Two years ago I was going to treat my sister to a week in Cape Verde for a special birthday. Then the pandemic hit and the holiday, which we had booked through Love Holidays, was cancelled. Almost a year later (and only thanks to my credit card intervening) I finally got my refund. I still owed my sister a holiday but there was no way we were going to book through Love Holidays again so this year we booked a 7 day holiday to Boa Vista, Cape Verde with TUI. It was all inclusive (which I am not a great fan of) but it seemed like a real bargain and finally (two years late) we stepped onto Cape Verde soil. The flight was a TUI flight and I presume 5 1/2 hours is not classed as long haul because there were no free meals or drinks included. However all went smoothly as did our coach transfer to out hotel. We stayed at RIU Touareg on Lacacoa Beach. The hotel is enormous! It looks like it has been placed in the middle of nowhere and when we first approached it we thought it was a town because of the size of it. The sea at this time of year (Nov/Dec) was crashing against the shore and a red flag flies all the time. However towards the end of our week we did see people swimming in slightly calmer waters. I even had a short splash around myself but the waves are huge and there are strong undercurrents so it is not advised even when it seems calmer. The beaches are idyllic. White sand, sun loungers under palm fringed parasols and the beach stretches for miles. With the hotel being so large our room was a long way from reception (if you have mobility problems ask for a room on the ground floor near the reception and restaurants.) The staff are absolutely lovely, from the bar staff to the ladies who clean the rooms, everyone was friendly, cheerful and very pleasant. There are so many staff you are never kept waiting. There are numerous restaurants, the main one is buffet style and I have to say the contents got a little predictable after the first 2 nights. There are other restaurants that you have to book (either on the app or at reception) and we were disappointed to find that all these (an Italian, an Asian and a Cape Verdian restaurant) were also buffet style. Getting dressed, sitting at a nice table and then having to queue to get your food is not, in my opinion, an elegant dining experience! Breakfast was also buffet but that was fine and very plentiful. Our room was nice but the bathroom was designed so that there was little privacy. I was with my sister but I still don’t want to see her doing her ablutions! There is an “adults only area” in the hotel. Different colour wristbands denote an area where a security guard keeps us purple wristband people out! I sneaked in there once, they have a lovely swimming pool and supposedly all their rooms have bars complete with optics! I am not sure how much extra you pay to stay in this part of the hotel.
There is very little to do in Boa Vista. We booked a couple of trips with TUI. One was excellent, 3 hours on a catamaran cruise followed by 4 hours on a wonderful little beach in Chaves (I even saw turtles swimming by as I sat on the beach). We had planned to get a taxi into the capital, Sal Rei. However, having driven through it on the way to the catamaran we didn’t think it warranted another visit. It looked very poor and run down, there is a nice church and the fishing boats in the port were interesting but there isn’t much else. The other trip we did was a 4×4 tour of the North of the island. Again, if you have mobility problems you might want to book a coach trip instead. Getting into a 4×4 and rattling over rough ground is not good on the knees! Although we went a long way most of the scenery is extremely arid and it is just dry scrubland. We stopped in a few little villages and had a tasting session of Cape Verde delicacies but the most interesting part of the trip was when we went to see the wreck of The Cabo de Santa Maria. Wrecked in 1968 it is very close to the shore (and that stretch is another beautiful white, sand dune filled, stretch of beach only accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicles). It is magnificently ugly and makes for great photographs. Our last stop was supposedly a turtle research place but it was not quite what we had expected. A young girl walked us through rooms with pictures of whales, sharks and turtles on the walls and we came out none the wiser as her English was not at all good. (Better than my Portuguese no doubt but still disappointing). We then had lunch nearby before heading back to the hotel. It was nice to see more of the island but it is certainly not at all lush and wildlife is not evident (other than goats and donkeys!) I believe they went 8 years without rain until earlier this year when it rained for a week! (I would guess tourists who were there that week weren’t too happy!)
So overall impressions of Boa Vista? I’m glad I went and the people are absolutely the friendliest and loveliest. It definitely needs more tourism so I don’t want to put anyone off but don’t expect too much. the hotel needs to sort out its repetitive buffet style meals and it didn’t help that they only served one white wine which was barely drinkable! And for goodness sake put doors on the bathroom!!!