The island of Sal, in view of its close proximity to the African continent, has a climate very similar to other zones with the same latitude. It is a very arid island, and although volcanic in origin, constant erosion throughout its history has made it almost flat.
The highest point is MONTE VERMELHO, with a height of 406 m. From north to south, it is about 30 km long but does not exceed more than 12 km in width. The overall surface area is 216 km2. The International Airport of Sal used to be the main gateway to the whole Archipelago until 2006 and beyond when international airports of Santiago, Boavista and S Vicente were completed.
Sal was discovered in 1640 and was first known as LLANA or PLANA meaning "flat'. It was given its present name when a lagoon in a crater of an extinct volcano was discovered and in this place, after the rains, salt was produced. This crater is now known as PEDRA DO LUME and a very attractive tourist destination.
Home to International Airport Amilcar Cabral, the island of Sal is therefore, first point of entry in Cabo Verde for most travelers. Major efforts were pursued by the government to acquire FAA security certification following the events of September 11th, 2001 which enabled flights from Cabo Verde to land in U.S. airports and the re-establishment of direct flights utilizing the country's flag carrier, Cabo Verde Airlines.
Over the years, the island hase been plagued by severe droughts causing most of its citizens to live abroad. Sal is constantly featured in songs about its beautiful beaches and natural landscape. Other than tourism, the island is basically quiet but the residents of this tiny island are actually a very happy kind of people. This happiness is often displayed in their hospitality.
Initially called Lhana, since the island is very flat, it would later adopt the present denomination due to the existence of great quantities of salt (sal in Portuguese). The structures used to explore this product, exported in large quantities during the XVIII and first half of the XIX centuries to the entire African coast and Brazil, can still be found in the territory. The best example, worthy of a visit, is the Pedra de Lume saltworks located in the crater of an ancient volcano. Its sole access is very curious since it is made through a tunnel that seems to separate two distinct worlds. The landscape is unique and the soil, covered in salt, varies from turquoise blue to white and pink. However, this industry has been abandoned for some years and the island is now known and famous for its high quality tourism.
Considered the "youngest" island of the country, its population has a very low average age and is in the stage of formation of its own identity. Its development began with the great search for workforce for the saltworks, but its peak would only arrive in our days with the construction of the Amilcar Cabral International Airport, the largest gateway for those entering and leaving Cabo Verde by air.
Place of an unusual beauty where the turquoise sea and golden sands overlay a sterile and dry land, it is on its south end that we find its greatest gift.
On Vila de Santa Maria, the beach with this same name is the most famous and touristic in the archipelago. 8-kilometre long, golden sands and warm waters all year round, it offers some of the biggest and best hotels in the country. Over the years it has become more and more a very appreciated tourist destination all over the world. The chance to practice several nautical sports is encouraged by the hotels that offer to the tourist all necessary equipment to make the best of such excellent features. Lovers of windsurf, diving and fishing find here a true paradise and the organization of international competitors, namely as far as windsurf is concerned, is very frequent.
Absolutely celestial and commendable are also the restaurants in the middle of the beach where the true Cabo-verdean spirit is highlighted by the musical bands, which entertain us as we relish the typical gastronomy and listen to the murmur of the waves.
Benefiting from the island's topography, four-wheel drive expeditions are very common, offering endless adventures. One of those is the visit, on the northern coast, to a mysterious hole, which precipitates itself down the rocks and only lets the tourists see its bottom at a certain time of the day, due to the incidence of the sun. Called Buracona (literally great hole), it is a good example of how the waters surrounding the archipelago are so clean and pure, for what you see when looking inside is only the dance of the sunbeams reflecting in the bottom. Close to it we can find some natural swimming pools formed by large concavities in the rocks that are filled by the waves. Not representing any danger to those who want to swim or dive in them, they are a splendid and different place to spend a wonderful time.
Between this place and the Santa Maria Beach, 2km from the airport, is the village of Espargos, the main urban centre of the island, guarded by the Morro do Coral (Coral Hill), from which we can admire Morro Pedra de Lume, protecting the saltworks, and Palmeira, a small fishing village where Sal's maritime port lies and where some inviting restaurants have recently established.
A pleasurable vacation
The island of Sal is a destination for vacation seekers and owns the best infrastructure in the Republic of Cabo Verde when speaking about the tourism - Amilcar Cabral International Airport, the dazzling beach of Santa Maria and other attractive points like, for example, "Salinas de Pedra de Lume" make this island the most promising destination for the international tourism. Relentless efforts have been devoted to gradually expand quality international tourism by linking the tranquility of the island to the environment protection. The island of Sal still remains a virgin landscape where sea pollution or air pollution are basically unknown.
The sympathy and hospitality of the inhabitants of Sal, the relationship quickly established to the tourist arriving at Sal and the absence of illiteracy bring even more charm to the stay, making tourists feel at home. At the International Airport, various tourism agencies mark their presence providing information and service of quality. The island is also served by different commercial banks where one can exchange money upon arrival or departure.
Santa Maria is the tourist village par excellence due to its natural environment with long white sandy beaches and cool breezes that attracts more and more tourists and investors betting on its rapid development. For leisure time most hotels offers a complete leisure equipment like, game rooms, pitches for mini-golf, basketball, volleyball, a tennis-court and a gymnasium duly equipped for the most diverse exercises, in particular, aerobics. Between the swimming-pool, constantly replaced with the seawater, and the beach is Beach Club where one can swim, have a snack or simply a refreshing drink in the hot Cabo Verdean summer, give and take all 365 days a year. Who can ask for more?
The Windsurf Center located on the open beach, not only provides the tourists with all logistical support necessary for the practice of windsurfing but qualified teachers are also at their disposal, introducing them in any water sports activities. If you enjoy horseback riding, horses are available for renting, making your stay lively, enjoyable and marvelous.
At night, the Vila of Santa Maria becomes animated and exciting, the disco clubs are nevertheless the most preferable but the hotels environment in Santa Maria make the nights in Sal more alive than ever. The Piano Bar occupies a definite space in the night scene, where the enthusiasts of good music deeply rooted in the tradition of the country can hear the most talented of Cabo-verdean pianists play the piano. In the summer, the Cabo-verdean nights are filled with typical and lively music in which some of the best artists perform under the bright and clear stars.
The handicraft is the testimony to the Cabo-verdean culture in which a large variety of works of art is from the African continent which has increased in numbers. However, typical Cabo-verdean objects are available at various boutiques in Santa Maria. Of the various attractions, the island of Sal has, apart from the sea, is the unpolluted and virgin nature along with tranquility being offered to its tourists, the comfortable rooms, easy contact with any part of the world, availability for all kind of sports, the best gastronomy and animated nights all on the exotic beach of Santa Maria where one can have 300 days with plenty of sun and sea.