Sal Rei Holidays
Dreaming of year-round sunshine, paradise beaches and a laid-back island lifestyle? The Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa, boast some of the best beach holiday climate in the world, with year-round warm sunshine. Sal Rei is located on the tiny island of Boa Vista (which means ‘beautiful view’), and in spite of its sleepy village feel is actually the island’s capital and home to 12,000 residents.
It’s the combination of peace and activity that makes holidays to Sal Rei so special – as well as those stunning long white sandy beaches of course! Sink into the chilled out pace of life, enjoy the ocean views, or get stuck into the island’s wide choice of sports and activities, from quad biking and hiking, to windsurfing and diving. Then watch the sun set with a traditional Ponche cocktail in hand before hitting the livelier bars and discos for a good time. Heaven…
Life in Sal Rei revolves around the beach, but that doesn’t mean sunbathing is all that’s on the menu. There are attractions away from the beach as well. Head inland to the desert to try some exhilarating quad biking or explore the Viana desert, with its dramatic dunes and famous Santa Maria shipwreck. You can even try sandboarding – a relatively new sport that involves sliding down sand dunes on something similar to a snowboard!
The town of Sal Rei is a lovely place to explore, with colourful markets and some interesting historical sites like the large church. The island’s culture is a blend of African and Portuguese influences and you’ll find that reflected in the crafts, food and drink on offer. There’s also Jewish communities in the town’s history and a visit to the Jewish cemetery is a fascinating walk.
Boat trips from Sal Rei harbour are a popular activity. Head off into the open ocean on a whale-watching excursions, discover the beauty of the uninhabited islands off the coast of Boa Vista, or view the captivating world beneath the waves with a trip on a glass-bottomed boat. You can also join a deep-sea fishing trip or head out to some of the fantastic off-shore dive sites.
A page right out of treasure island, the Cape Verde islands are top producers of grogue, or grog in pirate speech. A strong rum made from distilled sugarcane, this traditional beverage is extremely popular with the locals, and we can see why! For something a little more suited to lazy cocktails on the beach, try it mixed in a “pontche” (punch to you and me) combining the grogue with sugar cane molasses, citrus fruits and cloves. Variations of pontche include orange grogue and pontche de coco, along with almost any fruity combination you can come up with, trust us pontche is about to become your cocktail of choice.
The Cape Verde cuisine is a collision of Portuguese and West African flavours. Taking a stroll through the markets in Sal Rei you’ll see many familiar fruit and vegetables from south western Europe, with the exciting addition of more exotic fair like fresh local coconut, mangos, papaya, yam and guava. Unsurprisingly for an island destination, fish is also a popular feature on menus, and any fans of fresh seafood will find themselves in heaven here. Squid, lobster, prawns, limpets, and all manner of fish have been hauled from the sea and expertly crafted into local dishes which would put any Michelin chef to shame.
Cachupa is the national dish of the Cape Verde Islands, a must try when you visit. The basic dish is vegetarian friendly, a pleasing combination of mashed maize, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, green bananas, onions, and manioc, but many varieties exist with a range of meat and fish added either on request or depending on the taste of the chef.
For something t snack on, Chamuças, the Capeverdean version of samosas, are perfect for a quick bite or to pop into beach picnics. While those with a sweet tooth can experiment with the many fruity deserts unique to the Cape Verde. Finish of your meal with an indulgent Fogo coffee pudding, or the refreshingly simple doce de papaya.
Sal Rei makes a great family holiday destination. The lack of mass tourism in such a small community has enhanced the safety on these picturesque islands, and in Boa Vista crime is exceptionally low. Children are adored in the local culture and hotels frequently go to great pains to entertain the little ones. From young and friendly animation teams to kids clubs in many hotels, keeping the kids entertained is easy while you immerse yourself in the “no stress” nature of the island. Sal Rei is particularly good for families, with some excellent beaches, a fabulous local market, and plenty of places to eat that are able to cater for more fussy palettes. It’s also the best spot to reach family friendly adventures like visiting the Santa Maria ship wreck, a trip into Viana Desert with its’ rolling sand dunes and waving palm trees, or a night-time excursion to watch sea turtles hatching! Older kids can take advantage of the great waves for kite surfing, wind surfing, or just plain surfing! As well as snorkelling beyond the break. Younger children can paddle and build sand castles to their hearts content. For a laid back family holiday Sal Rei is the perfect choice.
Action & Adventure
Sal Rei is a, possibly surprisingly, brilliant destination for those looking to get the adrenaline pumping. Not The beaches of Boa Vista fantastic for water sports, from surfing to kitesurfing, the windsurfing world championships are even held on the island! The strong winds and excellent break makes for world class waves on which to test your metal, or give a new sport a go. With many of the island roads requiring a 4X4 to traverse, quadbikes are a great way to go on an of the road tour. Rev yourself up and delve into the rolling sand dunes of the Viana Desert, just don’t get lost!
