Morocco’s Most Exotic Beaches
From wind-and-wave-battered west coast beaches buffered by the Atlantic Ocean to calm coves along the Mediterranean in the country’s Spanish-influenced north, Morocco’s balmy-for-most-of-the-year beaches beckon beach and outdoors lovers alike. Harness the wind and go where it blows during kite-boarding lessons in Essaouira. Or journey north to the Mediterranean town of Al Hoceima, where the Rif Mountains plunge into sandy bays with blue-green water.
Few beaches in Morocco boast the exotic vibe and world-class windsurfing scene of Essaouira, a historic walled town that lures tourists from dry and sun-baked Marrakech, three hours to the west, with its ancient medina and Portuguese fort buffered by a sweeping crescent of sand. In the marina, fishermen sell seafood straight from their boats (the sardines are a local favorite) and locals grill it up for you at rustic stands nearby, serving it with a spread of salads spiced with cumin and coriander and wheels of thick bread. Take kite surfing lessons from local shredders at Kite Centre Essaouira or thread your way through the dunes atop a camel with sunset tours from Zouina Cheval.
Sandy coves backed by the verdant Rif Mountains and easily accessible hiking in the cliffs perched above town make low-key Al Hoceima, along the Mediterranean coast, a popular Moroccan beach escape. Tourists, mainly of the French and German variety, usually arrive by boat or plane into Tangier (about four and a half hours by road to the northwest) and join Moroccan roadtrippers to loll in the sand or make the afternoon stroll along Avenue Mohammed V (for people watching) and sea breezes as the sun sets. And while Al Hoceima’s city beach (Quemado Beach) is inviting with its crystal-clear water, it’s worth escaping just outside of town to Tala Youssef for a less crowded stretch of sand. Casa Paca Alhucemas Guesthouse has rooms with Mediterranean views and the friendly husband-wife owners cook a mean paella.
Morocco’s most unique beach lies between the towns of Mirleft and Sidi Ifni, about three hours to the south of the mass tourism beach destination of Agadir. Legzira is known for its spectacular natural arches (one of which yawns across 90 feet of beach) and sandstone cliffs that are best visited at low tide. Particularly at dawn and dusk, the majestic geological formations sparkle with a kaleidoscope of colors. Stay a while so you can soak up several sunrises and sunsets. Legzira Beach Club has inexpensive rooms near the beach and the kitchen does delicious fresh meals such as fish and Moroccan tagine (meat – usually lamb or chicken -- cooked with fruit and olives in a conical clay pot).
Situated 17 miles south of Essaouira, Sidi Kaouki, a small Berber village home to horses, camels and a few entrepreneurial locals keen to take you down the beach atop their animals, draws a similar wind- and wave-obsessed crowd as its northern neighbor. And while there’s not too much to see in the village, intrepid travelers appreciate the beautiful stretch of mostly empty white sand beach here that doubled for Dubai in the Sex and the City movie. Spend your days basking in the sun and surf or hanging in the village listening to the call to prayer, shopping in a Moroccan souk and staying in one of the family-run guesthouses (Auberge de la Plage is a cheap and cheerful one) clustered around the town square.
Like a mini-Essaouira in northern Morocco, this beautiful walled town just south of Tangier on the Atlantic coast is bookended by golden sweeps of sand to the north and south. The nicest beach, Paradise Beach, lies a little over a mile south of the medina (old city) and is best reached by catching a taxi or caleche (horse-drawn carriage) from one of the many entrepreneurs in town keen to take you there. For a special stay with exceptional souq and sea views, book the rooftop room at Dar Azaouia, which can accommodate two adults and two children and has a bathroom modeled after a traditional Moroccan hammam.