The island of no stress
Last week, Matt and I kicked off our year of adventures in Cape Verde.
I was very excited to make this trip happen because it had been 8 months since I went on holiday. It definitely was a much needed trip away, as I’ve said in my previous blog post on burn out. After returning from the incredible 7 days we had there, I feel mentally rested, completely chilled out and most importantly, inspired.
I was lacking so much inspiration these past couple of months, I kept trying to find it behind a screen. Turns out, it’s out there. Outside. ✨— Pauline P. Narvas (@paulienuh) February 19, 2019
Isn’t that right? 🙌🏻 I totally learnt this whilst sitting on the beach staring at the ocean for hours, sometimes going outside is the answer folks. 😆
🇨🇻 Some quick facts
- Cape Verde is a series of small islands off the northwest coast of Africa
- The capital city is Praia which is in the largest island, Santiago
- Local currency is Escudos which is about 100CVE = €1
- It pretty much has consistently amazing weather throughout the year
- I am very much in love with this place
🎞 Our trip in 2 minutes
✈️ Flights and Accommodation
There are two direct flights to Sal, Cape Verde – Thomas Cook and TUI. TUI also flies to another Cape Verde island, Boa Vista. Our flights added up to around £200~ pp return, but if you have a look around, you can get that number down! I’ve seen it at £150 in the past, it just takes a lot of watching to get a pretty good deal. 😆
We stayed at the Aquamarina Suites (The Sense Collection) located in Santa Maria (the main tourist area) When we were booking, I was actually quite keen on booking into a resort but I’m glad that we ended up staying at more of an apartment-hotel, I felt like we had more of the experience of getting to know the little town a little bit more which is what some people miss when they stay at an all-inclusive resort hotel.
As part of our booking, we also had a simple continental breakfast included. The breakfast area was also a restaurant at night time, open to everyone (not just hotel guests!) that served Indian food and grilled meat!
The whole hotel was designed and inspired by India which gave it a really unique vibe. ✨
Overall, staying at the Aquamarina Suites was such a great experience! All the staff we met were always friendly and welcoming to us from the moment we checked in. The location was fantastic as well – we were literally a step away from the beach, restaurants and shops.
If you’re not looking to book into a resort or wanting to go for a cheaper option for accommodation – check out Aquamarina Suites!
Although you can totally survive without internet as you eventually get used to the streets and getting familiar with where things are is super easy (it is quite a small little town), both Matt and I liked having the internet on our phones to quickly search something on the go. The WiFi in the hotel wasn’t great either unless you were in the lobby!
Luckily, next to the Aquamarina Suites Hotel is a place where you can buy data-only sim cards. We opted for the CV Móvel 10GB sim card for around €25 each (though we only used about 2-5GB by the end of the trip 😅Yep, I used more internet than Matt because Instagram and YouTube🤦🏻♀️), but they have other options which you can have a look at here.
There was one morning and a few minutes one afternoon where the whole island’s network just completely died, but other than for the most part it was quite reliable.
Most of the restaurants had similar food served including meat (chicken, steak etc), fish, pasta, chips, rice and vegetables. There wasn’t much variety across the island – I think I saw one menu that had vegan options but other than that it was mostly what I stated above.
For someone with a flexible nutrition plan (especially on holiday 😂) I found it easy to choose from the menus. However if you’re on other diets, such as on the ketogenic diet or are vegan, it can be quite difficult to find something suitable to eat (as Matt found)
I noticed that portions of chicken vs fish were quite different – I always had more fish than any other meat I ordered which can probably be explained by the various fishing towns they have throughout the island!
When we ate at restaurants, they were all overall quite clean but there were some times at the start when I did feel a little unwell after eating (but I never really knew if that was the water or the food or something completely different) After doing some research online and speaking to other tourists, some also found that they had a funny tummy at the start which does go eventually when you start adapting to the food.
Because of this, we stayed away from cooking (even though our hotel room had a kitchen!) just because we didn’t want to risk accidentally poisoning ourselves (which I almost do anyway back home…)
DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER. We didn’t to stay as safe as possible! On our first day, we walked around to the local supermarket to get a huge bottle of water which we stored in our fridge for the week.
Travel hack: we brought our Camelbak flasks with us, filled it with water and ice cubes to keep us hydrated and cool throughout the day 💦
After being followed around in Portugal and Milan and aggressively flirted with in France, one of my biggest worries is safety. If you Google Cape Verde, one of the first results is, “Is it safe to travel to Cape Verde?” When I first did the Google search, I freaked out because surely if people were asking there has to be something wrong, right? Wrong. Totally wrong.
Firstly, the people in Santa Maria are the nicest people ever. When you walk pass, everyone is smiling or greeting you. Most of the time, they want you to have a look at what they’re selling and sometimes this can feel a bit invasive but generally people leave you alone if you shake your head or say no. We spoke to so many local folks who gave us gifts, kept welcoming us to the Island of No Stress and telling us how much they love people from England. 😁
I felt incredibly safe the whole time, especially in Santa Maria. A fellow traveller who we met on a tour told us the same thing, as a solo traveller, she’s never felt safer. In fact, she said that she sometimes felt more unsafe in London. 🤷🏻♀️
☀️ Things to Do and See
These are the things we did that I can’t recommend enough:
We booked this online, but you can also buy a ticket when you’re walking around pretty much anywhere in Santa Maria. There are signs everywhere promoting an island tour!
According to other tourists, TUI and Thomas Cook charge $75 for this tour whereas you can book the same tour with locals for $25.
On this tour we:
- Watched people kite-surf on the kite-surfing beach
- Visited Espargos, Lion Mountain, Burraconna and fishing villages
- Swam in Salt Lake, which is rumoured to make you look 10 years younger
- Saw lemon sharks in their natural habitat
Again, we booked this online for our Valentines Day celebrations! 🥰We were taken to the fishing village, Palmeria, where we got on a small boat to a large cruise boat. I have to say, getting on that small boat was terrifying but once we got on the bigger boat it was fine. 😆
It was such a relaxing morning with lots of food, drinks and views on views. There was a local photographer who took photos throughout the cruise who took some fantastic shots of me looking terrified 😂
I first found out about the yoga when I was doing some trip planning online, there are two different morning classes you can do – one on the beach and one in the Yoga Studio.
Our teacher, Janie, recently moved to Cape Verde to teach Yoga. She heavily inspired me throughout the class, honestly such a ray of sunshine – a great way to start the day!
Chill out on Santa Maria beach
To be honest, this was what we spent most of our days doing. Soaking up the sun, getting too warm so jumping in the ocean, reading a book, listening to podcasts, talking to dogs (this was mostly what Matt did), watch people surf / kite-surf – all on the beach!
My retirement in a nutshell.
Visit the local market
In the town of Santa Maria is the local market where you can go to buy souvenirs for friends and family. They have a range of things including magnets, keychains, bracelets, paintings… all sorts! It’s worth a visit 😊
Explore Santa Maria
Go and have a walk around and look at the colourful town of Santa Maria 🙌🏻
🏝 In conclusion, I’m in love
I didn’t really know what to expect when we booked the trip.
At the start, I was mostly worried about the sun burning Matt (like in Malaga 😅) to really think much about it apart from BRING SUNSCREEN.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it so much. It has to be up there with my New York trip, it truly has been a very much-needed time away.
I’ve fallen in love with Sal, and am very eager to explore the other Cape Verde islands. I’ve already said this a million times to everyone I’ve spoke to about the trip, but it feels like this is going to be an annual trip to top-up my dose of sunshine and inspiration!
Thank you Cape Verde for an incredible start to the year of adventure ✨