Cape Verde

Trish Griffiths on 04 January 2012
Our first experience of the Cape Verde Islands was on Sal, which is probably the most developed in terms of tourism.

Virtually all of the tourist action in Sal is based around the town of Santa Maria in the south of the island, and approximately 20 minutes from the airport. Around the town you have the choice of a number of traditional 3 and 4 star properties or if you prefer all inclusive options there are a number of larger hotels on the outskirts.

The Island is popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders due to the constant breeze during the winter months. If you’re not into watersports, then the beach looks just as good from the comfort of your sunbed. At Santa Maria Beach you have lovely white sand and a gently shelving water which makes it ideal for families. Further north and the beaches tend to be much rockier, and there was even a difference between the town beach and the one near the all inclusive resorts around the corner.

The smaller hotels are all within easy walking distance (5 or 10 minutes) of the centre of town and a large selection of restaurants and bars. The main cuisine seems to be Italian at the moment and we found that Leonardo’s was the best for that type of food. There are a number of restaurants serving Cape Verdean specialities, especially the Chupchapa, which is a rice and lentil stew with either seafood or meat, or often both! (If you like it a bit spicy, don’t forget to ask for the “Piri Piri” sauce.) Angela’s on the beach is a real local eatery that we liked.

If you like watching sunsets, we found the best bar was at the Oljos D’Agua hotel, or if you like mixing with the surfer dudes, try Angulo’s at the far end of town.

As for activities, the Island doesn’t have a wealth of sightseeing opportunities, but there are a couple of places that are worth visiting. We decided to hire a car, but follow the main Island tour route (mostly because at least a ¼ of the route was completely off road!) On this tour you can visit a number of local villages, including the small port of Palmeira. From there it is off-road up to Brancona to see the lagoon, and jump in if you are feeling brave! Then more off road to the capital city of Espargos. This is the commercial centre and is a nice place to wander round for an hour or two, watching the locals going about their daily business. After Espargos, it is off to Pedro De Lume and the Salinas (or Salt Works). There are a number of salty lagoons that offer the same experience as the Dead Sea. There is also a restaurant and spa that make the hike up and down the hill worthwhile. Most people do this as an excursion and normally in the back of a pick up on bench seats – you have been warned!

Back on the coast and you have all manner of excursions available including snorkelling and diving trips, glass bottom boats and all the other watersports you would expect. Boat trips to the nearest Island of Boavista can also be arranged at Santa Maria, but all the other Islands are also available to visit with short flights available most days.

On the whole we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Sal and Santa Maria in particular. There’s not masses to do here, but if you want a winter break that is a change from the Canaries, which offers warm weather, nice beaches and a couple of interesting days out, but with only a 6 hour flight and only 1 hour time difference then this is ideal – or if you’re into wind powered watersports, this is possibly heaven!!