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Cape Town Travel Guide
Cape Town blew away any and all expectations we ever had. We can’t lie, we were a little apprehensive going into this trip due to some concerns about safety. But after 10 days in this amazing city, we absolutely fell in love and didn’t want to leave!
Here’s what you’re gonna get with this blog:
- Top things to DO in Cape Town
- Answers to “Is Cape Town Safe??”
- Best Restaurants in Cape Town
- Where & how long to STAY in Cape Town
- Transportation in Cape Town
- Currency in Cape Town
- South Africa visa info
- Best time to visit Cape Town
Top things to do in Cape Town
From the mountains to the incredible beaches along the coast line; from the wineries to high tea, there’s truly something for everyone in Cape Town! This list is pretty lengthy due to how many amazing things to do and sights to see are here!
Lion’s Head Cape Town
If you do one thing in Cape Town, hike Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head is part of Table Mountain National Park and sits between Signal Hill and Table Mountain smack dab in the middle of Cape Town.
The 360 views are BREATHTAKING. You can see Table Mountain and all of the 12 Apostles, peak over the entire city, and get lost looking at the vast ocean water.
We started our hike an hour and a half before sunrise and made it up just in time to find a nice boulder and sit to watch the sun rise over the city. It was pure magic!
Tips for hiking Lion’s Head:
- Make sure to put “Hike Lion’s Head Cape Town” into Google Maps and not “Lions head hike trailhead”, as the latter will take you to the wrong starting point, add another hour and a half and then take you to the summit trail that is closed!
- The hike is moderate in difficulty. There are chains and ladders to climb on which are really fun, but there is also a less steep route to avoid those!
- It took us 3 hours round trip & it’s FREE to hike!
- If you plan to hike up for sunrise make sure to bring a jacket, water, flashlight & friend! Don’t do it alone!
Table Mountain Cable Car
Table Mountain is one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature” and they have a cable car that takes you to the top for an unparalleled look over the city. The cable car spins as you go up which is pretty fun!
The downside is that the lines for the Cable Car are pretty long, but once you’re at the top there is a ton of room to spread out and find a spot for photos or just have a private moment – guess that’s a perk of a flat “table-like” mountain top. We went for sunset and it was breathtaking!
Tips for Table Mountain:
- Make sure to buy tickets online in advance as they sell out! Tickets cost about $22 USD per person for a round trip ticket.
- Even if you have tickets, expect to wait about an hour in line for the cable car. This means if you’re aiming to go at sunset you should give yourself enough time to wait in line and go up so you don’t miss it!
- The pizza at the top is shockingly pretty decent! Great snack if you get hungry at the top.
Cape Town Wineries
We’d heard South African wine was good, but we had no idea it’d be THIS good! The estates and vineyards around Cape Town are incredible, and definitely give Napa a run for its money. Many of them grow up to 10 different types of grapes!
We went to the Constancia region which is actually the oldest wine-making region in the Southern hemisphere. It originated all the way back in 1685!
Constancia is only 30 minutes outside of Cape Town and there are tons of wineries to choose from. Our favorite was Buitenverwachting – some of the best wine we’ve ever had!
Tips for visiting wineries near Cape Town:
- It’s really easy to Uber to/from Constancia, so you can enjoy and stay safe!
- Other wine regions include Stellenbosch & Franschhoek, which are 45 minutes and 1 hour outside of Cape Town, respectively. Both have amazing reviews and are on our list for next time!
Boulders Beach is the CUTEST thing you’ll do on vacation. It’s deemed “penguin beach” and you’ll see hundreds of penguins hanging out on the beach, sunbathing and riding the waves.
There are two areas: one area for penguin viewing from a boardwalk where you can see more penguins than you’ve ever imagined, and one area where you can hang out on the beach and swim with a select handful of the penguins that venture over there.
This spot is also incredible as you can see dozens of dolphins swimming around in the distance – definitely a fun surprise!!
Tips for visiting Boulders Beach:
- It costs $10 USD per person for entry to both sides
- Opening hours differ by month, so just make sure to check before you go!
- Note that there is no guarantee that there will be penguins readily available for photos on the beach as they’re at their own free will
Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope is the most southwestern point of Africa, and part of the stunning Cape Point Nature reserve. Not only is it an amazing bucket list item, but it’s absolutely stunning! You can hike up to the top of the cliffs and see the bluest water for miles.
