From Kenya's white sands to South Africa's penguin beach, chosen from a selection of our Africa guidebooks, these are some of the best beaches in Africa.
The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for visiting the world.
Some 75km west of Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay (known locally as J Bay) is jammed during the holiday seasons when thousands of visitors throng the beaches, surfing shops and fast-food outlets. For surfing aficionados, however, this is a trifling detail; J Bay is said by some to be one of the world’s top three surfing spots.
If you’ve come to surf, head for the break at Super Tubes, east of the main bathing beach, which produces an impressive and consistent swirling tube of whitewater, attracting surfers from all over the world throughout the year. Riding inside the vortex of a wave is considered the ultimate experience by surf buffs, but should only be attempted if you’re an expert.
Anse Source d'Argent is set on the island of La Digue, famous for the best beaches in Africa and granite rock formations. Anse Source d'Argent is especially renowned for its unique shoreline boulders and sparklingly clear waters. The beach is also a hot spot for snorkelling, diving and swimming.
To make sure you're one of the very few people on a beach in Seychelles, head to Anse Georgette. This secluded stretch of sand is only accessible by water taxi or through the one resort nearby. The bright white sand leads into a turquoise ocean – hire a snorkel to explore the underwater colours.
Agadir’s beach is one of the best beaches in Africa: a wide expanse of fine sand, which extends an impressive distance to the south of the town, is swept each morning and patrolled by mounted police. Along its course are a number of cafés which rent out sunbeds and umbrellas. The ocean – it should be stressed – has a very strong Atlantic undertow and is definitely not suitable for children unless closely supervised.
Even adults are advised not to go out swimming alone. The northern end of the beach has lifeguards on duty from June 15 to September 15 8 am to 7 pm daily, and a system of flags to tell you how dangerous it is to swim.
One of the best beaches in Africa, Tiwi rates as genuine tropical paradise material and attracts lots of families down from Nairobi. The reef lies just offshore, and there are good snorkelling opportunities at high tide, especially at the northern end.
Explore Kenya's vast national parks with our tailor-made trip to Bush To Beach Safari. After a few days of waking up early to spot wildlife, relax on the fine sandy beaches of Diani in the Mombasa area.
The beach at Sidi Moussa D’Aglou (Aglou Plage) is 17km from Tiznit, along a barren, scrub-lined road. It’s an isolated expanse of sand with body-breaking Atlantic surf. It has a dangerous undertow and is watched over in summer by military police coastguards, who only allow swimming if conditions are safe.
Surfing can be good but you have to pick the right spots. Quite a few Moroccans come down in summer, with a trickle of Europeans in winter. Between times, the place is very quiet. There are a couple of marabout tombs on the beach and, about 1.5km to the north, a tiny (and rather pretty) troglodyte fishing village, with a hundred or so primitive cave huts, dug into the rocks.
The traditional, palm-thatched fishing village of Matemwe, on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, has a large, palm-fringed beach lined with a few quiet resorts. Just offshore is the Mnemba Atoll, home to some of the best scuba diving in East Africa. Sadly, the bucolic charm of the village and beach might not last much longer, as the walled enclosures of the larger resorts are beginning to intrude.
Spend 14 days in Tanzania with the perfect tailor-made Safari and Beach Holiday: arriving at Kilimanjaro airport, spend the first 7 days finding the Big 5 and enjoying national parks and Maasai villages. The remaining 7 days can be spent lazing on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar.
It might have tempting little coves and clear, cool water, but the main reason to visit Boulders Beach is to see its growing colony of endangered African penguins. The penguins rule the roost here – you’ll be sharing the waves and the sand with them. However, to get really close, follow the undulating boardwalk that leads to the penguin colony itself, a noisy, flapping mass of black and white.
On this tailor-made trip to Cape Town, you will visit South Africa's most breathtaking city, as you follow the circular route around the stunning peninsula. Make the most of deserted sandy beaches, quaint towns and rich wine lands before you fly to Kapama Private Game Reserve for an encounter with the Big Five.
Given Cape Town’s seductive summer climate, visitors are often surprised by the chilly water temperatures at the popular bathing beach - Camps Bay. However, despite the cool water, this is one of the best beaches in Africa.
The beach is very popular with both locals and tourists, and it is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and socializing. Camps Bay Beach is also famous for its stunning views of the Twelve Apostles mountain range and its white sand.
Lamu is something of a myth factory. Conventionally labelled an “Arab trading town”, it is actually one of the last viable remnants of the Swahili civilization that was the dominant cultural force along the coast until the arrival of the British.
In the 1960s, Lamu’s unique blend of beaches, gentle Islamic ambience, funky old town and a host population well used to strangers was a recipe which took over where Marrakesh left off, and it acquired a reputation as Kenya’s Kathmandu. The end of the African hippie trail and a stopover on the way to India. Shaggy foreigners were only allowed to visit on condition they stayed in lodgings and didn’t camp on the beach.
Initially, Port St John is quite confusing – it meanders into three distinct localities, some kilometres apart. First Beach, where the river meets the sea, is along the main road from the post office and offers good fishing, but is unsafe for swimming.
Second Beach, 5km west along a tarred road off a right turn past the post office, is a fabulous swimming beach with a lagoon; it has a couple of nice places to stay close by. The area along the river around the Pondoland Bridge has some accommodation popular with anglers.
