Whether you want to get active, relax in laidback luxury or spot incredible wildlife, there's an African beach destination for you. Here's our pick of seven of the best.
Busua, Ghana – a surfer’s paradise
Busua is now Ghana's top surfing spot © Michael Vogt, Wikimedia Commons
If you are looking to explore uncrowded surf in relaxed beach towns, then Ghana is perfect, and the short, scenic stretch of coast west of Takoradi is the centre of it all. Some 20km from Takoradi is the colourful fishing village of Busua, the highlight of Ghana's nascent surfing scene, following the opening of two surf shops along its beach. Strung along a wide sandy beach for about 1km, the town has long rivalled Kokrobite as the ultimate Ghanaian beach chill-out venue and offers surfing lessons, rental, and fun waves for beginners to intermediates. Regardless of your experience level, surfing in Ghana is a great way to engage with the locals in a tropical paradise.
North Island, Seychelles – for laidback luxury
The island is exclusively for guests of the North Island Lodge, with access by helicopter © A Johnson, Wilderness Premier, North Island
The Seychelles is the ultimate sun, sea and sand destination, with the many beachfront resorts of the islands geared up to cater for idyllic, luxury holidays, but nowhere does it better than North Island Lodge, built on the eponymous island. With secluded, self-contained villas that lead down to pure, white-sand beaches, a holistic spa, personal butlers and a chef who designs the menu around each guest, North Island takes barefoot luxury into another realm. Its unhurried, tranquil atmosphere and the combination of seclusion, location, accommodation, services and facilities provides the epitome of sophisticated, yet simple, luxury.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – a city retreat
The beaches just out of the centre feel a world away from city life © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library
Tanzania may be the ultimate African safari destination, but the beach resorts south of Dar es Salaam are the perfect place to relax after your wildlife adventure or as an escape from the bustling port city. Separated from the city centre by the main harbour entrance and linked to it by a regular motor ferry, the coast immediately south here feels several worlds apart from the city rather than a mere kilometre or two away.
Western Area Peninsula, Sierra Leone – for off-the-beaten-path gems
Bureh Beach is a well-established favourite along the peninsula © National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone
Each beach in Sierra Leone has a character and style of its own, and without the high-rise developments that ruin stretches of sand elsewhere, they are pristine, undeveloped, and you'll likely have one all to yourself. The Western Area Peninsula provides 40km of bone-white sands stretching so far it feels like you could wander them forever; wooden boats bobbing on placid waters beneath forest-covered mountains disappearing into the mist; and bathtub-warm water to bob about in.
Loango National Park, Gabon – for wildlife watching
Loango National Park is the jewel in the crown of Gabon’s 13 parks and offers one of the world’s most exhilarating safari experiences © Beat Germann, Dreamstime
With more than 175km of uninhabited shoreline, Loango National Park in Gabon is widely regarded as one of Africa’s last great coastal wildernesses. Loango’s endless beach is one of the few places in the world where buffalo and forest elephants still have access to the sea. Even gorilla families are occasionally foraging in beachside trees. It is also home to the legendary ‘surfing hippos’, memorably captured on film by National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols in 2004. In season, humpbacks and dolphins may be seen frolicking in the warm equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Many rare bird species have been spotted here, including Forbes’s plover, Loango weaver, quail finch, rosy bee-eaters and Congo River martins.
São Tomé and Príncipe – for underwater exploration
Diving around the islands, you may even spot a hawksbill turtle © Rich Carey, Shutterstock
With their warm and usually clear waters, and no crowds, the African islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are an excellent place to kick-start your diving career. Heading into the beautifully clear waters around São Tomé is an incredible experience, the bumpy underwater relief of the islands’ volcanic ocean floor mirroring the archipelago’s mountainous surface. Enjoy the undisturbed natural beauty of a habitat where the equatorial currents at the meeting point of the eastern and western Atlantic host a wealth of species, including sharks, rays, turtles, fan corals and many fish you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
Bazaruto, Mozambique – for deserted sands
Beaches, in a nutshell, are what tourism to Mozambique is all about © Tonis Valing, Shutterstock
Most people who visit Mozambique, whether they’re from South Africa, Zimbabwe or further afield, do so for the country’s coastal attractions. Indeed, there are few other countries in the world with such an extensive, beautiful and largely undeveloped coastline. This means that travellers will find truly deserted beaches, many of which stretch for kilometres on end, even at the more built-up resorts. The top upmarket beach destinations in Mozambique are the Bazaruto and Quirimba archipelagos, while more affordable mainland options include Ponta do Ouro, Tofo (near Inhambane) and Vilankulo.
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