A tropical country in the Gulf of Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe lies off the coast of Central Africa. The postcard-worthy islands are famous for their dazzling beaches, emerald-green forests, volcanic peaks, and sugary white sands. Uninhabited until the 15th century until the Portuguese arrived, the islands exhibit various cultural influences, but are celebrated today for their unique flair and wide array of attractions.

01Obo National Park

The visual enchantment of Sao Tome and Principe. Frederico Santa Martha / Getty Images

Obo National Park is a natural wonderland characterized by rainforests, savannahs, and dazzling beaches. Explore its cascading waterfalls and breathtaking botanical displays of orchids and ferns. The park features some of the most beautiful natural views of the islands and is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with its giant sunbirds and Sao Tome ibis.

02Principe

A tropical beach of Sao Tome and Principe. atosan / Getty Images

Principe features topography that ranges from rainforest valleys and volcanic peaks. At one time, sugar and cocoa plantations dotted Principe, but these have primarily reverted to natural forest. The island is strewn with tranquil beaches, lush vegetation, and encompasses a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designed to protect its coral reefs and magnificent fauna. If you’re a fan of fishing or snorkeling, this is a world-class destination for these and other water-based pastimes.

03Lagoa Azul

The crystal waters of Lagoa Azul. Frederico Santa Martha / Getty Images

Lagoa Azul, or the Blue Lagoon, is located near the beaches of Praia dos Tamarindos and Praia das Conchas. The lagoon features crystal clear water rimmed by baobab trees. Visitors flock to the pool to enjoy snorkeling and admire its green sea turtles. There is also a lighthouse located nearby that is well worth checking out.

04Rolas Island

Get away from it all and escape to the beaches of Rolas Island.

If you’re looking to escape to one of the most romantic places in the world, this island will not disappoint. Tiny Rolas Island is off the coast of Sao Tome, and it's celebrated for its paradise-like setting. The island features jungle terrain, coves, and pristine white beaches. If you’re visiting, be sure to check out the monument that marks where the equator passes across the island.

tropicalpixsingapore / Getty Images

05Sao Tome

The Cathedral of Sao Tome. Pascale Gueret / Getty Images

Picture-perfect Sao Tome is the capital of the island nation and is rich with elegant avenues, colonial buildings, squares, and beautiful Romanesque churches. When exploring the island, you’ll want to spend time at Independence Square, where you can view the Presidential Palace. Be sure to check out the National Museum as well as the shops and cafes that line the cobblestone streets.

06Santana

The islands are home to tranquil scenes like this. AL-Travelpicture / Getty Images

Santana is a popular spot for beach lovers. Located on Sao Tome, the small town is on the shores of the island’s eastern coast. Its verdant jungle palms enhance the town’s idyllic seclusion. Many tour boats and scuba companies operate in the region. Its surrounding volcanic hills make Santana look like a vision out of time.

07Sao Joao dos Angolares

A perfect vacation destination. atosan / Getty Images

The beach at Sao Joao Angolares is famed for its Portuguese curries, lush jungle backdrop, and friendly hotels and guesthouses. The town’s buildings are painted with bright, colorful hues, underscoring its vacation ambiance. The slow pace of life, the perfect beaches, and fresh seafood all invite people to stay and never leave.

08Boca de Inferno

Crashing Atlantic swells. Drimafilm / Getty Images

Known in English as “Hell’s Mouth,” Boca de Inferno teems with powerful Atlantic swells. These unique geological formations rise from the waves to form one of the country’s iconic natural landmarks. The unusual geology of the rocks causes water to jet up and cascade to create an enchanting geyser-like display set against the backdrop of the coast's dark cliffs.

09Jale Beach

The islands of Sao Tome and Principe feature one idyllic beach after another. Pascale Gueret / Getty Images

Jale Beach is on the southern coast of Sao Tome on a tranquil bay that people visit to catch a glimpse of endangered sea turtles. The beach is dotted with bamboo huts where you can lounge on under the shade of swaying palms after going for a swim. There are also many hotels situated near this idyllic beach, making it a popular destination for tourists.

10Santo Antonio

Typical coastal housing on the islands. Pascale Gueret / Getty Images

The small town of Santo Antonio is on the north coast of Principe. It features various colonial structures, such as churches, set on a backdrop of green volcanic hills. With its stands of palm trees and jetties, it all looks exactly like a postcard. If you’re exploring the island, don’t miss out on Santo Antonio’s natural charm.