The second biggest town on Sal, Santa Maria is situated at the large bay at the south side of the island. The bay has the by far largest sand beach of the island and due to it´s southern orientation is sheltered from most of the big swells that mainly come from westerly or northerly directions. This was used by the salt manufacturers a century and a half ago who built there a pier to load salt ships. At this time Santa Maria came to some importance and neatly coloured portugese colonial style houses and cobblestone streets remind of that welathy period.
Now a thuna canning factory and the only real tourist resorts on Cabo Verde give work and income to the locals. Most of the tourists who come to the 3 main hotels just outside town stay at the resorts and only occasionaly come to town. So the very relaxed atmosphere in town stays untouched as only a limited number of strangers venture for the local life. Most of them are surfers / windsurfers / kiters who like to sozialize and enjoy local food and nightlife. A great number of these strangers stay at the small hostals in town or have rented an appartement.
Life is pretty basic outside the big hotels as there are just some basic food shops in town that have a very limited range of goods. If You´re lucky, You manage to get fresh fish directly from the fishermen at the pier. Restaurants exist but again have a limited menue. Good possibility to taste the local food. There is a number of bars for having a drink and mix with locals. The melange of local brewed rhum, roots reggae music and the very friendly locals (especially the female ones) make for a very exciting nightlife. As party allways starts very late and the rhum is a killer, it´s sometimes very hard to get up in time the next morning.
If You happen to be in town during carneval time, in any case join the festivities, even when that means that You´ll miss the morning session the next day. Carneval is one of the most important things on Cabo Verde and even in small Santa Maria is THE party of the year.
windsurfing: the large bay is windsurfing heaven for intermediates and freestyle freaks. Almost year round constand trades in the range of force 4 to 5 blow sideoffshore over the flat sea. Perfect for cruisin´ and tricks. At the east end of the bay is a pointbreak with mellow waves. Just a couple of rounds upwind and You´ll find that nice playground to train Your jumps and try the first rides on waves. In front of the hotels are two windsurfing resorts where You can rent good and adequate stuff. Besides the rentals they offer teaching and spot surfaries to Rife for their clients. You can book Your all inclusive windsurf holiday via the usual travel agencies. And if Your board has suffered on the sharp reefs somewhere on the island, You can get some help in repairing it at the resorts. Attention, there is no windsurf shops on the whole chain of islands, so bring backup equippement.
kiteboarding: paradise for intermediates and experts. The large beach and the medium force of winds make this place a dream destination. Just be carefull not to get too far out with the sideoffshore winds. The resorts have boats but they do not allways work.
surfing: as said before, the bay is very sheltered from the usual wets to northwest swells. Only on the biggest days there breaks a nice one just beside the pier. If You have no car, You can walk to a mediocre brake at the western end of the bay which gets some waves. Or You walk to Punta Preta, which will take You about half an hour.
other activities: there is fantastic diving destinations within maximum an hour of drive on a boat. Diving schools and possibilities to rent equipement at the hotels.
For more infos check out the info board. More pics at the galleries about windsurfing, the town, the beach, the people and the carneval.