It can be divided into two groups: Santo Antão (779 km²), São Vicente (227 km²), São Nicolau (388 km²), Santa Luzia (35 km²) islands and Branco and Raso islets lie to the west and are rocky, volcanic, agricultural islands.
The most mountainous islands are Santo Antão and São Nicolau and each has elevation over 1,000 meters above sea level, Boa Vista and Sal are the least mountainous. Topo da Coroa (1,982 m) is the highest point.
São Nicolau and Santo Antão were the first inhabited islands in Barlavento. Boa Vista, Santa Luzia and Sal were third, inhabited in the 16th century and São Vicente was the sixth island to be inhabited in the 1790s
In the early years, Santo Antão was the most populated island and remained for many decades. In 1832, the population was 33,500, Santo Antão was the most populated island in Barlavento and the second in Cape Verde, São Nicolau was second, São Vicente was third and Sal was fourth. Santa Luzia became an abandoned settlement in the 1850s. In 1900, the population rose in some island though Santo Antão remained the most populated island. Around the 1920s, São Vicente became Barlavento's second most populated island and fourth in Cape Verde. São Vicente was the fastest growing population in Barlavento in numbers, in percentage, in the 1950s, Sal took the position. In the 1960s, Boa Vista island became the leastly populated island in Barlavento, Sal took the position with air traffic services boosted its economy. Since the early 1980s, São Vicente island is the most populated island in the Barlavento Islands. Sal has the fastest growing population today. Tourism flourishing in Sal put the island to be the third most populated island in the late 1990s.
From 1900, the population has nearly tripled from about 48,000 to 147,019 in 2000. The population in the 2010 census is 170,587.
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- Barlavento Islands article at Britannica Online, accessed on 1 January 2010
- Michel Lesourd, Les îles Barlavento (Barlavento Islands), Le Cap-Vert (Cape Verde), Jaguar Publishers, Paris, 2006, p. 154-215 978-2-86950-408-0 (in French)