Last Updated on 2023-09-16
Are you seeking suggestions on Things to do in Sal Island, Cape Verde? Look no further! Here’s a comprehensive list of the top tourist attractions in the area, tailored for American or British travelers.
Read on to uncover the hidden gems of Sal Island in Cape Verde, a popular destination known for its serene beach days.
But Sal Island offers much more than just tourist attractions. What truly made my stay memorable was the warm hospitality of the locals. From the moment I arrived, I was greeted with open arms by the friendly residents who were eager to learn about me and my home country. I was pleasantly surprised by the curiosity shown by Cape Verdeans.
During our conversations, I discovered fascinating stories about their personal experiences, which made me feel welcomed and secure. They truly know how to make foreigners feel at home.
In this article, I will unveil the wonders and experiences that Sal Island offers to travelers, meaning, best things To Do In Sal. Get ready for an unforgettable adventure on Sal Island, where you’ll encounter stunning beaches with calm waters, mesmerizing desert landscapes, and a rich, welcoming culture.
The secret behind Cape Verde’s popularity as a holiday destination is about to be unveiled!
Prepare yourself for an extraordinary journey on Sal Island, where you’ll discover the perfect blend of morabeza (Cape Verdean hospitality), a stress-free atmosphere, relaxation, cultural exploration, and genuine warmth at every turn.
Best Things To Do In Sal Island (Cape Verde)
Float in the salt pans of Pedra de Lume
Immerse yourself in the enchanting salt pans of Pedra de Lume and experience the incredible sensation of floating in Cape Verde’s saline waters!
The salt flats of Pedra de Lume offer a truly unique and unforgettable experience – the ability to effortlessly float in salt water.
Thanks to the high salt concentration, any body immersed in these waters is naturally buoyant. Picture yourself playfully engaging in water acrobatics, creating lasting memories. Just be cautious of the pebbly bottom that can be uncomfortable for bare feet.
These salt flats are not mere tourist attractions; they are active and fully operational, providing an authentic experience on Sal Island in Cape Verde.
When visiting the salt flats, it’s essential to keep a few key tips in mind. Due to the high salt content, it is advisable to take a shower after the experience to rinse off the salt (shower facilities are available on site). It’s important to prevent salt from solidifying on your skin.
Additionally, children under six years old should not enter the water in the salt flats, and individuals with cuts or open wounds should avoid contact. Even seemingly minor wounds can cause discomfort and a burning sensation when submerged.
Embrace the opportunity to delve into this captivating encounter, regardless of your swimming abilities. The Pedra de Lume salt flats are situated on the western side of Sal Island in Cape Verde.
Dedicate some time to explore this natural treasure and relish the unparalleled sensation of effortlessly floating in saltwater!
Explore the volcanic rock formations of Buracona and the Blue Eye
Embark on an exploration of the captivating volcanic rock formations found at Buracona and witness the mesmerizing beauty of the Blue Eye.
Buracona is an awe-inspiring location where the raw power of volcanic activity has sculpted breathtaking landscapes.
The rock formations here possess a unique and enigmatic allure, characterized by their barren and otherworldly appearance.
Yet, the true gem of Buracona lies within the Blue Eye, a natural wonder tucked away amidst the rocks. This extraordinary phenomenon manifests as a pool of crystalline water, which radiates an intense blue hue when illuminated by the sun’s rays.
To witness this remarkable spectacle of nature, the best time to visit is between 10:30 am and 1:30 pm, provided the sky is clear.
However, you can relish the delights of the adjacent natural pool at any time, without being bound by a specific schedule!
Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Buracona, where volcanic formations and the allure of the Blue Eye await your discovery.
Swim at Praia de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Beach)
Indulge in a refreshing swim at Praia de Santa Maria, a must-visit beach on Sal Island in Cape Verde.
When exploring Sal Island, it’s only natural for an article to feature the stunning beaches that grace its shores. These beaches are renowned for their breezy conditions, which provide welcome relief on hot days.
