About Santo Antão
Santo Antão Cape Verde (Portuguese for “Saint Anthony”), or Sontonton in Cape Verdean Creole, is the westernmost and largest of the Barlavento islands of Cape Verde. It has precipitous peaks, jaw-dropping ravines and tiny villages clinging to its mountainsides.
With its prominently contrasting scenery Santo Antão is the most north-westerly of the island group with a size of 779 square kilometres. The northeast trade winds funnel up into the mountains creating a micro-climate rich with vegetation. The landscape changes from being bare and arid to mountainous with breathtaking views of fertile valleys with villages appearing deep below.
The tallest mountain is Topo de Coroa, reaching a height of 1,979 m. The island is divided into north and south by a mountain range, long considered impenetrable. Forests of fir and pine turn the Ribeira green. You will also see date and coconut palms, mango and carob trees, as well as citrus, almond, papaya and orange trees. Maize, pineapples, coffee and manioc are cultivated on terraced fields. The fragrance of eucalyptus, lavender and even lotus blossoms hangs in the air. Acacia, wild figs and dragon trees line the roads in many places.
There has been extensive tree planting since 1975 and as a result there are now pine trees, oaks and sweet chestnuts on the cool peaks of Santo Antão. Santo Antão exhibits some of the most impressive scenery that you will find anywhere in the world and that is still relatively untouched. A must for visitors to this beautiful island is a visit to the picturesque cliff-hugging village of Fontainhas, 2km southwest from Ponta do Sol. This tiny village is perched on a precipitous rock above a deep ribeira (riverside). Behind the houses that line the street of this unique village is sheer drop of several hundred metres.
The people of Santo Antão are mountain dwellers and exhibit all the joy of living that is evident in the Cape Verdeans. The western side of the island is so mountainous and arid that it is a surprise that anyone lives there, but with a 4×4 and some time to spare, it is possible to explore its rocky tracks, perhaps heading for the peaceful coastal village of Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. There are four main cities on the island – the capital is Ribeira Grande; then there is Porto Novo in the drier, south east part of the island; Paúl, which is south east of the capital; and Ponta do Sol, north west from the capital and possibly the most attractive of the towns.
There are four protected areas in Santo Antao – Moroços natural park; Cova/Ribeira Paúl/Torre natural park; Cruzinha natural reserve; Pombas protected landscape; and Tope de Coroa natural park. The north-west of the island has the most significant marine biodiversity in the whole of the Cape Verde islands. It also has good fishing, providing fish to the 50,000 inhabitants of Santo Antão; and in Cruzinha da Garça there is a programme of conservation for five species of turtle, an endangered species. The seas around the island are also home to whales and dolphins, also endangered species.
One easy and highly rewarding location to visit is the Vale do Paúl, a spectacularly lush valley that opens into the sea at the village of Vila das Pombas. Full of banana, mango and papaya trees, flame trees, poinsettias and vegetable plots. There is also the possibility to visit a traditional trapiche (sugar mill) to watch grogue being distilled and maybe to try a shot! Grogue is a Cape Verdean alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane. It has been produced in large quantities from locally grown sugar cane in the green valleys on the north coast of Santa Antão for centuries.
You can also take a road trip from Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande. This journey will start in the dry south east of the island, taking you through the tall rocky mountain peaks, past the forests near to Corda and Cova and the along narrow mountain ridges to the north coast. You will arrive at the foot of the Cova de Paúl volcano and you will get a stunning view of the north coast and of Ribeira do Paúl with it’s lush valley sloping dramatically down to the ocean. At the head of the Paúl valley the northeast trade winds are funnelled up and through the vertically towering rock peaks into the volcano, creating an almost permanent display of swirling mists and cloud.
Santo Antão is quite beautiful…
Cape Verde has four international airports with over 40 flights a week to the islands of; Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente and Santiago (Praia). You can fly to any of them and still use the local flights to connect (operated by Binter CV) however it’s better to go direct to the island of São Vicente (unless you want to go island hopping). All the airlines on this page fly to Cesária Évora airport in the city of Mindelo on the island of São Vicente. If you need any help with your flights please contact us with your preferred city of departure and we will try to find the best route for you. A visa is required, this can be bought on arrival for €25.
Ferry from São Vicente (Mindelo) to Santo Antão:
The only way to Santo Antão Cape Verde is by boat from São Vicente. Two ferry services run between São Vicente (Mindelo) and Santo Antão (Porto Novo): Armas (ferry “Mar d’ Canal”) and PolarLda (ferry “Inter-Ilhas”). The crossing with takes about one hour and costs 800 escudos per person (children aged up to 6 years are free of charge, children aged from 7 up to 11 years are 430 escudos). More information, including timetables can be found below.
