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The best tips for Sal island, Cape Verde

Story from travellers

· Travel

Breany Silva is a 28 year old dive instructor who was trained at the CaboVerde Diving school on the island of Sal, in the town Santa Maria. He has spent over a year of his life living on the island, and was happy to share his best tips about Sal with MindeloCaboVerde.com.

Quick guide to the island of Sal

"For me, Sal is a unique place. I loved my time living on the island, and of course I go back as much as I can since my mother lives in Santa Maria. I'm happy to share my best tips on things to do:"

Places to visit

One of my favorite places on the island, and a must see for everyone who visits the island is Pedra de Lume. You have some amazing views here. Because of the salt in the water you will float here like you would in the Dead Sea.

Shark Bay is another must see when visiting the island of Sal. It's part of most Island Tours, and for a good reason. Shark Bay is home to many lemon sharks. These sharks can be as big as 2 meters in length, but are no threat to humans. You can get really close to the sharks and learn a bit more about how they live. Very interesting and exiting experience.

Palmeira is a wonderful small fisherman village close to the city of Espargos. I love this place because it's an authentic spot where people can get a better understanding of life in Cape Verde.

The great thing about Palmeira is that every Sunday there's this great vibe around the village with a lot of live music in different places, and also food stalls everywhere.

The colorful houses of Palmeira, Sal island... Photo: Rikke Flodin

Buracona is one of the most popular places on the island. This natural pool, located in the northern part of the island, is also known as the 'Blue Eye', thanks to its shape and the way it looks when the sun shines right on to it.

It's a great idea to visit both Buracona and Palmeira on the same day, since the distance between the two is only 5 km.

Kitesurfing and Diving

Sal is one of the best places for kitesurfing and surfing in Cape Verde. Right outside Santa Maria there is a place called 'Kite Beach', with perfect weather conditions. Mito, a world champion (!) in kitesurfing has his own school there.

"I started diving when I was living on the island. The CaboVerde Diving School is where I went from a complete beginner in diving to becoming a full licensed dive instructor. I highly recommend that anyone interested in doing some diving while on the island to check them out."

Read more about diving here: The magical underwater world of Cape Verde

Nightlife in Santa Maria, Sal Island

"Santa Maria has a fantastic main street with a lot of bars and restaurants. It's always full of life and really fun, especially from Thursday to Sunday. A few of my favorite places are":

  • Maluko

Located in the centre of Santa Maria. Two floors, two bars and one restaurant. Open 7 days a week, from 16:00 to 00:00. Amazing view of the pier and ocean. Fresh fish delivered daily by local fishermen. Fantastic Tuna Steak Sub. Live music and cultural Cape Verdean events!

Also a great place for lunch, diner, business meetings and (private) parties. Free wifi.

  • The Buddy Bar   

Great live music, usually from Thursday to Sunday.

  • Cafe Kriola

Best 'prato do dia' (day menu) of Santa Maria! For a good price you can get an amazing cachupa or feijoada. A place I always go to when I'm in town.

  • Ocean Cafe  

Great place to hang out and relax. One of the spots where I like to get a drink at night.

From Thursday to Sunday they have dj's and live music.

  • Pub Calema

Famous for it's Happy Hour :)

The best beach of Sal

"The best beach of the island definitely is Santa Maria beach. It was named in a list by Tripadvisor as one of the '25 most beautiful beaches in the world'. "

The famous pier of Santa Maria is one of my favorite spots on the island. This is the place where the fisherman bring in their catch of the day, and where people come together to buy and sell fish.

You can also find traditional Cape Verdean snacks here, such as 'pastel'.

I recommend anyone who's staying in an apartment while on the island to check out the pier and buy (and prepare) their own fish. Next to the fact that you will have a delicious meal, it's also a great way to support the hardworking locals.

On the beach of Santa Maria, there is this little Brazilian kiosk. It's owned by my friend White, and definitely has the best caipirinhas of the island.

Angalu is a beach bar at the end of Santa Maria Beach. I love going there because they have delicious food, great cocktails and tanning beds if you wanna hang out for the day.

Other tips

"I think renting a car is a great way for visitors to get to know the island on their own. Although Sal is not that big, the length of the island is only 35 km's, you can see so much more if you have an off road vehicle.

I would advise people to 'just go with the flow' and see where the adventure takes them."

The people of the island are very friendly and many of them speak another language like English or French, so you can always ask for some help or tips along the way.

I love the view from the tower in Espargos. Of course it takes some energy to get there, but it sure is worth it. You can see a big part of the island from there. One thing I really enjoy is seeing airplanes leaving and arriving at the airport.

Tour guide Gus: creating unique experiences on the island of Sal

Augusto ‘Gus’ Gomes (46) was born on the island of São Nicolau, but was raised on the island of São Vicente. As a teenager Gus and his familiy moved to the United States.

When Gus decided it was time to return to Cape Verde, he chose to live on the island of Sal, where tourism was starting to evolve. He started working as a tour guide on the island.

Besides being a tour guide he is a huge soccer fan. Gus is part of a first division team in the town of Santa Maria, and is a coach for a local U7 and U8 youth soccerteam.

“I’ve been working as a tour guide for 13 years now. First as an island tour guide for a few big companies, but then I decided to start my own tour company Paradise Adventures with Gus, so I could be doing what I really love to do.

“I do see myself as an activist. I want to see change in the Cape Verdean tourism sector. Tourism could be a game changer for many Cape Verdeans, but one of the issues I see is how they make it impossible for us to start our own companies, when it is facilitated for people from outside Cape Verde.”

"I see myself as an activist. The tourism sector here in Cape Verde definitely needs to change..." - Gus

“One thing that is very important to me is to always show guests the reality of our country, take them places where the big companies don’t go. By taking guests to certain neighborhoods on the island we can not only show them everything that is Cape Verde, but hopefully we can also get guests involved in our social projects.”

“We all have the same rights in life. I’ve been through difficult times before, so I really don’t like seeing other peope struggle, I like to help. I believe that we are all the same, and that we

should be dividing as much as we can of what we have so that no one is left out.”

“I also love to take my guests out for a ‘Noite Caboverdiana’. On these nights I take guests out for a night filled with Cape Verdean music, food and Morabeza. It’s this culture that makes our country what it is. This is what makes people want to return to Cape Verde.”

"Bom Dia in the town of Espargos is one of the best places to go for traditional live music on the island of Sal. They play great Morna and Coladeira there. For amazing sea food our favorite places are Café Kriol, Americo Restaurante and Angela. These restaurants, located in Santa Maria, are all owned by Cape Verdeans who know how to create delicious traditional dishes."

"There are people I’ve met who don’t want to travel anywhere else since they’ve visited Cape Verde. For me, this is what it's all about. I makes me a very happy man, and I think we can all be proud when visitors of our country completely fall in love here..."

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