World famous beaches with white sand. A lovely azure blue sea. And lots of sun and good tourist facilities. All this makes Sal a top destination. It is a perfect destination for surfing, diving and sun bathing. Young and old can enjoy a relaxing holiday here. Sal is also an ideal island to relax and use as a starting point to discover other islands of Cape Verde.
Want to know more about Sal?
- Interesting sights Sal
- Other places on Sal
- Food & drinks
- Where is the best place to stay on Sal?
- Excursions to other islands
- Best time to visit Sal
- Transport and getting around
- Frequently asked questions
Sal (or Ilha do Sal) is the flattest island of Cape Verde and is 30 kilometers long and about 12 kilometers wide. The island was discovered in 1460 and was first called “Llana” (meaning: flat). Later the name of the island was changed to Sal (meaning: salt), named after the salt pans of Pedra de Lume and Santa Maria.
The landscape of Sal consists of brown rock slabs and desert sand that comes from the Sahara via the wind from the mainland. Due to the international airport, most visitors arrive in Sal. Despite the great attraction of Sal on tourist, there is no mass tourism as for example in Spain. The capital of Sal is Espargos and the most famous seaside town is Santa Maria.
Interesting sights Sal
Pearls of beaches
On Sal you will find vast white sandy beaches. There is something for everyone. Santa Maria beach is the most famous beach and cannot be missed on a visit to Sal. It is one of the most beautiful beaches of Cape Verde. The beach is even one of the seven natural wonders of the Cape Verde Islands. The Santa Maria beach is located at the seaside town of Santa Maria. The wide beach is approximately 3 to 4 kilometers long and consists of white / yellow sand. This in combination with an azure blue ocean – which has a pleasant temperature – makes it an ideal place to relax. At the end of September, the sea reaches a temperature of about 28 degrees Celsius. Also for the Caretta Caretta turtle the Santa Maria beach is a favourite spot. If you are lucky you can spot them here. In the vicinity of the beach you have many accommodations, pavilions and water sports facilities.
Northeast of Santa Maria are the coves of Costa Fragata and Serra Negra. Here you can find untouched dunes and beautiful beaches. Kite Beach is located at Costa Fragata, about a 10-minute drive from Santa Maria. As the name suggests, you can enjoy kiting and surfing here. It is not without reason that international competitions for the World Cup are also held here.
Salt Pans of Pedra de Lume
Like to experience what it feels like to be able to float in water and not sink? Pedra de Lume is an old volcanic crater that serves as a lake with beautiful salt pans. You can swim in the salt pans and the high salt content keeps you afloat. Enthusiasts can also take a salt and mud cure, because the minerals and salt water have a beneficial effect. The colors of the salt pans are surreal and are a special experience to see and experience the floating. Salinas de Pedra de Luma is on the nomination list of the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is one of the seven natural wonders of the Cape Verde Islands.
Located in the northwest of the island you can find Buracona, also known as ‘the Blue Eye’. Buracona is a kind of underwater cave of black volcanic rocks with a big hole in the middle. When the sun is at the right angle, the underwater cave will turn magical blue. You can admire this phenomenon every day.. If you are in the area you can also take a dip in the nearby natural swimming pools (surrounded by rocks).
The Cape Verde Islands are a hotspot for turtles. There are five species swimming around the Cape Verde Islands, all unfortunately endangered species. The special leatherback turtle also lives there. This turtle is one of the largest and heaviest turtles in the world and can grow up to 2.5 meters in length. For another species, the Caretta Caretta turtle, the island of Sal is one of the most important places in the world to lay its eggs. Around June the turtles come to the beach to bury their eggs. There is a turtle (rescue) center for the eggs on Sal. At this location you can admire the turtles. So you have a very high chance of spotting a turtle. In the water or on the beach.
Enjoying the water and the environment is the ultimate way to relax. This is possible on the Cape Verde Islands. With a very pleasant sea temperature you can enjoy a swim, but of course you can also discover the underwater world. Go snorkelling in the bay of Mudeira for example. And if you want to dive, there are many beautiful places. Even some with beautiful old shipwrecks. At just over 10 meters depth there is a complete shipwreck where colourful fish can be seen. On Sal there are more than 20 official dive sites. The reefs and caves where you can dive are best visited with a guide from a diving center. You can dive on Sal all year round. The best period is between November and July.
Surf lovers can indulge themselves on Sal. It is the best island in Cape Verde for surfing or kite surfing. With the favourable wind, pleasant sea temperature and in some bays the right waves, this is the perfect place, both for beginners and advanced. Good spots include Santa Maria, Ponta Sino and Lembje. Do you want to enjoy the water, but not surf? Of course you can also enjoy sailing or supping.
Other places on Sal
When talking about Sal, people usually mention the famous town of Santa Maria. But Sal has more places to explore. Places where you for example can enjoy other beaches, nature and places to eat. Below we list the most important parts of the island and what to see.