The constant wind serves as a natural companion, helping to temper the sun’s intensity and making it more comfortable to enjoy the beach.
While some visitors may voice concerns about the wind, personally, I find it to be an integral part of the experience, adding a unique charm that doesn’t bother me at all.
With that being said, in my opinion, Praia de Santa Maria stands out as the most picturesque beach on Sal Island.
This beach boasts excellent accessibility, stretches of golden sand, and attracts both locals and tourists seeking a refreshing dip. Its popularity among Cape Verdeans adds to its authentic and vibrant atmosphere.
Discover the allure of Praia de Santa Maria, where you can relish a swim in its inviting waters and soak up the authentic beach culture that makes it a cherished destination for both visitors and locals alike.
Stroll in the Fish Market on the Pontão de Santa Maria
Embark on a delightful stroll through the Mercado do Peixe, located on the Pontoon of Santa Maria, and immerse yourself in an aromatic sea-side experience. This place has truly captured my heart!
As the fishermen arrive on their boats, the market springs to life, creating a bustling atmosphere. The market may be somewhat makeshift, but that only enhances its charm and authenticity.
The process unfolds before your eyes in a matter of hours: the women eagerly await on the pontoons as the boats approach.
Once the boats dock, the fishermen swiftly unload buckets brimming with fresh fish, while the women demonstrate incredible dexterity as they remove the gills and guts.
Within minutes, the day’s catch is prepared for sale. The scene is alive with vibrant activity, filled with colors and unique aromas.
Buyers approach the friendly saleswomen, seeking the freshest catches, while curious tourists capture the lively scene with their cameras and cell phones.
Yet, everything occurs in its proper order – first, the fish is sold, and only then do conversations with tourists begin, adding to the authenticity of the experience.
Explore the city of Espargos on foot
Explore the charming city of Espargos on foot, the capital and largest city of Sal Island, with a population of approximately 8,000 inhabitants.
While it may be a small town, that’s part of its allure. Espargos offers a tranquil atmosphere, where life unfolds at a leisurely pace.
Take delight in the unhurried rhythm of the streets, where locals can be found observing the ebb and flow of daily life without major concerns.
Meander through the streets of Espargos, immersing yourself in the relaxed ambiance and savoring the simple pleasures of a small community.
Appreciate the unique charm that comes with a peaceful setting and the opportunity to witness the unhurried nature of everyday life in this delightful town.
Be dazzled by the sunset at the Ponta Preta Lighthouse
Experience one of the best things to do in Sal Island by being mesmerized by the captivating sunset at the Ponta Preta Lighthouse.
Renowned as one of the island’s most stunning sunsets, it’s easy to see why surfers eagerly gather, anxiously awaiting this awe-inspiring moment.
Prepare to be transported into a world of pure magic as the sky transforms into a symphony of yellow, orange, and an infinite array of shades that defy definition.
The mixture of tones creates an enchanting spectacle that must be witnessed firsthand to truly appreciate its beauty.
To truly make the most of your time in Sal Island, be sure to add the Ponta Preta Lighthouse sunset experience to your list of must-do activities.
Allow your senses to be overwhelmed as you witness this breathtaking display with your own eyes. It’s a sight that will leave an indelible impression, forever etched in your memory as one of the absolute best experiences Sal Island has to offer.
Walk to the viewpoint of Monte Leão
Looking for the best things to do in Sal Island? Well, you’re in luck! One of the top attractions that shouldn’t be missed is the breathtaking panoramic views from Monte Leão in Murdeira, located approximately 14 km from Santa Maria.
For those seeking a thrilling experience, make your way all the way to the top of the mountain. The trail covers about 6 km in each direction, totaling 12 km, and can be completed in 2-3 hours. It’s an adventure that promises unforgettable memories.
Keep in mind that while not the entire route is signposted, there is no need to worry as it doesn’t pose any significant danger. The absence of major obstacles ensures a smooth journey.
