Cape Verde Travel Guide - Sal Island
Hello lovely people!
How many of you know where Cape Verde is? If you are not of Portuguese heritage or live in a place where you will find direct flights to this beautiful country, chances are you may be unfamiliar with it. For those of you who have heard of it or have been to this West African Archipelago you surely know what brought you the attention to this place. But don’t let this somewhat undiscovered “status” deceive you, as Sal in Cape Verde is one of the most beautiful islands I have been to, and, taking into consideration all the developments in the Island, it will potentially become a super trendy place to visit.
So lets start with a little background, shall we?
Cape Verde is an archipelago nation of 10 islands located in the Atlantic and the closest countries are Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. It was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century and, although I am saddened to mention this backstory, it used to be a center for trading slaves, and that is the reason for their ancestry: Portuguese and African.
The languages spoken are Portuguese and Crioulo and the capital is Praia, located in the island of Santiago. The local currency is Escudo, but Euros are vastly accepted and it has a fixed rate of about 100 Escudos per Euro.
Cape Verde has also one of the most stable democracies in Africa and it is very politically liberal, but keep in mind that this is a developing nation and so you will see a great discrepancy between the rich resort areas, and where the locals actually live.
Each Island in this country has its characteristics and unique landscape: some are great for hiking or enjoying the beach, others are more mountainous, arid, vulcanic and even tropical. But if you are looking to island hop you would mainly do it by plane, as some of the islands are a great distance from the others and the sea is the open Atlantic Ocean, which cannot be travelled with just any boat. There is a possibility for ferries in certain islands, but it can take you over 6 hours to reach the other nearest one.
That is why I am going to focus on Sal Island in this post – which is where I stayed during my visit to this country – a place known for its beautiful beaches, resorts and water sports, as well as an arid landscape.
Please note that the vast majority of nationalities will have to purchase a visa, either in advance through the country’s embassy, or upon arrival, which will cost you 25 euros.
Another point I wanted to mention is about taxis. Many of them won’t have a meter but do expect to pay approximately 15 Euros from the airport to Santa Maria Hotels and back, but don’t pay more than that. It should cost you about 3 Euros if you want to move around Santa Maria area.
Where to Stay
You will find that the vast majority of accommodations will be on the south of the island. The main hotel area is Santa Maria, and you can either stay on the south and near the fishing pier, where you will find turquoise calm water, or along the coast going north like around Paradise Beach or Kite Beach, where you can enjoy more of the surf and secluded beaches.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to stay right in the center of Santa Maria in the south, you will be approached by many vendors, which the Cape Verdeans say are mainly from Senegal, but the local culture seem to be against this harassment towards the tourists, but there is little they can do to avoid it.
In the center of Santa Maria you will also find most of the shops and restaurants, and you will immediately become conscious that the locals live by the “no stress” attitude to life :). This area seem to awaken at night, with a lot of places offering live music and a friendly atmosphere.
If you stay at one of the big resorts, you will notice that you won’t feel the need to leave the hotel for anything, as a lot of them will offer all inclusive food and drinks, a nice pool and entertainment. But please do take the opportunity to explore the other areas of the island, because if you only stay in the resort you won’t get to see what Cape Verde is all about and you will have a very misled reality of the country. A lot of the people working on these resorts will also be friendly and polite, and many will speak English.
What to Do
Speaking of exploring the island, there are many activities you can do while in Cape Verde, in case you get tired of just relaxing by the beach (or pool) ;).
The most obvious and fun ones are related to the water. Santa Maria is world renowned for kite surfing and you can easily rent the equipment at one of the places by the beach. You can also go scuba diving or take a boat that will take you further off the coast to watch wales and dolphins.
If you are into surfing, you can easily rent surfboards if you haven’t brought one, and a famous surf spot in the island is Ponta Preta, where surf tournaments are held each year.
If you do decide to explore the other parts of the island, you can check out Baia da Parda, where you can easily spot sharks from land and water. If you go into the water and reef, I would strongly recommend you to go with a guide and use proper shoes, as these are wild animals and, although there doesn’t seem to be no apparent attacks (at least that’s what the guide told us) you should adventure through the water with care.
Other activities are horseback riding on the beach and fishing.
Sal also has many spots that should not be missed. Right on the north of Santa Maria you will see an area full of dunes and a fun activity is to rent a buggy and go through them, as well as drive through other parts of the island.
If you don’t want to rent a car for a day, I would strongly recommend you to take a guided tour if you are looking to see the whole island, and a good tour should take you to the not-to-miss areas. Some of the “sightseeing” spots are Fontana (a private beach), Palmeira (rock fishing spot), Buracona (or blue eye, which is a huge whole/cave where you can see clear deep blue water at the bottom), Monte Grande (for a great view of this arid Island), Pedra Lume and the Salt Mine (if you are looking for a great experience floating on a salt lake located between a volcano crater) and the capital Espargos.
What to Eat
Since we are talking about an island here, you will expect to find a lot of seafood dishes. Don’t expect anything super fancy but a lot of it will be fresh. Tuna is very common, as well as Garoupa. Chicken is also common and a signature dish is called Cachupa, which used to be slave food.
Also, keep in mind that meat and most of the groceries are imported, as this is an arid island that mainly (if not only) produces salt and seafood, so expect to find prices to be high, especially when you compare to other West African countries.
In the hotels and many restaurants you will easily find European style cuisine and nothing too exotic, such as pasta and sandwiches. For the local beer, Estrela is a great try :)
I hope you guys have the chance to visit this beautiful place!!
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