Overview

Introduction

The verdant, Atlantic islands of Sao Tome and Principe are two destinations that, once visited, will change your outlook on the world forever.

Sao Tome and Principe at a glance:

  • Just north of the equator, this lesser-known archipelago has an immense natural, experience-rich and deep-rooted cultural appeal
  • Dense rainforests, lofty volcanic peaks, phonolitic rock towers, glorious stretches of empty beach, colonial architecture and a cool vibe
  • The island of Principe has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve and is home to a great biodiversity in terrestrial as well as in marine ecosystems. Diving here is world-class
  • Visit between October and January to observe the nesting of leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. Turtle hatching takes place from December to April. Whale watching is available from July to October
  • A year-round destination with activities and experiences on offer to suit all interests. Of course, Sao Tome and Principe will feel like paradise should you wish to do little more than relax, swim and read

If you draw a line along the Greenwich meridian to the spot where the line crosses the equator, then close by, at Africa’s westernmost point and 250km off the coast of Gabon, is where you will find the verdant, Atlantic islands of Sao Tome and Principe; two destinations that, once visited, will change your outlook on the world forever.

At just 1001km2 this little-visited archipelago is Africa’s second smallest country. What it lacks in size, these islands, and their satellite isles, make up for with their immense natural, experience-rich and deep-rooted cultural appeal. ‘Packs a punch’ would be one sentiment we would use to describe a holiday to São Tomé and Príncipe; another would be ‘takes your breath away’.

Nature:

Products of a long-extinct volcano, the landscape of the islands is dramatic, beautiful and unforgiving: black basalt rocks, thundering waterfalls, glorious stretches of golden sand, warm turquoise water, mountain peaks and dense rainforests - packed so thickly that visible pathways are hard to find. From the air they have the distinct look of deserted paradise islands; from the land, you realise this initial impression is not far from the truth.

Birdlife on Sao Tome and Principe is exceptional, boasting the highest density of endemic species in the world - more per km2 than the Galapagos archipelago. Some 25, single-island species can be found here and a further 14 species are endemic to the country. The abundance of forest and lack of development ensure a pristine environment in which these birds can thrive, separate from their human neighbours. With a local guide it is possible to explore the islands’ interior and hear the calls of the prinia, blue waxbills, kingfishers, starlings, Sao Tome green pigeons, Principe drongo and the African grey parrot. Soaring above, the black kite can often be seen.

Off shore, the waters of the archipelago, amidst the Bay of Guinea, are considered a marine hotspot. Three species of sea turtle nest here (green turtle, hawksbill and leatherback) between October and January, with hatching from December to April, and the Loggerhead turtle can be observed in the islands' waters. Humpback whales migrate past the isles in July and August.

Cultural:

One hundred years ago, Sao Tome and Principe, under Portuguese colonisation, were the largest cocoa producers in the world. Former plantations now lie largely abandoned, reclaimed by nature. However, their heritage and products live on (to a lesser extent).

The primary language, Portuguese, can be traced back to this period. Cape Verdean creole, on the other hand, spoken by over 15,000 people, was introduced, and passed on, by plantation contract workers. The majority of Principe’s residents are of Cape Verdean descent, their ancestors left behind at the time of independence.

A visit to a plantation house (Roça) is a must, in our opinion. The crumbling estates will transport you back in time. Close your eyes and it’s not hard to imagine the sounds and smells of these former communities. Slowly but steadily, trees and vegetation are obliterating the legacy of colonisation - enabling excellent photographic opportunities - but, at a few, the plantation manors now house artist workshops and stores selling local products.

These islands are not stuck in the past. Times are changing on Sao Tome and Principe; improvements in infrastructure, communication and education, increased job opportunities and the introduction of new industries - tourism being one - are aiding social mobility. The islands’ capitals, Sao Tome (Sao Tome) and Santo Antonio (Principe), are vibrant communities with a fascinating architectural mix and warmly welcoming to those who visit. Explore the food markets to discover for yourself the vast array of locally colourful herbs, spices and vegetables. Be sure to stop and converse with those you meet; the more you engage the deeper and more enriching the experience (limited English is spoken but hand signals, smiles and basic words can make all of the difference).

Holiday:

With idyllic beach after idyllic beach, fringed by almond, coconut, bamboo and begonia, you could be forgiven for spending your days by the sea. Snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking and diving are all popular activities along the coast.

A variety of boat excursions operate, and are highly recommended by the Sunvil team. It is from the water the drama of the landscape unfolds.