After you explore around Cape of Good Hope, you can make your way to Cape Point. There you can either take the Flying Dutchman funicular or climb up to see the historic lighthouse.
During our time in the nature reserve, we saw quite a few wild animals including baboons & ostriches (who caused quite a traffic jam haha!). If you want to make more of a day of it there are more trails to explore and beaches that you can hike down to – all of which we wish we would’ve had time for!
Tips for visiting Cape of Good Hope:
- It’s 1.5 hours outside of Cape Town, so you should rent a car or hire a driver. We hired a driver for the day and it worked out great!
- Cape of Good Hope & Cape Point are part of the same nature reserve and it costs $21 USD per person for entrance.
- Wear shoes you can climb/walk in. The hikes aren’t intense but you definitely wouldn’t want to do them in flip flops!
- The hours differ by season. October to March it’s 9 am – 6 pm and April – September it’s 7 am – 5 pm.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
On your way to the Cape Peninsula, you’ll go along Chapman’s Peak Drive. It is honestly home to some of the most inspiring views in the city.
There are turnoffs from the road where you can stop and take photos and just marvel at the beauty.
Tip: Please promise us you won’t “do it for the gram” and climb over the railings. There was a RIP sign there for a woman who climbed over for a photo and it was bone-chilling.
St. James Beach
St. James beach is a fun and unique spot to check out as it’s lined with brightly colored beach huts! This beach is about 30 minutes outside of Cape Town and is a local’s go-to for a sunrise dip in the gorgeous tidal pool.
Rumor has it that these huts have been in quite a few Hollywood and Bollywood movies, which is super fun! They aren’t too shabby of a backdrop for an Instagram shot, either :).
Tips for visiting St. James Beach:
- Bring a swimsuit! The tidal pool here is screaming to be swam in.
- Go with a local guide if you can. We had a driver for the day who escorted us and stayed with our stuff as we took photos, and it made us feel much safer.
- If you’re wanting to take photos here definitely try for sunrise – it got pretty busy within 30 minutes!
- Muizenberg beach also has these huts but they’re actually on the beach (no walkway) so those could be even better for pics!
We loved the Clifton area in general, but the Clifton beaches blew us away. There are 4 beaches, aptly named Clifton 1st beach, 2nd beach, and so on.
The sand is incredibly soft and the houses along the beach will have you drooling. We started at Clifton 2nd beach (which ended up being our favorite), and walked along to the 3rd and 4th beach. There are a few rocks breaking up the coast into the four beaches, but you can walk over them to get from one beach to the next.
After you walk along you can walk to Bungalow to grab a bite to eat along the water, too!
The Rock Cape Town
The Rock is one of the best views of Cape Town & is still pretty unknown to the tourist masses!
We stayed up here taking photos and enjoying the view for hours. The only thing that would’ve been better is if we’d packed a picnic!
You can have an Uber take you to “The Rock” on Google Maps, and from there you just have to maneuver your way through a few rocks to find THE Rock. Honestly, we’re still not sure if the one we chose was “THE” Rock but it was pretty stunning regardless.
Tip: this is a great spot for a picnic and/or sunset, and is FREE to visit! Just make sure you are mindful of the residents as it’s nestled amongst people’s homes.
Camps Bay is an adorable area of town along the water, and is home to some stunning beaches and our favorite, Camps Bay Tidal Pool!
The tidal pool is nestled amongst the rocks and ocean and is the perfect spot to swim, take photos and watch the sunset. There are also amazing restaurants along the waterfront, our favorite being The Raj indian food!
High Tea at Mount Nelson
Having High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel was a super authentic experience and a fun way to break up all of the outdoors adventures of the trip.
The tea is held 4 times daily on the most beautiful terrace and they serve unlimited tea, savory bites, scones & desserts. Before or after tea you can explore the grounds of the historic pink hotel.
Tips for High Tea at the Mount Nelson:
- Make sure to call and make reservations in advance
- It costs $27 USD per person
- If you have dietary restrictions, make sure to tell them at the time of reservation! They were very accommodating for our vegetarian requests.
