‘No stress’ is the mantra of Cape Verde
The stunning destination on Africa’s north-west coast has that of the cool, Caribbean relaxed attitude but without the hassle of a long-haul flight to Barbados (Thompson fly regularly).
Sal is the most popular of the 10 Verde islands. With gorgeous, tropical scenery and a plethora of activities, it’s not surprising it is one of the most up and coming holiday destinations of the last two years.
I stayed at The Resort Group’s Meliá Llana Beach Resort & Spa – a convenient 15-minute taxi ride from the airport. Much of the hotel overlooks a pristine beach with postcard-perfect white sands and blue sea and boasts luxury pools, a swim-up bar and highly sought after poolside “egg pods” with movable shades, making leaving the resort not really necessary.
Despite its focus on luxury and relaxation, a week there definitely won’t break the bank, with rooms ranging from between 180 and 255 euros a-night, depending on the season. Standard rooms come with wifi, air conditioning, free drinks in the minibar and a frankly enormous double bed.
With gorgeous, tropical scenery and a plethora of activities, Sal is is one of the most up and coming holiday destinations
Guests can upgrade to the most sought-after rooms with “swim up suites” – a stretch of pool at the end of your garden, so you can go from bed to bikini in under a minute.
Those who fancy themselves a little bit of extra luxury can also upgrade to “The Level” and have access to a private pool, waiter service at your sunbed and premium drinks.
To unwind even further, a massage at the on-site YHI spa is an absolute must. I opted for the deep-tissue which was hands down the best massage I’ve ever had at a hotel.
The luxury Meliá Llana Beach Resort & Spa
The enviable rooms with swim-up pool
The spa is a little haven too – all subdued shades of blue and white andimmaculately-clean private huts for you to sit with a glass of mint and cucumber water afterwards and revel in how refreshed your body feels.
I – like most other guests – spent a good portion of my stay reading on a sun lounger and making frequent trips to the bottomless bar, but if you’re in the mood for something more adventurous there is no shortage of options.
In the town of Santa Maria – only a five minute taxi from the hotel – you can rent quad-bikes (sun cream, water and old clothes are essential) and take a four-hour Odyssey across the desert. But as I very quickly found out, this adrenaline-inducing ride is more Mad Max than Michael Palin.
For those wanting more of a genteel afternoon, instead meander through the town’s small markets selling colourful, locally-crafted nicknacks and watch the fishermen hauling in the catch of the day. There are plenty of boat and fishing trips to wile away a few hours at sea too if you fancy yourself as a bit of an angler.
And afterwards, unwind with a celebratory cold drink (whether you caught anything or not) at a beachside bar. Bar Acquarius has beers for three euros and you can scrunch your feet into the sand while staring at an uninterrupted view out onto the turquoise expanse of ocean.
‘A week there definitely won’t break the bank’
Food-wise Cape Verde is a roaring mix of cultures and cuisines which are best reflected in the Melia’s buffet restaurant, Merkado. Pastas, salads, roasted meats, paellas, chips and pizza – it’s all on offer. A colourful pot of fruit salad and freshly made omelettes are the choicest offerings at breakfast, best avoid the chicken wings.
At next door’s hotel, Llana, there is a restaurant which is well on its way up the TripAdvisor rankings – Nami. Perch on a purple crushed velvet chair like a King and feast on sashimi with butterfish, or a whole crab deep-fried in a soft bun. The restaurant is not part of the all-inclusive package but totally worth it for a celebratory meal, or a perfect last meal at the end of the holiday.
The other restaurant in Melia is an Italian, with an a-la carte menu and a little more refined and less frenetic restaurant vibe. Pasta, pizza and cheese and hams are plentiful.
To burn off the 10 desserts you may have “sampled” the night before (it’s a buffet, what are you meant to do?) head down to the water.
An array of water sports are available from Bikini Beach including banana boating, jet skiing, wake boarding and a giant inflatable sofa you sit in as a boat tows you along the water.
There are plenty of boat and fishing trips to wile away a few hours at sea
The banana boat at Bikini Beach watersports is a must-do
Watersports are not included with rooms and food but worth if for a thrilling afternoon on the sea. Jet skiing had me screaming with fear and adrenaline while banana boating had me in stitches as our cheeky skipper made a sharp turn and we all ended up underwater. Jet ski rental (over 18s only) costs from €35 – as does the childishly giddy banana boat.
In the evening there is one destination on everyone’s lips. Bikini Beach is a plush outdoor club – with pool – worth at least one visit for anyone visiting Cape Verde – not just guests at The Resort Group’s hotels.
In the evening you get to watch the place come alive. Stroll down the boardwalk feeling like a celeb, grab a glass of champagne and look out onto what could be the edge of the world.
Later at night it can get heaving as people from all over the island come to party till the early hours.