Sal’s not short on the sandy stuff. In fact, most of the island’s covered in desert-like terrain. But most sun-seekers shuffle down south to Santa Maria. Here, the runway of sand’s on the mammoth size, and packed with facilities. But there are plenty of stripped-back stretches knocking about, too.
Santa Maria Beach hogs Sal’s southern tip, sprawling out for eight kilometres. You won’t have to stray far from your sunbed for anything here. There’s a bumper of bars, hotels and restaurants behind the silky sands. And it’s a mecca for all things watersports. If you want a dose of tradition, head to the pier at the end of the day to watch the local fishermen haul in the day’s catch.
On the other side of the coin, you’ve got Ponta Preta, which translates as ‘black tip’. There’s nothing dark about the sand here, though. Technically, it’s an extension of Santa Maria’s supersized stretch of sand. But, the two are like chalk and cheese. This place is completely stripped back, with nothing but cream-coloured sands backed by dunes. You won’t find a sunbed or parasol in sight.
There’s a cluster of shops by Santa Maria’s harbour. They’re the type of places to pick up paintings, bongos and jewellery at cheap-and-cheerful prices. There’s a market, too, where the locals load up on their fruit and veg. The local ponch, or grogue, is a fun souvenir to bring back to Blighty. It’s a boozy drink made from sugar cane. If you’re lucky, you might get to try before you buy, too.
Santa Maria’s big on arts and crafts – lots of which are made locally on the island. You can scout out lots of quirky knick-knacks in its souvenir shops, which are stuffed with handicrafts, jewellery, paintings and bags of salt. You can even buy statues made from recycled beer cans, as well as bracelets crafted out of ring pulls and shoe laces.
Mammoth malls aren’t Sal’s cup of tea. So the closest you’ll get to big designer brands here is the surfing kind. Santa Maria’s beach is backed by a bevy of surf shops, where you can grab the latest wave-ready clobber – think brands like Quiksilver. And, while you’re there, make sure to book yourself in for a lesson.
You can easily spend AM to PM on Santa Maria’s beach. Luckily, the sunbeds are bolstered by a load of bars and restaurants. You can chill with a cocktail from a surf shack, relax on a Bali bed at a la-di-da beach club, or sway along to reggae at a rooftop bar.
There are a tonne of themed bars and clubs pulsing away in Santa Maria. One puts on African dance performances, while another’s got Brazilian vibes. Plus, you can sweat it out in the pirate-themed nightclub ‘til the sun comes up. Dinnertimes can be lively, too, with live music and dance shows.
Sal’s national dish harks back to its Portuguese roots. It’s a hearty stew made with beans, veg, and fish or meat. If you’ve been to Portugal, picture a feijoada.
Bafas is Sal’s rustic answer to fish fingers. Fish or octopus are bundled together with tomatoes, onion and peppers, then covered in breadcrumbs.
This pudding’s all kinds of naughty. It’s a sweet cake made with corn and sugar, but served with dollops of butter and goat’s cheese.
Guavas, mangos, papaya – these are just some of the exotic fruits that grow on the island. And it’s the latter that makes this simple, but tasty pud. It’s basically like a papaya-flavoured jelly.
Cape Verde doesn’t do Starbucks. Instead, the archipelago’s got its own powerhouse island, Fogo, which supplies the rest with locally grown coffee and wine.
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