Essaouira is also known as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic Ocean’. We absolutely adore this charming coastal town and have visited it twice. Unlike Marrakech or other major cities in Morocco, Essaouira has a more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. It has been attracting artists, writers, surfers, and other creative individuals for decades, and even the world-famous Jimi Hendrix once vacationed here. The streets are filled with talented street musicians, creating a wonderful ambiance, and if you’re looking for beautiful artwork, Essaouira is the place to be. Are you excited? Check out our tips for the activities and attractions in Essaouira below!
What to Do in Essaouira?
You can visit Essaouira as a day trip from Marrakech, but to truly experience Essaouira, we recommend staying for one or more nights. This is because the atmosphere changes in the evening and offers a different vibe than during the day. If Essaouira is the final destination of your trip, it’s relaxing to book a hotel with a swimming pool and spend a few more days unwinding. It’s not appropriate for women to sunbathe in bikinis on the beach, but it’s perfectly fine to do so in a hotel. At the end of this article, you’ll find our favorite hotels in Essaouira.
#1 Horseback Riding on the Beach
Okay, we have to admit that we don’t know how to ride horses, but despite that, we found this experience absolutely amazing! During low tide, the beach stretches for dozens of meters, and adjacent to it is a beautiful dune area. It’s an incredible feeling to go horseback riding here during sunset. We arranged this activity through Ranch Aftass, run by the Moroccan Ahmad and the Flemish Maaike, an incredibly kind couple. They have a small ranch with a few horses that are used to riders with or without experience. You’ll never go in a group larger than 4 people, and a sunset ride lasts for about one to one and a half hours. Cost: $17.
#2 Enjoy Fresh Fish in Essaouira’s Harbor
Just before the entrance of Essaouira’s harbor, you’ll find a few small tents with picnic tables where you can enjoy delicious fresh fish. You can personally select your fish, including choices like shrimp, lobster, and various types of fish. We went to the restaurant all the way on the right and had an amazing meal. The fish is prepared and served wonderfully, accompanied by a salad and a drink of your choice. Highly recommended!
#3 Live Music at Taros Café
Looking for a lively evening? Taros Café is a cool beach bar with a large rooftop bar that offers a fantastic view of the harbor and the ocean. Every evening from 7:30 PM, there’s live music, and after two hours of live music, a DJ takes over. Alcohol is also served, so it’s the right place for a little party. We recommend coming here for drinks only as the food is not exceptional, and there are plenty of better restaurants in Essaouira.
#4 Watch the Sunset from Skala de Ville
Surrounding the medina of Essaouira are high fortification walls with bastions. These walls were built in the 18th century to protect the harbor from invaders. You can still find 19 bronze cannons positioned towards the sea. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.
#5 Shopping in Essaouira’s Medina
The medina of Essaouira is a refreshing change compared to the medina of Marrakech. It’s much less hectic, and you’ll quickly notice the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. There are no pushy sellers, and everyone is incredibly nice. Stroll through the white alleys, and you’ll come across plenty of charming shops selling art, leather bags, and stores where women make argan oil. It’s also nice to see that it’s not entirely geared towards tourists, so you’ll witness many locals doing their daily shopping.
#6 Delicious Food at Mandala Society
This is our favorite eatery in Essaouira! It’s run by a super friendly Moroccan man and his wife from Iceland. The place is incredibly creative and cozy, adorned with lots of art, and the food is delicious. You can visit Mandala Society for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, although the menu doesn’t offer a wide selection of hot dishes.
#7 Enjoy the View from the Famous Skala Du Port Viewpoint
Located just before the port of Essaouira is the Skala Du Port viewpoint. It’s a square tower that was used in the past to defend the harbor entrance. From here, you’ll have an amazing view of Essaouira and the ocean. The entrance fee is 50 dirhams, which is a bit on the higher side for what it offers.
#8 Go Surfing or Take Surf Lessons
Are you a surfer or eager to learn how to surf? Essaouira is a popular spot among surfers and kiteboarders. The absence of strong currents and rocks in the sea makes it an ideal place. The waves are good year-round, but they are at their best during the winter months. Ocean Vagabond is a great surf school to take your first lesson.
#9 Visit the Port of Essaouira
You can’t leave Essaouira without taking a look at the harbor! Here, you’ll witness the real life of fishermen, and it’s interesting to walk around and see how they unravel their nets and sell the freshly caught fish. You’ll also find the iconic blue boats that are characteristic of Essaouira.
#10 The Unique Gnaoua Music Festival
Every year in June, Essaouira undergoes a remarkable transformation as it hosts the three-day Gnaoua Music Festival, attracting around 500,000 visitors. It is often referred to as the Woodstock of Africa. The Gnaoua people are a spiritual brotherhood, easily recognizable by their colorful robes and tasseled hats. The music is a special blend of Islamic Sufism, pre-Islamic Berber, Arab, and African spiritual traditions.
Our favorite Places to Stay in Essaouira
On the outskirts of the medina, you’ll find Chems Bleu, a small-scale and incredibly beautiful hotel. It features a cool inner courtyard with lots of plants, and you can enjoy a delightful breakfast on the rooftop terrace. If your budget allows, Riad Baladin is highly recommended. The interior design of this riad is fantastic, and it’s an oasis of tranquility in the heart of the medina. The jacuzzi is particularly enjoyable when the evenings cool down. Lastly, we want to mention the beautiful hotel Riad Lyon-Mogador. It offers a delightful rooftop terrace, and you’ll stay in a beautiful room.
|Chems Bleu||Riad Baladin||Riad Lyon-Mogador|