Regardless, it’s important to note that this hike takes place on uneven terrain. To make the most of your experience, I recommend wearing appropriate footwear and carrying essentials such as water, a hat, and sunscreen.
Lastly, be cautious of gusts of wind, as they can affect your balance while walking. So, grab your gear, embrace the thrill, and get ready to witness the best panoramic views Sal Island has to offer from Monte Leão!
Go shopping for handicrafts and souvenirs
While I usually don’t indulge in excessive shopping, I do enjoy bringing home a few pieces that serve as reminders of my trip.
If you share my sentiment, here are some helpful tips for selecting worthwhile items to purchase in Cape Verde.
Despite the presence of souvenir vendors on beaches and in tourist areas in Cape Verde, I personally prefer to purchase from local stores.
By doing so, I believe that I am contributing to the region’s development and minimizing involvement with informal economies. However, this is merely my personal viewpoint, and I respect that everyone is free to make their own choices.
After exploring several stores on Sal Island and engaging in conversations with the friendly locals/employees, I decided to go shopping on Rua 1 de Junho in Santa Maria. There, I found wooden pictures and “no stress” bracelets, which made perfect souvenirs for the kids.
I must say that it seems to me that Cape Verdeans are more engaging in conversations than Senegalese immigrants, adding a personal touch to the shopping experience.
So, if you’re looking to bring back some unique handicrafts and souvenirs, consider supporting the local stores in Cape Verde and enjoy the vibrant conversations along the way.
Taste the typical food of Sal Island
Even if you’re staying at an all-inclusive hotel, make sure not to miss the opportunity to indulge in Cape Verde’s gastronomy and savor the island’s typical dishes at one of the charming roadside restaurants.
Immerse yourself in the local flavors by trying mouthwatering options like sweaty lobster, grilled tuna, or cachupa. Cachupa is a hearty stew made with corn, beans, manioc, kale, sweet potato, and your choice of meat (cachupa rica) or fish (cachupa pobre).
To complement your meal and aid digestion, don’t forget to sip on a glass of grogue, the delightful local brandy that adds a festive touch.
Keep in mind that the closed season for pink lobster (Palinurus charlestoni) is observed from July 1st to November 30th (dates may vary from year to year). Therefore, lobsters in Cape Verde can only be sold outside of this period.
To ensure a pleasant culinary experience, it’s advisable to drink bottled water and refrain from consuming drinks with ice. Additionally, exercise caution when it comes to consuming raw vegetables and dishes prepared with raw or undercooked eggs.
While it’s always a good idea to carry anti-diarrheal medication while traveling, I must say that in my personal experience in Cape Verde, I didn’t find the need to use it. Nonetheless, it’s better to be prepared for any unexpected situations.
So, get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the authentic flavors of Sal Island and embark on a culinary journey you won’t soon forget.
Hotels and where to stay on Sal Island
Sal Island offers a wide range of accommodation options, catering to different preferences and budgets, including luxurious all-inclusive hotels and charming, simpler establishments.
During our visit, we had the pleasure of staying at the Rio Funana, one of the hotels in the Rio chain. This five-star establishment exceeded our expectations, providing inclusive amenities, a beautiful beachfront location (though not the most picturesque on Sal Island), and a genuinely friendly staff.
For those seeking similar all-inclusive experiences, you may consider the Sol Dunas, a five-star resort, the Melia Tortuga Beach, another five-star option, or the Halos Casa Resort – Luxury ClubHotel, a four-star retreat.
However, if none of these options resonate with you, feel free to explore the interactive map below to discover other wonderful accommodations available on Sal Island.
How is the weather and the best time to travel to Sal Island?
Sal Island offers not only a delightful climate but also a wide range of exciting things to do throughout the year. The average annual temperatures rarely exceed 25ºC and never drop below 20ºC, providing a pleasant environment for exploration.
