Santa Maria is a lively beach town located on the southern tip of Sal Island, Cape Verde. It is known for its stunning white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and vibrant nightlife, making it a popular destination for tourists seeking both relaxation and adventure.

The town offers a variety of activities for visitors, from water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing, to exploring the local culture and cuisine. Additionally, Santa Maria is also a great base for exploring the other islands of Cape Verde, as it has good transport links and a range of accommodation options.

Despite its popularity, Santa Maria has managed to retain its charm and laid-back atmosphere. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and there is a strong sense of community. Whether you are looking to unwind on the beach, indulge in some water sports, or explore the local culture, Santa Maria has something to offer everyone.

Attractions & Things to do in Santa Maria

1. Praia de Santa Maria

Praia de Santa Maria is the main beach in Santa Maria and is renowned for its beautiful, golden sands and clear turquoise waters. This beach is a hub for water sports and beach activities, making it an ideal spot for anyone looking to get active or simply relax.

Travel Tip: Arrive early to claim a prime spot on the beach, especially during peak tourist season.

2. Kite Beach

As its name suggests, Kite Beach is the go-to location for kite surfing in Santa Maria. The strong winds and open waters create the perfect conditions for this exciting water sport.

Travel Tip: If you’re new to kite surfing, numerous schools around the area offer lessons for beginners.

3. Ponta Preta

Ponta preta beach and dune in Santa Maria, Sal Island, Cape Verde, Africa.
Ponta preta beach and dune in Santa Maria, Sal Island, Cape Verde, Africa.

Ponta Preta is a stunning area known for its big waves and surf opportunities. It’s less crowded than Praia de Santa Maria and offers a different, more tranquil beach experience.

Travel Tip: The waves can get very strong, so this beach is best suited for experienced surfers.

4. Pedra Lume Salt Crater

Beautiful view of Pedra de Lume salines,  Salt Crater, Sal island , Cape Verde, Africa.
Beautiful view of Pedra de Lume salines, Salt Crater, Sal island , Cape Verde, Africa.

This is an old volcano in which sea water filters into craters, evaporates, and leaves salt behind. This is also a chance to try a therapeutic salt bath.

Travel Tip: Don’t forget to bring water shoes, as the salt can be quite harsh on the feet.

5. The Pier

The pier in Santa Maria is not just a docking point for fishing boats; it’s also a gathering spot for locals and tourists. Here, you can witness the daily fish market where freshly caught fish are sold straight from the boats.

Travel Tip: Bring a camera to capture the vibrant, local atmosphere.

6. Morabeza Beach Club

For those looking to experience the local nightlife, the Morabeza Beach Club offers music, dancing, and a great selection of drinks by the beach.

Travel Tip: The club is most lively on weekends, so plan your visit accordingly.

7. Viveiro Botanical Garden

This botanical garden is a peaceful oasis, perfect for those interested in flora. It’s an excellent way to escape from the more crowded areas and enjoy a quieter aspect of island life.

Travel Tip: Don’t forget to carry mosquito repellent when visiting.

8. Santa Maria Town Square

Santa Maria/Cape Verde Cafe Criolo in Sal.
Santa Maria/Cape Verde Cafe Criolo in Sal.

The town square is the cultural heart of Santa Maria, offering a variety of restaurants, shops, and live performances.

Travel Tip: Visit during the evening when the area comes alive with music and dancing.

9. Shark Bay

Just a short distance from Santa Maria, Shark Bay offers the unique opportunity to see Lemon Sharks in their natural habitat.

Travel Tip: The best time to see the sharks is during low tide, so plan your trip accordingly.

10. Funana Casa da Cultura

This cultural center is the place to immerse yourself in local traditions and art forms, including the Funana dance.

Travel Tip: Check out their schedule in advance to catch a live performance.

Unique Activities in Santa Maria

1. Sea Turtle Watching Experience

Sea Turtle Watching Experience.
Sea Turtle Watching Experience.

Join a unique nighttime experience watching sea turtles in their natural habitat. With a small group, you’ll have the chance to observe these majestic creatures up close, guided by experts who ensure the turtles’ safety and well-being.

2. Two-Hour 4WD Buggy Desert Adventure

Two-Hour 4WD Buggy Desert Adventure.
Two-Hour 4WD Buggy Desert Adventure.

Set out on a thrilling desert adventure in a 4WD buggy. Over two hours, explore the stunning landscapes of Santa Maria, driving through sand dunes and rocky terrains, all while enjoying the rush of the ride.

Day Trips from Santa Maria

1. Praia

Praça Alexandre Albuquerque park in the capital city of Praia on Cabo Verde islands and beautiful fountain on a warm summer day.
Praça Alexandre Albuquerque park in the capital city of Praia on Cabo Verde islands and beautiful fountain on a warm summer day.

Take a short flight or ferry ride to the capital city of Cape Verde, Praia. Explore the colonial history, bustling markets, and rich cultural diversity.

Travel Tip: Make sure to visit the Plateau neighborhood for its historic sites.

2. São Vicente

The island of São Vicente, particularly its capital Mindelo, is known for its vibrant music scene and Carnival.

Travel Tip: Try to time your visit to coincide with a music festival for an unforgettable experience.

3. Fogo Island

The effect of the evening sun on the volcanic terrain gives the sand a colorful appearance in the Volcano National park found on the island of Fogo, Cabo Verde.
The effect of the evening sun on the volcanic terrain gives the sand a colorful appearance in the Volcano National park found on the island of Fogo, Cabo Verde.

