In recent years, West Africa has been steadily carving out a name for itself as one of the most diverse and beautiful regions in the world. Home to spectacular landscapes, compelling cultures, and rich traditions, there’s something for everyone here, whether you’re after a lazy beach break or an intrepid adventure.
So, if you’re looking for some inspiration for your next trip, we’ve got you covered. From Dakar in the west to Nigeria in the south and the Cape Verde islands off the coast – here are seven West African cities with beautiful beaches.
1. Dakar, Senegal
For the past few years Senegal has been West Africa’s hottest travel destination, and Dakar, the colourful capital city, is the place to go if you want to experience this country’s absorbing culture. A feast for all the senses, Dakar boasts excellent museums and galleries, vibrant open-air markets, buzzing bars and restaurants, and a gorgeous sand-swathed coast.
Dakar is a city that manages to be both mellow and lively, and the beaches are no different. Plage de Ngor is one of the most popular surf spots, and while it can get busy (there are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants), it’s still a working fisherman’s beach. If you find a quiet spot, you can often hear the fishermen singing as they unload the day’s catch!
Another great surf spot in Dakar is Vivier, and if you want to watch the sunset, the black rocks of Plage des Marabouts are ideal. Plus, just two hours from Dakar is Pointe Sarene, Senegal’s best resort town. The six-mile stretch of sand here is home to sleek villas and grand hotels, so if you want a lazy beach holiday, you won’t be short of places to stay.
Soak up the sun in Senegal
2. Mindelo, Cape Verde
Located 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, Cape Verde is known worldwide for its glorious white sand beaches. While Praia is the capital, Mindelo is this volcanic archipelago’s cultural heart – and with cobblestone streets, colourful colonial architecture, and gently bobbing yachts, it’s Cape Verde’s answer to the Riviera.
Circled by dramatic mountains and with a lovely moon-shaped port, there’s no doubt that Mindelo is Cape Verde’s prettiest and most sophisticated city. It’s known for its buzzing nightlife and is the best place to soak up the nation’s unique culture, which is a blend of Portugal, Brazilian, and West African traditions. And, luckily, its beaches don’t disappoint either.
Laginha Beach boasts snow-white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, and excellent beach bars. By day the beach is full of people swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing; and at night, the beachside bars and restaurants host live music, so there’s a bit of a laidback party vibe. Just 15 minutes away you’ll also find São Pedro, which is one of the best beaches in the world for windsurfing.
Be captivated by Cape Verde
3. The Gambia
The Gambia might be Africa’s smallest country, but it has one of the most dazzling coastlines, and what it lacks in size (the coast is only 50 miles!) it makes up for in sheer spectacle. These shores are home to many incredible beaches, from vast sweeps of sand backed with swaying palms and chilled beach bars, to scenic and serene lagoons.
One of the Gambia’s biggest draws, apart from its beaches, is its people, who are so friendly the country’s been dubbed the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’. Plus, there’s no time difference either, so you’ll have a jet-lag-free break.
The capital, Banjul, has its own beach, but the best ones are just outside the city. Kotu Beach is arguably Gambia’s best beach – and is just 20 minutes by car from Banjul, in the village of Serrekunda. Kololi is another lovely beach in Serrekunda, and both shorelines are lined with reggae-playing beach bars, and cafes and restaurants serving fresh seafood…so you can easily spend all day here!
Discover the Smiling Coast of Africa
4. Accra, Ghana
As the capital of Ghana, Accra is the country’s beating heart, and this modern, lively city is one of the easiest West African countries to travel to. The city hums with life and culture; the smell of heavily spiced cuisine floats on the warm air, followed by local music called hiplife, which is a spirited blend of hip-hop and traditional Ghanaian music.
The markets are packed full of colour and activity, and the notoriously friendly local vendors will happily spend hours chatting instead of selling their wares. But Accra’s beaches are another big draw – particularly Labadi Beach, where the palm-fringed shoreline offers equal amounts of relaxation and adventure. You can try windsurfing or jet skiing, or simply kick back on the soft sand.