With climatic variations ranging from 20ºC to 31ºC and sea temperatures ranging from 21ºC in February to 25ºC in September, Sal Island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and beach lovers.
The island experiences two distinct seasons. From November to July, the dry season prevails, offering comfortable temperatures for various activities.
During this time, you can immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, explore the stunning landscapes, and indulge in thrilling water sports.
On the other hand, the rainy season, which occurs from August to October, brings higher temperatures and a touch of humidity.
Despite the occasional showers, this season offers unique opportunities to witness the island’s natural beauty in full bloom, with lush vegetation and breathtaking sunsets.
No matter when you choose to visit, Sal Island provides an abundance of things to do and see. From exhilarating water activities like snorkeling, diving, and windsurfing to exploring the vibrant local markets and enjoying the lively nightlife, there is something for everyone.
So, plan your trip to Sal Island according to your preferred activities and immerse yourself in the wonders this captivating destination has to offer.
How are the islands in Cape Verde organized?
The Republic of Cape Verde is an enchanting archipelago composed of 10 volcanic islands, with 9 of them inhabited, along with several islets.
They are organized into two groups: the Barlavento Islands and the Sotavento Islands.
The Barlavento islands of Cape Verde are located in the north and include Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia (uninhabited), São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista.
Moving southward, we have the Sotavento islands, namely Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. Santiago, the largest island in Cape Verde, is home to the capital of the archipelago, Praia.
It showcases a captivating blend of cultural heritage and natural beauty. Amongst these islands, Fogo stands out as it hosts the highest point in the archipelago.
This island boasts an active volcano, reaching an impressive altitude of 2,829 meters. Cape Verde accommodates four international airports, situated on the islands of Santiago, Sal, Boa Vista, and São Vicente.
As you can see, Cape Verde offers a vast and diverse territory waiting to be explored. From picturesque landscapes to vibrant culture, each island holds its own charm and allure.
Tours and Excursions: The Best Things to Do in Sal Island
While Sal Island may be small, there are plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. If you prefer not to rent a car or rely on transportation services, joining an organized tour or opting for a private tour is highly recommended.
If you’re staying in an all-inclusive hotel, it’s understandable that you’d want to make the most of your time and reserve a day or two to discover the island.
The great news is that Sal Island can be explored in just a single day, and having the support of a knowledgeable guide can greatly enhance your experience.
Here are some tours and excursions that I highly recommend on Sal Island:
- Nocturnal Observation of Sea Turtles: From July to October, Cape Verde experiences the turtle nesting season. Join this tour accompanied by specialized guides and witness this incredible natural phenomenon.
- Tour Around the Island with a Certified Local Guide: Embark on a comprehensive 6-7 hour trip to explore the entire island. This tour includes stops at Espargos, Olho Azul, Buracona, Praia do Pipa, Santa Maria, Miragem, and Murdeira. Enjoy a thrilling Jeep/SUV ride, leisurely walks, and even some time for snorkeling.
- 1-Day Tour of Sal Island with Lubch and Snorkeling: Discover the main tourist attractions on Sal Island, such as the salt flats of Pedra Lume, Olho Azul, Ponta Preta, and Monte Leão. As part of the tour, indulge in a delicious lunch at a local restaurant in Espargos.
If you found this list of what to do on Sal Island enticing, I recommend exploring other tours and excursions available through the following link:
Transport on Sal Island: Getting Around Safely and Efficiently
Public transportation on Sal Island is primarily utilized by the locals and may not be the most convenient option for tourists. Typically, these modes of transport consist of 9 or 12-seat vans that operate on an informal schedule, departing when they are ready.
For visitors, taxis are the recommended and preferred mode of transportation on the island.
To ensure a fair fare and avoid overcharging, it is advisable to negotiate and agree upon the price before embarking on the journey. A useful tip is to consult your hotel reception for assistance in calling a reliable taxi.