Known for its volcanic landscapes, Fogo Island offers a dramatically different environment to explore.

Travel Tip: Don’t forget sturdy hiking boots if you plan to trek up the volcano, and always go with a certified guide for safety reasons.

Where to stay in Santa Maria

Santa Maria, located in Cape Verde, is a city that boasts a plethora of hotels catering to various preferences and budgets. With its captivating beaches and vibrant culture, the city attracts numerous tourists every year. The hotels in Santa Maria are designed to provide comfort, luxury, and memorable experiences to their guests. Whether you’re looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or something tailored to specific needs like family or couples, Santa Maria has got you covered.

1. Best Reviewed Hotel

Hotel Morabeza (★★★★)

  • Description: Located in Santa Maria, Hotel Morabeza offers accommodation with 3 outdoor swimming pools. The property has a fitness centre, game room, 3 bars, and free WiFi. The staff is known for being exceptionally helpful and kind.
  • Price: €99 per night
  • Rating: 8.8 (Fabulous)

2. Most Luxurious Hotel

Hotel LIVVO Budha Beach (★★★★)

  • Description: Situated in Santa Maria, this hotel offers a terrace, shared lounge, bar, and free WiFi. It is known for its beautiful location and friendly staff.
  • Price: €123 per night
  • Rating: 8.5 (Very good)

3. Budget Hotel

Hotel MiraBela

  • Description: Hotel MiraBela is a 3-star bed and breakfast located in the centre of Santa Maria, within 100 meters from the beach. It offers free WiFi access and rooms with a balcony.
  • Price: €38 per night
  • Rating: 8.9 (Fabulous)

4. Hotel for Family

Hotel Da Luz (★★★)

  • Description: Hotel Da Luz features an outdoor swimming pool, garden, shared lounge, and terrace. It is known for its proximity to the beach and good value.
  • Price: €56 per night
  • Rating: 8.4 (Very good)

5. Hotel for Couples

Ocean Suites

  • Description: Boasting a terrace, bar, and views of the city, Ocean Suites is located just 100 meters from Praia de Santa Maria. The suites are spacious and comfortable.
  • Price: €105 per night
  • Rating: 9.4 (Superb)

6. Hotel for Solo Travellers

Hotel Dunas de Sal (★★★★)

  • Description: Located just 150 meters from Santa Maria beach, this hotel is set in a garden with 2 swimming pools. It features a spa, gym, and is a short distance from Sal International Airport.
  • Price: €89 per night
  • Rating: 8.2 (Very good)

Did you know? Facts about Santa Maria

  • Santa Maria is located in the southern part of the island municipality of Sal, Cape Verde, on the south coast, about 16 km south of the Amílcar Cabral International Airport, and 20 km south of the island capital Espargos.
  • It was founded in 1830 for the production of salt, and up to 30,000 tons of salt were shipped from Santa Maria each year.
  • The town went into a deep decline after Brazil imposed a high tax on imported salt in 1887, but recovered in 1920 when a Portuguese investor resumed salt production, which continued until 1984.
  • In 1967, Belgian industrialists and engineers Georges Vynckier and Marguerite Massart opened Cape Verde’s first resort hotel named Morabeza.
  • After 1986, tourism became an important industry on the island, and many resorts and hotels were built in the southern and southwestern coastal areas near Santa Maria.
  • In 2017, 48.2% of the country’s available beds were on the island of Sal.
  • Santa Maria has an arid climate, with the highest mean temperature in September (27°C) and the lowest in January (22°C). Annual rainfall is very minimal at 76 mm.
  • The city’s main square is Praça Marcelo Leitão, and other points of interest include Praia de Santa Maria beach, Ponta de Vera Cruz lighthouse, and Santa Maria Saltpans, a protected landscape.
  • Notable people from Santa Maria include boxer Miguel Dias, footballer Rodirlei José Ascensão Duarte (better known as Rody), colonial governor Manuel Antonio Martins, and athlete Ruben Sança.
  • Tourism in Cape Verde is a significant part of the economy of Santa Maria.

FAQ about Santa Maria

What is the best time to visit Santa Maria?

The best time to visit Santa Maria is during the dry season, from November to June, when the weather is pleasant and there is less chance of rain.

How to get to Santa Maria?

The nearest airport to Santa Maria is the Amílcar Cabral International Airport, which is located about 16 km north of the city. From there, you can take a taxi or a rental car to reach Santa Maria.

Are there any resorts or hotels in Santa Maria?

Yes, there are several resorts and hotels in and around Santa Maria, including the Morabeza Hotel, which was the first resort hotel in Cape Verde.

What are the main attractions in Santa Maria?

The main attractions in Santa Maria include the Praia de Santa Maria beach, Ponta de Vera Cruz lighthouse, and Santa Maria Saltpans. The city’s main square, Praça Marcelo Leitão, is also a popular spot.

Is it safe to travel to Santa Maria?

Yes, Santa Maria is generally considered to be safe for travelers. However, it is always advisable to take normal precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

What is the climate like in Santa Maria?

Santa Maria has an arid climate, with very little rainfall throughout the year. The temperature ranges from 22°C in January to 27°C in September.

What are the options for dining in Santa Maria?

Santa Maria has a variety of dining options, from local Cape Verdean cuisine to international dishes. Seafood is a specialty in the area.

What activities can be done in Santa Maria?

Santa Maria offers a variety of activities, including water sports like windsurfing, kitesurfing, and snorkeling, as well as land activities like quad biking and hiking.