Santa Maria is the main tourist town in the Cape Verde islands. It is located in the southern part of Sal island, 16km south of the airport and 20km south of Espargos. Espargos is the capital of Sal island and is located in the centre of the island close to the airport. Santa Maria was founded due to the production of sea salt in 1835. In its early days 30,000 tons of salt was being produced and most of which being exported to Brazil. The Portuguese and French salt investors kept the industry going until 1984. As well as being famous for its salt production Santa Maria has for a long time been associated as a fishing village due to the abundance of popular sea fish surrounding its waters. Since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the explosion of tourism has made Santa Maria the top holiday destination in Cape Verde. The population of Santa Maria was typically 500 during the salt years but now as a fishing and main tourist destination the population was 6258 as of 2010. Though this figure has been increasing due to the popularity of the place. In recent years Santa Maria has been elevated from a fishing and salt town to a city.


Santa Maria has many bars, restaurants and clubs to cater for the ever-growing number of holiday makers. A number of these bars and restaurants provide live music and during peak season the town centre becomes a lively place with everyone eating and drinking. On the busy evenings extra tables and chairs are put out in the street creating an exciting and vibrant atmosphere. Sal Beach Club is near the centre and is popular during the daytime due to its central location and being on the beach. Expats hang out in Legends which is down the road from the famous Tam Tam bar and restaurant which has recently been re-opened. Blu Bar is another place for great live music and close by there is the very popular Ocean Café. Restaurants in Santa Maria can cater for all tastes and for all budgets. The further back you go from the sea the lower the price as a general rule of thumb. This is also where you can find some excellent local restaurants at very tasty prices! In town you are spoilt for choice so the best option is to walk around until you find a menu that gets your taste buds tingling. Popular choices include The Hungry Frog, Leonardo’s, Sabores Livros, Le Prive and Farolin to name but a few. There are also a number of very good restaurants on the beach including Barracuda, La Villa Beach Lounge and Cretcheu close to the pier. If you fancy staying out a little later there are several bars and clubs that stay open late. Try going to Calema or Pirata…The hotels on the west side of town also provide both excellent restaurants and a range of evening entertainment. Don’t forget to have a breakfast at Cape Fruit…you won’t be disappointed!


The town centre, hotels and many side streets are full of shops mainly catering to the ambling holiday maker that constantly fill the streets both day and night. The higher end shops are generally found on the west side of town and in some of the larger hotels. This is because the higher end clientele stay in the more upmarket five star hotels which are situated along the west strip. There are a number of trendy new shops on the road from the pier to town. Call into Bazof a popular shop along this strip or a little further on is Rip Curl for girls with the Rip Curl for men one street back. The town centre situated behind the pier and slightly to the east really brings everyone together. There are shops selling handbags, clothes, ornaments, paintings and local artwork some made in Cape Verde and some imported from west Africa. There are a few markets and shop where the locals entice you in off the street to see all the handmade items they have available for sale. Definitely worth exploring you may find something you fancy taking home and putting on your mantle-piece or on your wall!


The main attraction of Santa Maria is the excellent all year-round weather, the long white sandy beaches and the crystal clear turquoise sea. Most people spend much of their time relaxing in this most amazing environment. They may choose to spend their time sunbathing, reading, relaxing by the pool or cooling off in the warm bath like sea. If you need to re-charge your batteries, de-stress or unwind then this is the place to do it. Santa Maria does not just offer the three R’s – rest, relax and rejuvenation. There are also a whole host of activities and experiences that the young, the old and families can get involved in. One can learn about the islands history and the salt industry. Take a tour to the salt flats, see the conveyor system used and even float on the salt water like the dead sea. Take a trip out to the desert like conditions that surround Santa Maria spot some birds such as the Frigatebirds, Grey Heron, Sandlerling, Little Stint and Greenshank. Alternatively, take a swim in the lava pools known as Blue Eye or Buracona – please take a look at our 360 virtual tours! Another trip worth taking is to Viveiro botanical garden and zoo. Here you can wonder around the lush gardens and see all the different types of flora and fauna that grows in the archipelago. There is also an animal sanctuary and a garden centre. For the more adventurous there are also a whole host of activities to enjoy. There is horse riding with English speaking guides that can take you along magnificent beaches, across the salt mines or through the nature reserves. Alternatively, take to the sea with boat trips, surfing or even book a course to learn how to kitesurf! Surf boards can be hired from a number of local shops and there is usually enough swell to form the perfect beginner wave near the main beach in front of Santa Maria. If you feel confident you can go to Ponta Preta where the waves can get significantly bigger! If it is your first-time kitesurfing you need lessons. There are several companies that can book you in for a course and take you off to kitebeach for an experience you’ll never forget. If you prefer flatter water book in with Papaya boat who can take you to different spots with flat water – perfect conditions for both beginners and those that want to practice their tricks!