Southern part of Sal
In the extreme south of Sal is Santa Maria. West of the old fishing village you can find most accommodations. Most accommodations in this part of Sal can be found because of the beautiful beaches. Despite the fact that there are many accommodations (no high-rise buildings), fortunately there is no mass tourism. The unspoilt charm and atmosphere can be found around the main square in the old village of Santa Maria. Mainly in the streets around this square. In the evenings it is entertaining and lively here.
The central pier (pontao) of the village is perhaps the nicest attraction. There is a lot of activity by fishermen, there are many bright coulored fishing boats and the freshly caught fish are cleaned on the wooden jetty. Other great attractions in Santa Maria are the covered market and the salt pans on the northeast side of the village. The salt pans are especially beautiful in the evening with the setting sun.
West of the long Santa Maria beach you have a beautiful white beach with a white lighthouse in the dunes. A little further on is the famous Praia de Ponta Petra. Advanced surfers take advantage of the good wind here.
On the southeast coast you can find Costa Fragata and Serra Negra. In these parts of the coast there are a number of bays where you can enjoy the sea in shallow water. Kite Beach is a beautiful dune and beach area 10 minutes from Santa Maria. This is an ideal place for kite surfers and international competitions are held here.
To the west is Baia de Murdeira. The bay is a protected nature reserve and you can enjoy snorkeling between the coral reefs here. There are a number of small beaches in Murdeira.
Northern part of Sal
Espargos is the capital of Sal. There are few tourist attractions here, but it is nice to stroll through the town and experience the real Cape Verdean atmosphere here. You can also walk up the large hill / mountain for a nice view over the island.
Palmeira is the port of Sal. There is a lot of activity from fishermen and it is agood place to have an afternoon lunch in one of the restaurants or bars overlooking the harbour. Ferries (very limited) and tours depart from Palmeira.
East of Espargos is Pedra de Lume. The hamlet and the salt pans lie in a barren but fascinating landscape.
Food & drinks
Food, drink, live music and other entertainment are the best in Santa Maria. Most of the nice places are in the center of the old fishing village. There are not many places that you will miss, but you will certainly have a nice evening. For live music you can often go to the trendy Ocean Café or the Blue bar. Eateries with a good reputation include Le Prive, Geko Gourmet and Djdsal Moradias. Do not forget the local dishes.
Where is the best place to stay on Sal?
Most travelers stay in the town of Santa Maria and its surroundings. Here you will find most facilitities and the most beautiful beaches. There are also accommodations in Murdeira Village, located between the airport and Santa Maria. We can recommend Hotel Morabeza (oldest luxury hotel) and for surfers the Recidencial Cristal de Sal. Nicely located and good facilities.
Excursions to other islands
You can easily combine a relaxing or water sports holiday on Sal with a visit to another island of Cape Verde. Due to the presence of the international airport on Sal, you can fly to a completely different environment in a short time (often no more than an hour). Also for day excursions you can easily visit another island per boat. There are several companies on Sal that organize a nice day trip and that you can book on site.
From the air you get an impression of what Sal looks like. Two breathtaking videos shot with a drone show Sal from a bird’s eye view. View the aerial images ‘Sal from the air‘.
Best time to visit Sal
Sal has a dry subtropical climate with very little rainfall per year. The island is flat, so clouds do not linger for long. The temperature is fairly constant throughout the year and there is always a nice cooling wind. The average temperature is between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius. In the summer months the temperature increases and there is a chance of a tropical shower. In the winter months the wind is strongest and generally blows from the northeast, ideal if you want to go surfing or kiting. If you want to know more about the weather and climate in Cape Verde, view the extensive overview with weather information Cape Verde.
Transport and getting around
Most international flights land at Sal’s Amilcar Cabral International Airport (SID). The airport has facilities to withdraw or exchange money. In Cape Verde you can also pay with euros, but it is more favourable to pay with the local currency Escudo. There are plenty of taxis available at Sal airport to transport you to your final destination. A taxi to the town of Santa Maria takes 20 minutes and costs approximately 13 – 15 euros. To Murdeira this is about half of that. You can also walk to the public road and from there hail an aluguer (local bus), do expect a long wait. For transport around Sal you can also rent a car. In addition, you can rent bicycles, scooters and quads in the seaside town of Santa Maria.
If you come to Sal with a sea yacht or sailboat, you can dock in the port of Palmeira. A few ferries also depart from Palmeira to the other islands of the Cape Verde archipelago.
Some frequently asked questions
The weather on Sal is very pleasant. The average temperature is between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius. The temperature is pleasant due to the wind. In summer the temperature is at its highest, but there can also be an occasional tropical shower. In winter there is more wind and there are still many hours of sunshine, on average about 9 hours a day.
Fortunately, there are no tropical diseases present on Sal. However, it is wise to protect yourself against certain infectious diseases such as tetanus and polio just like in every country in the world. View more information about vaccinations that protect against standard infectious diseases here.
With a subtropical climate you will not get cold on Sal. In the period from December to April it can get a bit chilly in the evening. Just to be on the safe side, bring long pants and a cardigan.