Tarrafal of São Nicolau, São Nicolau Island, Cape Verde

Tarrafal, situated on São Nicolau island in Cape Verde, boasts its bay that overlooks the sea.

The town is remarkably tranquil, with serene surroundings that offer a sense of peace and calm that envelop visitors upon arrival.

The soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore and the sun’s warm embrace contribute to its tranquil atmosphere.

Tarrafal: A Cursed Name

In the collective memory of the Portuguese, Tarrafal carries a cursed reputation.

However, it’s essential to distinguish this town from the infamous one on Santiago Island.

Although they share the same name, this Tarrafal is on a different island and offers a peaceful ambiance.

About this Tarrafal

Describing it as sweet and quiet would be apt.

What’s lesser known is that this town also served as a deportation site, albeit never experiencing the severity witnessed in Tarrafal on Santiago Island.

With a population estimated between 5000 and 6000 inhabitants, this town is the second most populous area on the island, following Ribeira Brava, the capital.

Life in Tarrafal moves at a leisurely pace, promoting a healthy lifestyle. 

Instead of rushing for tomorrow, people embrace the present, ensuring each hour consists of sixty minutes.

The town’s layout directs attention towards the sea, with its streets leading to the harbor and town center, which are nearby.

São Nicolau, Cape Verde
São Nicolau, Cape Verde

How to get there

Located at the opposite end of the island from Preguiça Airport and the capital, the journey from the airport to this town can be disorienting due to the lack of straight roads, resembling more of a meandering route.

One must traverse the surrounding mountains to reach Tarrafal from Ribeira Brava Village. 

The most efficient mode of transportation to Tarrafal, whether from the airport or Ribeira Brava, is via “Eace,” the local taxis.

“Eace,” or Hiace

The local name for the Toyota Hiace is Eace.

Tarrafal, São Nicolau, Cape Verde
Tarrafal, São Nicolau, Cape Verde


Approaching Tarrafal from these heights, I instantly realized I’d need to return to capture the village at sunset; it felt inevitable.

The town’s high temperatures lend its sunsets a reddish-blue to purplish-orange hue.

Also, the low velocity of the wind enables one to capture striking contrast photos.

São Nicolau, Cape Verde
São Nicolau, Cape Verde


Hidden jewel

Despite a black sand beach, it doesn’t seem to draw many visitors – in truth, there aren’t many people around.

However, there’s a sense that the town awaits the influx of tourists once they discover this hidden paradise. 

I hope that day remains far off. 

I intend to savor this place to the fullest extent possible.

Have fun,

David Monteiro