São Tomé and Príncipe's scenic beauty, wildlife, and unique historic architecture have the potential to attract tourists, but even though the islands have been a port of call for voyagers for centuries, tourist facilities are minimal and restricted largely to the port towns and their environs. The first tourist hotel opened in 1986 and the government is encouraging greater private investment in the tourist sector. Two sports facilities opened in 1992. São Tomé has beautiful white sand beaches and a number of coffee and cocoa plantations to explore. All visitors must have visas. A yellow-fever vaccination certificate is required.
In 1997, 4,924 tourists visited São Tomé, with over 3,000 visitors from Europe. In 1999, the UN estimated the cost of staying in São Tomé at $147 per day.