With a walking guide it is possible to explore the islands’ natural parks and to discover cocoa trees almost eclipsed by a medley of ferns, banana trees, palms, breadfruit trees and more. At their roots, medicinal and aromatic herbs, including wild coriander, wild ginger and lemongrass can be harvested. 

With minimal light pollution, the constellations of the night sky shine brightly. Find your own tranquil spot or book a local guide to understand more.  

Read more

Getting There

Getting To Sao Tome and Principe

  • Flights from the UK to Sao Tome and Principe operate via Lisbon. From Lisbon the flight continues to Sao Tome, with a touchdown in Accra (Ghana) en route. A 35-minute domestic flight connects Sao Tome with the smaller island of Principe.

When To Go

When to go to Sao Tome and Principe

Whilst the temperature and daylight hours remain constant all-year, the archipelago has two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season (June to September and December to March). The wet season results in heavy tropical showers, quickly replaced by clear blue skies. The dry season has cooler temperatures and cloud cover. 

Walkers should choose to travel in the dry season if they wish to explore the inland trails.

Accommodation

Accommodation on Sao Tome and Principe

To launch our holiday programme, Sunvil has handpicked one property on Sao Tome and three differing hotels on Principe. Whether searching for a beach resort, to step back in time at a former plantation hotel or sleep amidst the forest in a luxury tented bungalow, we have a property for you. As always our programme is flexible and our holidays handcrafted to suit your requirements.

 

Vaccinations

Vaccinations for Sao Tome and Principe

It is recommended that any traveller to Sao Tome and Principe consults with a travel healthcare practitioner 6-8 weeks prior to departure. Immunisations for Hepatitus A, Tetanus and Malaria are usually advised. Yellow Fever is also recommended as the flight operates via a country of risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the local currency?
Euros are accepted locally and can be exchanged in resort into Dobra (STD), the local currency.  Please note that if paying in Euros, any change due is normally given in Dobra.  The hotels accept VISA, MasterCard and AMEX.  If making a purchase elsewhere, you should check with the restaurant, shop etc that they will accept your card as these are accepted in a very limited number of places around the island.  There are no ATM machines on either island.  Cash is available from the main bank in São Tomé using a Visa card.  Travellers’ cheques are not accepted on São Tomé and Principe.

What is the official language?
Portuguese is the official language of both islands.  There are also several Creole languages in use, three of them are indigenous - Santome (the language of São Tomé); Angolar (language of Angolares) and Lung'lé (the language on Principe).  English is also spoken but lesser so if visiting areas outside of the hotel resorts.

Do you need any vaccinations when travelling to São Tomé and Principe?

Yes please see the following link.

Do I need a visa?
No visa is required for British passport holders travelling, in transit only, via Accra (Ghana) to São Tomé nor for British Nationals staying up to 15 days.  

For longer stays a visa is required before travel – please contact the São Tomé and Principe Diplomatic Mission in Brussels: Square Montgomery, 175 Avenue de Tervuren, 1150 Brussels; Tel: +32 2 734 89 66; e-mail: Ambassade@saotomeeprincipe.be.  São Tomé and Príncipe have no diplomatic representation in the UK.

Other passport holders should contact the São Tomé and Principe Diplomatic Mission in Brussels for visa requirements.

Travellers’ require a passport with at least 6 months remaining after the date of your return.

Please note that on occasion you may be required to complete landing cards onboard the flight from Lisbon to Accra.  This is due to the airline crew not being aware until landing whether passengers travelling on to São Tomé will be required to remain on the aircraft or whether they will need to disembark.  Completing the forms prior to landing will assist with the speed of process if you are required to disembark.  

What’s the time difference between São Tomé and Principe with the UK?

São Tomé and Principe are on GMT+0, so there is no time difference during the winter.  Between March and October, whilst the UK is on British Summer Time, São Tomé and Principe are one hour behind the UK.  Due to the similar time zones this means no jet lag.
 
When is the best time to go to São Tomé and Principe?
The dry season is the best time to travel for walkers especially if exploring inland trails.  Whilst the temperature and daylight hours remain constant all-year, the archipelago has two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season (June to September and January to February).  The wet season results in heavy tropical showers, quickly replaced by clear blue skies.  The dry season can be more humid with cloud cover.

How do you get to São Tomé and Príncipe?
For details please see the following link.

How much luggage allowance is included on the flights?
Hold luggage allowance with TAP Portugal is 23kg per person and 1 piece of hand baggage up to 8kg / 115cm (55x40x20 cm / 22x16x8 in) plus 1 personal item up to 2 Kg / 85 cm (40x30x15 cm / 16x12x5 in) for economy class. 

