Sal Cape Verde (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. There are turquoise translucent waters that offer the most ideal conditions for a classic beach holiday.
Sal is one of the northern islands of Cape Verde, within the Barlavento island group. This makes it one of the closest to Europe, consequently 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. This is where you will find most of the tourist accommodation (hotels and apartments) together with 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 Cape Verde 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. Equipment hire includes 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, and close to Santa Maria, has become an important location for kite surfers, hence its name. You can enjoy 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, caves and reefs to explore, furthermore there is a multitude of marine life. Deep sea fishing trips can also be arranged.
Sal Cape Verde is a largely flat island, although in the north there are some more mountainous areas. Much of the island is desert, and consequently it 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. The sun shines an average of 350 days of the year and the daytime temperatures will normally be 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). 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. 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 the 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 Cape Verde 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.