Essaouira is located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco and is considered to be one of the country’s most pleasant beach resorts. Whatever your tastes, this resort has it all, from the historic city walls, to a bustling art and culture scene. Essaouira is also within easy reach of local attractions such as Casablanca and Marrakech. While the beach is undoubtedly beautiful, its main draw is its windy conditions, which are popular with thrill-seeking wind and kite surfers. There are also less windy beaches nearby for those who prefer calm waters for swimming and diving. The mix of British and American former hippies who have settled here gives the town a delightful multi-cultural feel and friendly atmosphere. Other attractions include the small but busy fishing harbour and the walled Medina, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Most popular hotels in Essaouira
At a glance
- Currency: Morocco Dirham
- Language: French
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 3h 50m
When to go
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Top of most holidaymakers’ must-see lists for Essaouira is the Medina, a more laid-back and manageable experience than many other big city medinas and their marketplaces, which can be overwhelmed with tourists. The Medina is also home to some of the best restaurants the city has to offer, which make use of the locally-caught fresh fish in delicious traditional and international dishes. Essaouira beach was previously recognised for its wind surfing, but has more recently been facing stiff competition from kite surfing. The main beach’s windy conditions are ideal for these adrenaline-pumping activities, making this an ideal choice for even the most active of holidaymakers. For those who prefer surfing, you can head to the nearby surf spots at Point Imsouane and Taghazout to catch some waves. The diverse mix of dunes, forests and woods provide a unique environment around Essaouira that give you a wide selection of other activities to choose from, including camel tours, quad biking and hiking.
Wine and Dine
Essaouira is equally as appealing to foodies as it is to water sports enthusiasts. The resort is famous for its delicious and authentic cuisine, which includes fish dishes, tagines, cake and safiotes. The city’s food heritage has been influenced by a diverse variety of cultures including Jewish, Imazighen and Arab, as well as Africans and Europeans. Many food experts consider Morrocan food to be among the best in the world with its inventive use of spices and fresh, sun-ripened vegetables and spices. National specialities include chebakia (sweets), green teas made using herbs such as mint, and dishes of dates and couscous. You’ll find shops scatted around the city that sell traditional Moroccan wines and spirits, which make ideal gifts for friends and family, and can enjoy a nice tipple yourself at one of the city’s selection of bars and restaurants. While walking along the beach, treat yourself to a paper bag of roasted chickpeas sprinkled with sea salt and paprika, a Moroccan alternative to the British bag of chips.
Essaouira is a great location for family holidays, with a wide variety of activities for both adults and children. The historic Medina area has maze-like twisting alleys and souks (markets) that are fun to explore as a family. While it can be easy to get lost here, there are always people at hand to ask for directions and plenty of cafés lining the route that you can stop off at to grab a drink and snacks. Of course, the beach offers a good variety of activities including making sand castles, sunbathing and enjoying lunch at one of the beach-side snack bars. You can enjoy a memorable experience that the whole family will enjoy with a family camel ride, which also gives you the time to see the varied scenery of the more inland areas without long tiring walks.
Action and Adventure
The varied types of landscape in and around Essaouira make it the ideal location for action-seeking holidaymakers. Essaouira and its close-by beaches are Morocco’s premier kite and windsurfing destinations, drawing in water sports enthusiasts from around the world. The winds in Essaouira blow in a north-westerly direction all year-round and blow stronger in summer, combining with the warm sun to provide comfortable conditions for getting in a wetsuit. You can try your hand at everything from surfing to swimming at the beaches that scatter the nearby coastline, whether you’re a seasoned water sport buff or starting out as a beginner. In the more inland areas there are dunes and forest areas that are ideal for camel tours and hiking, if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land.
Life's a Beach
The coast of Essaouira leads around to the resort’s natural harbour, with boats and yachts arriving and departing throughout the day. The sometimes challenging water conditions around the coast are the reason so many water sport buffs choose Essaouira as their holiday destination, but make sure you come prepared with something to break the wind and you can still have a laid-back beach holiday here too. With the whole Atlantic coast of Morocco known for its world-class beach resorts, you won’t have to travel far to find a beach whatever type of activity you’re in the mood for. Couples can head to Diabat, a ruined fort and abandoned village by the sea that makes the ideal setting for the ultimate romantic sea-side stroll.
The nightlife in Essaouira is relaxed, with only a handful of bars and cafés that serve alcohol. Morocco is a Muslim country so most places don't openly serve alcohol but due to Essaouira's international population, things are more relaxed than in some parts of the country. Some of these bars include Il Mare, which offers incredible views from the roof-top deck, live entertainment and a friendly and intimate atmosphere. At the Tru, you’ll find a wide range of affordable draft beers and an authentic Moroccan vibe. Most of the night-time fun happens at the terrace area in Taros, which functions as a bookshop and gallery during the day. By night, the bar opens and buzzes with live music, exciting themed nights and a good choice of drinks. Other things to do during the evenings include heading to the local restaurants and sampling the traditional Moroccan cuisine, and taking an evening stroll by the sea.
Whether you’re looking for an active holiday with your significant other or are planning the ultimate relaxed romantic break, Essaouira has everything you need for a fantastic couples holiday. The area’s natural beauty makes it an ideal location for celebrating special occasions, popping the question or getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern life at home. One of the most romantic things to do in Essaouira is taking a camel trek over the dunes with your significant other and experiencing first-hand the diverse scenery that surrounds the city. At Diabat, you can take a romantic stroll by a ruined fort and deserted village and enjoy the spectacular sea-side views.
As one of the lesser-known Moroccan holiday destinations, Essaouira has a rich heritage and authentic Moroccan vibe that you’ll love to explore and experience. At the seaside medina you’ll see the local fishermen hauling in their daily catch, as they have done throughout the history of this fascinating city. Just inside the medina walls you’ll find the clock tower and the oldest pastry shop in the city, which has been in business since 1928. The city was once home to a Jewish-Moroccan community, so there’s nowhere better to experience traditional pastry recipes that you can’t experience anywhere else.