up drifting somewhere in between Africa and America in no time in case of problems… For the speed freaks. All the others please don't ride there.
Our residence is equipped with batidas (200 liters barrels) to rinse the gear and has space for it to dry. The Salamansa,
Baía das Gatas and Calhau spots are fairly easily reachable by public transportation. Alugers (very cheap minibus) leave
from the Praça Estrela (square of the stars) located 15 minutes walking away from the residence. There is a start…as soon as the
minibus is full! The Norte Baía and Praia Grande spots are also reachable by the same mean but you will need an additional
half-an-hour walk after the minibus stop to get to the beach… To get to the spots located to the South/South-East coast (mainly surf)
there are no other means that car rental or taxi or…walking (but be aware that the nearest, Sandy Beach, is 4 kilometers away from the road.)
You can try to negotiate the fare of the taxi. A two-ways trip will cost you 30 €uros at the cheapest. Agree of a return pick-up time with the driver on the way in so that he can drive you back to town later in the day.
São Vicente offers nice waves for beginners to advanced surfers.
The spots are : - Norte Baía : waves are not far from the sandy beach thus easily accessible. The biggest I ever saw was two meters, but it is rare. Usually waves are just less than 1 meter. There is a little current, a few rocks, but unless losing your board there is no serious dangers. This beach is not watched. For beginners to intermediate.
- Praia Grande : waves a little similar to Norte Baía but bigger. The beach is large, mostly sandy and you might meet swimmers. A few rocks, easy to locate. This beach is watched. For intermediate to advanced.
- Calhau : reef wave, sometimes quite nice but finishing on the reefs… This beach is watched. For advanced and motivated surfers!
- Sandy Beach, Topim, Praia de Palha Carga (or Topona) and all the South-East coast : the most beautiful waves of the island, mostly reef but also sandy. Spots are to be explored all along the coastline (4WD mandatory!) Those beaches are not watched. For advanced surfers.
To find out how to get to the spots please refer to the end Kite/Windsurf section above.
Here is a (non exhaustive) list of possible hikes : - Monte Verde, - Viana, - Santa Luzia de Terra, - Mato Inglès, - Palha Carga, - Fateixa, - Joao d'Evora, - Monte Cara, - Calheta Grande, - Praia Grande-Norte Baia. Those treks can be rated "General Public". Nevertheless keep in mind the usual risks and hazards associated with wilderness trekking. In particular appropriate precautions shall be taken to protect from the heat. Plan to bring sufficient quantity of water, sun cream and to wear hats and proper trekking shoes.
Don't miss an opportunity to visit this island! Of course, there is the Estrada Corda, the winding road that links the Porto Novo harbor to the North part of the island. It winds up and down through the mountain, passing in the middle of quite impressive precipices during the one hour that lasts the trip. But unless you suffer from vertigo you won't regret it as you will drive through breathtaking scenery! In addition the inhabitants are for the most part charming and genuine. The Armas boat proposes two rotations a day during week days, only one on Sundays. The Porto Grande harbor in Mindelo is a mere 10 minutes' walk from our residence. Once you crossed the channel and arrived at the Porto Novo harbor, don't be impressed by the stir made by all the people and vehicles there. Pick a comfortable Aluguer (minibus) without worrying about the price as there is no need to compare or haggle: they are all at the exact same rate and none will accept to put its price down.
The most beautiful hiking trails are located in the Northern part of the island. The best locations to spend a night for hikers are the cities of Ponta do Sol and Paúl. Ribeira Grande, the administrative capital, is another alternative but the town is not as pleasant as the two others. In Santo Antão treks are rated from "average" to "expert" levels. A good guide is the "Guia dos Circuitos Turisticos Santo Antão" published by the Luxembourg Cooperation. You can find this book in Ribeira Grande, ask around. Here are two classical hikes, both beautiful, awesome and for which you don't necessarily need a guide: - Cova crater (on the Corda road) -> Paúl :10 kilometers, 4 hours average, fairly easy, "average" level; - Cruzinha -> Ponta do Sol : 11 kilometers, 4 ½ hours average, follows the coastline, a bit more difficult than the previous one, especially towards the end. If you decide to go alone make sure to inform somebody of your planned arrival time beforehand as you may not meet many souls.
Need a guide ? You won't have any problems to find "tour guides" who will offer their services. All are not professional guides, far from it… but some of them are, most working with European agencies that you can therefore contact before your departure. If you haven't contacted anybody and still want to go off the beaten tracks to discover unknown landscapes in complete safety, we recommend you to contact the No Bai agency http://www.cap-vert-trekking.com.
Haliotis, a new diving center, run by Fábio Samouco and his local team, is located inside the Hotel Oasis Porto Grande, at the Praça Nova in Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente. Their contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / +238 523 76 96 (Fabio) or email@example.com / +238 522 77 81 (dive center) Their website: http://www.haliotis.pt/en/centros/cabo-verde Haliotis offers 8 different packages (prices are per person): 1- Double Dive : in the mornings, 2 dives in two different spots + tanks and weights + boat trip + guide + snack for 80 euros ; 2- Double Snorkeling : in the mornings, 2 snorkeling dives in two different spots + full equipement + boat trip + snack for 50 euros ; 3- Double Try Dive : in the mornings, 2 dives in two different spots + boat trip + briefing + equipment + certified PADI instructor (one for each diver) + snack for 110 euros ; 4- Snorkeling with the turtles : in the afternoons, 1 snorkeling dive in a strategic location + full equipement + car trip for 40 euros ; 5- Single Dive : in the afternoons, 1 dive + tanks and weights + boat trip + guide for 40 euros ; 6- Single Snorkeling : in the afternoons, 1 snorkeling dive + full equipement + boat trip for 35 euros ; 7- Single Try Dive : in the afternoon, 1 dive + boat trip + briefing + equipment + certified PADI instructor (one for each diver) for 75 euros ; 8- Night Dive : 1 dive + tanks and weights + boat trip + guide for 45 euros. It is also possible to rent snorkeling and scuba diving material (contact Haliotis for more details).
Dive Tribe is another school located at the Foya Branca hotel, in São Pedro on the island of São Vicente. They also have an office at the Sport Fishing Club in Mindelo (close from the ferry departure). Their website: http://www.dive-tribe.com.
On board of his powerful "Nha Crêtcheu" boat, Didier Jeanne and his team will offer you unforgettable fishing trips or more simple cruises to discover nearby islands or islets. All information available on his website http://www.pechesportivecapvert.com.
The small tourist office in Punt d'Agua (just nearby the marina of Mindelo) provides traditional and electric bikes. Hourly or daily rental. Contact: Djambai Tours - firstname.lastname@example.org - +238 588 0624.
In Santo Antão, Alain, from Casa Espongeiro (located at the village of the same name), rents mountain bikes. Expect 2,500 Escudos (about 23 €uros) per day including equipment. Contact Alain at +238 981 15 26.
The Club Hipico Mindelo, small equestrian center located at the exit of Mindelo on the road to the airport, offers excursions on the island of São Vicente (including beaches). Price is 18 euros for the first hour (2,000 escudos) / 13.50 euros (1,500 escudos) for children (from 5 years old), then 9 euros (1,000 escudos) per additional hour. Contact: ask for "Cleutson" at +238 978 9601.