The beaches on Sal – a relatively undisturbed island until the last few centuries – are what bring holidaymakers here in the first place. They’re massive, windswept expanses of glistening white sand that give Sal’s coastline its signature look.
Praia de Santa Maria is the island’s most popular beach, lined with fishermen’s boats and sunbathers stretching out on the sands. Sal attracts its fair share of attention from watersport lovers, as the beaches are treated to strong winds – this makes it a top spot to have a go at kite and wind-surfing.
Sal’s whopping 350 days of sunshine per year – and that’s not an exaggeration – coupled with its incredible array of outdoor activities dries up any excuse to stay indoors all day. And the island’s tiny size means you can see each of Sal’s four corners in virtually half a day.
The Viveiro Botanical Garden in Santa Maria, Sal’s capital, is part-flora, part-fauna. The only one of its kind in Cape Verde, it’s home to more than 100 plant species and its very own petting zoo. Tucked up in Espargos is Pedra de Lume, an extinct volcano hiding a crater filled with water whose salt content is more dense than the Dead Sea – you can float around in its clingy confines and redefine what it means to have a sea-salt soak.
The island is no stranger to natural wonders, either – the mirage at Terra Boa will have you thinking a spontaneous lake has appeared from nowhere in the desert while the mysterious ‘Blue Eye’ cave shimmers in brilliant blues from underneath the water. Visit it at noon on your holidays to Sal and you’ll see what we mean.
Just as holidaymakers love the shores of Cape Verde’s islands, so do loggerhead turtles. They scuttle up the shores to nest every year like clockwork, laying their eggs in June. They tend to begin hatching in August, and there are group tours you can join that’ll help you get a front-row seat.
Veggie stews and local grog
The cuisine in Sal tends to highlight the island’s Portuguese, African and Caribbean vibes, though you’ll find other European influences as well.
As Sal is home to a number of working ports, you’re most likely to come across an abundance of fresh-fish dishes, though the island’s signature meal is cachupa. It’s a stew that blends maize, onions, green bananas, manioc, sweet potatoes, squash, yams, tomatoes, cabbage – and sometimes even bacon.
Once evening rolls in, Sal is known for nightlife – especially reggae bars – spots that boast live Cape Verdean music. These little venues are for laid-back evenings soaking in the local atmosphere and a glass of pontche, the island’s signature sweet-tasting drink.
The hotels in Sal are built to impress – luxury in quality, heavy on the stars and sprawling in size, they make for their own towns. Many even include access to their own private beaches – not to mention spas, restaurants, bars and swimming pools. If the walls of your hotel suit you just fine, you’ll never have to leave.
There are also more easy-going options in the form of Self Catering apartments and budget accommodation. These can offer a more cost-effective way to stay, especially if you expect to get out and about for the majority of your holiday, or aren’t travelling with little holidaymakers in need of daytime entertainment. Have a look at the array of Cape Verde holiday packages on offer and find the one that’s just right for you.
You won’t find avenues packed with high-end shopping on this sleepy island – rather, Sal is home to unassuming shops and craft stalls. Espargos is known as a spot to pick up souvenirs on the cheap from local mini-markets. Many of the shops are stashed away in unmarked buildings, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for spontaneous retail opportunities.