About Maio Cape Verde
Maio Cape Verde is the perfect ‘away from it all’ destination. You can expect to find sleepy towns with colourful little houses, hilly landscapes, limestone valleys, acacia forests and coconut palms and tranquility in abundance. There are long stretches of perfect white sandy beaches, warm clear waters with very little commercialism. Despite its isolation Maio is a beautiful island and the perfect place to enjoy long uninterrupted walks along deserted beaches. If you want to get away from it all this is the place for you…
Maio is the closest island to the capital city Praia, but the transport links are not as good as they are for other islands in the archipelago. Transport is via Praia, which has an international airport. There are then domestic flights and ferries to Maio, but they do not operate every day. It may be a little hard to get to, but it is well worth the effort. Maio has a charm all of its own and the local people are some of the friendliest in the whole country. It is a relatively poor island, but the people are happy and the children happily play in the street or on the beach with very few toys.
The southern part of the island is largely desert, and in the north there are forests and a slightly more mountainous terrain. Cobbled roads connect all the small villages such as Morro, Calheta and Morrinho to the main town of Vila do Maio (also known as Porte Inglês). The roads are quiet and a guided tour of the island is a pleasant experience and will give the visitor an interesting day. A tour will take in the attractive little villages and the sand dunes at Morrinho, acacia forests (now the largest continuous wooded area within Cape Verde) and the charcoal pits.
The main town of Vila do Maio is located in the south west of the island. It is on the coast and is where the airport and the ferry jetty are located. It is an attractive little town with quiet streets with very few cars. The quaint streets offer glimpses of the sea as they slope down the hillside. At the centre of the town is the Town Square, recently re-designed with attractive planting and places to site. The square is watched over by the Catholic church, which is Portuguese in style. Close by is the market hall where you can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and on certain days meat.
There are a few bars and restaurants dotted around the town, including bars on the beach. Close by Vila do Maio there is a Salinas, or salt pan. Here salt is collected from sea water by evaporation. It is worth a visit by walking along the beach beyond the pier. Here bird lovers will find ospreys, swallows and waders.
The beaches are lovely. In Vila do Maio Bitxe Rotxa (the main beach) is a long stretch of soft white sand, very often almost deserted, but with bars where you can enjoy a meal or a drink while sitting on the sands. It is also where the fishermen bring in their daily catch, and where you can buy the fresh fish. A short walk to the east of the town takes you to yet another lovely, almost deserted beach at Ponta Preta. This is a long beach stretching many kilometres and is somewhere to watch the sunset.
There is a diversity of flora and fauna on Maio Cape Verde and protected marine areas and sand dunes. The deserted beaches are an attraction to a variety of sea birds and turtles are found in the waters. At the right time of year (June to October) you may be lucky to see the turtles laying their eggs in nests in the sand dunes. Then see the babies making their way into the sea. Organised trips can be arranged, as it is important not to endanger these beautiful creatures. In addition to the acacia forests, there are coconut and date palms and fig trees. In the streets of Vila do Maio you will see the beautiful flame trees with their fern-like leaves and stunning red flowers. Don’t be surprised to see chickens, cows or pigs in the streets or even on the beach.
Music is an important aspect of Cape Verdean life and local bars often have live music, perhaps on a Saturday night. A local guitarist and composer, Tibau Tavares is prominent in the music life of Cape Verde. He is identified in what has become known as new Cape Verdean music, which includes a combination of modern and traditional dance. The local music is infectious and you may well find yourself dancing with the locals in one of the bars, or even outside in the street.
So what does Maio Cape Verde offer? In our view it offers a perfect, destination for that quiet, ‘get away from it all’ holiday. The stunning beaches, warm clear seas and friendly locals will all add to your enjoyment. This is a lovely, forgotten island. If you enjoy long walks, or just sitting and relaxing, this is the place for you.
There is no international airport on the island of Maio. The island can be reached by either plane or ferry from the capital of Cape Verde, Praia. The 15 min flight from Praia is operated by the local airline Binter CV. Please note that the flights do not go every day. Flight times can be checked and booked on their website.
The ferry from Praia to Maio also does not operate every day. The crossing takes about three hours, but can be a fun experience. The ferry is operated by Polar Lda. The ferry can be booked by going to the office (Polar Lda, Rua Andrade Corvo nr 6, Plateau, Praia, Santiago). Alternatively you can buy a ticket at the jetty in either Maio or Praia.
The ferry can now be booked online, see below*
(* Important note: some routes unavailable for online booking at this time)
Maio flights and ferry
- Scuba DivingThe waters around the islands are teeming with sea life. There are two marine reserves around Maio Cape Verde where it is possible to see a large variety of fish within a protected ecosystem. At the reserve at Ponta Preta there are caves and walls available to divers.
