Beach life is big in Cape Town (one of the top things to do in the city, no doubt), despite the fact water temperatures range from chilly to frigid. Still, you’ll see surfers riding waves, divers exploring underwater wonders, and enough sea life to satisfy shore snorkelers—and then there’s the sand. As of 2018, Cape Town led the country with the highest number of Blue Flag beaches, an international designation awarded to beaches that meet high standards for quality control. Simply put, these are considered the best of the best in terms of environmental education, safety, service facilities, and water quality.
While quality control is always a nice barometer, it’s not the only one. We can testify that some of the best beaches are ones less developed or that offer experiences you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else—plus lots of top restaurants, hotels and markets nearby. No matter where you throw down your towel, prepare to be dazzled with spectacular mountain views, picture-worthy turquoise waters, and dramatic beachfronts boasting tide pools, marble boulders, and insane sunsets.
Cape Town beaches
What is it? Cape Town’s most reliable beach that looks good, feels good, and is well set up for a full day at the beach.
Why go? Boasting Blue Flag status, this lively, family-friendly spot is a no-brainer when it comes to Cape Town beaches. In fact, Camps Bay is usually the go-to recommendation thanks to its cleanliness, sheer beauty, and easy access to bars and restaurants (perfect for end-of-day sundowners).
What is it? A collection of small, picturesque beach coves that make for a chill beach day and gorgeous photos on the ‘gram.
Why go? Some locals regard Beta Beach as a hidden gem, but secrets this beautiful are hard to keep. Large looming boulders and stunning views of Lion’s Head mountain are perfect backdrops for photo shoots, while the wave-less water and fiery sunsets draw families, friends, and couples looking to soak it all in from the sands.
What is it? The home of Cape Town’s most famous beach bums, a protected colony of South African penguins.
Why go? A 45-minute drive doesn’t stop folks from flocking to this False Bay beach for the chance to watch—and even swim with—this adorable penguin colony. Pay the park entrance fee, then picnic in the sand, kayak the waters, or jump off tall granite rocks surrounded by your new water bird friends. However, these are wild animals, so no feeding or touching, please.
What is it? A heavenly pristine beach down in Cape Point that feels pretty private thanks to its fairly secluded location.
Why go? Gorgeous things come to those who make the 20-minute trek to Diaz Beach from the Cape Point parking lot. We’re talking soft sand, turquoise water, and rocky cliffsides—without the crowds. The water may be too cold for comfort, but people don’t come here to swim so much as to gawk at the beauty of nature and to work on their tan.
What is it? A busy Blue Flag beach which functions as the heart of Cape Town’s surfing community and one of the city’s main beaches.
Why go? Warmer waters and big waves helped Muizenberg Beach become a surfing hotspot. However, it has gained popularity as one of the city’s main beaches thanks to its family-friendly vibe, soft sands, and laid-back atmosphere. Heard it’s also popular with sharks? Never fear, shark spotters are on staff to keep eyes peeled for any unwanted guests in the water.
What is it? A small but busy beach that’s good for families with young kids and is within walking distance to Kalk Bay.
Why go? The shallow rock pools are just perfect for the kiddos to splash around in. Bold, multi-colored wooden huts line the beach and are a favorite with kids and camera lenses alike. Plus, the shops and restaurants of Kalk Bay are just a 15-minute walk away.
What is it? A tiny Blue Flag beach off Gordon’s Bay named after the number of bikini-clad students who frequent its shore.
Why go? This compact, beautiful beach gets high marks from university students for its warmer waters, partial seclusion, and Blue Flag-level facilities. The Hottentots Holland Mountain range offers up wind protection and the beach is perfectly positioned for killer views across False Bay.
What is it? A string of four beautiful white-sand beaches where there’s a little something for everyone.
Why go? If you can’t decide which beach to hit, heading to any one of the Clifton Beaches is usually a safe bet. Clifton 1st Beach has a more upscale vibe, Clifton 2nd is popular with the LGBTQ crowd, Clifton 3rd has younger party vibe, and Clifton 4th, a designated Blue Flag beach, is where you’ll find the most families.
What is it? A hidden beach cove in Table Mountain National Park, complete with braai facilities and underwater adventures.
Why go? Calm but cold waters offer a worthy snorkel around colorful kelp, crustaceans, and a few different fish, plus advanced divers are privy to a cool boulder cave site. However, most folks come to this beach to fire up the braai. Come hungry with cash for the park entrance fee, a heap of firewood, and meats ready to sizzle by the shore.
What is it? A surfer’s haven in Kommetjie where you can let your hair and dog run wild in the wind.
Why go? Cape Town’s longest beach clocks in at nearly five miles long, and is one of the only beaches where dogs can run free off their leashes. The stretch of soft white sand beckons beach walkers, and the ice cold waves are usually dotted with brave surfers and boogie boarders. Wind can get hectic here, making it more of a beach for active folks.
Looking for lodging?
Cape Town’s best hotels are as diverse as its landscape. Want to feel like you’re out on safari while in the city? No problem. Looking for a historic estate property off the city’s wine route? You got it. Need the most bang for your buck? Done. The Mother City has everything from chain high rises in the bustling Central Business District to bespoke boutiques along the beachfront, plus great budget-friendly options along the way.