While the majority of taxi drivers on Sal Island are friendly, it is essential to be aware that some may attempt to charge excessive fares.
By exercising caution and taking necessary precautions, you can have a smooth and pleasant experience during your travels.
Sal Island offers a range of attractions and activities, from stunning beaches to cultural landmarks. By choosing a reliable mode of transportation like taxis, you can explore the island comfortably and efficiently, ensuring that you make the most of your time on this captivating destination.
Is it safe to travel to Cape Verde?
Based on information from Agência Lusa in 2020, Cape Verde was deemed one of the safest countries for tourists to visit in 2021, receiving the lowest risk level classification of “insignificant” in terms of travel risks.
In fact, during that period, Cape Verde was the only country in Africa to achieve the lowest risk level in terms of tourist safety.
Although these are the most recent data available, it is generally acknowledged that the Cape Verde archipelago is considered a safe destination for travelers.
Furthermore, drawing from my personal experience, I have never felt unsafe while on Sal Island.
Nonetheless, it is always wise to take basic safety precautions when traveling to any destination, including Cape Verde. Avoid flaunting expensive possessions to minimize unnecessary attention.
By exercising common sense and being aware of your surroundings, you can fully enjoy your trip to Cape Verde while ensuring a safe and memorable experience.
Final Travel Hacks: Making the Most of Your Trip to Sal Island
Currency and Payments on Sal Island: Tips for American and British Travelers
When planning a trip to Sal Island in Cape Verde, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the currency and payment options available to American and British travelers.
The official currency used in Cape Verde is the Cape Verdean Escudo (CVE), with an exchange rate of approximately 1€ = 110.265 CVE.
Debit and credit cards, including popular ones like Revolut, Mastercard, and Visa, are widely accepted in most establishments on Sal Island. However, for smaller expenses such as taxi fares or purchases at street shops, it’s advisable to carry some cash with you.
If you have USD or GBP, you can exchange them at the airport or at banks in Espargos or Santa Maria.
Euros are generally accepted as a form of payment, but it’s important to note that local sellers often use a 1:1 exchange rate, giving them a slight advantage in the conversion.
For digital payment options, many establishments on Sal Island accept Revolut without any issues, making it a convenient choice for supermarkets and restaurants.
By keeping these currency and payment tips in mind, American and British travelers can ensure a smoother and more convenient experience while visiting Sal Island.
By keeping these currency and payment tips in mind, American and British travelers can have a smoother and more convenient experience when visiting Sal Island.
Language in Cape Verde: What to Expect
Cape Verde’s official language is Portuguese, but the mother tongue spoken by the majority of the population is Creole.
In Sal Island, as well as other urban centers, it’s common to find English speakers among individuals involved in the tourism industry, such as hotel staff, tour guides, restaurant personnel, and shopkeepers.
This is because these areas cater to tourists and have a higher likelihood of English-speaking locals.
While Portuguese is the primary language, visitors to Cape Verde can often communicate in English in touristic areas like Sal Island. It’s helpful to know a few basic Portuguese phrases to enhance your interactions with locals outside of these tourism-related establishments.
By being aware of the language situation in Cape Verde, travelers can better prepare for their visit and have a more enjoyable experience.
Visa Requirements for American and British Travelers in Cape Verde
If you are an American or British traveler planning a trip to Cape Verde, it’s important to understand the visa requirements before your departure.
Both American and British citizens are required to obtain a visa to enter Cape Verde for tourism purposes. However, please note that visa regulations can change, so it is recommended to verify the current requirements closer to your travel date.
For American travelers, the visa application process typically involves submitting a completed visa application form, a valid passport with at least six months of remaining validity, a passport-sized photograph, proof of accommodation in Cape Verde, and proof of onward or return travel. Additionally, a visa fee is usually applicable.
British travelers are also required to obtain a visa, and the application process is similar to that of American travelers. The requirements generally include a completed application form, a valid passport, a passport photo, proof of accommodation, proof of onward or return travel, and payment of the visa fee.
