Ilha do Sal, Cape Verde: things to do, how many days and other tips

Cape Verde is probably one of the most underrated place on earth. The “main” island (main only for tourism) is Ilha do Sal. And it’s also the less underrated one thanks to its international airport with many direct flies from Europe.

Ilha do Sal
Santa Maria’s Pier, Santa Maria Beach. Ilha do Sal

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Geography and History of Ilha do Sal

Cape Verde is an arcipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Sal is one of the three sandy beaches island (white sandy in particular) together with the islands of Boa Vista and Maio.

Ilha do Sal is a very small island (219.8 km2). With a length of 29.7 km and a width of 11.8 km, you can see all places with a day tour. Sal is also typical since it’s flat (its highest point is Monte Grande, 406 meters).

It’s largest city is Espargos, that is also the “municipal town” and is the place where you’ll arrive with the plane. However the center of tourism is Santa Maria, where you’ll find all the bar and restaurants, resort and apartments and, mostly, the famous beach.

Climate of Sal

350 days of sunshine per year is more than enough. However keep in mind that during our visit (second part of July) we experienced two days of (very rare) rain (it’s not the rain that we know, it’s very very light).

Moreover, you have to keep in mind that days of clouds are not rare here and I discovered that the hours of sun are not many (in July the sun was over from 5 pm since there were every evening some clouds).

The rainy season is not like we european or american known, but you have to keep in mind that it start from July to mid-October.

The climate is very humid, but the wind will help to resist also in the hottest days. During summer wind is good, but during winter it could be not good if you go there only for beach life or for swim in the ocean.

The temperature is similar all year since the Equator is very near. During winter the average high are around 24/25°C, during summer from 26 to 29°C. The average low goes from 18°C of winter to 24°C of summer.

History of Sal

The original name of the island, discovered only on December 3, 1460, was Llana (that means “flat”).

The actual name, Sal, comes from the discovery of the two large salt ponds (Pedra de Lume and Santa Maria).

Before the salt industry, the island was only sparsely inhabited, with a small fishing village near the small city of Palmeira.

At the end of the 18th century the salt industry changed this island. In the early years from the two salt ponds of Sal 30,000 tons of salt were exported, mainly to Brazil.

Portuguese and French investors resumed salt production until 1984. After that date the main financial entrance for Sal is tourism.

The actual airport was initially constructed by the Italians, but later the Portuguese bought the airport and finished in 1949.

In late summer 2015 the island of Sal was hit by the Hurricane Fred. It caused many damages to houses, resort and also to ships.

Things you have to know before you go to Ilha do Sal

A brief summary (click on the subject you are interested in):

  1. Find the right offer
  2. Visa
  3. Insurance
  4. Water and Food
  5. Mosquitos
  6. When to Go
  7. Where to Stay
  8. Transports
  9. Payments
VisaClick here to ask for the EASE. Price: 30€ ca.
InsuranceWe recommend it.
When to GoTemperatures are similar all year.
Always bring with you a SPF 30+ solar protection.
TransportsSanta maria – Airport: during day it’s 15€; during night it’s 20€.
You can move around also with Aluguer (1€).
PaymentsThe official currency is the Escudos (110CVE = 1€).
However everybody accept Euros.

Find the right offer

Click here to find the right discount for the flight to Cape Verde.

Visa

From 2019 you don’t need to ask for Visa. Just click here to ask for the EASE (you can pay for it at the airport but there will be some queue). Price: 30€ ca.

Insurance

Sal is a very touristic place. However you have to remember that you are in Africa and outside Europe is always better to have a personal travel insurance. We highly recommend it.

Water and Food

Water inside houses are only desalinated one. So it’s the water from the sea, but without salt. Everyone will tell you to drink only bottle water and it’s for a good reason: tap water don’t have any minerals so it doesn’t make sense for us to drink it. And it doesn’t taste good.

Food is safe if you eat in the restaurants in Sal and in the supermarket you will find many european food. Keep in mind that you’ll find only packaged and frozen food in the supermarket, also fishes! We highly recommend you not to buy fresh fish from locals for hygienic reasons.

Mosquitos

Yes, you have to bring your mosquitos repellent with you. In Sal you can buy it for an higher price, of course. During summer, when wind calm down, mosquitos could be very annoying.

