Backpacking in Africa can be hard work, but when you find a spot that’s cheap, safe, fun and on a beach — it’s simply heaven. Here’s a list of my top 10 places to chill out and rest when you’re in Africa. These are not places I’d recommend you spend your entire vacation since that would be an utter waste of a trip to Africa. But as a respite along the way and to rest those weary bones from local bumpy buses — they’re just what the doctor ordered.
01. Lake Malawi – Malawi
Lake Malawi is a beautiful freshwater lake that takes up about a third of the entire country of Malawi. Most backpackers who make it to Malawi head straight for a beach and they’re rarely disappointed. Malawi is the cheapest place in the world to get your diving certification, so you may as well do something useful while you enjoy the sunsets and grilled fish!
Best Places to Stay on Lake Malawi:
- Mango Drift Lodge on Likomo Island has beach huts and dorms, with a bar and restaurant on the beach.
- Kande Beach is close to Chinteche on the northern shores of Lake Malawi. Catering mostly to Overlanders with chalets and a campsite that can be used by all travelers.
- Gecko Lounge in Cape Maclear (southern Malawi) is very popular.
02. Chefchaouen – Morocco
Chefchaouen is situated in the heart of Morocco’s Rif Mountains. The town is relaxed, with very affordable accommodations, and above all, quite stunning to look at. The streets and most of the buildings in the old part of town (medina) are painted a most brilliant sky blue. The mountains which you can see at the end of every cobbled street are rugged and majestic. The clear mountain light just adds a magical touch to the place. It’s no wonder that Chefchaouen is a favorite destination for backpackers visiting Morocco (and it’s not just the readily available supply of hashish). The main square in the medina is lined with cafes and filled to the brim with locals and tourist mingling easily.
03. Kokrobite – Ghana
Ghana has some lovely beaches but the most popular for the last decade has been the beaches around Kokrobite including Langma. Kokrobite is a quick 20 mile (30km) tro-tro ride away from the capital Accra. One of the main attractions here is the excellent Academy of African Music and Art (AAMA) founded by master drummer Mustapha Tettey Addy. The Academy attracts drummers and dancers from all over the world.
You can get accommodation at the Music Academy or head to Big Milly’s Backyard in the village (also on the beach). Big Milly’s has a friendly bar and restaurant where backpackers, volunteers, and Ghanaian Rastafarians chill out.
Learn more about Kokrobite from travel writer Mark Moxon.
04. Zanzibar – Tanzania
Zanzibar has long been a tourist draw with its spectacular beaches and the fascinating Stone Town on the main island. Amidst the upscale resorts, there are still parts of Zanzibar that are affordable and filled with backpackers taking a rest from the rigors of East African travel.
The Best Places to Head to Are:
- Paje (East Coast) — It’s getting more crowded but there are still places like the Kinazi Upepo that provide cheap and excellent beach bungalows.
- Nungwi (North coast) — Backpackers love it. A good example of affordable accommodation is Kendwa Rocks; opt for a simple beach hut.
- Bwejuu and Jambiani (Southeast coast) are quiet beaches, not as good for diving but beautiful. Try the Coral Rock Beach Bungalows.
05. Wild Coast – Eastern Cape, South Africa
The Wild Coast is an incredibly beautiful stretch of coastline in South Africa’s Eastern Cape area (formerly known as Transkei). Ideal for diving, fishing, hiking and surfing this remote area has long attracted backpackers looking to get away from it all. The Xhosa culture along this stretch of coast is also a major attraction.
- Coffee Bay is a popular spot along the coast here, with backpackers’ favorite place to stay being the Coffee Shack.
- Port St John’s is an ideal spot to relax and the best place to stay has to be the Jungle Monkey which caters to backpackers. The Baz Bus stops here, so getting there couldn’t be more convenient.
- Cintsa is a beautiful little town on the coast near some excellent game reserves. Stay at The Buckaneers.
06. Lamu – Kenya
Lamu is one of Kenya’s oldest towns settled by the Swahili about seven hundred years ago. More recently discovered by backpackers, Lamu is a great place to unwind and wash off the dirt and grime accumulated from some hard traveling. No matatus or mini-buses here, just donkeys and the sound of the ocean waves. You can take a Dhow and explore the islands or enjoy wandering the narrow alleys of Lamu’s old town.
Where to Stay on Lamu:
- Shela Beach area: Lamu Retreats offer several houses for rent; the cheapest is probably the Banana House. Shela Rest House is also recommended.
- Lamu Town offers cheaper places to stay like the Pole Pole Guest House and the Kipepeo Guest House on the beach near town.
07. Dahab/Assilah – Egypt
Dahab is the place for backpackers to congregate along the Red Sea coast of Egypt. There’s plenty of budget accommodation available, nice beach restaurants and lots of diving shops. One of the biggest draws is the Thistlegrom shipwreck dive. The snorkeling is very good here too.
Best Places to Stay:
- Bishibishi Garden Village is popular and has a range of rooms available.
- Sphinx Dahab Hotel is right on the beach.
- Penguin Village comes recommended and offers diving packages and tours beyond Dahab for reasonable prices.
- Jasmine Hotel overlooks the sea and has extremely reasonable rates.
If you enjoy hippies and are looking to mix it up with local Bedouins, check out Ramadan Camp in Ras Shaitan.
08. Kribi – Cameroon
Kribi in Cameroon is one of those amazing spots few travelers discover because of its remote location. But those that do make it absolutely love it. West Africa is hard on backpackers and Kribi is just a jewel of a beach place. The nearby Lobe Waterfalls actually tumble into the ocean, a totally unique sight. You can also visit Pygmy villages in the area.
Hotels in Kribi:
- Hotel Ilomba minutes from the waterfalls and with reasonable rates, this is a great choice right on the beach.
- Hotel Palm Beach Plus has reasonable rates for single and double rooms.
- The Auberge Tara Plage will sometimes allow camping on their property.
Other hotels in the area do not have websites, but information can be found here.
09. Tofo – Mozambique
Tofo has long been discovered by South Africans but this beautiful stretch of beach in Mozambique now gets a steady stream of backpackers visiting from all over the world. With some excellent budget accommodation and perfect diving and snorkeling conditions, it’s no wonder that some are calling Tofo — “the next Goa”. They don’t just have full moon parties here, but new moon parties as well.
Best Places to Stay in Tofo:
- Bamboozi Beach Lodge is run by South Africans and offers dorms, huts, chalets, a funky beach bar and its own diving center.
- Fatima’s Nest has tents, bungalows and dorms and of course a beach bar.
- Turtle Cove is ideal for surfers, with affordable accommodation, surfing equipment, and knowledgeable instructors.