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Essaouira Beach: everything you need to know

Essaouira Beach: everything you need to know

If you are travelling around Morocco, the windswept beaches of Essaouira are a breathe of fresh air after the congestion and mayhem of Marrakech or Casablanca. Essaouira’s main beach is perfect for a long walk along the corniche (the promenade), or a sun downer after a surf lesson, and the beach to the north of town (known as Safi Beach by the locals) is the perfect place to escape the high seasons crowds of July and August, whilst benefitting from those cooling gusts off the Atlantic.

And yes, there is more than one beach in Essaouira. The beach stretching to the south of the medina from the fishing port towards Diabat is the main tourist beach. The beach to the north from the Ramparts is rarely visited and offer rockpools as well as sandy beaches. If the tide is low, you can walk all the way from Sqala du Port (you will have to climb over the wall and down) to the beach at the northern end of Essaouira.

The beach at the far northern edge of town is Safi Beach and offers a long sweeping stretch of sand to the town of Safi, backed by huge sand dunes. Battered by the wind and waves from the Atlantic, there’s a wild and remote energy to this beach, and quite the contrast to the main tourist beach.

Do note that Essaouira’s beaches aren’t ideal for sunbathing due to the winds off the Atlantic (head to Agadir for better sunbathing). However, sunbeds are available to rent on the main beach for those calmer days.

But for those visiting Essaouira with kids, it’s likely that you’ll be spending a fair amount of time on the beach as it’s a great space for your little ones to run wild. Although you’ll be pleased to know that Essaouira’s main beach also offers a play area (with trampolines) and kids’ surf lessons.

Essaouira’s main beach

To the south of Essaouira’s medina is a 2km arc of sandy beach with a wide paved promenade along the entire stretch, with ice-cream, popcorn, and cane juice stalls in the high season. The main beach begins next to the fishing port, and stretches towards a row of restaurants and beach bars opposite the main roundabout.

walking along Essaouira's corniche
walking along Essaouira corniche

The waters here are very shallow, but the strong Atlantic wind brings waves that are great for surfing and kitesurfing. You will find the surf schools at the far end of the beach. Indeed, surfing and kite-surfing are top things to do in Essaouira.

It’s a stunning place to visit for sunset. The sun sets behind the fishing port when stood at the medina end of the main beach, and sets over the Atlantic when stood at the far end of the main beach.

sunset at Essaouira
sun setting behind the fishing port

Things to do at Essaouira’s main beach

There are sun loungers to rent for 25DH closer to the medina end of the beach. About half way along is a concrete football / basketball play area, as well as a small children’s playground with trampolines (10DH per child). The playground tends to only be open during school holidays and weekends.

playground at Essaouira's main beach
beach playground along Essaouira’s main beach
football and basketball court on Essaouria beach
football and basketball court on Essaouria beach

On the far end of the beach, away from the medina, is where you’ll find Essaouira’s beach activities, including surfing and kite surfing, plus camels and horses for riding. Please note the camels and horses are not permitted to be ridden along the main beach, and will instead head south towards Diabat.

kitesurfers in Essaouria

Can you swim at Essaouira beach?

You can indeed! But do remember, this is the Atlantic Ocean not the Mediterranean, so water temperatures are rather on the chilly side.

The bar chart below shows the average monthly sea temperatures at Essaouira beach over the year.

Beach bars and restaurants

There are also a handful of oh-so-cool beach bars at the far end of Essaouira Beach, including Ocean Vagabond and Beach & Friends. These are our personal recommended spots for a sundowner; not only are they two of the best places to eat in Essaouira (Beach & Friends does great tapas), but they are also two of the few restaurants that serve alcohol in Essaouira.

If you don’t fancy the walk from from these bars to the medina, hop in a Petits Taxi for 7DH (8DH at night).

Ocean Vagabond Essaouira
View from Ocean Vagabond and the far end of Essaouira Beach

Is the main beach clean?

The beach is generally clean (and much cleaner than the beaches to the north of the media), although you will unfortunately find a fair bit of litter close to the promenade and along the shoreline.

The beach is regularly cleaned. However, in the peak high season (particularly in August) the rubbish left by domestic visitors on the beach at the end of the day is heart-breaking.

Is Essaouira beach busy?

On sunny, hot weekends when there is no wind, the beach can get very busy with domestic tourists. July and August is when the main beach is busiest as kids are on school holidays and locals flock to the coast to escape the unbearably soaring temperatures inland. Though if you head to Safi Beach to the north of town during the school summer holidays, it will be much much quieter.

Check out our guide to the best time to visit Essaouira.

Essaouira beach in July
July in Essaouira looking very busy on the main beach

However, for much of the year, the beach is generally uncrowded, and you are likely to have the beach to yourself in the early morning or evening. If you want to visit at the quietest time, we recommend visiting Essaouira during Ramadan.

What’s beyond the main beach of Essaouira?

You can actually keep walking southwards along the beach beyond the restaurants and beach bars, past the sand dunes towards Diabat.