When to Go

You’ll have more or less the same temperature during all year. The main difference will be the temperature difference between day and night (higher during winter, when you could bring a light jacket with you).

If you want to go to Sal for beach life the best period to go there is summer (less wind and ocean more calm).

Winter is the best period if you want to try Surf, Kite Surf or Wind Surf.

Always bring with you a SPF 30+ solar protection.

Where to Stay

Santa Maria is the place where you can find all the main touristic spot like restaurants, bar, pubs and also Casino. There is also a main road near the beach with many shops (local and not).

In Santa Maria there is the famous beach and all the resort (including the Hilton one) are located here.

Transports

You can find a local mini bus (aluguer) but there is a problem: there are no timetables! It will start only when he reach the maximum number of people inside. The good thing? The price is symbolic: 1€.

Aluguer goes only from Santa Maria to Espargos and then to Palmeira. If you need to go to another part of the island you’ll find a taxi everywhere. With 5€ you can reach, for example, Ponta Preta beach from Santa Maria.

Santa maria – Airport: during day it’s 15€; during night it’s 20€.

Payments

The official currency is the Escudos (110CVE = 1€).

However everybody accept Euros (but they will use the more favorable change, for them, of 100CVE per euro).

You can pay in some restaurants and activities with your credit or debit card. But you have to use your Visa card. We tried with all the MasterCard we had there, but no one worked.

What to do in Ilha do Sal

Sal is a very small island and it can’t offer so much to do during your stay. It’s awesome if you love to stay at the beach, swim in the ocean or if you like surf, kite surf, wind surf or also diving activities.

Sal is not good if you like excursions by walk, because it’s just a desert island with nothing special to see.

Anyway, we recommend to you these activities:

  1. Island Tour
  2. Turtle Watch
  3. Take the aluguer
  4. Activities

Island Tour

You’ll find many people that offer to you a day tour to visit all the principal spot of the island: salinas, Espargos, Palmeira, shark bay, blue eye. The price goes from 25€ to 45€, it depends on the tour operator. It’s the best option to visit Sal in one day.

Turtle Watch

Sal is famous for its beaches that are one of the most famous spot for seeing turtles to lay their eggs. Cape Verde is, in fact, the second largest breeding site for Loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta).

In the past Santa Maria beach was one of the main place to see them, but now the tourism and the lights from resort and activities change everything.

So if you want to see them you can pay for a tour. You’ll have to go with a jeep exploring the beaches where the tourism is not arrived yet.

In the season from June to September is very easy to see turtles to lay their eggs. The price for a tour is from 15€ to 25€.

Please respect the nature! For more information: Project Biodiversity and Turtles Law in Cape Verde.

Take the aluguer

Try the local life and forget the taxis! Take the aluguer, the mini bus that with the price of 1€ will take you from Santa Maria to Espargos and with another 0.5€ to Palmeira.

These mini bus will start only when all the seats are occupied.

Activities

  • Surf
  • Wind Surf
  • Kite Surf
  • Diving
  • Sailing
  • Quad (50€ half day for rent)

Place we recommend to you

Apartments & HotelClick here to find all the best offers
We stayed 10 nights in this apartment
ResortHilton
Oasis Salinas Sea
RestaurantsCam’s Merceria Gourmet (we went there more or less every day for dinner: try the dish of the day, a full menu with a dish, drink and homemade cake for only 6€!)
Ice-cream shopGelateria GIRAMONDO

Some pics..

Espargos, Ilha do Sal
Espargos
Espargos, Ilha do Sal
Top View of Espargos
Ilha do Sal
The classic Aluguer
Ilha do Sal
Another type of Aluguer
Santa Maria Beach
Ilha do Sal
The main road in Santa Maria. Here is full of shop for tourists, but keep attention because you’ll see that every 10 meters one guy from Senegal will try to sell to you something or will ask you some food.
Ilha do Sal
One of the main road in Santa Maria
Locals sell fish in Santa Maria
A local fisherman
My favorite place in Sal: Ponta Preta beach!
Porto Antigo (old harbor) in Santa Maria
Porto Antigo in Santa Maria
Ilha do Sal
The turtle we saw that was laying their eggs.
Santa Maria’s Pier. Thanks to Greta for the idea.

If you miss out the very first post: who and why Wonyg?