Sal (salt in Portuguese)is the most developed of all the Cape Verde Islands in terms of tourism. You’ll find everything from trendy surf shops to colourful cafés and restaurants. It is an island for beach lovers and is considered to be amongst the world’s top five windsurfing locations. It has water sports galore and although very dry and rather barren, it has one of the best beaches in Cape Verde with soft sands with turquoise translucent waters that offer the most ideal conditions for a classic beach holiday.
Sal is one of the northern islands of Cape Verde, in the Barlavento island group. This makes it one of the closest to Europe and there are direct flights of approximately 6 hours from many cities in Europe. Santa Maria on the south end of the island is the mecca for tourists and this is where you will find most of the tourist accommodation (hotels and apartments) and the biggest selection of cafés, restaurants, banks and shops. Santa Maria has a newly modelled town square, which is the hub of the town.
The beaches on Sal are among the finest you will find anywhere. The main beach in Santa Maria is some 8km in length and up to 200m wide in places. The soft white sand and towards the west end, the sand dunes make this a beautiful place to spend time. It is possible to hire water sports equipment in a number of places including surf boards, wind surfers, jet skis and kite surfing equipment. The warm clear waters and the gently sloping beach are a great attraction. This beach was ranked in the top 25 in the world by TripAdvisor customers.
The water sports are a big attraction. Kite Beach on the east of the island, close to Santa Maria is an important location for kite surfers, hence its name. But all sorts of water sports are on offer including surfing, windsurfing, diving, sailing, jet skiing, and snorkelling. November to May are the windiest months and therefore better for watersports that need wind. For divers there are some wrecks and caves and reefs to explore as well as a multitude of marine life. Deep sea fishing trips can also be arranged.
Sal is a largely flat island, although in the north there are some more mountainous areas. Much of the island is desert, which is lovely to explore on a quad bike or with a 4×4 vehicle. There is very little rainfall and what there is, is usually confined to August and September. When it rains it is normally short heavy showers, but they are few and far between. Sunshine is on offer on average for 350 days of the year with daytime temperatures normally being between 21°C and 34°C. Even in the winter months the sea can be expected to be around 23°C. In the north of the island is the Barracona lagoon a grotto formed in black basalt. Over the winter period the water can be clear with up to 40m visibility.
Eating out in Cape Verde is relatively cheap. Seafood is naturally 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) but 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, made with beans, corn, sweet potato and either fish or meat. Buzio, a type of sea food is also a local delicacy.
The nightlife in Santa Maria provides 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 locals will soon be dancing and it is quite acceptable for visitors to join in. In fact it is expected as fun is the key word. 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.
So Sal offers the tourist everything that is wanted. If you want a quiet, gentle holiday, that is possible. If you want a lively holiday with lots of activities during the day and a full-on nightlife experience, you will find that too. There is something for everyone.
There are four international airports in Cape Verde, but Sal has what is probably the busiest of the four. It is possible to fly to any of these four airports and then use the domestic flights to connect. However, if you are staying on Sal, then there are flights into Amilcar Cabral International Airport from many cities in Europe. The airlines listed below fly into Sal. A visa is required to enter Cape Verde and this can be purchased on arrival for €25. Some airlines include the visa with their ticket price, so you should check with the airline. Domestic flights operated by Binter CV connect Sal with the other islands that make up Cape Verde.
Airlines that fly to Sal
- Water SportsThe beaches of Sal provide ideal settings for most water sports. The beaches are excellent and varied, and water sports can be enjoyed from just swimming through to cave diving and fly-boarding. The beautiful beaches are also lovely to simply relax and enjoy the sun, with a paddle of quick swim to cool down.
- Water Sports - SurfingBoards can be hired in several places on the beach in Santa Maria, and the warm waters and the good wave conditions make this a popular activity.
- Water Sports - WindsurfingThe conditions in Sal are perfect for surfing, with good waves and for much of the year good wind conditions. As with most sports, equipment is available to hire and tuition can be given. There are several places providing these services on the main beach in Santa Maria.
- Water Sports - Jet skiingThe beautiful clear blue waters found around Sal can be explored from a jet ski with the thrill and excitement that a jet ski can offer. They are available from the main beach in Santa Maria.
- Water Sports - Fly boardingThe sport that has revolutionised the world is available in Cape verde!! If you want to enjoy flying like a super hero or swimming like a dolphin, you can. Cape Verde has some of the cleanest, most transparent waters on the planet, which makes for enjoyment of this Sport. Qualified tutors are available.
- Water Sports - SailingChartering a boat is probably the best way to enjoy a nautical holiday, without the worries and the expenses of owning a boat. Crews are provided and speak a number of languages including English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. Chartering a boat will be an experience to remember and will provide a different view of the island.
- Water Sports - DivingDiving in Cape Verde offers a unique mix of diverse tropical and Mediterranean marine life. Discover rays and manta gracefully hovering around local wrecks, shoals of fish swaying in open water or sheltering in coral, or observe turtles lazily swimming nearby. Beginners and experienced divers can be catered for with instruction available.