There is a river (Oued el Kassab) that separates Essaouira from Diabat. In the summer months the river runs dry and you can walk across the river bed to the quieter beach of Diabat and on to the abandoned remains of Dar Sultan Palace.

the dry riverbed between Essaouira and Diabat
in the summer months, the riverbed between Essaouira and Diabat runs dry
Dar Sultan Palace
the abandoned Dar Sultan Palace, a top thing to do in Diabat

The beach north of Essaouira’s Ramparts

Looking north from Essaouira’s Ramparts (which were used as the set of Astapor in Game of Thrones), you can see a sandy beach buffeted by the Atlantic waves. But from the Ramparts, there is no obvious way down, unless you are bold enough for a big jump.

In fact the closest entry point to this beach is from Sqala du Port, climb down to the beach on the right hand side and then walk northwards. This will only be passable at low tide.

Otherwise, walk through the medina to the Jewish Quarter, and exit through Bab Doukkala, follow the road straight ahead past the Jewish Cemetery, the Petits Taxis, and a line of horse-drawn carriages. Continue for 550 metres to the Total Energies petrol station. Just past here on the left is a short road that leads to the beach. Walk down here, and continue to the left to get down to the beach. It seems remarkable that this is the first entry point from the Ramparts, but the high walls of the medina and subsequent buildings, just mean that any other entry point is not possible.

entrance to beach opposite Essaouira's Total Energies petrol station
entrance to beach opposite Essaouira’s Total Energies petrol station

The litter here is bad, really bad. This beach is rarely visited by tourists and so never cleared. Really makes you realise how huge the rubbish problem is in Morocco. You unfortunately have to walk through the litter to get down to the beach.

But past the litter, the beach opens up, and even on a summer Sunday, you may get this beach to yourself. There are also lots of broken ceramics to be found here on this beach; kids may like to collect a few to make a mosaic.

Essaouira beach north of Ramparts
the beach directly north of Essaouira’s medina is pretty special once you get past the litter
beach mosaicing Essaouira
creating a mosaic from the broken tiles washed up onto the beach

This is a great place for a stroll and the beach stretches for miles northwards to Safi Beach.

Safi Beach

If you’re visiting Essaouira in July or August (the high season), Safi Beach at the far northern end of town is a great place to escape the crowds. Hardly anyone goes here, and there’s an end-of-the-world, abandoned feel to it. It’s eerily beautiful and wild, especially on a commonly windy day with sand whipping up everywhere. Run down a huge sand dune, explore the rock pools, or just find a good spot to sit and watch the waves roll in from the Atlantic Ocean as the sun sets.

Safi Beach Essaouira
looking over to Essaouira from the top of a sand dune at Safi Beach

A novel way of getting to Safi Beach is to take a horse and carriage from outside Bab Doukkala, just a bit further on from the Petit Taxi rank outside Bab Doukkala. Yes, a horse and carriage is still a regular form of transport in Essaouira!

50DH will secure you a private return fare. Your carriage driver will be happy to wait for you as you explore, or arrange a collection time.

horse and carriage at Safi Beach Essaouira
the easiest way to get between Essaouira’s medina and Safi Beach

If you would rather walk, allow 30 minutes from Bab Doukkala (2km). It’s not the prettiest of walks, but you get to experience the industrial side of Essaouira, which is quite a contrast from the polished tourist areas of the central medina.

Google map for the walk from Bab Doukkala to Safi Beach
map of the walk from Bab Doukkala to Safi Beach, Essaouira credit: GoogleMaps 2022

It is also possible to walk all along the beach from Sqala du Port or the beach entrance just past the Total Energies petrol station. But be aware of high tide times, as part of the beach will be unpassable.

There are no facilities at Safi Beach (no shop, café, or toilets). So if you plan to stay for a few hours, ensure you have drinks and snacks with you.

What to wear on the beach in Essaouira

Local men all wear swimming shorts (sometimes underpants) and are topless on Essaouira beach. So men and boys are absolutely fine in normal swim shorts.

Local ladies will be covered in a abaya and hijab. However, being a tourist beach, and especially in the summer months, you will be fine in a bathing suit or bikini. If you are basing yourself around the parasols and sunbeds towards the medina end of the beach or opposite the large Essaouira hotels, you may feel more comfortable as this is where most tourists sunbathe. However, away from the sun lounger areas, if a woman is on her own in a bathing suit or bikini, she may receive a few stares from young men and attract attention.

sunbeds laid out in Essaouira in July
sunbeds laid out in Essaouira in July
local women on the beach in Essaouira
local women on the beach in Essaouira

Topless sunbathing is extremely inappropriate in Essaouira, and perhaps leave the thong-bikini at home.

It is also insensitive to walk along the Corniche and away from the beach in your swimwear.

If you plan on doing a lot of surfing or kite-surfing in Essaouira then you may wish to bring your own wetsuit, although these are always provided with lessons.