Destination Spotlight: Boavista, Cape Verde | SUITCASE
Published by suitcasemag.com, March 2017
This relatively undiscovered Cape Verdean island is loaded with Caribbean charm…
At first glance, Boavista can seem a somewhat barren, dusty land – not dissimilar to the surface of Mars – but look beyond the rusty, arid landscape and multiple treasures are unearthed. Swathes of soft, white sand are kissed by a mint-hued ocean, an abundance of wildlife live among the wind-battered vegetation and friendly locals emanate laid-back spirit that suffuses the soul. There’s a lot more to this diminutive island off the west coast of Africa than meets the eye.
Boavista is the easternmost island of Cape Verde; its capital, Sal Rei, is home to around 6,000 residents, and increasingly a slew of tourists who’ve begun to take advantage of cheap flights and a persistent buzz about its roughhewn beauty. Here, colourful, weatherbeaten buildings are the backdrop to local children’s animated play, and cobbled streets are strewn with art vendors selling enchanting wares. The mood is mellow and the pace of life, slow – for most parts of the year it’s far too hot for anything else. At night, the temperature drops and the town begins to thrum to the sound of live music, while feral but harmless dogs compete with their own, slightly more shrill chorus.
For most, Sal Rei will be the ideal place to make a base to explore the island’s offerings, thanks to its range of relatively developed services and restaurants (compared to the rest of the island), and its close proximity to Praia da Chave, a veritable paradise for wind-sport lovers. Avoid staying at the nearby all-inclusive tourist traps and instead head for La Boaventura, a guest house oozing French quirkiness. Rooms start at around €25 (it’s slightly more to secure one with panoramic views of the ocean), WiFi is super-quick and service is friendly. You can also feast on a hearty breakfast (€4) that’s loaded with locally-made and satisfyingly addictive banana jam. Nearby La Paz, is a great alternative.
In town, there’s no shortage of superb restaurants, though food here isn’t cheap and you should expect to pay at least 12€ for a main. Italian is the primary culinary influence you’ll find at most places, but Grill Luar has a few more authentic options on the menu. Try the rice with seafood – essentially a Capoverdean form of paella – but be aware it’s made on demand so the wait can be lengthy. Get involved with Boavista’s abundance of seafood by tucking into freshly caught lobster, octopus and local fish like amberjack and garopa. Cabo Café is a safe bet for these, as is Beramar; the slightly more upmarket of the two. Just up the road is Wakan Bar, a boat-shaped shack full of charm run by a friendly Italian couple who are happy to dole out tips, snacks and grog-laden caipirinhas that pack a big enough punch to kick you into the following week. If you’re still standing, La Esplanada in the centre of the main square sells cheap eats and on Friday nights the whole town congregates here to dance to live music belted out by husky voiced local celebrities. On Saturdays, everyone heads to a local fisherman’s hut (marked by a mysterious ‘M’) that converts into an al-fresco club of sorts, with music continuing late into the starry night.
With eating, drinking and dancing out the way, you’re left to take savour Boavista’s windswept beauty. You’ll find some of the world’s best wind-sports stars hanging out at Praia da Chave, which catches the most of the relentless Saharan trade winds as they whip across the Atlantic. Beginners should invest in a tutorial before tackling the impressive waves themselves – you’ll find rental shops selling lessons dotted all along the main beach. For a one-day course it’s around 70€ for windsurfing and 95€ for kitesurfing, but be sure to shop around and haggle for the best deals. Those more keen to catch some sun over waves should consider hiring sun beds, since being at ground level during a particularly ferocious gust of wind can render you temporarily blind (and a little deaf). There are beach clubs all along the seafront but at the southernmost end of the beach is Morebeza, where sun beds are free and if you stick around until sunset there’s live drumming and a bonfire most nights, with reggae and tech house come the weekend.
Hop onto four wheels to seek out more of the island’s hidden depths. With CaboComfortQuad, a half-day quad bike excursion with local guide costs around €75 and is worth every penny for the sites you’ll see as you whizz along your way. Head south where the island’s most stunning beaches reside, and marvel at the awe-inspiring Praia da Santa Monica, home to miles upon miles of white sand that cracks like defrosting Viennetta with each step. En route back to Sal Rei, you’ll scale sand dunes by the dozen, all the while being completely blown away by the majesty of the alien landscape and its sand-dusted hills.
Unlike the neighbouring, more tourist-driven island of Sal, Boavista’s charm lies in its undiscovered ruggedness. Be absorbed by movement of the sand as the waves crash onto it, fully immerse yourself in the local ‘no stress’ mantra and leave having been blasted by the elements in all their glory. This place is an undisputed rough-cut diamond, but that means it won’t be long before developers move in. Visit now to revel in a relatively untouched utopia at its finest.