Port St Johns also has good fishing and swimming beaches, a wider choice of accommodation than anywhere else on the Wild Coast, and a good tarred road all the way into town.
Famed for the variety of seashells washed up on its beach, the flyblown town of Ras Sudr (or Ras Sidr) is marred by a reeking oil refinery that doesn’t seem to bother the middle-class Cairenes who frequent its holiday resorts.
This part of the coast is so windy it is often overlooked by travellers who seek the calmer reef-fringed shores of Sharm el-Sheikh, although the year-round cross-shore gusts make it a haven for kiteboarders and windsurfers.
Experience Cairo with our tailor-made Nile cruise. Highlights include Karnak temple, Valley of Kings, Hatshepsut temple and an optional visit to Abu Simbel. Spend your last night in fascinating Cairo.
From skydiving to windsurfing, shopping, drinking and dining – you can do it all on this one of the best beaches in Africa. It's pretty crowded with boats so swimming is near impossible, but it's great for those with a penchant for watersports or anyone looking for a hedonistic beach break.
Stay in four different areas on this tailor-made trip to Delightful Mauritius - first the South Coast, then the West Coast, then Chamarel in the centre of the island, before spending the last few days relaxing on the beach of the popular North Coast. Mauritius has so much more to offer than just gorgeous beaches!
Diani Beach ought to fulfil most dreams about the archetypal palm-fringed beach. The sand is soft and brilliantly white; the sea is turquoise and usually crystal-clear; the reef is a safe thirty-minute swim or a ten-minute boat ride away; and, arching overhead, the coconut palms create pools of cool shade and keep up a perpetual slow sway as the breeze rustles through their fronds.
Dar’s nicest beaches, and making do without the breakwaters that have scarred Jambiani and Kunduchi to the north, are Mikadi and Mjimwema, just a few kilometres south of the city. Somehow, so far, both of them have eluded a tidal wave of development, and offer quite a meditative experience: perfect if you’re after a bit of peace and quiet.
The string of coves at São Francisco, about 13km northeast of Praia, is worth the effort required to get there. The first you reach on the track is the biggest, dotted with palms and a couple of villas built further back, but the furthest to the south is the best, with steps for the arthritic ex-President Pereira to climb down for his swims. There’s clean sand and good waves, though take food and drink, as there’s nothing at the beach.
The beach at Varela is stunning, arguably outdoing Cap Skiring across the Senegalese border, with gorgeous swimming, pine trees and low cliffs. As a place to come for the weekend, it’s a favourite with affluent locals and Guinea-Bissau’s small ex-pat community. Despite this, it’s relatively quiet, thanks to the extremely rough road from São Domingos.
Southeast of El Haouaria at the very beginning of Cap Bon's east coast, hides this area's most beautiful and one of the best beaches in Africa, Ras ed Drak – known as El Haouaria Plage these days. The white sands are sheltered here and given an extra dimension by the mountain's craggy shoulder.
This island has a captivatingly desolate interior, and a necklace of spectacular white beaches all around. Most of them are entirely free of development (and, for that matter, of shade-giving trees). The one at Santa Monica is particularly long and beautiful. It’s a great island to explore in a rented 4x4.
The sands here are undeniably pretty – spectacular, even, along the more deserted stretches – and the sea is warm and safe, with a cool breeze during the day. Bronzing and bathing are the main activities, though you can also rent jet skis and sailboards from the more expensive hotels.
Île de Kassa is the site of the sandy, palm-fringed Soro beach, the largest on the islands, though its popularity means that it gets crowded on Sundays in the dry season – beware of thieves scouring the beach. Spending a few days on an eight-kilometre-long Kassa gives you the opportunity to explore the secluded beaches along the west shore, and the settlements that dot its lovely forests.
It only takes an hour or so to walk to Kassa village from Soro Beach and you’re likely to see monkeys and birds along the way.
If white sand, clear waters and a turquoise horizon are what you're after visiting Sakalava Bay is one of the best things to do in Madagascar for you. This stunning beach is one of the best beaches in Africa for windsurfing and sunbathing, and if you're lucky you could be sharing the sands with lemurs and turtles.
Tropical island beaches, lush rainforest, stunning wildlife, and the bright red clay houses of Antananarivo await you on this tailor-made trip to Madagascar. Get your fill of culture in the capital Tana, snap beguiling wildlife, and revive and reboot on stunning white-sand beaches.
Hemmed in between the wild Atlantic and the rugged Hartmann Mountains, the remote northern section of the Skeleton Coast is the stuff of National Geographic documentaries. It's few visitors are privileged to experience the immense, desolate beauty of unworldly landscapes.
A scalloped sea of huge “roaring” dunes; the moonscape and “clay castles” of the Hoarusib River Valley; and the endless bleak coastline pounded by surf and sprinkled with bleached whalebones, rusting shipwrecks and scuttling ghost crabs.
Bazaruto Island is the largest island in the Bazaruto archipelago off the coast of Mozambique in southern Africa. The island is known for the best beaches in Africa with pristine turquoise waters and flourishing marine life.
The island is encircled by coral reefs, which makes it a popular diving and snorkelling site. You can explore the colourful coral gardens and encounter a diverse range of sea creatures, such as dolphins, whales and sea turtles.
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