Principe is the smallest and least developed of the two islands that make up the country, Sao Tome & Principe.
If you had the thought that the main island Sao Tome was unexplored and beautiful, wait until you visit Principe. Of the 100 plus countries I have now been to, Principe is the closest you will get to an untouched paradise in the world.
This tropical paradise will have you counting down the days until you return. Picture untouched rainforests, plastic-free beaches, and friendly locals.
There are also plenty of activities on the island to keep you busy for days. I’m definitely going back!
If you would like more information on the entire nation, check out this travel guide to Sao Tome & Principe.
Reaching Principe Island
Reaching Principe is not the easiest feat in the world; there is only one flight a day from the main island of Sao Tome.
But if you want to do it like the locals, you will have to take a cargo boat. During my visit, however, I had to wait over a week because of the rough sea.
There’s no set schedule for the boat, so you will have to ask around the harbor office for the next departure. Taking the boat is also not the safest way.
From the last edition of The Bradt Guide, the only guidebook to Sao Tome & Principe, below you can see that taking a flight is by far the best option.
The only airline that flies to Principe is STP Airways. A return ticket will cost you around 110 Euros if booked well in advance. If booked only a few days in advance or from the local office, it will cost you around 220 Euros.
Tip: It’s cheaper to book the ticket from the Portuguese version of the web page than the English.
Accommodation in Sao Tome & Principe
When it comes to staying in Sao Tome & Principe, there aren’t many Bed-and-Breakfasts or self-catering homes for rent. Camping is also not really an option.
Luckily there are a few Principe and Sao Tome hotels and resorts available on the island of Principe.
Sao Tome and Principe Hotels
The D&D Delmata is your best and only option, and it is in Santo Antonio town. According to the Bradt Guide, there should be four or five other Sao Tome island hotels/guesthouses in the town, but they all seemed closed down during my visit.
Sao Tome and Principe Resorts
Most people stay in one of the resorts here, Belo Monte, Bom Bom (the fanciest one), Roca Sundy (the historical one), or Makaria Lodge (the cheapest one).
All of the resorts include breakfast and dinner in the rate. Most of the resorts, except Roca Sundy, have private beaches and a swimming pool. They all offer free pickup and drop-off at the airport too.
Belo Monte Resort offers scuba diving and kayaking with an English-speaking guide.
Bom Bom and Makaria Lodge offer paddle boarding, and all the resorts on the beach offer free use of snorkeling gear. The resorts can also arrange a local guide for hikes around the island.
Príncipe Island Attractions
The island of Principe, Africa, has something for everyone, from the adventurous traveler to those who just want to kick back on the beach.
Local guides are the best ways to see everything that the island has to offer. Most of the Sao Tome resorts also have connections to the top attractions in Principe, so it would be best to ask around at your hotel.
The southern part of Principe is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s home to no more than three species of turtles, including being a hatching spot for the leatherback.
Birthplace of World’s Best Chocolate
Principe is now home to what is considered to be one of the best chocolates in the world, Claudio Corallo. This famous chocolatier created a cocoa bean without bitterness.
His creativity and passion are what make his cocoa and his chocolate one of the yummiest in the world.
The local government on Principe has also made a significant effort when it comes to hiking. While some of the hikes require a guide, there are also other rumored hikes around the island.
The government has put up signs and marked trails around Principe. I saw at least six signs like this, and according to Jose, my trusty local guide, they are working on more.
But if you’re not on Principe for the hiking, then the easiest thing to do is just relax on one of the world-class beaches on the northern part of the island.
The most famous beach on the island is the Banana Beach that these days belongs to the Belo Monte Resort (another Stunning cocoa plantation now a hotel).
This beach was used in the Bacardi Rum commercial some years ago.
Money Tips for Visiting Principe Island
Like on the main island, there are no ATMs here, so you will have to carry cash with you. All the big resorts offer payment by PayPal or bank transfer to their bank account in Portugal or in Euro/USD.
I couldn’t find any money exchangers in Santo Antonio. So, you better exchange money on Sao Tome before coming here.
Santo Antonio Town
Principe only has one town, Santo Antonio, often called the smallest town in the world.
So if you’re not staying on one of the four expensive resorts in the northern part of the island, Santo Antonio is the only other place that offers accommodation on Principe.
Santo Antonio is also the only place with something close to a supermarket, a local market, a post office, a few bars and restaurants (that seem to be open only when they feel like it).
There’s no public transportation around the Island, but it’s still easy to get around. Santo Antonio is easy to walk around. After all, it’s the smallest town in the world.
Getting Around the Island from Santo Antonio
If you want to visit some of the remote villages and beaches around the Island, simply head to the local market to hire a local motorbike from a local. You could also just ask a local to drive you.
They are happy to do it for a small fee.
However, your best option is to go to the small Government Agriculture and Botanical office on the way to the local market and ask for Jose that works there.
His English is very good (for Sao Tome & Principe standard), and he will be happy to drive you all over the island on the back of his motorbike for a very reasonable fee.
He’s also very knowledgeable about the local fauna on the island. He knows practically everyone on the island.
Thanks to him, you will be able to visit remote communities, viewpoints, and places that you will never be able to find on your own. I can’t recommend him enough.
Einstein’s Theory Put to the Test
The Roça Sundy Cocoa Plantation (now converted into a beautiful hotel) was the first place where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was tested and proven in 1919 by a British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington.
He traveled to the island of Príncipe to find the perfect location from which to view a predicted eclipse.
This was the only time Principe has probably been mentioned in the big news around the world. You can stand in the exact same spot where the theory of relativity was tested.
It is marked with white tiles and an inscription with some information.
Principe Plastic Policy
Like already mentioned in my Sao Tome & Principe general post, this country is one of, if not the cleanest country I have ever been to.
However, Principe island has taken it even a step further than the main island of Sao Tome.
Here in Principe, the locals recycle everything (might it be the only place in Africa?). And there’s a “Zero plastic on Principe” campaign on the island.
The goal is to make the island of Principe plastic-free by 2020 while also improving the recycling of organic trash and supporting a sustainable economy in the biosphere reserve. The locals are very proud of it.
While locals can trade 50 old plastic bottles for a stainless steel drinking bottle, Tourists are also encouraged to do their part.
You can buy a stainless steel drinking bottle that you can refill for free with clean drinking water from 13 freshwater fountains installed in public spaces around the island.
These include schools, markets, public administration buildings, and the airport.
All over the island, from the most remote communities in Santo Antonio to the Resorts, you will come across trash cans in 4 different colors.
Each color is for a different kind of material, and the locals use them religiously.
Visit Principe Island Today
The island of Principe is a natural wonder indeed. At the resorts and hotels in Sao Tome and Principe, you can have the tropical vacation of your dreams.
They can arrange local guides and activities to keep you entertained during your island stay.
If you are looking for Sao Tome and Principe hotels and resorts that have it all, then Bele Monte should be perfect for you.
If you are looking for a place to unwind with a cocktail in hand, then nearby famous beaches like banana beach allow you to do just that.
If you are still not convinced, then perhaps this post on the 15 reasons to visit Sao Tome & Principe might change your mind.