- Water Sports - Jetty JumpingWhilst not a formal activity, many of the local youngsters like to jump of the pier in Santa Maria and are happy when visitors join in. Steps up to the pier make it quick and easy to get back onto the pier for the next jump.
- Horse RidingHorse riding is possible and there are organisations offering this service. Excursions are offered with a guide and give opportunities to ride along the coasts on the east and the west sides of the island. Cape Verdean bred horses are a mixture of Arabian and local horses.
- Quad BikingQuad bikes can be hired from several companies in Santa Maria and are usually hired for a half day or full day. They are great fun and provide the opportunity to explore the island. Care needs to be taken not to drive them in restricted areas, which have been designated in order to protect the turtles. Heading up the east coast to Kite Beach and the mountains beyond is easily possible in a half day. You are advised not to wear smart clothes, you are likely to end up rather sandy.
- Turtle WatchingAt the right time of year (June – October) it is possible to undertake nighttime guided walks to see the turtles nesting. SOS Tartarugas was sent up in 2007 out of concern for the wellbeing of the turtles and to attempt to save the nests that were at risk. Each walk takes approximately two hours, but numbers are limited and so it is necessary to book in advance. The walks are about 3km in length.
- Viviero Garden Centre and FarmNot far from Santa Maria, on the road to the airport and Espargos, you will find Viviero Gardens. It is open to the public from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. In addition to buying plants, it is a botanical garden and a petting zoo. All the plants are endemic to Cape Verde, including many different types of palm trees, cactus and succulents.
- YogaThere are opportunities to practice yoga in Santa Maria, and to learn as a beginner or improve or expand your ability. Classes are available either as part of a group, semi-private or even private lessons. Yoga is great fun and the benefits are endless as it improves your physical and mental strength, flexibility and well-being.
- Vehicle RentalA variety of vehicles can rented in order to explore the island. Options in addition to quad bikes (see above) include, buggies and 4×4 cars. If you fancy something more adventurous then catamarans can also be hired. Hire periods are either half-day or full day. Vehicles can be hired with or without guides.
- Island ToursTours of the island are organised by several companies and can provide an opportunity to see the sights that Sal has on offer, such as Shark Bay, Buracona Lagoon, Pedro Lume salt crater. Seeing the island with a guide can be more rewarding and informative.
Surf Zone is Cabo Verde’s professional Kite and Windsurfing school and has been in operation for 12 years. It is the longest standing independent Kite and Windsurf school in Cape Verde. Surf Zone schools offer only private and semi private lessons (2 people per instructor). This is to ensure safety, quality instruction, as well as to allow clients to learn the sport in the shortest time possible. In addition to lessons, both schools rent a wide range of professional windsurf, kite-surf, and surf equipment. Surf Zone is located 10min walk from Tropical Resort.
We are the first and only company offering Horse Excursions in Sal. All our horses are the so called “Cape Verdian Breed”, a mixture of Arabian breed with the local horses started back on the 15th century. We offer several kind of excursions: 1hr, 1.5hr and 2hr. Together with our experienced guides you will ride all along the coast of Sal island, discovering the beauty of the East and West coast and go sightseeing through the Salinas of Santa Maria. With particular reservation and request we can organized also half day excursions to know the wild land in Sal into the Natural Reserve of Serra Negra.
Ground Floor Apartment (sleeps 6)
Tropical Resort is just 300m from the beautiful sandy beach of Santa Maria. The apartments are arranged around a lovely garden and the swimming pool. The gardens and pool are for shared use and sun loungers are provided around the pool. Bars, restaurants and two small supermarkets are just a two minute walk away. The apartment is furnished to a high standard, and comprises two bedrooms (one with a double bed and one with two single beds. The living room is comfortable and includes a double sofa bed and has a television. The kitchen includes a gas hob and fridge-freezer and has all the equipment needed for self-catering.The external terrace overlooks the gardens and gets the morning sun making it a great place to enjoy breakfast. The town centre of Santa Maria is a 10 minute walk away and that walk can be either along the beach or along the road. The airport is just a 15 minute drive by taxi. Cars can be hired, but taxis are relatively cheap and so car hire is not essential.
Hotel Central is located in Santa Maria, near several tourist infrastructure – surfing, wind surfing, kite surfing, scuba diving, sport fishing and nightlife. This three star property offers an unforgettable vacation for the whole family, with the guarantee of excellent service, high comfort and quality.
Restaurant located in Porto Antigo 2 approximately 200 meters from the Santa Maria Beach, offers a diverse menu a la Carte, Buffet service and Dish of the Day. Our specialties: Seafood, different fresh fish, octopus, king prawn, shrimp, lobster, cape verdean local dishes and cocktails. Opening hours: from 7:00 to 23h00. Live music every day from 18:30 to 21:30. WIFI free.