It is advisable to contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Cape Verde or visit their official government website for the most up-to-date information regarding visa requirements. They can provide you with accurate and specific details about the application process, required documents, and any fees involved.
Remember to allow sufficient time for visa processing, as it may take several weeks to obtain the visa before your intended travel date.
By staying informed about the visa requirements and ensuring that you have the necessary documentation, American and British travelers can have a smooth and hassle-free entry into Cape Verde, allowing them to fully enjoy their visit to this beautiful country.
Internet and Roaming in Cape Verde: A Guide for American and British Travelers
Staying connected while traveling is essential for many American and British travelers. Whether it’s sharing experiences on social media, navigating unfamiliar places, or staying in touch with loved ones back home, having reliable internet access and understanding roaming options are crucial.
Cape Verde has made significant progress in terms of internet infrastructure and accessibility. Most hotels, resorts, and cafes in popular tourist areas provide Wi-Fi access to their guests. However, the quality and reliability of internet connections can vary.
If you rely heavily on internet access, consider choosing accommodations that explicitly advertise high-speed Wi-Fi or have positive reviews regarding their internet services. It’s advisable to confirm the availability and quality of internet access with your accommodation provider before booking.
For American and British travelers who prefer to stay connected on the go, mobile data services are available in Cape Verde. The two main telecommunications providers on the islands are CV Móvel and Unitel T+. They offer prepaid SIM cards and data packages that can be purchased at their stores or authorized resellers.
To use a local SIM card, ensure that your device is unlocked and compatible with the frequencies used in Cape Verde. It’s recommended to check with your mobile service provider in your home country regarding international roaming charges and compatibility before making a decision.
Before traveling to Cape Verde, contact your home mobile service provider to inquire about their roaming options. Some providers offer international roaming packages or have partnerships with local networks, which can provide better rates for voice, SMS, and data usage.
However, keep in mind that roaming charges can still be costly, so it’s crucial to understand the terms and conditions associated with your home provider’s roaming services.
When planning a trip to Cape Verde, ensuring you have adequate travel insurance is a wise decision.
Travel insurance provides peace of mind, protecting you against unforeseen circumstances that may disrupt your trip.
For my travels I use and recommended IATI Travel Insurance, that also offers coverage for American and British travelers in Cape Verde.
Travel insurance is designed to safeguard you from unexpected events during your journey. It provides financial protection against trip cancellations, medical emergencies, lost luggage, travel delays, and other unforeseen incidents.
By having travel insurance, you can travel with confidence, knowing that you have a safety net to rely on if something goes wrong.
Getting insurance with IATI Travel Insurance is quick and easy.
Simply visit their website to access their online platform. You can customize your coverage options based on your travel needs and duration of stay in Cape Verde.
Remember to use this link to benefit from 5% discount.
Medical and Emergency Services on Sal Island: Important Contacts for Travelers
When traveling to Sal Island in Cape Verde, it’s essential to have access to reliable medical and emergency services.
Here’s valuable information about things to do in case of a medical emergency in Sal Island.
Remember to always carry travel insurance, such as the coverage offered by IATI Travel Insurance, and keep the necessary contact numbers easily accessible.
In case of a medical emergency, dial the national emergency number, 112.
However, if you have obtained travel insurance from IATI Travel Insurance, refer to the telephone number provided on your policy for immediate assistance.
Having travel insurance ensures that you receive the necessary support and guidance during critical situations.
It’s advisable to be aware of the contact information for local hospitals and clinics on Sal Island. Here are some essential contacts to keep at hand:
- Hospital Contacts:
- Hospital telephone number: 00126.96.36.199 / 00238.241.27.00
- Contact number: 00188.8.131.52
- Clínica da Murdeira:
- Contact number: 00184.108.40.206
These medical facilities can provide assistance and medical care in case of non-life-threatening emergencies or for general medical consultations during your stay on Sal Island.
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