Bo Kaap is one of the most unique neighborhoods in Cape Town. It’s full of history and culture, is home to the first Mosque in South Africa, and the streets are lined with brightly colored historic houses.
You can go on your own (in the daylight), or take a free 1.5 hour walking tour that starts at the Motherland Coffee Company every day at 2 pm and 4:20 pm.
Best Restaurants in Cape Town
- Pot Luck Club – this spot is located in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. They serve high-end tapas with beautiful 360 degree views. They are usually by reservation only and book out a ways in advance, but we got lucky and were able to snag their last table due to a cancellation!
- The Raj – this joint in Camps Bay serves delicious Indian food with a side of ocean views. Talk about a perfect combo!
- Bungalow – this nautical restaurant in Clifton is the perfect spot for an afternoon drink or delicious food with a view!
- Mojo Market – in the heart of Bantry Bay you’ll find Mojo Market which is lined with tons of food stalls offering every type of cuisine, in addition to live music, craft vendors, etc.
- Scheckter’s Raw Restaurant – also in the heart of Bantry Bay is this vegetarian joint. Our favorite was the original vegan burger (not so keen on the “Ultimate Burger” or whatever they call it!)
- Raw & Roxy – a few blocks from the Bo Kaap museum is another great raw joint. Our favorite was their raw vegan lasagna!
- Crumbs & Cream – last but not least, dessert! Here in Bantry Bay you choose your 2 cookie flavors and ice cream flavor to make your dream ice cream sandwhich. There’s also a fun table with swings where you can eat!
Is Cape Town safe?
It’s no secret that Cape Town has its fair share of safety concerns. We generally felt safe in Cape Town, but we did take quite a few precautions and stayed very vigilant.
Some precautions we took were:
- We didn’t go out after dark at night. After sunset we headed straight back to our hotel.
- Refraining from flashing our cameras or phones out in public.
- Opting not to rent a car (we’d heard this is dangerous if you drive in the wrong area of town, as well as prone to break-ins) or take public transport. Instead, we took Uber and hired a driver for day trips.
- Staying in a hotel with security instead of an Airbnb. This was just an added layer of peace of mind for us.
Like we said, overall Cape Town felt safe for us but as with anywhere, you need to be alert and stay vigilant. It is certainly not a reason to not visit.
Where to stay in Cape Town
- Bantry Bay
- Sea Point
- Camps Bay
Being a decently sized city, there are tons of areas to choose from when booking your trip to Cape Town. Our favorites were Bantry Bay, Sea Point & Camps Bay as they all felt safe and walkable, and were perfectly central to be just a quick Uber to any of the things we wanted to do.
We stayed at The President Hotel in Bantry Bay and had a great stay. The room was very comfortable, the staff was friendly & the food was incredible! It was also the perfect location to feel comfortable walking to the beach for sunset, and there were tons of restaurants, grocery stores and amenities just a few blocks away.
How many days in Cape Town?
You need a minimum of 3 – 5 days to really do this place justice. We stayed for 10 days and could have easily stayed a month!
Uber in Cape Town
Uber was the best way we found to travel through Cape Town. It was safe, readily available and relatively inexpensive. Once we met an Uber driver we liked, we then hired him to drive us on our day trip to Cape Peninsula.
Do note that Uber doesn’t take some foreign credit cards here. So, unlike in the US, you may need to pay your Uber in cash here. If they don’t have change, the balance is added as a credit to your Uber account.
If you don’t have Uber yet, here’s a discount code to sign up!
Currency in Cape Town
The currency is the South African Rand and at the time of this post, $1 USD = ~14R. Many places still only deal in cash, so make sure you grab some at an ATM!
South Africa Visa Requirements
The US and many other countries are exempt from needing a visa to enter South Africa. All you need as a US citizen is a valid passport with a blank page, a return ticket and a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you’re coming from an infected region.
If you’re from outside the US, check here to see if you are visa exempt, too.
Best time to visit Cape Town
Cape Town is warm and dry October through April. December through February is high season and the best time to visit the beaches and swim. March to June are the best times to visit when it is still warm but pleasant to hike!
We went in April and couldn’t really swim at the beach, but for everything else the weather was perfect other than some gnarly wind a couple days!
Kylie & Scott
(Want to know more? Comment below! And make sure to follow along on Instagram @LoveHardTravelOften)
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