Spending a month in Cape Town was exactly what we needed in so many ways. Not only did we get to catch up on the blog, catch our breath, and feel a little more like “normal,” grounded humans, we also got to explore some of the best things Cape Town (and the surrounding area) has to offer. Here are some of our favorite experiences from our time in Cape Town. And since we’re pretty obsessed with Cape Town, this post is kind of a beast.
Honestly, at the risk of sounding very ignorant, I had no idea there were penguins in South Africa. If you want a chance to play with penguins (and on a beach, no less), you’re in luck! Boulders Beach is an incredible place where you can hang out, swim, and tan…with tons of penguins. Sound great? The beautiful scenery makes it even better.
Location: Near Simonstown
Cost: R70 ($5)
Time: You’ll probably want to spend at least 1-2 hours here
Protip: Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Keep walking past the main beach and crawl between the boulders to access a more private area surrounded by penguins!
Thanks to my friend Lauren’s advice, I would’ve lived here for the month if I found a reasonably-priced place to live. Sadly, everything I found was very expensive (and it didn’t help that I was looking pretty last minute). Luckily for us, Camps Bay was a quick 10 minute Uber ride from our apartment on Kloof!
Location: Just southwest of downtown Cape Town
Cost: Free! (An Uber from downtown will cost about $4)
Time: You could easily spend the whole day here, chillin on the beach, surfing, or enjoying some beachside dining/drinking
Protip: Get drinks at Cafe Caprice; eat dinner at Mantra Cafe
Clifton 4th Beach
This white sand beach is absolutely gorgeous. Pete, who’s totally not a beach person, ended up begging me to stay longer here (jk, I really wasn’t a hard sell). Needless to say, this was our favorite beach.
Location: East of Cape Town, about a 10 minute drive from downtown
Cost: Free! Uber from downtown: R50 (<$4). Lounge chair: R60; umbrella: R40 (total for the chair/umbrella: about $7).
Protip: Unlike Camps Bay, this beach is pretty sheltered on a windy day. Bring some cash – there are people who sell refreshments (water, ice cream, etc.) and lounge chair rentals.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
We wanted to pull over every 5 minutes along this road to admire the views. This incredibly scenic road is an easy experience to check off if you’re driving to or from Boulder’s Beach.
Location: Hout Bay to Noordhoek, perfect if you’re going from Simons Town to Cape Town
Cost: Toll is R42 ($3)
Time: About 20 minutes
Protip: If you drive from south to north, you’ll get the best views of the coastline (since they drive on the left here).
From the small amount of internet research we did, it sounded like hiking up and down Lions Head would be an easy 1.5 hour walk. Ha! While the first portion was pretty easy (basically just a stroll on a constant-but-mild incline around the mountain), the last part was basically climbing up sheer rock face. Yes, the path was well worn, but for someone with a pretty massive fear of heights (yours truly), I almost didn’t want to go to the top. However, after getting a pep-talk from some very friendly Europeans, I made it all the way and they were right – the views were worth it.
Location: Separates Clifton from downtown Cape Town
Cost: Free! Our Uber from Kloof street to the trail head cost about $2.50 each way.
Time: If you rush up and down, I’m sure you could do it in under 2 hours. If you take your time for pictures and breaks in the shade like we did, expect a bit over 2 hours return.
Protips: 1. Go in the early morning or late afternoon. If you’re really up for a challenge, my friend Lauren suggests to go during a full moon at sunset (bring a headlamp!). 2. Don’t forget water and sunscreen – there’s barely any shade on the trail and the sun can be relentless. 3. Take the chains/ladders route for a much faster, more exhilarating experience! (If I could do it, you could do it)
(Duh.) Words and pictures really can’t do this gorgeous mountain justice. To get incredible views, you can either hike it or take a cable car up (that rotates!) to the top. We did both – if you’re interested in the hike, we wrote about our experience & some tips.
Location: The backdrop of Cape Town
Cost: The cable car ride costs ~$20 for a round trip
Time: Allow 2 hours for the cable car and walking around on top; 5 hours for the hike up, across & down (if you do it like we did), or 1 hour up the Platteklip Gorge.
Protip: Even if you don’t go up to the top, you can still watch the “tablecloth” (the cute nickname for the clouds that constantly roll off the top of the mountain) from many locations in Cape Town.
Location: About 20 minutes from downtown
Cost: Free! Uber from downtown is about $6
Time: An easy, circular walk will take about 1.5 hours
Protip: The signage here is pretty horrible. As in, totally horrendous. We got suuuuuper lost right from the start and had to use our phones to try to meet up with the main path again. From the parking lot, walk straight back until you get to a dead-end and a sign that says “Newlands Forest.” From there, walk left to meet up with the main path.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
These beautiful gardens were created to preserve indigenous plants. Plus, they act as a starting point for various hikes up Table Mountain, including the one we did (Skeleton Gorge – read more here).
Location: Just south of the Newlands Forest
Cost: R60 per adult (about $4) to enter
Time: Allow at least an hour to explore the gardens
Protip: If you’re in Cape Town in the summer, make sure to go to one of their outdoor concerts in the gardens! We did and had a blast; cost about $12/person. You’re allowed to bring food and drinks into the park – just make sure to take your garbage out with you as they don’t have many trash cans. Also, purchase your tickets in advance – they do sell out!
Get Your Drink On
This adorable town surrounded by vineyards stole our hearts. In addition to the wine, we loved the vibes, the quaint shops, and the multitude of good restaurants that this town offered.
Location: 45 minute drive east from Cape Town
Cost: Free to explore! Wine tastings cost about $5-10
Time: Spend a Sunday or an entire weekend
Protip: Eat at Basic Bistro – you won’t be disappointed. If you have time, check out the nature reserve nearby.
Devils Peak Brewing Company
If you’re a big IPA fan (like we are), this place deserves a spot on your itinerary. Come for the natural light and great views; stay for the delicious beer. By a twist of fate (aka I messed up and got the tour times wrong), we ended up going here instead of the more famous Newlands Brewery and we weren’t disappointed.
Location: 15 minutes from downtown
Cost: About $3.50 for a 500ml beer; about $6 uber ride from downtown (each way)
Time: As long as it takes to drink some quality beer!
Protip: Try the Juicy Lucy if they have it! It’s a fabulously fruity IPA. If you like spicy food, go for the jalapeno nachos. The sriracha wings are not for the faint of heart – Pete loves spicy and he was sweatin!
Looking for other places to enjoy some beverages? Check out my post: [insert link of “where to eat in cape town”]
Yours Truly/Up Yours
Regardless of the time of day or day of the week, this place always seems packed. Up Yours is the name of the funky rooftop bar, the only one on Kloof Street. Go to people watch or make new friends.
I felt like I was drinking in someone’s attic – which was cooler than it sounds. This small cocktail bar is pretty fun, although it definitely closed earlier than the posted time of 2am.
If you’re looking for a super crowded bar on a Tuesday night, this is the place for you. It was literally right next to our apartment building, yet we only went once because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, the slightly condescending attitude, and the time it too to get just one drink. However, we still wanted to include it on our list because it attracts a more local crowd and it’s probably a lot nicer on a less-crowded night.
Do you agree with my highlights of Cape Town? Have anything to add?