What’s the best beach in Morocco?
For Westerners, Morocco holds an immediate and enduring fascination. Though just an hour’s ride on the ferry from Spain, it seems at once very far from Europe, with a culture – Islamic and deeply traditional – that is almost wholly unfamiliar.
Morocco’s varied geography includes no less than four separate mountain ranges, in addition to lush river valleys, beautiful sandy coasts, and wide expanses of desert.
The Moroccan coastline, which fronts onto both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, offers plenty of great beaches as well as a number of fascinating old coastal cities.
Ain Diab Beach in Casablanca
You can get out to the beach suburb of Ain Diab by bus (#9 from Boulevard de Paris), by petit taxi (easily engaged around Place des Nations Unies) or on foot. The beach starts around 3km out from the port and Old Medina, past the Mosque Hassan II, and continues for about the same distance.
A beach right within Casa may not sound alluring – and it’s certainly not the cleanest and clearest stretch of the country’s waters – but Ain Diab’s big attraction is not so much the sea, in whose shallow waters Moroccans gather in phalanx formations, as the beach clubs along its front.
Each of these has one or more pools, usually filled with filtered seawater, a restaurant, and a couple of snack bars; in the fancier ones, there’ll also be additional sports facilities like tennis or volleyball and perhaps even a disco.
The prices and quality of the beach clubs vary enormously and it’s worth wandering around for a while to check out what’s available. Most locals have an annual membership and for outsiders, a day or weekend ticket can work out surprisingly expensive (80-160dh), but there’s quite often one place that has thrown its doors open for free in an attempt to boost its cafe business.
If you are taking a petit taxi from the Mosquee Hassan II or the city centre, ask to be set down at any one of Le Tonga, Miami, Tahiti, or Plage Anfa; then reconnoitre and make your choice.
Out beyond Ain Diab, along the corniche and inland from it, is the suburb of Anfa, where the city’s wealthy have their villas, and companies their corporate headquarters – including the striking OCP (Office Cherifien des Phosphates) shiny black block alongside the Old Casablanca airport, now known as Aeroport Casa Anfa and used for private and business internal flights.
Here, too, are the villas of rich Saudis, overlooking the corniche, the wealthy Ibn Saud Foundation, and its beautiful mosque.
The first town south of Tangier – and the first stop on the train line – Asialh is one of the most elegant of the old Portuguese Atlantic ports, ranking with El Jadida and Essaouira to the south of Casablanca, and is small, easy to manage, and exceptionally clean.
First impressions are of wonderful square stone ramparts, flanked by palms, and an outstanding beach – an immense sweep of sand stretching to the north halfway to Tangier.
Further exploration reveals the Medina, which is one of the most attractive in the country, colourwashed at every turn, and with a series of murals painted for the town’s International Festival. The first International Festival was in 1978 and it has been held for most years since. It always takes place in August and runs for three to four weeks, with a program usually including art, dance, film, music, and poetry, attracting performers from around the world.
As with Tangier, the beach is the main focus of life in summer. The most popular stretches are to the north of the town, out towards the campsites. For more isolated strands, walk south, past the Medina ramparts, for about fifteen minutes.
For some years now there have been plans to extend the small harbour, providing anchorage for fishing boats and a marina for yachts. In 1995 there was even extensive advertising of the new facilities and adjoining apartment blocks, but a subsequent change of plan will now see separate provisions for commercial and leisure craft.
Azemmour, South to El Jadida
Azemmour has an oddly remote feel – and history, considering its strategic site on the great Oum Er Rbia river. It has long been outside the mainstream of events.
A short visit, nonetheless, is worthwhile, and the town is easily reached by bus or grand taxi from El Jadida. It’s also on a branch line that runs from the Casablanca-Marrakesh main line but there is only one train a day and the station is 2km out of town, on the far side of the P8.
If you want to stay, there are two hotels, both on Avenue Mohammed V: at no. 38 is the sparse but clean Hotel la Victoire, and at no. 78 the Hotel de la Poste has recently been renovated. The town also has several cafe-restaurants, the best of which is the Cafe El Manzah on Place du Souk, with an active card school upstairs.
The river currents at Azemmour are notoriously dangerous, but there’s a nice stretch of beach half an hour’s walk through the eucalyptus trees beyond the town.
