Olá from Cape Verde! More precisely from Ilha do Sal (Salt Island). After sailing the Atlantic Ocean for 5 days, my boyfriend and I are happy to find some rest and just disconnect from the world. 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 beachlife... for some time only!
Where to Stay in Sal Island
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, restaurants are situated here.
For some, Santa Maria 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 etc.
Don't mistake Cape Verde for being all about beach & sun, which is the main theme of Sal Island. Cape Verde has a million more things to offer!
Palmeira, the capital
By boat, we arrive in Palmeira, home to the main port of Ilha do Sal. With the size of a fishing village, you can easily see the main spots in a few hours. But first, we need to get our visas at the local police station and that's where we 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!
Afterwards we'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 best about Palmeira were its colorful house fronts which transmitted an almost Caribbean feeling. Furthermore prices were half as high as in Santa María.
From Palmeira to Santa Maria
It takes you approx. 40 minutes 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$) and then another one to Santa María (1$).
In Espargos you'll imbibe the authentic Capeverdean life: take your time for a coffee & popcorn on the main square and watch life passing by. The administrative capital has the most important viewpoint of the island: a hill obscured with satellite dishes controlled by the US from which you can oversee the entire island (only 122km²!). The viewpoint is included in most commercialized island tours.
Santa María, end station of Sal's main road, is a bubbly and colourful village on the way to become a major tourist destination. Big hotels are in construction and tour operators increase their volumes every season. Prices are high, many times comparable to Northern Europe.
The fantastic sandy beach with turquoise water and its perfect conditions for kitesurfing are its main attraction. Nevertheless you can still see at any corner tracks of the African-Creole athmosphere like at the Mercado Municipal where you can buy local fruits and crafts.
Please visit the tailor from Senegal, 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.
Pedra de Lume Salt Mines
Sal's major attraction are, guess what? The Salt Mines! You easily get there by any island tour (approx. 25€) or by aluguer to Espargos and taxi to Pedra-de-Lume village. This place seems to be a personified ghost town. A place where ships come to die.
The "village" has gone from the richest place on the island to an almost godforsaken spot. A 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-de-Lume are definitely a must do when visiting Sal.
Ilha do Sal, mostly composed by desert, will definitely conquer you by its warm-hearted people and colourful 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 to visit this laid back part of the archipelago before it becomes fully exploited by mass tourism.
Get here the best selection on activities and tours in Sal, Cape Verde. From Scuba diving, to Desert Adventures and much more...
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 high season on papaya and bananas. But also here prices are comparable to North Europe (!) Sometimes they sell delicious sweets with coco nut and brown sugar. Yummy!
We stayed in Ocean Café Suites. Located at Santa María's main square, this hotel counts 6 carefully decorated Suites, named by famous Capeverdean singers.
For more information about tourism on Sal, Cape Verde, I recommend the following webpage: Tourism of Sal, Cape Verde.