Bioko Island: Africa’s little known island paradise

Bioko Island, also known as Fernando Póo or Fernando Po, lies off the southern Nigeria coast and northwest of mainland Equatorial Guinea. Little known outside of the region, Bioko Island is a paradise waiting to be discovered.

Surrounded by stunning beaches with either white or volcanic sands, Bioko boasts rainforests, savannah, woodland, and a volcanic peak Pico Basile, often covered in cloud. It’s also home to swarms of beautiful butterflies, and exquisite sea turtles.

The island happens to also host the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo. While the capital city can keep you busy for several days, it’s worth venturing into the southern areas of Bioko Island, for some incredible Bioko day trips.

So where should you visit on Bioko island, what about Bioko’s nightlife, and things to do? Read on for all this and more, but first, let’s learn a little about this fascinating island’s history.

Bioko Island History 

Bioko Island was first spotted by Europeans around 1472 by a Portuguese explorer named Fernão do Pó, and was originally called formosa, meaning beautiful. There couldn’t be a more apt name for this parallelogram-shaped volcanic island.

Spain claimed it after 1778, but their first attempt at full control only started in 1858. Britain then used Bioko briefly (1827-34) as an anti-slavery center.

The Bubi are the island’s original inhabitants, and descended from Bantu-speaking settlers from mainland Equatorial Guinea. The so called Fernandinos came about later, being descendants of settlers from the old British West Africa, mixed with liberated slaves. Both these communities have gradually weakened in standing, as the majority Fang, who’ve flocked to Bioko from the mainland, came to take up most of the jobs in the civil service. 

Interestingly, Bioko island is one of the first countries in Africa to grow cocoa. Whilst coffee and timber are also other main products that are grown on the island.

Bioko Island: Why you should visit

Due to its location, Bioko has a tropical climate meaning vast swathes of the island are covered by green, lush rainforest.

As such, while tourists number are small, Bioko island’s biodiversity has made it increasingly popular with eco-tourists. Why? Because Bioko is home to a significant population of endangered species of primates as well as other types of rare indigenous wildlife. 

Bioko is also home to a dozen native plants, around 200 different bird species, as well as mesmerizing sea turtles. While many of Bioko’s attractions are found in Malabo, the southern areas of the island are home to huge areas of virgin rainforest. Much of that is now being used as a center for biological research. 

While the naturals sights and wonders of Bioko are as good a reason as any to visit this fascinating island, the culture here is another.

There’s a real strong air of African nationalism in the streets of Malabo, which has street names like Independence Avenue in honor of Equatorial Guinea’s independence from Spain. Malabo also boasts the regal presidential place in the eastern part of the city. There’s happens to be a sizeable number of colonial Spanish structures in many parts of Malabo, including the colonial cathedral De Santa Isabel to the west of Plaza de Espana.

Things to do in Bioko island, and top destinations to visit

So, you’ve been convinced Bioko island is a must visit, you’ve packed your bags and your flights to Bioko are booked. Here’s some of the top things to do in Bioko when you’re there:

Arena Blanca is an amazing beach near Luba, which has incredible white sandy beaches. It’s popular for its swarm of breeding butterflies. One top tip is that the further you walk away from the car park, the cleaner the beach gets. 

Malabo National Park covers a vast area (870 square kilometers) and is situated quite close to Bioko’s airport. The park offers a sports area, restaurants, activities for kids, an art gallery, and a lake with boats and jet-skis. Everything to keep a whole family happy!

Located to the west of Plaza de Espana, Cathedral de Santa Isabel is what many locals believe to be the most magnificent building in the country. This elegant construction was inaugurated in 1916. Flanked by a two 40m-high towers, the building has three naves and is Gothic Revival in it’s design.

Moka Mirador is must see to be believed destination. Situated and signposted along the highway across Bioko Island it’s a viewpoint that sits above Moka town which has has breathtaking views over the ocean and across the island.

Luba Mirador is another incredible viewpoint which is signposted along the highway across Bioko. Drive here to see stunning views across the hilly rainforest terrain that stretches out towards the ocean.

Equatoguinean Cultural Center is a lovely colonial structure on the main road. This is a great place to visit when you first arrive in Bioko as they will tell you if there’s any activities, or cultural events taking place during your stay.

Sagrada Familia Church is a small yellow coloured church located in a beautiful wooded area in Basakoto village, south of Malabo. Not only is the church Intagrammable, it’s also happens to have lovely views over the ocean.

Pico Basile National Park has thick rainforest’s full of flora and fauna that will give your visit to Bioko that wild side. It’s definitely possible to climb the mountain here, but our tip is to get a guide so you don’t get lost.

Casa Verde is an early 1800’s restored greenhouse that is surely worth a visit. Highly regarded by locals, many say it will become a museum in the coming years.

Restaurants in Bioko

Unsurprisingly, most of the restaurants in Bioko are found in Malabo. High-end hotels offer copious buffets on weekends. There, you can find Chinese, French, Lebanese and Senegalese cuisine. Some eateries offer a menu of African and Equatorial Guinean dishes. There should be something to please everyone.

In smaller towns, you’ll find street food in restaurants and markets, where spicy pepe soup is a big hit. Feeling adventurous? Why not try the huge snails that are cooked in rural areas, or if that doesn’t take your fancy, try the tasty fish grilled over coals and wrapped in plantain leaves.

Bioko Nightlife 

Bahia Sound Lounge boasts a great bar and an exterior dance floor overlooking the ocean. The entrance fee and drink prices are expensive for the island, but the club is often packed.

Stylish, fun, and a great to meet people, Aviator Pub & Café has outside seating and great ambiance. There’s live music every Friday and Saturday, karaoke on Thursday, as well as sports shown on screens throughout. Of course, there’s plenty of food to go with great beer, and takeaways are available too.

L’Atelier Cabaret Lounge is a “cabaret lounge” compete with chandeliers! Perfect for enjoying live music on weekends while sipping a cocktail. What’s more is that entry is free!

Discoteca L’Alizée Malabo is a great pub that hosts many events. Visit to find out what they have on.

Getting Around Bioko

Several airlines regularly provide international flights to the capital, and regional airlines provide flights between the mainland and Bioko Island. 

A day trip within Bioko Island in a private car can cost around USD 200.

When to Go

Bioko’s weather is tropical, and that means there can be significant rainfall almost all year long. In the rainy season, flash floods can cause travel difficulty. However the rainfall is much lesser from December to February, so our tip is to travel during this period.