Hold luggage allowance with STP Airways is 15kg per person.  Excess baggage is payable at the airport – the fee is c.10 Euros per kilo each way.  Please note that excess/extra luggage acceptance on the flight is subject to space availability and there is no guarantee of transportation.  There is no hand luggage allowance on domestic flights between São Tomé and Príncipe therefore it is recommended that guests only take onboard a small backpack or a handbag.  Guests can leave luggage, which they do not wish to take with them to Principe, at the Omali at no extra cost.

It is possible to pre-book seats?

It is possible to pre-book seats with TAP Portugal and Sunvil would recommend selecting the same seat on both legs of the journey - from Lisbon to Accra and then from Accra to São Tomé.  In the event of not having to disembark at Accra Airport, having the same seat reserved ensures that you are seated in your correct seat.  Often you will find that where passengers have disembarked, ending their journey at Accra, others have taken their seat believing it to now be a free seat. 

What should I pack?
Light-weight waterproof rain jacket; comfortable shoes; trousers and long-sleeved shirt if hiking; light jumper for early morning/late evening; sun hat/cap; binoculars; small torch; insect repellent (DEET 50 minimum); insect bite cream and/or allergy relief cream; sunscreen and adaptor plugs.

Due to the climate and humidity of the islands loose fitting clothing (cotton or linen) is preferable.  The dress code on both São Tomé and Príncipe is easy-going and informal but it is preferred that you do not wear shorts or skirts in government buildings and churches.  It is acceptable to wear shorts and t-shirts whilst on an excursion but most hotel restaurants require more appropriate clothing during the evening.

Are there any mosquitoes?
Due to the climate of São Tomé and Principe mosquitoes are common and most active during dawn and dusk.  There are non-usual cases of malaria on Principe.  Insect repellent (DEET 50) and antimalarials are recommended.  Insects, especially in hot climates, are a part of life and although the hotels do their best to keep them at bay it is not possible to completely avoid them.  In many cases, what looks scary to us may in fact be more scared of humans, so if in doubt please speak to hotel reception.

What is the voltage in São Tomé and Principe?
The standard voltage on São Tomé and Principe is 220V, with a frequency of 50hz and is more or less the same as in the United Kingdom (230V).  Two pin (round) plugs and sockets are used therefore an adaptor plug is essential.

Occasionally the islands can experience problems with the mains electric supply, especially Principe whose combustion, for the electricity, is transported over from São Tomé by boat.  During these times hotels will operate on back-up generators and have pre-planned periods of black outs (normally overnight) to conserve fuel, however please note that this will affect air-conditioning and hot water.
 
Is there a local tourist tax?
There is a tourism levy of 3 Euros per adult per night payable locally at the end of your stay.  There is no charge for children aged 2 to 12 years.

What time can you check-in and check-out of the hotels?
Please note that the hotels operate an early check-out, normally between 08:30 and 09:00 on day of departure.  Late check-out is available locally for an additional charge and is subject to availability.  Check-in is normally around 11:00 with the exception of the Omali which is 14:00. 

Do the hotels provide tea and coffee making facilities in the room?
All accommodation featured by Sunvil have an in-room coffee and tea station.

Can you drink the local water?

It is not advisable to drink the tap water only bottled water.

Are airport transfers included?
Shared airport transfers are included to and from all accommodation booked with Sunvil.  Private transfers are available at a supplement on request.  The transfer time ranges between 5 minutes and 25 minutes depending on the hotel.

Is there a hospital on the islands?
There is a hospital on both islands and if required the hotel reception will be able to assist by taking you to the hospital or calling a doctor to your room.  Medical facilities on São Tomé and Principe are limited and many health conditions require evacuation to Europe, South Africa, Ghana or Gabon for treatment.  Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Are there any walking / hiking trails on the islands?
Guided walking/hiking excursions can be arranged on both islands and can be pre-booked by Sunvil – details on request.  If you are leaving the hotel on your own, for safety reasons please let the hotel reception know.  Walkers should choose to travel in the dry season if they wish to explore the inland trails.  Suitable clothing is essential (comfortable trousers, long-sleeved shirt and a good pair of walking shoes).  Please note that hiking trails are raw and wild, often through thick vegetation, with uneven surfaces therefore a good level of fitness is also required.

