This is a small fishing town with a port and a beautiful sand beach that is good for swimming. The nearby coast is also good for surfing, windsurfing, and kite surfing. Over time, its tourist infrastructure has been built up and then abandoned. As of March 2019, Tarrafal tourism is going strong with numerous offerings.
If you are gathering information for a trip, or even more important, making plans and bookings, it is important to note that there is more than one "Tarrafal" in Cape Verde: one on the island of São Nicolau, and two on the island of Santo Antão --- the less known is just a section of the town Ribeira Grande and seldom mentioned, but the second, often refered to as "Tarrafal de Monte Trigo" or "Tarrafal Santo Antão" to avoid confusion, is a very interesting tourist destination on the southwest side of that island. Although all 3 Tarrafals are worth a visit, people have sometimes booked their hotel in one, but showed up in the wrong Tarrafal on the wrong island and were wondering where their hotel was---- so be careful.
The aluguers from Praia generally take 3.5 hours (~500 escudos or 5 euros), but the drive is only around 2 hours from Praia airport.
In theory it is possible to get a boat from Ilha do Fogo to Tarrafal, but these do not appear to have a fixed schedule.
The town is very small, and the travel agencias are located in the plaza in front of the main church. They will make adventure trips easier, because mountain trails out of town do not appear to be marked.
The beach is the main destination for most tourists, but nearby Serra Malagueta Park is easy to visit, because most aluguers will pass by its main gate. Some tourist agencies offer guided walks from that park down to Tarrafal, taking 6-8 hours depending on the route.
As the center for adventure tourism in Cabo Verde, the tourist agencies in town offer many activities such as cliff jumping, ocean kayaking, surfing, and canyoning. The pricing for these activities unfortunately is western European and the quality of equipment variable.
Because this industry seems to be very new in Cabo Verde in general, it would be recommendable to make sure the guide for the more extreme activities: 1. Directly has experience guiding that activity 2. Has a mobile phone that will work and a waterproof pack to keep it dry 3. Has a number for helicopter evacuation (the local clinic is not equipped for much at all) 4. Carries plenty of water and food proportional to the trip being taken
If self-catering, try to buy in Assomada, which seems to be the hub for the island. Prices increase slightly in Tarrafal in comparison with Assomada.
There are many restaurants near the main square and the beach. As with anywhere near the sea, prices tend to be better 2-3 blocks inland.
Hotel Sol Marina has good breakfasts and a range of prices for its rooms, starting at 20 euros per night. It is close to the beach, offers direct ocean views from many rooms, and has mosquito nets.
Wifi is readily available at most hotels and restaurants.
The road to Achada Fazenda has wonderful views and is in good condition (March 2019). At the Shell station across from the minibus ("aluguer") collection point, one can ask for taxi drivers, who will generally go to the airport in Praia for €50. Sometimes the aluguers stop at the main plaza in front of the church, but that is less consistent than walking the 5 blocks along the main road to get to Shell.