If you fancy exploring, island hopping is a great way to experience the astonishing differences between the Cape Verde Islands, some lush some lunar in landscape. Top of your island hitlist should be a trip to Fogo, meaning Fire. Home to an active volcano, which last erupted in 2014, you can hike all the way to the peak and look out at the view from the highest point of the entire islands chain.
Back on Boa Vista, Sal Rei is a great base from which to explore the incredible nature of the islands. Hump Back wales can be seen, often from the shore line, while there are some excellent dive schools and snorkelling expedition allowing you to explore the vibrant underwater world which surrounds Boa Vista. Perhaps the most incredible experience, if you are lucky, is witnessing the hatching of sea turtles. Most likely to occur at night, ask your hotel for a guide to the top hatching sites on the island.
Sal Rei’s beaches are breath-taking. Sand dunes, long stretches of soft white sand, and clear waters to swim in. The main beach, Praia de Cruz, is a lovely sheltered bay, protected from the winds and waves by the Ilheu de Sal Rei island just offshore. With temperatures rarely dipping below 24°C every day is a beach day on Sal Rei! The waters are perfect for swimming but you’ll also find lots of watersports on offer.
Diving in the turquoise waters is especially popular, where you can see marine life such as sea turtles, hammerhead sharks and manta rays, as well as thousands of colourful fish. The whole island of Sal Rei is small enough to be easily explored, and with over 35 miles of beaches to choose from you can sample a different one every day. One of the most spectacular is Praia de Chaves, just south of Sal Rei.
As the Capital of the island, Sal Rei is the spot on Boa Vista to go for evening entertainment. True this is no Ibiza Town, and you won’t find a huge array of international clubs pumping out top DJ’s, but a night in Sal Rei is a night out unlike any other. The bars and tavernas are the place to be, with tourists and local people all converging in the warm glow of these social hubs. Live music is common, particularly near the old harbour, with the multiple cultural influences of the Cape Verde yet again coming through in a blended Afro-Portuguese-Brazilian musical fusions which dance across the night sky. There may not be all night clubbing, but the night spent out in Sal Rei passes time surprisingly quickly and you might find yourself amazed to discover it is suddenly the early hours of the morning and you are running out of time to finish your night with a moonlit wander along the beach. Night time is also your best chance to catch the magical hatching of turtle eggs on the beach. Most frequent in May and September, ask your hotel for a guide to the most popular hatching spots.
An exotic desert island setting is the perfect setting for a couples holiday. And while the Caribbean and Canary islands draw the crowds, the Cape Verde Islands are an unspoilt romantic treasure waiting for you to discover. If you’re looking for stunning beaches on which to spend lazy days wth your partner, Boa Vista’s 55km of sandy shore are guaranteed to unclude that perfect private beach for the two of you. Praia de Estoril is a lovely example, just a short stroll from the centre of Sal Rei and served by a number of beach bars and café’s, keeping your cocktail glasses topped up with the tropical taste of ponchet as you relax in each others company.
Sporty couples can also enjoy the many water sports on offer around Sal Rei, while the adventurous pair can explore the rolling sand dunes of Viana Desert, best seen by quadbike, or walk to the mysterious hulking ship wreck the Santa Maria. Whisk yourselves away from civilisation completely and take a boat to the isolated islet of Ilheu de Sal Rei, with its’ poignant lonely lighthouse and stunning empty beaches - your own island for the day. Back in the town centre, don’t forget to peruse the market, great for little gifts and local art. In the evening treating each other to a delicious meal is easy, alternating from the town centre to a beach front setting and testing out all the local dishes, don’t forget to share a desert! To top it off wander along the shoreline when it is bathed in moonlight, before heading back to the comfort of your hotel. Take your other half to an island paradise and treat them to a stay in Sal Rei.
The Cape Verde islands in general have a complex and unique culture. Influenced by Portuguese, Brazilian and West African cultures, the Cape Verde has developed a personality, and history, of it’s very own. Within the Cape Verde culture, each island has its’ own unique derivation and in Sal Rei the history and art of Boa Vista truly flourishes. In the centre of town there are the old colonial buildings, and historic harbour where you will frequently find live local music being played by island artists. The market, occurring daily but best on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is a great way to spend a morning admiring local crafts and soaking in the buzz of everyday island life. Check out the Centro de Artes for exhibitions of local art and photography, as well as jewellery and craft shows. This arts centre also has a 350 seat theatre that hosts concert and dance performances, local culture in motion.
From Sal Rei you can explore other aspects of the islands history. From the lonely remains of the Santa Maria ship wreck, to the spooky abandoned town of Curral Velho, or the colourful former capital Rabil, tours to the cultural sites of Boa Vista are easily arranged from Sal Rei.