As they named it ‘good view’, it’s likely that the Portuguese explorers who first set sight on Boa Vista were smitten by their find. Fast forward five centuries, and the island hasn’t changed much looks-wise – the silk-smooth beaches and Mars-like deserts are pretty much intact. As a bonus, there are a handful of pit stop-worthy towns and villages on the island. Must-sees include the Viana desert, which is shielded by the oasis of the River Rabil basin, the Atalanta beach shipwreck, the village of Fundo das Figueiras and Sal Rei, the capital.
Top six things to do in Boa Vista
1. Explore the Viana desert
The Viana desert is one of the top places to visit on Boa Vista. Its wavy dunes are hemmed in by the bright-green basin of the River Rabil to the west and the rock-strewn Amador to the east. And among the best activities on the island is a safari tour. Whether you explore this made-for-off-roading desert by 4x4, buggy or quad bike is up to you – whichever activity you choose, it’ll get your adrenaline flowing.
2. Go on a daytrip to Sal Rei
As capitals go, Sal Rei is on the small side. But its mix of African, Portuguese and Brazilian influences gives it an exotic groove. One of the most popular attractions is the ocean-view Fatima chapel. Then there’s the beach scene – Cabral and Estoril boast long stretches of sand, and Diante features colourful fishing boats anchored off the pier. They’re all definitely worth a daytrip.
3. See the Santa Maria shipwreck
Although it’s been of Boa Vista’s most iconic landmarks for more than 50 years, the Cabo Santa Maria shipwreck won’t be around for ever, as the Atlantic’s waves are slowly eroding it. So, make sure you pay Atalanta beach a visit when you’re on the island. It’s a fixture on the itineraries of most excursions taking in northern Boa Vista, especially off-road safaris.
4. The deep south
The south of Boa Vista’s definitely a magnet for beachgoers, because of the almost-endless Santa Monica beach. But it also has two of the most interesting villages on the island. There’s the abandoned Curral Velho, where you can poke around the crumbling homes and take photos of its amazing beach and salt pan. The other must-visit southern village is Povoação Velha. It’s the oldest settlement on the island and lies in the shadow of a craggy hill. Many popular Boa Vista excursions visit both villages.
5. Visit Fundo das Figueiras
Fundo das Figueiras might be the prettiest village on Boa Vista. Thanks to the stream that flows through it, it has more vegetation than other settlements on the island. It’s famed for its flowers and tree-lined cobblestone streets fringed with colourful houses. The oh-so-pretty whitewashed parish church also makes for a great selfie background.
6. Try genuine catchupa stew
Catchupa is Cape Verde’s national dish, so it’s no surprise that every island in the archipelago claims that it serves up the best. Boa Vista’s no exception. If you want to try genuine homemade catchupa stew – made of meat, beans, vegetables and spices – book an excursion including a catchupa cooking demonstration in a local home followed by a slap-up lunch. And, for dinner, check out the Morabeza Beach Club, which is famed for its sunset dinners, including drummers, bonfires and the works.