Ferry journeys can now be booked online, see below
Santo Antão / São Vicente flights and ferry
- Scuba Diving and SnorkellingThe turquoise seas around Santo Antão Cape Verde offer great opportunities for snorkelling and diving. The marine life off Santo Antão is plentiful and diving is rewarding. There are a number of diving centres on the island at places such as the picturesque harbour town Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. There are approximately 20 diving sites that offer diving depths of between 8m and 30m.
- Walking and hikingSanto Antão is a great place for those who like walking and hiking holidays. There are challenging trails through breath-taking mountain scenery. The paths are not always well marked and although good, they can be overgrown. A guide is recommended, as villages are few and far between and sometimes relatively inaccessible. The northeast of the island provides some of the most attractive walking. The island is also popular with lovers of nature, with its flora and fauna.
- Cycling ToursCycling tours are a great way to discover Santo Antão Cape Verde, either independently or with a guide. Also many of the walking trails are suitable for mountain biking and there are companies that provide the necessary equipment and guides, such as in Ponta do Sol.
- SwimmingAlthough Santo Antão does not have the long golden beaches found elsewhere in the Cape Verde islands, there are several beautiful places from which to swim such as Praia Formosa, a particularly beautiful spot or Tarrafal on the far south east tip (pictured here)
- CanyoningThere are waterfalls and rivers on the island that provide some exciting canyoning. There are approximately 50 canyoning routes, amid lush vegetation centred mainly around the Vale do Paúl. For canyoning aficionados Santo Antão Cape Verde is one of the most exciting, yet undiscovered locations for this sport.
- NatureThe subtropical climate in Santo Antão Cape Verde will surprise you with its rich vegetation. You will see, almond, papaya, orange, coconut and date palms, mango, carob, maize, pineapples, coffee and forests of fir and pine. Jagged peaks, strange rock formations, craters, volcanoes and plunging ravines and valleys are filled with lush vegetation. You will find many micro climates that support interesting flora and fauna.
Santo Antão Cape Verde offers some spectacular scenery and I invite you to join me in exploring this fascinating island. My name is Edson David Andrade Lima, but I am also known as Davy. I am a qualified guide speaking English, Portuguese and Creole and can offer you a number of different guided walks. If required I can arrange your individual or group transport (for a maximum of 15 people). The best way to explore this beautiful island is by walking and hiking, when we can, for example, explore the Vale do Paúl; Cova the volcano crater; and the coast, as well as visiting the small towns such as Ponta do Sol. If you visit my website you will see a choice of 10 walks. Santo Antão is a verdant island, with high mountains, deep valleys and a dramatic coastline. There are great opportunities for ornithology and enjoying the flora and fauna. I look forward to welcoming you to Santo Antão and to having the opportunity to show you my home island. I can be your guide for just one day or for a full week of tours, depending upon what you wish to do and how much time you have available.
Coração Ponta do Sol Boutique-Hotel
A Boutique Hotel with 10 double/twin rooms
This smart new hotel is located in Ponta do Sol on the northern point of the lovely island of Santo Antão. The hotel is just 400m from the centre of Ponta do Sol. There are 10 large rooms each together with an en-suite bathroom that includes a walk-in shower. Each room also has a nice balcony. The rooms can either be set up as king size doubles or twin rooms. Your room will include bed linens, hairdryer and towels, including ones to use by the pool. Breakfast can be enjoyed inside or outside with lovely views of the ocean and the mountains that surround the town. There is a private swimming pool for the use of the hotel guests only. The staff clean the pool daily. The bar and relaxation area includes free WiFi and games and from time to time there is live music. In addition there is a roof top terrace where guests can sunbathe and enjoy the view.
Santo Antão Cape Verde is a great island for walking and the hotel proprietors can indicate some of the best walks and provide the usual information that helps guests to enjoy their holiday to the full. The hotel can offer massage, which is a welcome way to recover after a day’s walking. This service can be a full body massage, or feet and legs, and/or back. Gentle music accompanies the massage and essential oils are used.
Mountainside villa sleeping 4 people.
Villa Oceanus is located in the village of Lombo Branco in the north east of Santo Antão. The villa is in an elevated location and has panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. The house is well furnished and well equipped and the quiet location is an ideal place to relax or as a base for hiking. The village is reached by a steep road and is on a well used hiking trail.
There are fantastic views of the ocean from the living room and the balcony, and there is a roof terrace where you can relax over a drink. The garden of the villa is large and guests are welcome to help themselves to the fruit, such as bananas and papaya, when in season.
Although quiet and peaceful, the house is not remote and Aluguers linking the development with the village are frequent. There are also local taxis for hire.
Guests are welcome to use the shared pool in the village free of charge. A private pool can also be made available for a small daily charge.
The managers can arrange ferry tickets, taxis and hiking tours.