We have just returned from 12 days on the Cape verde island of Boa Vista. If you don’t know where Cape verde is, its a collection of 10 islands, around a 6 hour flight from London, just off the coast of Africa. An increasingly popular holiday destination now, but the islands have a rather dark past as in the 1400’s, they were used to trade slaves that were brought over from West Africa. Imagine that! The Portuguese were the first to colonise the islands, so the language in Cape Verde is a mixture of Portuguese and Creole, and the language you are most likely to hear when the locals are talking to each other is Creole. Boa Vista is the third largest of the islands, and its name translates to Beautiful View, probably because of its gorgeous beaches that it is famed for. My last Boa Vista post was sharing a memory, (you can read that here) In this post, I give you the low down on where we stayed etc.
Boa Vista – An island of two sides
As we flew into Boa Vista, I have to say I was shocked at its landscape. Cape Verde has been described as Europe’s version of Mauritius, so in my head, I expected to see endless white sands, lush green vegetation, and beauty. Is it not like that! As you approach the island, you see that Boa Vista has a very barren, luna landscape with a lot of desert and nothingness. This really surprised me. As I understand it, the various islands do have varied landscapes, so it could be that other islands look totally different. Just something to be aware of if you do visit.
The short drive from the airport to our resort does show the poverty that Cape Verde has. Shacks and make shift homes were in clusters throughout the drive, highlighting the contrast of opulence and vastness of the resorts that us as tourists have the luxury to stay in. Obviously, the plus side of these resorts is the employment that tourism brings to the islands. Thats the other side to a seemingly unbalanced coin. When you arrive at your resorts it really brings home the polar opposite sides that are on this island.
Where we stayed
The Good bits…
We had chosen to stay at the Riu Karamboa, located just 15 minutes from the airport. It was a huge, sprawling resort, which was great as it never felt packed. Designed with turrets and a castle like appearance, it was easily spotted in the distance when we left the airport. We had chosen the resort for its size as, although we were going in school holidays, we didn’t want to be living on top of other people, as can be the case in peak times. The resort was large enough that it felt pretty spread out.
There are lots of lovely design features that made the resort interesting and aesthetically pleasing. Little nooks and crannies to sit in out of the heat of the sun, many water features, colourful glass domed rooftops and beautifully tended gardens all made it a lovely resort to walk around. You also had roof top bars, a boutique spa with a great selection of treatments on offer, and huge areas where you could get a drink and relax. The roof top bar was one of my favourite places to sit and watch the sun go down. It was beautiful. There was never an issue with lack of seating or tables. They also had areas where you could help yourself to tea and coffees, as well as beers and wine. This was a great idea for someone like me who likes to go up to a quiet area around 3 o clock for a cuppa and a read of my book. You can take the girl out of England……
The Riu Karamboa is a fully inclusive resort, so, as is the norm for these resorts, you have the main restaurant with the huge buffet selection that you can help yourself to. The food is all very fresh as the counters are constantly being cleaned up and changed over. We found the food to be plentiful in both choices and amounts. I am a vegetarian, and I never struggled for choice. You have so many things to choose from, and at least fifteen different salads every night. It was all lovely. You also had three themed restaurants, if you fancied change. One was a Sushi restaurant, one was Cape Verdian and the third was Chinese. They were all amazing but the Sushi one was out of this world. The food was absolutely delicious. If you love seafood, you will be in heaven with this one.
Also, you know how I love animals right? Its no secret. As you often see in holiday destinations, there are lots of cats around the resort. I was thrilled to learn that the cats are all looked after by the resort, they are all checked by the vet regually, flea and worm treated and neutered. The resort also had the “Cat Cafe” which was an area where they fed the cats every night. This made my animal loving heart happy as the cats were all so friendly. We had two little black cats that used to sleep on our balcony chairs overnight. In the mornings they would stretch, look at me lazily through narrowed eyes, and saunter off to get their breakfast. Iv said it before, you can learn a lot about a nation in how it treats its animals.