- Sight SeeingThere are a number of attractive villages, acacia forests, Morrinho sand dunes, which is a protected wildlife area and the Centro Ceramico Pottery which is in Morro. Organised tours can be undertaken by truck, or it is possible to hire a car. Another site to visit is the Salinas where salt is collected and you can see the piles of salt. An organised tour will be more informative, giving you background and history to the island of Maio Cape Verde
- Visit Vila do MaioVila Do Maio is the capital of Maio Cape Verde and is also known as Porto Inglês. It is the main centre of habitation on the island and it is where the ferry jetty and the airport are located. Built on the side of a hill the little cobbled streets provide lovely glimpses of the sea as you explore this pretty little town. The Town Square has recently been reconstructed and provides a lovely sitting area in front of the small church. At the main beach you can see the fishermen landing the fresh fish.
- Night TripsThe lack of street lighting means that it is possible to view a large number of stars from the island. At the right time of year (June to September) it is possible to see the turtles laying eggs and also to watch the babies going into the sea. Some people may wish to take a tent and sleep on the sand dunes under the night skies. It is only when you come to Maio Cape Verde that you realise how much light pollution spoils the night sky at home.
- FishingThere are good opportunities for fishing from the island of Maio. The variety of fish that can be found from boats include wahoo, dorado, tuna, blue marlin and grouper. Other fish can also be caught from the beach such as bream and red mullet. Fishing can also be done from the rocks and there are also organised fishing trips by boat for deep sea fishing.
- Morrinho Sand DunesThe sand dunes of Morrinho are worth a visit when you are in Maio Cape Verde. This area of the island is now a protected zone thanks to the the efforts of Tamas Szekely who started the Maio Biodiversity Foundation. There is no development allowed in this area as it contains a number of rare and interesting species. These beaches have very few people (usually none) all you will see is the sand, ocean and wild life.
- Salt pans (Salinas)In the south-west of the island there is a large salt flat. The Salina in Vila do Maio and the surrounding sand dunes and semi-desert areas are the home to many birds including migratory shorebirds and wading birds. It provides nesting grounds for marine turtles, geckos and skinks, larks, an endemic sub-species of the cream-coloured courser and the largest breeding Kentish plover population in the Atlantic Oceanic Islands.
- Craft WorkshopsThe islanders are very talented with their hands; they have to be because it is not possible to buy everything as it is in Europe. Most things have to be made. This tour will take you to some of the arts and crafts of Maio. Souvenir items made by local craftsmen are also on sale.
- Bicycle HireTake some of the latest mountain bikes up into the mountains or along deserted beach tracks. If you hire the bicycles for a few days it is possible to visit some of the lovely little fishing villages and deserted beaches. If you are fit enough we highly recommend cycling north west to the village of Ribeira Dom João ‘Don John’s Creek’. You will find a little oasis of palm trees where you can take a shady break. Its an ideal spot for bird watching where beautiful species come to nest.
The lovely island of Maio with its beautiful beaches are an attraction for those interested in diving. The waters around the island are teeming with marine life. AAA Maio Plongée offers diving training (including a first dive experience), scuba diving, accompanied snorkelling and boat trips. They can also arrange whale watching (in the Spring) in conjunction with Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB)
In addition, they can organise tours of the island by car and turtle watching (between July and September), which is once again done in conjunction with Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB).
Three Bedroom Detached Villa with Ocean Views (Sleeps 6) in Maio Cape Verde
This attractive villa will accommodate six people. The property has two ground floor bedrooms, one with double bed and one with two single beds. Then there a mezzanine bedroom with two single beds. The double room has attractive sea views and also views of the shared infinity pool. The kitchen is fully equipped for self-catering needs. The comfortable living room has views of the garden and the sea. It provides excellent self-catering accommodation on Maio Cape Verde.
The beautiful tropical garden provides two terraces – one offering shade and the other sun. The gardens are well maintained and attractively laid out. The shade terrace provides an excellent location for outside dining. There is a table and chairs where you can enjoy your meal while looking at the garden and the sea. Two cushioned sun loungers are provided in the garden and there are two hammocks for use in the shade.
Maio can windy, but the villa is ideally located and provides shelter from the north east winds. As a result it is always warm and pleasant. Close to the villa (20m) there is a shared salt-water infinity pool, which is the perfect place to cool off on a hot sunny day. The garden and the pool face west and benefit from views of the sunset over the next island of Santiago. There is also a small private beach with access down steps from the infinity pool.
The villa is within a gated compound and this gives an added sense of privacy and seclusion. The main town of Vila do Maio is only a few minutes walk away. There are two small supermarkets close by. Stella Maris is located between two lovely beaches. Through the town you reach the main beach (Bitxe Rotxa). In the opposite direction a short walk takes you to Ponta Preta Beach. Both are beautiful sandy beaches and very often almost deserted.