6 places you must see on Sal Island
Sal island is probably the most popular tourist destination of the Cape Verde islands, but has not been ruined by mass tourism. The island is one of the Barlavento islands of Cape Verde (the windwards islands), and has been named after its large salt production which shaped the island and the local life and economy in the 19thcentury (Sal literally translates into salt in Portuguese). Nowadays, Sal is much more than salt, and the island has a lot of hidden treasures to offer you.
SANTA MARIA is a bubbly and colorful village on the southern coast of the island, and is the main tourist spot of the island. Prices are high due to tourism, but the surroundings are beautiful. Several kilometers of sandy beach and turquoise water providing good waves for surfers, perfect conditions for kitesurfers, and the warm Atlantic Ocean for the rest of us.
Santa Maria offers a great variety of culinary experiences, but one of the more local ones can be found on Café Crioulo, a small “diner”. Here, you can enjoy the Cape Verdean national meal, catchupa, a bean stew served with a fried egg and linguica (a spicy sausage).
ESPARGOS is the administrative capital of the island and offers an insight into a more authentic Capeverdean life. Explore the streets and shops of Espargos, enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, and take your time for a coffee on the main square. Espargos also offers the most important viewpoint of the island; a hill from which you can oversee the entire island. To go to Espargos, you can take a aluguer from Santa Maria to 100 CVE per person.
PALMEIRA is a small fishing village in the northwestern part of the island, and home to the main port of Sal. Although a small village, you still find a variety of restaurants that all serve freshly caught, and delicious, seafood. Take a stroll and admire the beautiful coloured house facades, and the calm village life with playing children and sleeping dogs in the streets.
Go to the local sports club for a cold kriola beer (locally produced beer) and some fried moreiras (moray eels), a famous, local snack. To go to Palmeira, take aluguer from Santa Maria to Espargos (100 CVE) and switch aluguer in Espargos to Palmeira (50CVE).
PEDRA DE LUMEthe salt mines of Sal is one of Sal’s major attractions. The mines are located in a small ghost town village on the east coast of Sal, approximately 5 km from Espargos. The villages has gone from being one of the richest villages due to the popular salt production to be an almost abandoned places left in history. It costs 5 Euro to enter the salt mines, but it’s all worth it.
Go explore the Salinas (the salt fields), admire the old lifting system, and go float in the salty water, which is said to be good for the skin! It’s quite easy to get to Pedra de Lume - almost all tour operators offer trips to the salt mines, but if you prefer to go on your own, you can either rent a car, scooter or a quadbike in Santa Maria and go explore the island, or take an aluguer to Espargos and a taxi from there.
BURACONA- “the blue eye” of Sal is one of Sal’s natural attractions. Buracona is basically natural pools formed by the ocean into the lava rocks. The place is very popular amongst the locals, as the natural pools are perfect for a swim. “The blue eye”is a beautiful underwater cage which turns magic blue and turquoise by the sunlight - it’s simply amazing!!! Preferably go there while the sun is at its highest, but there is no guarantee that you will witness the phenomenon. It costs 3 Euro to enter, but you can spend the entire day there (there are both showers and a restaurant in the area).
SHARKS BAY is a bay on the eastern coast of the island, and is named after the local inhabitants of the sea; lemon sharks. I admit it, I’m afraid of sharks, but I still dared myself to go visit Sharks Bay. Rent some plastic shoes of the local guys working at the bay (1 euro), and enter the sea until the water reaches your knees. Stand still, inhale, exhale, and be amazed by the sight of shark fins in the sea just in front of you. I was lucky to see 20 sharks (!) during my visit.
CAIPIRINHAS AND SUNSET is a match made in heaven! In Santa Maria, just a small walk from the pier, you'll find the Brazilian ‘quiosque’ “Óla” - a little bar - on the beach that serves the best (without a doubt!) caipirinhas on Sal for only 4 Euros. Enjoy your caipirinha while the sun sets and the life on the beach closes down for the day.
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