9 Cool Things To Do in Sal , Cape Verde
Olá from Cape Verde! More precisely from Ilha do Sal (Salt Island). After sailing the Atlantic Ocean for 5 days, I´m happy to find some rest and just disconnect from the world. Despite its limited size, there are plenty of things to do in Sal, Cape Verde.
Sailing is much harder than I expected and those night shifts just killed me!
Sal is supposedly the most touristy destination of Cape Verde and a good start if you’re all new in the Capeverdean archipelago. For my part, I can’t wait to just check-in in a nice hotel and enjoy beach life, for some time only! Read here about the best beaches in Cape Verde.
So, here they go; my favorite things to do on Sal, Cape Verde.
My essential tips to visit Cabo Verde:
- Try to find cheap flights to Sal or Boa Vista and discover the other islands from here.
- Book your Cabo Verde activities and tours in advance with Viator.
- Buy a local SIM card at the airport (Wifi connection is hard to find if you’re not in Sal or Boa Vista). When arriving in Praia, 2 companies offered their SIM cards for free! I went for the CV Movel. It has the best coverage, is very affordable and 2 GB was enough for 1 week.
- To make the most out of your Cape Verde trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Cape Verde (get -10% Discount with code “PAULINA10”)
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained any travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
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Geographic situation: Sal island belongs to the Barlavento Islands in Cape Verde.
Language: Criol and Portuguese. Limited English or French is spoken.
Currency: escudo caboverdiano
How to get to Sal, Cape Verde:
- By airplane to international Sal, Cape Verde airport from major European airports. Check Skyscanner for national flights and island hopping to Boa Vista or São Vicente. From the airport, you need to get an aluguer (collective taxi) to Santa Maria.
- Public Transport: “Aluguer” (collective taxis) are departing from Santa Maria to all major towns on the island.
Even though it might be hard to get around on the other Capeverdean islands, please do visit the periphery islands. Don’t stay in Sal or Boa Vista all the time. Every island is very different and has its own charm.
Best Hotels in Sal, Cape Verde
Whereas Palmeira is the capital of Sal Island, Cape Verde, Santa Maria, in the southern part of the island, is the main hub. Most hotels, activities, and restaurants are located here.
Where to stay in Santa Maria
You can find hotels and resorts for any budget.
|Budget Hotels in Santa Maria, Cape Verde|
|Pontao Hotel ***|
|Hotel Mira Bela (Les Alizés)|
|The Budha Beach Hotel ****
|Oasis Belorizonte ****|
|Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort *****|
|Oasis Salinas Sea *****|
For some, Santa Maria beach might seem an artificial tourist hub. Which it totally is, since it happens that locals get their water cut off so that tourists can take long, warm showers, on a desert island. Thus, if you want to get some of the real Cape Verdean atmosphere, I recommend, either to stay in Palmeira or/and visit other islands such as the green gem Santo Antao, the cultural hot spot of Mindelo in Sao Vicente, …
Don’t mistake Cape Verde for being only about beach holidays & sun, which is the main theme of Sal Island. Cape Verde has a million more things to offer!
What To Do in Sal, Cape Verde
1. Visit Palmeira, the capital
By boat, I arrive in Palmeira, home to the main port of Ilha do Sal. With the size of a fishing village, you can easily visit the main spots in a few hours.
But first, I need to get my visa at the local police station and that’s where I realize that Cape Verde goes on a different rhythm.
Here, 5 minutes mean at least 1 hour. For a “quick” coffee, calculate 30-40 min. No wonder that “No Stress” is the unofficial mantra of the archipelago!
Afterward, I’ll realize that Palmeira is with Espargos the most authentic city of Sal island. Santa María, in the south, is on the best way to become a tourist stronghold. What I liked most about Palmeira was its colorful house front which transmitted an almost Caribbean feeling.
Furthermore, prices were half as high as in Santa María.
2. Road Trip From Palmeira to Santa Maria
Palmeira is the first harbor for sailors coming from Canary islands
It takes you +/- 40 min. to get from Palmeira to Santa María. Take the aluguer (a bus with no fixed schedule leaving when it’s full) to Espargos (0,50 $) and then another one to Santa María (1 $).
Indeed, it is a fun ride to enjoy the wind breeze in your hair and watch the desert landscape of Santa Maria. I had quite an adventurous feeling.
If you are looking for things to do in Sal, a road trip by aluguer or a guided tour, is definitely a must.
