Senegal lies on the shoulder of West Africa, bordered to the west by the North Atlantic Ocean. It has 531 kilometres of pristine coastline, making it a tropical paradise for beach lovers. It’s also fast becoming known as Africa’s new surfing hot spot, with year-long good waves created by both southern and northern hemisphere swells.
On top of that, lying 14 degrees north of the Equator, Senegal enjoys year-round warm weather with an average temperature of 30°C in the summer months between July to October and a pleasant 26°C average temperature in the cooler winter months between December to April.
The most popular stretch of coastline is Petite Côte, otherwise known as Small Coast. It runs south from the Cap-Vert Peninsula to the Saloum Delta and is home to Senegal’s favourite beach destinations. To get you started on planning your beach holiday in Senegal, we’ve created a shortlist of the country’s best sundrenched beaches.
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Where: 80 kms south of Dakar and 15 minutes from Blaise Diagne International Airport
Saly-Portugal is the trendiest beach hub in Senegal attracting large numbers of tourists from Europe who come to the golden beaches to escape their cold winters. You’ll find a selection of luxury hotels, casinos and entertainment resorts as well as a top-class golf course at Saly-Portudal.
Where: 80 kilometres south of Dakar
Mbour is a quaint fishing village that’s a short drive from Saly. It’s the region’s most important and vibrant fishing centre and much of the fishing activity happens on the main beach. If the smell of freshly gutted fish is a bit much for you, book a more private seaside retreat up the coast from the busy fishing port.
Where: 70 kms south of Dakar in the Cap Ver-Thies region
Popenguine is a picturesque village located on a beautiful stretch of beach onPetite-Côte. You’ll find some of the Senegal’s best restaurants in Popenguine, catering to a high-heel cosmopolitan clientele. Popenguine is also known for its lush natural reserve which has been protected since 1986 by a local women’s group.
Plage de Yoff
Where: 10 kms north of Dakar
Plage de Yoff is a wide, expansive beach and the closest safe swimming beach to Dakar. Being so close the city, it’s not a beach you’d choose for a tranquil seaside holiday but if you’re staying in Dakar it’s worth a visit purely to see the festive, brightly-coloured timber fishing boats jam-packed along the length of the beach.
Places like Malika Surf Camp close to Yoff beach offer surfing lessons and run surfing competitions as well as organise beach yoga, football and volleyball.
Plage des Mamelles
Where: 10 kms north of Dakar on the Cap-Vert Peninsula
You’ll find this gorgeous hideaway sandwiched between the Mamelles Lighthouse and the vast Atlantic Ocean. It’s popular beach bars attract a trendy crowd, pumping out reggae music and ice-cold beers. Take a walk to see Les Mamelles Lighthouse which has been operational since 1864.
Ile de Ngor
Where: 10-minute pirogue ride from Ngor beach, north of Dakar
Ile de Ngor is an idyllic island destination made up of four tiny coves that are all within walking distance of each other. It’s the best beach to visit for an idyllic day away from the bustling city. You’ll find a selection of local restaurants on the island serving dishes of freshly-caught fish and enjoy fun outdoor activities such as surfing, snorkeling and fishing.
Where: 515 kms south of Dakar via Trans-Gambia Highway
Cap Skirring is located south of Dakar, crossing over The Gambia into the Basse Casamance region of Senegal. It’s a hugely popular seaside destination with Europeans and known for its endless white sandy beach. Festive beach bars, food shacks and modern hotels stretch out along the palm-lined beach and there’s a golf course nearby.
Things you should know about a beach holiday in Senegal
Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country but tourists are not expected to cover up while on holiday in the country. Swimming shorts and bikinis are allowed but topless sunbathing is definitely not tolerated.
Expect to pay an entrance fee for a day pass to the private beaches connected to the high-end hotels, private beaches and restaurants along the Senegal coastline.
There are no lifeguards on Senegal’s beaches so ensure everyone in your holiday group can swim with confidence and be wary of strong currents.
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Senegal enjoys a hot tropical climate which is perfect for year-round beach holidays. However, the North Atlantic Ocean is cold in general and sea temperatures drop significantly in the winter months between January and April. It’s a good idea to choose a hotel on the beach that has a swimming pool because you might find the water too chilly on some days.
On the whole, the people of Senegal are friendly and hospitable and it’s a safe country to visit. However, the busy seaside villages attract opportunist criminals, particularly during the busy holiday seasons. Take care to safeguard your valuables and use common travel sense to avoid falling victim of petty theft and street muggings.
Senegal comes with a higher price tag for foreign tourists and you’ll find the hotels relatively expensive, particularly in the busy tourist towns. Beachfront dining is relaxing and cheap and generally a lot more fun, with live music and a festive, friendly atmosphere.