Are there any good beaches on the islands?
Both islands are great destinations for anyone looking for a beach holiday and many of the beaches are uncrowded and sometimes you may find you have the beach to yourself (with the exception of a crab here and there – the small decorator crabs are fascinating to watch).  Sunday’s tend to be busier, when locals visit the beach for family time on their day off.  There are some beaches which form part of a fishing community so these will be busier than others and it is not uncommon to see families, along with their animals (mainly dogs and pigs) living in accommodation (wooden shacks) on the beach.

Please note that whilst some beaches are easily reached on foot, there are many which can only be accessed by boat.  On Principe Island, the best beaches, many only accessible by boat, are on the north coast.  The majority of beaches do not have facilities just lovely golden sand, clear emerald waters, palm trees and the odd fallen coconut, so if you are planning a day at the beach then it would be advisable to take a picnic with you.

Please take care during windy tides on Principe when jellyfish can appear on beaches.  None of the beaches on either island are protected by lifeguards therefore children must be accompanied at all times.

Here are some of the beaches that can be found on each island…

São Tomé


Praia Museu – located on the north-east coast of the island, this beach takes its name from the nearby national museum.  The beach is within the city of São Tomé and on weekends and holidays is a good place to meet locals.
Praia Café – located on the south coast of the island on Ilhéu das Rolas, this beach is a popular spot for picnics.  It is also considered by many as the best beach of the island.
Praia Messias Alves – located on the east coast, the beach is popular for diving and snorkelling.  It is a family friendly beach with facilities and is located in Santana, just in front of Club Santana Beach and Resorts (not featured by Sunvil).
Praia Joana – a quiet beach located on the south coast which is good for swimming.
Praia Pombo – located on the south coast this is a good spot for snorkelling.
Praia Sete Ondas – found on the south coast of the island, this beach (Seven Waves Beach) is popular with surfers.
Praia de Moro Peixe – a popular beach on the north coast for snorkelling.
Praia Micondó – found on the south east of São Tomé.  Some refer to it as absolute paradise.

Principe Island

Praia Banana – found on the north-east coast of Principe and probably the most famous beach on the island, made famous by the 1990’s Bacardi advert which was filmed there.
Praia Margarida – located about 20 minutes’ walk through the forest from Praia Sundy, on the north west of the island.  The waters on this beach are emerald green.
Praia Boi – considered by many as the island’s loveliest beaches along with Banana and Margarida.  The texture of the sand at Praia Boi, on the north-east coast, is unlike any other on the island.
Praia Macaco – found on the north-east coast of Principe, this is a good beach for swimming. 
Praia Grande – Principe’s largest beach, on the north-east coast, where the project to protect and preserve sea turtles is based.
Praia Sundy – located by the property of the same name (featured by Sunvil), on the north-west coast.  This long stretch of sandy beach is great for watching sunsets.
Bom Bom Beach – found at the Bom Bom Resort (featured by Sunvil) on the north coast of the island.
Praia Ribeira Izé – located next to Bom Bom beach but more of a trek to get to.  It is about a 90 minute walk along a hiking trail to get to the beach that was once the first capital of the island and where you can still see some ruins from those times.

Is it safe to travel to São Tomé and Príncipe?
Crime rates on São Tomé and Príncipe are generally low, but like many other destinations in the world theft can occur.  Travellers are advised to safeguard valuables and cash, particularly at the beach and to use a hotel safe where practical.

The islands are generally peaceful and the locals friendly and welcoming, proud of their country and only too happy to share this beautiful destination with you.  If you wish to take photos locally you are free to do so, but please ask first if you would like to photograph a local resident as not everyone likes to have their photo taken and you may be asked for payment.  Police, military or government officials should not be photographed.

The standard of living is much lower than in the UK so it is not uncommon to see poverty and begging.  If you want to take gifts, please do not take sweets.  Visitors to the islands wishing to donate gifts are encouraged to take clothes and school supplies but please do not hand these out in the streets yourself.  Please deliver your donations to a local organisation, the church or community elders as they will ensure that they are distributed fairly.  As they say on the islands, leave nothing but your footprint and take nothing away but your memories.

Consular support is not available from the British government on São Tomé and Príncipe as there is no British Embassy.  However, the British Embassy in Luanda, Angola can provide consular support to British nationals.

Is it easy to travel around São Tomé and Príncipe?
Most of the main roads have tarmac and many, outside the capital, are in poor condition.  If going off the beaten track the roads become dirt tracks, often filled with large muddy puddles.  Most roads are unlit and you should avoid being on the road at night, when there is more likely to be animals on the road, and particularly during heavy periods of rainfall when landslips and mudslides can occur. 

Excursions and activities can be arranged in advance and these will normally include transportation therefore car rental is not required.

