With their crashing breakers, the beaches of South Africa have a very different character to the languid coral-fringed lagoons of the tropical islands that you'll find further north in Africa. Here you'll find no palm-thatched sunshades and calm azure waters. And even surprisingly few beach 'resorts' in South Africa. Absent too are the souvenir and coconut-touting beach hawkers.
When to visit?
The first thing to clear up is that most of South Africa is NOT a year-round beach holiday destination. The Cape, for example, has a distinct winter climate from May to August. Still great for leisurely beach walks but not for slathering on the sun block. So if you want a classic beach holiday in August, then you need to head to far-northern beaches of KwaZulu Natal …
So how do the locals enjoy the beach? And how and where can sun-starved westerners join in?
South Africa Beach Holidays in Summer – Nov to March
The long summer holiday season is Christmas when it is hot and sunny in South Africa. At this time, you'll have to vie with locals for the best places to stay, restaurant bookings and spots on the beach. But once the South Africans head back to work and school in early January, South Africa's beaches are surprisingly quiet.
But even in the height of summer, don’t expect the sea temperature in the Western Cape to be anything less than bracing. The cold Benguela current means that the Atlantic waters on the south & west coasts (around Cape Town and Hermanus) are always cold, typically from 14C to 19C. (Though global warming has led to warmer waters recently). The sea temperatures rise as you head east beyond Cape Agulhas (the 'starting' point for the Indian Ocean) so that on the Garden Route you can enjoy a reasonable 21-22C rising up to very pleasant 24-25C in KwaZulu Natal.
Beach Holidays in South Africa in Winter & Spring – June to Sept
If you are visiting South Africa in winter - which is the best time to enjoy a safari - then head north to the Indian Ocean coast of KwaZulu Natal or at least to the Wild Coast of Eastern Cape.
Where have all the South Africa beach resorts gone?
South Africa doesn’t really ‘do’ beach resorts. We don't really know why. Perhaps it's something to do with the value of the real estate on the beachfront? Or that there's so much to see on safari and elsewhere that very few people come for a 'week on the beach'. The benefit is that the shoreline outside urban areas has not suffered over-development.
So if you want a resort, with all the bells and whistles, then look at Mauritius and Mozambique. However we do have a small selection of prime beach hotels mentioned below.
- The perfect destination for people who want to combine some beach time with other activities.
- Endless stretches of beautiful South African coastline are remarkably free from tourist development.
- Very easy to combine with a safari, especially in Kwa-Zulu Natal
- The only beach destination in Southern and East Africa which is not priced in Dollars or Euros - so your money goes further.
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Exactly what we wanted"The services Cedarberg provided was excellent. We had a few hiccups and needed to change the itinerary a couple of times but Cedarberg was very quick to respond to our needs and helped us out very quickly. All the accommodations were excellent and suited us perfectly for what we wanted and doing at that time. " Mrs Kim Swain
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- SizeSouth Africa's coastline is 2,800 km long
- Water TemperatureRanges from a freezing 14C in Cape Town to 22-24C in northern KwaZulu Natal.