Sal Cape Verde (Sal is ‘salt’ in Portuguese) probably has the most developed tourism offer of all the Cape Verde islands. Sal (Ilha do Sal) is the main tourist island in the archipelago and the most popular of the islands with tourists. The island caters for all kinds of holidaymakers. Visitors of all age groups love the island. Whilst beaches and water sports are a great attraction, there is also the culture, the history and the enjoyment of the cafes and restaurants. All of that with superb weather. Most of the accommodation in Santa Maria is within a 20 minute walk of all the shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Sal is an island for beach lovers and is considered to be amongst the world’s top five windsurfing locations. The Santa Maria beach offers eight kilometres of white sand and extends round to the west of the island to Ponta Preta beach, where you can watch the sunset. There are turquoise clear waters that offer great conditions for a classic beach holiday. The warm clear waters and the gently sloping beach are a great attraction.
The administrative centre of the island is Espargos, located in the centre of the island, close to the airport. In the main resort of Santa Maria, you will find everything from trendy surf shops to colourful cafés and restaurants. Don’t be put off as you land at the Amílcar Cabral International airport. Although a very dry and rather barren island, it has one of the best beaches in Cape Verde with long stretches of soft white sand. Until recently Sal could only be reached by plane (domestic and international). Now there are ferry connections between the port of Palmeira on the island and Boa Vista and São Nicolau.
Kite Beach on the east of the island, and close to Santa Maria, has become an important location for kite surfers, hence its name. Ponta Preta beach is also popular for kite surfers. Water sports galore are on offer. It is possible to hire water sports equipment in a number of places. Equipment hire includes surf boards, wind surfers, jet skis and kite surfing equipment.
Santa Maria provides nightlife with everything from smart bars to noisy night clubs. Music is a big feature of cape verdean life. Many bars have live music in the evenings and the locals will soon be dancing and of course it is quite acceptable for visitors to join in. In fact it is expected, as fun is the key word. After all, the motto of Cape Verde is ‘Cape Verde, no stress’. The music of Cape Verde is infectious, and comprises the melodies of morna and the more animated rhythms of funaná. The young Cape Verdeans seem to have boundless energy and will often dance for hours. In Santa Maria you will also find the biggest selection of cafes, restaurants, banks and shops, together with most of the tourist accommodation.
Eating out in Cape Verde is relatively cheap. Seafood is on most menus, with a range of fish not commonly seen in Europe. Prices are likely to be around 600CVE (approximately €5) for fresh grilled fish (possibly tuna, wahoo, or garouper). For special dishes and items such as lobster, you could expect to pay around 1,500CVE (approximately €13). One of the traditional local dishes that should be tried is a stew called cachupa. It is made with beans, corn, sweet potato and either fish or meat. It is sometimes served for breakfast, which may seem a little unusual to European visitors. Buzio, a type of sea food, is also a local delicacy.
Cape Verdeans love festivals. Two of those on the island of Sal take place in August and September. In August it is Nossa Senhora De Piedade (Our Lady of Pity), which includes a mass, parades, swimming competitions and a beach music festival. In September there is the Santa Maria Music Festival.
Among the places to visit on Sal is Buracona, commonly known as the Blue Eye. This is a natural rock pool formed within the lava rocks. When the light hits the water at the correct angle, the water turns a turquoise colour. Another place to visit is Pedra de Lume, here there are salt evaporation pools. These were used for the production of salt since the 18th Century. Although no longer in use, the remnants of the former industry are still visible. You can also float in the very salty water, something similar to the Dead Sea. This is where the name of the island derives from.
Sal is one of the northern islands of Cape Verde, within the Barlavento (windward) island group. This makes it the closest island to Europe, consequently there are direct flights of approximately 6 hours from many cities in Europe. If you want a quiet, gentle holiday, that is possible. However, if you want a lively holiday with lots of activities during the day and a full-on nightlife experience, you will find that too. Sal is known as a beach destination, but there is more to Sal than just beaches. There is something for everyone on Sal and it is perfect for some winter sun.