Labadi Beach also has plenty of buzzing restaurants and bars serving up authentic Ghanaian food and refreshing tropical drinks, and there are bustling markets where you can pick up souvenirs, enjoy live music, or join a beach party. If you want to surf, head to Kokrobite Beach, where the reliable waves are a hit with both beginner and intermediate surfers.
5. Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria’s capital Lagos is vibrant, fast-paced, and exuberant – though it can be so high-energy that some visitors may find it a little overwhelming. It won’t take you long to get used to this city’s loud, bold vibe. But if you feel the need to unwind and take a little space, the good news is that there are plenty of places to do that, not least the beach.
Whether you’re on Lagos Island or Lagos Mainland, most beaches are extensions of resorts. Though if you’re not staying in a beachside hotel, you can always pay an admission charge to access these sweeping ribbons of sand. There’s so much to do in these beachside resorts, whether you want to kitesurf, go horse riding, or just kick back in a cabana.
The most accessible beach is Landmark Beach, which by day is a relaxed, family-friendly resort, and by dusk is a nightlife hotspot. Meanwhile, circled by a lagoon and mangrove forest, La Campagne Tropicana is perfect for relaxing among coconut trees and thatched cabanas, and enjoying an authentic African experience. Or, if you’d like to surf, head to the scenic Tarkwa Bay.
6. Freetown, Sierra Leone
For a long time, Sierra Leone was viewed as West Africa’s secret beach destination – but over the past decade, it’s been one of the fastest-growing tourism countries in the world. With astoundingly beautiful beaches, sultry, colourful rainforests, and a vibrant capital, this warm-hearted nation is a wonderful destination for a holiday.
The capital Freetown is located right on the coast and is famous for its gorgeous beaches. The city also has a rich food culture (it’s known as ‘Sweet Salone’ to locals) and many of the beach shacks and restaurants serve up traditional dishes like fried plantain with pancakes, grilled barracuda or tilapia, and fresh shellfish including lobster, crabs, and oysters.
With its golden sands and lively atmosphere, Lumley Beach is the most popular beach in Freetown, and aside from all the beachfront restaurants, there are plenty of watersports to try your hand at too. River No. 2 Beach is known for its untouched beauty and sensational sunsets. The pale, soft sand stretches for miles, and the crystalline waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
7. Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Home to starfish-studded shores and forests of gently swaying palm trees, the Ivory Coast is a true tropical paradise. It’s a nation that’s rapidly modernising its culture and way of life, but managing to do so without losing its identity. And with its soaring, shiny skyscrapers, the cosmopolitan capital Abidjan is the perfect example of this modernisation.
But behind its slick facade, Abidjan feels just as vibrant and tropical as the rest of the country – and it has some truly excellent beaches. Bassam Beach is the most popular with locals, and if you’re just looking to stretch out and relax, it’s perfect. There are plenty of hotels, bars, and restaurants here, as well as vendors selling handmade souvenirs.
If you want to surf, head to Assinie, a beach resort east of Abidjan where there are consistent waves and lots of other surfers. West of the capital are Grand-Lahou and Jacqueville, which are ideal if you’d like to relax on more isolated beaches – but there are many lovely beaches in the lagoon right outside the city too.
West Africa might not be the first part of the world that springs to mind when thinking about a beach holiday, but it has some truly stunning sweeps of sand.
From tranquil beaches where you can enjoy some peace and solitude to buzzing beaches with plenty of amenities, there’s lots of variety here too.
Plus, because West Africa is a less popular travel destination than beach hotspots in Europe or the Caribbean, prices are much lower too – so you can enjoy a dream beach holiday at a fraction of the price!
For more ideas and inspiration for your next break, why not visit the travel section of our website?
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Have you been to any of these West African countries? Or have any of the places on this list sparked your interest? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.