Santa Maria is located on Cape Verde in the very south of the island of Sal and is the undisputed tourist stronghold of the island. With a fantastic beach and well-developed hotel facilities, the life of Sal takes place here.
The city of Santa Maria is located on the south coast of Sal about 20km from the island’s capital Espargos. It is the largest town and the tourist center of the entire island. Only about a quarter of an hour by car from the airport, Santa Maria presents itself as a dreamlike – and exclusive – symbiosis of sky, sun, beach and sea. Not a single tree clouds the play of colors from heavenly blue and sandy white.
The heart of Tourism on Sal
In the early 19th century, Santa Maria housed workers in the region’s salt fields; after the decline of the salt industry, it became the heart of tourism on Sal. The sun-drenched southern coast of Sal is home to the largest hotel resorts in all of Cape Verde, protected from the ever-present wind behind glass walls and thick hedges.
During the day, when the sun burns down from the sky, Santa Maria is as good as deserted. During the midday siesta, hardly anyone can be found on the street. Only in the afternoon it becomes bearable and the closer the sun sinks towards the horizon, the more souvenir stores, snack restaurants, bars, guesthouses and internet cafes open their doors.
From Salt Mining to Tourism
What remains of the former salt mining industry and has become something of a landmark in Santa Maria is the weigh house at the old harbor. It is nestled between small restaurants, pretty stores and pastel-colored houses.
This is where the salt from Pedra de Lume used to be weighed before being sent on its long journey across the sea. Today you can find souvenir stores in the weigh house. At the harbor you can also watch the fishermen who bring their catch ashore and process it right on the spot.
The main attraction of Santa Maria is the dreamlike, fine sandy beach, which winds around Sal’s southern tip over a distance of 8km. In addition to swimming and bathing, boat trips and water sports are available at Santa Maria beach. Surfing and diving schools reach almost to the water’s edge.
In the excellent restaurants in Santa Maria you can dine on excellent fish straight from the sea. As a digestif, a Cape Verdean caipirinha (just like the Brazilian original, only with local grog instead of sugarcane schnapps) is recommended in one of the numerous bars and discos in the hotel complexes.