Compared to São Vicente, which is a small and concentrated island, Santo Antão is large and much less concentrated in terms of population. The island has many fantastic routes to offer lovers of hiking and trekking. Deciding on where to stay on the island can be a bit difficult due to its size and many options.
Where you ultimately decide to stay will depend on a number of factors. Are you looking for one accommodation? Are you willing to move during your stay? What routes are you planning to do while on the island? The answers to these questions can help you make a good decision.
This article is based on and inspired by good questions I've received from readers looking for info on where to stay when visiting the island. Although it's impossible to cover the subject 100% for everyone, I hope it can be a helpful starting point for most of you.
As I mentioned earlier, choosing the right place to stay depends on a number of factors. Another one of them is the number of days you have to spend on the island. The less time you have, the less accommodations you'll want to book. Unless you're coming on a trekking trip, which is different from doing several hikes (hopefuly I can elaborate on this in a new piece soon).
Ponta do Sol
The city of Ponta do Sol has become the most fun place to stay on the island in recent years, even before the larger cities Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande. I've been working with one of my favorite partners, Sissi's B&B, for almost ten years now. So I usually stay with Sissi and Bernard when I'm on the island.
Although it's not hard to find places that are more beautiful than Ponta do Sol, a lot of people come here for the bars and restaurants. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy being here, compared to other places on the island.
Besides the bars and restaurants, you have the start/end of the coastal route to/from Chã de Igreja and Cruzinha. If you're staying in Ponta do Sol, it's easier to first head out to Chã de Igreja/Cruzinha in the morning. You can take a Hiace/Aluguer from Ribeira Grande, before starting to hike all the way back to Ponta do Sol.
Part of this route is the famous little village of Fontainhas. This village is know as one of the 'villages with the best views in the world'. People who are not able to hike for hours, can go from Ponta do Sol to Fontainhas and back. This takes about one hour, one way. There is also a Hiace/Aluguer from Ponta do Sol.
Just like you can take a Hiace/Aluguer to Chã de Igreja and Cruzinha, you can do this in the morning to other places as well. Driving to Ribeira Grande from Ponta do Sol takes about 10 minutes. From here, one of the things you can do is take a Hiace/Alguguer that goes up the old mountain road, usually with Corda as its final destination.
Although it's not really a hike, I enjoy walking down from Corda all the way back to the city of Ribeira Grande. I don't conside it a hike, since there is no trail but you simply walk back by taking the road down. One of the highlights of this route is famous Delgadim (Delgadinho).
Because of the constant descent, which takes about three hours, you'll end up feeling the walk down in your knees and calves. But the view are totally worth it.
Those looking for a trail to hike, can do Corda – Coculi. A route takes you all the way down to the valley of Ribeira Grande in about 3 hours. From Coculi you can either walk back to the city of Ribeira Grande, or wait for a Hiace/Aluguer to drive you back to the city where you can get on another one to get back to Ponta do Sol.
Finally, you have two other options if you go up to Corda from Ribeira Grande. You can check to see if the driver is willing to drive further to either Agua das Caldeiras or Cova (ask for the price first). From Agua das Caldeiras you can hike down to Xôxô and the valley of Ribeira de Torre. From Cova you can do the popular hike down to the valley of Paúl.
If you don't mind hiking up mountains, you can choose to take a Hiace/Aluguer from Ponta do Sol to Ribeira Grande or Pombas. This depends on the drivers final destination. From Pombas, you can either walk through the entire valley to
I've focused the first part of this article on Ponta do Sol, but you can use this information to plan for a stay in another place or part of the island. Again, Ponta do Sol is a great choice because of all the options you have at night in a fairly small area. So if you spend the night in one of the valleys, plan for the fact that there might not be anything around.
This is why a lot of accommodations offer meals at night. It might not be the most fun option, but it can prevent you from walking a long distance in the dark after a hard day of hiking. Another thing to take into account is the fact that transportation prices for a private Hiace/Aluguer are much higher than that of the normal ones.
So a Hiace/Aluguer will be available at night, but it will charge a private price which is a few times higher compared to the day prices. As I've explained in the post about public transportation on Santo Antão, times and availability are mostly based around the ferry schedule Mindelo – Porto Novo.
One place I can recommend to anyone to visit on the island of Santo Antão, is Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. This town is located in the most remote part of the island. Because of this, a visit here will take you two days if you make use of public transportation.
There is the option to use one of the cental car companies. One is Novalinha, with a location in Mindelo and right outside the ferry terminal in Porto Novo. Because of the height differences that are part of the drive from Porto Novo to Tarrafal de Monte Trigo, rental car companies can obligate you to rent a 4x4.
I mention the rental car option because it gives people more freedom and time. Also, I've written about the subject in the past, so you have additional information.
I'd say the visit to the remote part of the island is either for people who have a few extra days left in their planning, or those who can at least rent car for that part of the trip. Those who are visiting the island for a day or three, four, and are using public transportation are probably better off staying in the other part of Santo Antão.
Here you can easily combine places/hikes such as Pico de Cruz, Cova, Paúl, Xôxô, Fontainhas and a few others as well. Because of its size and incredible beauty, Santo Antão deserves as much of your time you can give it.
That said, there is so much to see and usually too little time. Still, one thing I don't recommend is planning to many things. This is a place of quality, and not quantity. Something I'm sure you'll understand within hours of experiencing the island. Take your time, and enjoy every second.
Hiking is done so much better when you feel well rested. So if possible, try and free up time in between hiking days for some relaxation. I'd like to write up some itineraries soon, based on routes I've done in the past. I'll add them here once their done for some inspiration.
If you only have a few days, try and plan to see things which are not very far from eachother. From Janela all the way to Ponta do Sol, and the inner/upper parts of these places, it makes a great combo. It will allow you to see some of the most beautiful parts of the island and Cabo Verde in general.
Again, if you're not trekking, I wouldn't recommend changing accommodation too much. One or two accommodations is enough depending on your number of days and places you absolutley want to see. Wherever you end up staying, I'm sure you're going to love Santo Antão.