If you go by road, it’s signposted to the “Balneaire du Haouzia”, a small, cabins and camping complex occupying part of the sands. There is a restaurant here, La Perle, which is fairly expensive but good, serving paella and other fish dishes; it’s open all year.
In summer, you can camp in the private complex; and, in winter, you can safely camp alongside the restaurant.
For bird watchers, the scrub dunes around the mouth of the river should prove rewarding territory.
Lala Fatna Beach, Safi, Morocco
Continuing south from Oualidia, the road climbs a little inland and above the sea, which is hidden from view by sand dunes. It’s a pretty stretch and more so as you approach Cap Beddouza, where the rocky headland gives way intermittently to sandy beaches, sheltered by cliffs.
At the cape there is a lighthouse and the Auberge Cap Beddouza, with a restaurant, bar, and basic, rather overpriced cabins on the cliff top.
The best of the cliff-sheltered beaches is known as Lalla Fatna, 51km from Oualidia and just 15km short of Safi (with which it’s connected by local bus #10 or #15). It’s totally undeveloped, with nothing more than a koubba and in summer a few Moroccan tents, sometimes a cafe.
If you are intending to stay, you’ll need your own transport and to take provisions. The beach is a steep two-kilometre descent from the road; camping on the beach, make sure you’ve pitched your tent far enough back from the tides.
Finally, beyond Cap Safi, you pass the marabout of Sidi Bouzid, overlooking Safi with its Medina, port, and industry.
Down below is Sidi Bouzid beach – Safi’s local strand – where on November 8, 1942, American troops under General Patton landed as the southernmost thrust of Operation Torch, the Vichy French position offering little resistance.
The cliff top is a good vantage point and is capped by a couple of nice restaurants: La Corniche and Le Refuge. It’s said that on a clear day and with your back to the sea, you can see the foothills of the High Atlas from here.
Mazagan Beach El Jadida, Morocco
El Jadida is a stylish and beautiful town, retaining the lanes and ramparts of an old Portuguese Medina. It was known as Mazagan under the Portuguese who held it from 1506 until 1769, when it was taken by Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah.
Today it’s the beach that is undeniably the focal point. Moroccans from Casablanca and Marrakesh, even Tangier or Fes, come here in droves in summer, and, alongside this mix, there’s an unusual feeling of openness.
The bars are crowded (a rare feature in itself), there’s an almost frenetic evening promenade, and – as in Casa – Moroccan women are visible and active participants.
El Jadida’s town beach spreads southeast from the cite and port, well beyond the length of the town. It’s a popular strip, though from time to time polluted by the ships in port.
If it doesn’t look too good, or you feel like a change, take a petit taxi 3km northwest along the coastal road past the Phare Sidi Ouafi (lighthouse), a broader strip of sand where dozens of Moroccan families set up tents for the summer. Good swimming is to be had and there are makeshift beach cafes.
Plage Sidi Bouzid, 2km further southwest, is more developed, flanked by some fancy villas, a chic restaurant bar, Le Requin Bleu, renowned for its fish, the less expensive Restaurant Beausejour and makeshift summer camping.
The beach can be reached on bus #2 from alongside Place Mohammed Ben Abdallah, or by grand taxi.
Beach Mogador, Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira is by popular acclaim Morocco’s most likable resort: an eighteenth-century town, enclosed by medieval-looking battlements, facing a cluster of rocky offshore islands, and trailed by a vast expanse of empty sands and dunes.
Its whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses and colonnades, its wood workshops and art galleries, its boat-builders and sardine fishermen, and its feathery Norfolk Island pines which only thrive in a pollution-free atmosphere: all provide a colorful and very pleasant backdrop to the beach.
Many of the foreign tourists making their own way to Essaouira, are drawn by the wind, known locally as the alizee, which in spring and summer can be a bit remorseless for sunbathing but creates much-sought-after waves for surfing and windsurfing.
Essaouira has beaches to the north and south. The main town beach, to the south, extends for miles from the town, often backed by dunes, out towards Cap Sim.
In its early reaches, the main activity, as ever in Morocco, is football. There’s virtually always a game in progress and at weekends a full-scale local league, with a dozen matches side by side and kick-offs timed by the tides. If you’re a player, you’ll be encouraged to join in, but the weekend games are fun just to watch, and on occasions, half the town seems to turn out.
