Sal (216 km2) is one of Cape Verde’s easternmost islands, along with Boavista and Maio. It is very flat with very few mountains: Monte Grande, the highest (406 m), in the north, Monte Leste and Monte Leão, on the west coast, and Monte Cagarral and Serra Negra, on the east coast. Plains of sand and stone cover most of the surface, along with large stretches of dunes in the southern half. Although the climate is arid, monsoon-like rains make an occasional appearance. Wind is a constant feature for most of the year, particularly the trade winds from the northeast.
The population of 25 657 inhabitants (2010) is mainly concentrated in Espargos, the capital, and Santa María, a leading tourist resort. The economy is largely based on the services sector (tourism and airport), agriculture is almost non-existent, livestock farming is minimal and fishing, despite being an important resource, is little practised. Santa María is located in the southern tip and is the main tourist centre, although others sectors of the island are also being developed.
Sal derives its name (sal or salt) from the economic importance of the salt mines at Pedra de Lume, located inside a caldera, and in Santa María. Nowadays, Pedra de Lume is the only mine left in operation, basically as a tourist and scenic attraction, while the salt works at Santa María have been virtually abandoned.