The island of Sal (Ilha do Sal in Portuguese) is one of the ten islands of Cape Verde and is very close to the westernmost part of Africa. Named for the active salt industry that operated between the 18th century and mid-1980s in the crater of an extinct volcano, today it has become a perfect vacation paradise for water sports lovers with its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and coral reefs.
Don’t be fooled by appearances, because despite its volcanic origin it is an island without significant variations in level. This flat land, together with its warm climate (temperatures rarely fall below 20ºC) and dry, tropical climate, will allow you to enjoy its beaches practically all year round.
1. Visit the salt flats of Pedro Lume
The salt flats of Pedro de Lume and Cagarral are part of the protected areas of Cabo Verde. These salt flats are unique because they are three meters below sea level and are located inside a volcanic crater that is no longer active. During your visit, you can swim in them and experience a sensation similar to that of bathing in the Dead Sea, as their high levels of salt make the bodies float in the water.
Although it is necessary to pay for access to the site and then take a fresh water shower, your visit is undoubtedly the most advisable not only to enjoy this particular geographical feature but also to learn a little more about the history of this island and benefit from its therapeutic waters.
North of Espargos, the capital city, the mirage of Terra Boa appears like a lake in the desert landscape. The island’s white sandy beaches include the long crescent-shaped coastline of Santa Maria, a busy city on the south coast.
2. Getting to know the magical “blue eye”
The Blue Eye or Blue Eye is one of the natural treasures of the island of Salt and is located to the northwest of the capital, Espargos. It is a stone grotto built by Mother Nature and shaped like an eye, hence its name. With a depth of about 18 meters and some 100 meters from the sea, a precious optical effect takes place inside the cave: the sun rays that get into the cave are reflected in the water and turn it turquoise.
In addition to enjoying the magnificent natural pools of this area, called Buracona, is a perfect place for scuba diving and can be visited from early morning to better appreciate the contrast.
And to make your visit to this area even more rewarding, take a stroll through the picturesque fishing village of Palmeira, just 5 kilometers south of La Bucarona, which has become the most important port on the island. From there you can take the ferries that connect with some of the remaining islands of the archipelago.
3. A visit to Espargos, its capital city
Espargos is not a tourist city in use. Here you won’t find any great monuments or places to visit, but walking through its narrow streets will allow you to discover the real life of the city’s inhabitants. This is a good example of a Cape Verdean city where you can enjoy streets without tourism and interact with the local population.
4. Seeing the turtles
One of the most magical and special experiences you can have on Salt Island is watching sea turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs or small baby turtles hatch to make their way into the sea and swim in the water for the first time. Children love it! It all depends on the season of the year in which you visit (for example, the month of August is when they lay eggs while hatchings do not take place until October). To be able to witness this, you can contact an association such as Turtle SOS, which organizes nightly walks, go on your own or hire a local guide.
5. Practicing aquatic activities and enjoying the beach
In the area of Santa Maria is one of the most famous beaches of the island of Sal and one of the Seven Wonders of Cape Verde for its white sands and transparent waters. Despite its quiet appearance, it is an ideal place to practice scuba diving, surfing, flyboarding or to rent a hydro-pedal or jet ski. On this beach, you will also find a sculpture of Cristo Rey with open arms that, according to the locals, blesses and protects the human being from the sea. At the end of the day and after so much activity, a good plan is to relax on one of the many esplanades or have a drink at the beach restaurants (lobster is one of the most typical local dishes) while enjoying the sunset.
Another interesting beach is Ponta Preta, very famous for its waves of more than three meters high, which makes it a favorite of those who practice sea and wind sports such as kite, windsurf or surf. In fact, many are the professional sportsmen who practice in Ponta Preta because there they find the ideal conditions to practice maneuvers and prepare their participation in international championships.
Where to stay on the Isle of Sal?
One of the most important choices for any traveler is accommodation, and there are many hotels in Sal to choose from. In the end I opted for the hotel Sol Dunas of Meliá. It’s a great resort for families with children, many pools and close to the beach. We had already been to other Meliá hotels in Cape Verde, so we preferred to choose something we already knew and it also gives us points for the next trips.