The southern beach also has a dozen or so camel men, offering rides on their beats up and down the sands, or out to the dunes. Most of them operate in pairs and they can be fiercely competitive for custom (they’re not beyond galloping off as soon as they’ve enticed you to ride). So, if you have young kids, watch the scene for a while and be sure to pick someone you feel confident about – it’s a long way to fall. You’ll need to bargain for rates.
The beach to the north of town, known as the Plage de Safi, is good in hot weather and with a calm sea, but the water can be dangerous if the wind is up. It’s reached from the north end of town by skirting left through a malodorous area, the reward being miles of often delightfully empty sand.
Mehdiya Beach near Kenitra
Mehdiya Plage, Kenitra’s beach, 11km to the west, is a dull, greyish strip with a few houses and chalets, intermittent beach cafes, and plenty of day visitors in summer.
It’s easily reached by grand taxi (these leave Kenitra from Avenue Mohammed Diouri), but if you’re after a spot to break a journey and swim, you’d be better off at the more relaxed Plage des Nations, to the south.
The road from Kenitra to Mehdiya Plage runs along the left bank of the estuary of the Oued Sebou, passing first the large fish cannery and then continuing along below Mehdiya’s ruined kasbah.
Overlooking the estuary, this was built by the Portuguese, extended by the Spanish, demolished and then restored by Moulay Ismail, and, finally, knocked about in the course of US troop landings in World War II; it shelters the remains of a seventeenth-century governor’s palace.
The only year-round accommodation is the Complexe Belle Vue on corniche road below the fort, which has a fish restaurant, bar, and Khaima nightclub. The other option, if you decide to stay, is to take up the offers of a room with a family; otherwise, stay in Kenitra and travel out daily.
A couple of kilometres inland is the birdlife-rich Lac du Sidi Bourhaba, flanked by a koubba that is the site of an August moussem.
Mohammedia Beaches near Casablanca
The port of Mohammedia has a dual identity. As the site of Morocco’s main oil refineries, and the base of its petrochemical industry, it’s an important industrial and commercial city, with a population of some 130,000.
Yet it’s also a big-name resort – a holiday playground for Casablanca – with one of the best beaches on the Atlantic, a racecourse, the Ibn Batouta yacht marina, and the Mohammedia Royal Golf Club where the game was originally played in the sand in the 1920s, before a Frenchman, Pierre Uruguayen, shaped the present eighteen holes.
These two faces of the city – tourism and industry – are kept quite distinct, with the latter contained in a zone to the southwest of the city centre and beach.
In summer, the city’s population is given a huge boost by Moroccan tourists, mainly from Casa, who camp by the beach in what is called Mohammedia-Est: a sequence of tented villages that stretch northeast towards Port Blondin and Mansouria.
For foreign visitors, there is perhaps less to tempt a stay. Despite a longish history as a trading port, this was still a small village at the turn of the twentieth century and the city has little in the way of monuments of “old Morocco”.
Still, Mohammedia makes a very pleasant stopover, with its friendly, easy-going atmosphere, and a fine selection of restaurants.
If you are flying in or out of Casablanca, you could do a lot worse than spend the first or last night here; it’s only 20 minutes by train from Casa and there are a dozen or so trains a day each way.
In July, it may be worth a special trip, too, for the week-long Mohammedia Festival, which encompasses all kinds of cultural activities, craft exhibitions, a fantasia, cycling races, and a marathon.
Moulay Bousselham Beach – south towards Fes
Moulay Bousselham, 55km from Ksar El Kebir, is a very low-key resort, popular almost exclusively with Moroccans.
It comprises little more than a single street, crowded with grill cafes and sloping down to the sea at the side of a broad lagoon and wetland area, known as Merdja Zerga.
This is one of northern Morocco’s prime bird-watching locations, and any foreign visitor will be encouraged to see the lagoon’s flamingo and other bird colonies in one of the locals’ fishing boats.
The beach itself is sheltered by cliffs – rare along the Atlantic – and has an abrupt drop-off, which creates a continual crash of breaking waves. While a lot of fun for swimming, the currents can be highly dangerous and the beach is strictly patrolled by lifeguards. Take care.
For Moroccans, the village is a part summer resort, part pilgrimage centre. The saint from which the village takes its name, the Marabout Moulay Bousselham, was a tenth-century Egyptian, whose remains are housed in a koubba prominently positioned above the settlement. In July this sees one of the largest moussems in the region.
Plage des Nations on the coast to Rabat
The Plage des Nations, or Sidi Bouknadel as it’s sometimes known, was named after the foreign diplomats and their families who started swimming there – and continue to do so.
