Santo Antao is simply breathtaking and in my opinion they should wrap it up and place it in a treasure chest. This beautiful island is a hiker's and photographer's dream and has enormous potential for mountain tourism.
The 8am short ferry trip (1 hour) from Sao Vicente port terminal is an event in itself due to the Cape Verdean way of doing things. This adventure continues on arrival in to Porto Novo, where you will be met with chaotic scenes as tour guides compete for your business, and there is a general rush to get onto dry land where returning friends are met with open arms.
A local tour guide with accompanying car is essential. The price is somewhat dependant on how comfortable you want to be, either an air conditioned 4X4 SUV or at the other end of the scale an open back truck. I went for the latter, which though lacking in comfort did provide fantastic uninterrupted panoramic views of the majestic mountains and luscious valleys.
The passage from Porto Novo up and over the mountains and down to Ribeira Grande, then on to Paul is spellbinding. Words are not eloquent enough to describe the magical journey you experience as you explore Cova, formerly an extinct volcano, pass the pine forests and go high above the clouds and then down through the valleys. Just make sure you bring your camera and a full battery.
The national drink Grogue, made from sugar cane is still produced by hand and the best Grogue is to be found in Santo Antao. You can see it being made in the traditional way and of course sample and purchase some if you are brave! Grogue is very high in alcohol and very cheap. This local drink is often shared between friends and the first few sips are lovely as the warm glow travels down your throat, but be careful it's like rocket fuel!
Ideally and if you have the time you can stay overnight in a Pensao in the Paul area. More than likely you will be invited to eat some traditional fare with your hosts and share a Grogue. The next morning you can go hiking and discover on foot the beauty of San Antao. This way you will meet the local people, untouched by commercialism and our modern fast paced life. The local children will delight in waving at you and ask to have their picture taken. A few years ago I remember walking through a small village there, and on hearing the sound of singing I entered a tiny church. It was decorated very simply. I was greeted with happy smiling inquisitive faces, and offered a hymn book. It was a humbling experience and has become a treasured moment.
The ferry back to Sao Vicente leaves at 5pm so the quickest way is via the new coastal ring road back to Porto Novo. As you wave goodbye you will be left with a magical feeling that you have just witnessed something very special, and the memories will stay with you forever.