On São Tomé, if taking a taxi, it is common practice for these to be shared with other passengers.  Taxi’s and motorbike taxi’s (motoqueiros) are the only forms of public transport on the islands.

Is there any wildlife?

São Tomé and Príncipe do not have the large animals you will find on mainland Africa (giraffes, wildebeest, lions, zebras etc) and therefore do not offer any safari expeditions. 

How much daylight do the islands get?
São Tomé and Principe enjoy an average of 12 hours daylight all year round with sunrise around 05:30 and sunset around 17:30.

What are the local airports like?
São Tomé Airport is small in size and Principe Airport even smaller.  Check-in opens one hour prior to departure for the inter-island flights and only passengers with a flight reservation are allowed to enter the terminal.  São Tomé Airport has a small snack bar and gift shop in the departures lounge.  Whilst São Tomé Airport has a luggage carousel, Principe Airport is more manual with the luggage collection process.  Please note that there is no luggage screening equipment at Principe Airport, therefore your suitcase will need to be manually checked so Sunvil advise keeping any padlock keys close to hand.  On arrival at Principe Airport please be prepared to have your forehead temperature taken as you enter the airport building as this is a requirement for entry on the island.

What is the procedure regarding departures from Principe?
When flying from Principe Island back to São Tomé, to connect with the international flight to Lisbon, Sunvil would recommend that you pre-book day use of the Omali Hotel where you will have use of the hotel facilities and room access prior to departure of your next flight.  Shared return airport transfers are also included.  Day use at the Omali must be pre-booked and pre-paid, please contact Sunvil for a price.  Sunvil do not recommend waiting outside the airport due to lack of facilities.

What sort of excursions can you book?
Sunvil offer a variety of excursions and activities on both São Tomé and Príncipe which include dance workshops, island and plantation tours, diving, cooking classes, hiking, bird and turtle watching, boat trips and whale and dolphin watching.  Pre-booking is recommended.  Please visit our website www.sunvil.co.uk 

Useful information

Talk to one of our experts

020 8758 4722

We're open today till 5:30 PM

Get in touch

A destination like no-other on Sunvil's portfolio. Sao Tome and Principe has immense appeal for nature lovers - especially those who appreciate lesser-known destinations and have explored the densely forested regions of Latin America; bird watchers, divers, visitors wishing to observe humpback whales in their natural habitat and those wishing to relax and unwind in an unspoiled and uncommercialised setting.

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi
Best time to go
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
Time Difference

GMT+0

Currency

Santomean Dobra

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

8 hours via Lisbon and Accra

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Talk to our Sao Tome and Principe expert

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi

A destination like no-other on Sunvil's portfolio. Sao Tome and Principe has immense appeal for nature lovers - especially those who appreciate lesser-known destinations and have explored the densely forested regions of Latin America; bird watchers, divers, visitors wishing to observe humpback whales in their natural habitat and those wishing to relax and unwind in an unspoiled and uncommercialised setting.

Call one of our experts to discuss your next holiday with Sunvil on

020 8758 4722

We're open today till 5:30 PM

Make an Enquiry

Please use this form to request further information about a Sunvil holiday or destination.

We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Required Information

* Mandatory Information
Title *
First name *
Surname *
Telephone number *
Alternative telephone number
Email address *
Confirm email address
Preferred method of communication *
If you would like to be called during a specific period, please specify

Destination Details

Principe, West Africa

Sao Tome and Principe

Preferred departure date *
Duration *
Party size *

Back

  • Adults(12+ yrs)
  • Children(2 to 11 yrs)
  • Infants(Under 2 yrs)
Budget range
Other comments:

Email newsletters

 

We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Required Information

* Mandatory Information
Title *
First name *
Surname *
Telephone number *
Alternative telephone number
Email address *
Confirm email address
Preferred method of communication *
If you would like to be called during a specific period, please specify
Booking reference number *
Alternatively, please enter your query in the box below:

Email newsletters

 

Thank you for your enquiry

Thank you for your enquiry. A member of our specialist reservation teams will be in touch shortly.

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Your details have been saved

Feel free to continue to browse the site and add to your enquiry. Don't forget to send the enquiry before you leave!

My Suitcase

We understand that so much choice can be overwhelming which is why we have developed 'My Suitcase'. This facility allows you to save and compare your favourite holidays, and even allows you to return to your selection at a later stage.

Why not use 'My Suitcase' to compile a wish list of your future Sunvil holidays?

 

Sign in


New to Sunvil?

Create Account


Already have an account?

Password reset

Back

Close

Close