We had booked two rooms as our sons are older. It was fine as the hotel had put us in rooms with the doors facing each other, so I could hear those little party animals coming home!!! We were happy with the size of the rooms, and although they were a little tired looking and needed a refresh, they were comfortable and clean. You can get family rooms at this resort, so that is also an option. The rooms were cleaned daily, with your towels being changed daily. You even got towel animals and shapes made for you every day. I loved coming back to see what we had each day. Im so easily pleased….
The resort is right on the beach, so you have the beautiful sea and sand right on your door step. The beach has plenty of beds you can use, and life guards are on lookout all day. The sea can be a little strong with its current, so a flag system operates. You must of course heed the safety warnings of the orange or red flags, if they are up. You are advised to not stray far from the resort after dark too. We did go down to the beach after dark, but security look after the hotels private beach, so it is safe.
There isn’t a lot around the resort, so if you want to go into town its a 15 minute taxi ride. You have no shops to stroll to or little towns, so most of the holiday makers stay in resort. Of course you have the animation team keeping everyone entertained all day, and they did a great job. In fact, the entire staff at the resort were lovely. They try hard with the evening entertainment to, its just personal choice as to whether its your thing or not.
The usual activities of water polo, archery, football, volleyball etc were all on offer, and my boys had a great time getting involved with them all. Have you ever seen drunk beach volley ball? No? Us neither until my sons had a great afternoon……….
Sadly, I do have a couple of negatives to share with you, and one of them was quite a big one so I wouldn’t be giving you an honest account if I don’t mention it. The first was check in. It took forever! We were literally standing in line, waiting to check in for almost an hour. It was ridiculous. I have no idea why. It really was not ideal though as when you have been up so early for your flight etc, that day of travelling feels like a long day dosent it. It is something that I feel they need to try to work on. A smallish thing in the grand scheme of things, but an issue none the less.
Secondly, The pool. Its a huge, beautiful pool, with lots of space and shade around it, and various depths for all guests to enjoy, whatever the age or swimming ability. It had beautiful beds in the pool, so you could read your book in the sun whilst keeping cool. (On that point, one of the books I read was Into The Water by Paula Hawkins. A fab read. I recommend it). It was perfect in that way, and was what attracted us to the resort. However, the pool has a mosaic tiled floor, and we were shocked to find that there was thousands of these little tiles missing. Not only was we disappointed by the poor maintenance, this was supposed to be a five star resort, but it was so dangerous. Our youngest son cut his foot on the sharp edges using the steps to get out of the pool. It was a bad cut, requiring stitches. I wont go in to the impact this had on our holiday as I don’t want to be a moaning minny, but it did change his holiday, and it was simply not good enough. He was not the only one either. Every day we saw people getting out of the pool with cuts from the tiles. In my opinion, this is totally unacceptable. In no way should bad maintenance be an issue that causes injury to guests.
To add insult to (his) injury (see what I did there, Im hilarious), when my husband complained to one of the hotels directors, (they happened to be holding a meeting at the resort) we were told that the hotel was aware of the issues, it was an ongoing problem, but to fix it would mean closing the pool! We thought this was ludicrous. It was the start of the season (early July) so how was the pool in such a state? Money was being put before guests safety. Not good enough.
We were told by one of the staff that there are plans to close this resort for an overhaul at the end of the season, so hopefully this should solve these issues. It was a gorgeous resort, so I really hope so.
Despite Fin’s injury, we rolled with the punches, and made the most of this much needed holiday. The islands beaches are just beautiful, the people we loved (as I told you about in my previous post Experience Boa Vista) and it was in the most part, the relaxed holiday that we needed and had hoped for. I do think that as the peak season got into full throttle, the resort would feel much busier in the restaurants etc, but that is the case in all of the all inclusive resorts. Its the nature of the beast Im afraid. I think the restaurants at the Riu Karamboa could manage and cope with the guest traffic at meal times, as the areas are so huge.
I have already spoken to you about the day we had exploring the island in the previous post, but I have another day that I want to share with you. Not in this post as I have prattled on enough, but I will share it soon. Its proof that there really are hidden gems to be discovered everywhere!
I hope this has been useful. I would love to hear your experiences with any large resorts you have stayed in. Or even your thoughts on all inclusive holidays. Let me know, you know I love to hear and learn from your own experiences.