Unlike the capital’s Kasbah or Sale beaches, it has a very relaxed, friendly, and cosmopolitan feel about it and is unusual in that young Moroccan women feel able to come out here for the day.
The beach itself is excellent, with big, exciting waves – but dangerous currents, and is patrolled by lifeguards along the central strip.
It’s flanked by a couple of beach cafes and the modern Hotel Firdaous, which has a swimming pool open to all for a small charge, plus a snack bar and two restaurants.
The beach lies 2km off the P2 coast road, reached along a surfaced track. On the main road, directly opposite the turn-off, is an old villa recently opened as the Musee Dar Beghazi, named after its enterprising Fassi owner.
It has a fine collection of Andalucian and Islamic art, carpets, woodwork, armor, jewelry – and a coach, and, as one of the few private collections on display in Morocco, merits a diversion.
If you take the #28 bus from Sale to Plage des Nations, be aware that it turns around a couple of kilometres before the beach turn-off, just after the village of Bouknadel.
Most passengers get out here and head left for the beach: a forty-minute walk along a path that heads off diagonally towards the sea, past market gardens, round some woods, and then joins the final stretch of the road.
Sidi Kaouki (South to Agadir)
The old road south from Essaouira used to go via Diabat, but since the bridge over the Oued Ksob was broken and replaced by a tricky ford, the main road (P8A leading to P8) crosses the river upstream before joining the P8 to Agadir.
En route to Diabat and signposted from the main road is the Auberge Tangaro, a rather chic, Italian-owned place that provides a tempting alternative to staying in Essaouira, if you have transport of your own.
Little used except at weekends, when groups of French and German windsurfers arrive from Casablanca and Marrakesh, the auberge has a number of chalet rooms, and it serves excellent meals. Half-board is obligatory. The beach is a half-hour hike.
Back on the P8, a further 7km brings you to a sideroad signposted to Sidi Kaouki. The beach here attracts windsurfers virtually year-round and looks set for mainstream development. Currently, the choice of accommodation is limited to three possibilities.
The Residence Kaouki Beach has ten comfortable rooms; it’s run by the Villa Maroc in Essaouira. Half-board is available and much cheaper than the Auberge Tangaro; the restaurant is fine and open – by reservation – to nonresidents in the evening.
The newer Auberge de la Plage is managed by a German/Italian couple who have a small stable and horses to hire for trekking along the beach. There’s also the mildly eccentric Villa Bougies, with four rooms, nine beds, solar energy, and lots of candles.
Near the beach is the original Marabout of Sidi Kaouki, which has a reputation for curing sterility in women, and beyond that is Cap Sim, backed by long expanses of dunes.
It was the beach and mild climate which drew in Tangier’s first expatriates, the Victorian British, who used to amuse themselves with afternoon rides along the sands and weekends of “pig-sticking” in the wooded hills behind.
Today’s pleasures come a little more package on the town beach, with camel rides, windsurfing, and a string of club-like beach bars. It’s no Acapulco, but by day the sands are diverting and fun, with Moroccans entertaining themselves with acrobatics and football.
It is easier, safer and some say compulsory to change in a cabin, so when you arrive at the beach you might like to attach yourself to one of the beach bars, most of which offer showers and deck chairs, as well as food and drink.
Some of these are institutions, like Emma’s BBC Bar (still serving up English breakfasts), The Sun Beach, where Tennessee Williams wrote a first draft of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Windmill, where Joe Orton hung out.
One of the most pleasant is Chez Miami, with its gardens to laze around in, but the favorites change each year, so look around and take your pick. All are open in summer only.
By day, don’t leave anything on the beach unattended. By night, limit your exploration to the beach bars (a few of which offer evening cabarets – if Arabic Country & Western appeals), as the beach itself becomes dangerous, with muggings fairly common.
- What’s the best beach in Morocco?
- Ain Diab Beach in Casablanca
- Azemmour, South to El Jadida
- Lala Fatna Beach, Safi, Morocco
- Mazagan Beach El Jadida, Morocco
- Beach Mogador, Essaouira, Morocco
- Mehdiya Beach near Kenitra
- Mohammedia Beaches near Casablanca
- Moulay Bousselham Beach – south towards Fes
- Plage des Nations on the coast to Rabat
- Sidi Kaouki (South to Agadir)
- Tangier Beaches