3. Santa Maria, Cape Verde
Fish Market in Santa Maria
Santa María, the end station of Sal’s main road, is a bubbly and colorful village on the way to becoming a major tourist destination. Big hotels are in construction and tour operators increase their volumes every season.
Prices are high, comparable to Northern Europe.
The fantastic sandy beach with turquoise water and its perfect conditions for kitesurfing are its main attractions. Nevertheless, you can still see at any corner tracks of the African-Creole atmosphere like at the Mercado Municipal where you can buy local fruits and crafts.
Please visit the tailor from Senegal. It´s a true artist! I couldn’t resist to order him a tailor-made dress with cloth from Guinea-Bissau. In a few hours, he tailors you any model from your favorite fashion magazine.
Here, tourism can support a local craftsman!
4. Pedra de Lume Salt Mines
Welcome to the Salt Mines of Pedra-de-Lume
The “village” has gone from the richest place on the island to an almost godforsaken spot. 100 years ago, the salt mines gave the island international fame until they became unprofitable.
Nowadays, you visit them for 5 €. I loved the sensation of floating in the salty water. Even when you’re standing on both feet, you’re still not sinking! Its mud will get you a baby skin again and all my skin blemishes just vanished!
For me, the Salinas of Pedra Lume is definitely a must-do when visiting Sal and also one of the best things to do in Cape Verde.
5. Visit Espargos
The administrative capital has the most important viewpoint of the island: a hill obscured with satellites controlled by the US and from which you can oversee the entire island (only 216km²!).
6. Turtle Watching
Lighthouse of Santa María – The beach is known for its turtles
Did you know that Cape Verde is recognized as the third most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the world?
Between May and October, you’ll have the opportunity to assist turtles nesting and laying their eggs, as well as baby turtles hatching and making it for the sea.
The activity is carried out at night and you should always keep your distance to the turtles. Be a respectful traveler and listen to your guide.
Keep in mind that it’s forbidden to go to the hatching areas on your own. But you can go with a guide. Some of the beaches are even closed during the breeding season.
7. Chill at the Beach, Santa Maria
Cape Verdean Boats have something special
There are several bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink or a meal with a sea view.
Sal boasts a few beaches, but the one at Santa Maria is definitely the most famous and most beautiful one. This makes Sal one of the best places for winter sun holidays in Cape Verde.
8. Try Kitesurfing
The second beach of Sal, also very close to Santa Maria is known as the “Kitebeach”. You can either reach it by aluguer (collective taxi) or by walking 20 minutes from the center of Santa Maria.
From far away, you’ll already spot dozens of colorful kites. Read here about the best beaches in Cape Verde.
Sal island is a hub for kitesurfers and hosts several championships throughout the year.
You can easily take a kitesurfing lesson at the Kitebeach where you can also rent the equipment.
9. Scuba Diving in Sal
Sal is a great place to go scuba diving because the waters surrounding the island are home to vivid underwater life. Whether it will be your first time doing a SCUBA dive or if you are already a half-pro, you’ll love the experience.
Some of the animals that you’ll see are for example turtles, pufferfish, and little sharks. (They don’t do anything though!) If you are super lucky, you’ll even spot some whales.
Please remember to be respectful when you do a SCUBA immersion. Don’t take anything out from the sea, only memories.
Fully in love with Sal’s colors
Ilha do Sal, mostly composed by desert, will definitely conquer you by its warm-hearted people and colorful stains sprayed all over the island.
Basically, it got me excited to discover and get to know more of Cape Verde. I can only recommend visiting this laid back part of the archipelago before it becomes fully exploited by mass tourism.
Get here the best selection of activities and tours in Sal, Cape Verde. From Scuba diving to Desert Adventures and much more.
Colorful housefronts in Palmeira
I loved to approach the street stalls with local fruits or sweets run by African women. You’ll never know what they’ll hold for you. In November, it was the high season on papaya and bananas.
But also here, prices are comparable to North Europe. Sometimes, they sell delicious sweets with coconut and brown sugar. Yummy!
Bar in Town
Church of Pedra-de-Lume, first church of Sal island
Where ships come to die – Pedro Lume
Scenery of Pedra-de-Lume
Tuna Carpaccio at the Salt Mines
Getting myself a nice dress
Wood Artists in Santa María
I stayed in Ocean Suites. Located at Santa María’s main square, this hotel counts 6 carefully decorated Suites, named by famous Capeverdean singers.