Maio Cape Verde offers a perfect destination for a quiet ‘get away from it all’ holiday. The islands of Sal and Boa Vista maybe better known for their beaches. However, Maio is the forgotten gem. It is also a beach island, but here you will often have the beach all to yourself. Maio has not been taken over by commercial tourism. It is a little piece of paradise; a lovely, forgotten island and only 15 minutes by plane from the capital city of Praia.
You can find sleepy towns with colourful little houses, hilly landscapes, limestone valleys, acacia forests, coconut palms and tranquility in abundance. There are long stretches of perfect, almost deserted white sandy beaches and warm clear waters.
If you enjoy long walks, or just sitting and relaxing, this is the place for you. It may be a little harder 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 Cape Verde. Maio is an overlooked island.
The southern part of the island is largely desert, while 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 Porto Inglês). The roads are quiet and a guided tour of the island is a pleasant experience and an informative way of seeing the island. A tour will take in the attractive little villages, the sand dunes at Morrinho, acacia forests (now the largest continuous wooded area within Cape Verde) and also the charcoal pits.
The main town of Vila do Maio is in the south west of the island. It is on the coast and the airport and the ferry jetty are located here. It is a quiet, attractive little town with very few cars. You are probably more likely to see chickens or even a goat or cow in the street. The quaint cobbled 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 sit. There are bars and restaurants dotted around the town, including Bar Tropikal on the main beach, where you can spend the day relaxing, swimming, eating and drinking.
The deserted beaches are an attraction to a variety of sea birds and there are turtles found in the waters. Between June and October you may be lucky and see the turtles laying their eggs in nests in the sand dunes. Then watch the babies make their way into the sea. Organised trips should be arranged, as it is important not to endanger these beautiful creatures by destroying their habitats. The main beach in Vila do Maio stretches a long way beyond the pier, so if you want to be completely alone you can be if you walk a little further. There is also a lovely beach at Ribeira Dom João, but it can only be reached with a 4-wheel drive car. Praia Gonçalo is a lovely secluded beach on the north east of the island.
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. This 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. In early September there is a beach festival in Vila do Maio.