There’s no shortage of adventure activities in Cape Town. I’ve been fortunate to visit 4 times and it feels I discover new things to do in Cape Town every visit. If there’s one piece of advice I’ll mention to anyone planning a trip to Cape Town or South Africa in general is to NEVER skimp on the experiences.
Seriously. This city and the whole country really, feels like a giant playground for adults, couples, friends and children alike.
Fortunately, adventures can be had at any budget so you can enjoy all that Cape Town has to offer no matter what your budget or travel style and preferences are! If you like free (we all do!) here is my list of 5 free things to do in Cape Town.
But, back to our list, here is a list of the 12 best adventure activities in Cape Town (or at least within a 2-3 hour drive!)
Not only is Cape Town blessed with an abundance of outdoor adventurous things to do but it is also blessed with mild temperate weather, making most days (winter or summer) very comfortable to be outdoors. Conveniently, most of these activities can be enjoyed individually or as a couple, group or family. Here are my list of outdoor and adventure activities you can enjoy in Cape Town.
1. Hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
Cost: R900-1500/pp with a guide or R200-380 for return tickets on the cable car
Probably the most obvious activity given the literal backdrop of these geological features, hiking is a favourite Capetonian pastime. Lion’s Head is easier of the two for the moderately active, and takes as little as 45-60 minutes. Table Mountain is a commitment and probably best done during the weekends given the 3-4 hours it takes, depending on which trail you choose. In any case, you should be prepared to bring more than enough water/snacks and wear the appropriate gears when hiking as well as consider hiring a guide given the popularity of both sites.
2. Abseiling Table Mountain
Cost: R400-1100/pp with Abseil Africa
Abseiling is not for the faint-hearted but something that will get your adrenaline going if you’re that kind of junkie. Abseil Africa is the operator of the popular abseiling (descending on an almost-vertical surface) which will give you a different perspective of the popular destination. This is an activity that most can partake in (except if you’re too young) and no prior experience needed!
3. Paragliding off Signal Hill or Lion’s Head
Cost: R1300/pp + R250-350 for photos with FlyCapeTown Paragliding
Paragliding is a relatively novel experience for me and when I did it back in 2015, it was one of the most unique travel experiences (and a total conversation starter!) I’ve had. Although far pricier than the other options presented here for a shorter duration (the flight itself is only 20-25 minutes at most), you really get a different view of the city and experience itself. You can bet I paid extra for the GoPro pictures (and they made the effort to make the photos pretty darn fantastic and memorable!)
4. Surfing (or Windsurfing or Kiteboarding)
Cost: R280 per lesson or buy a package at Surf Emporium
I always make a point of dropping in for a week of surfing in and around Cape Town because there’s no better place to learn and be inspired by surfers around you. Muizenberg’s Surfer Corner is my favourite destinations as I still consider myself a beginner and don’t want to get in the way of experienced surfers nor get injured by going to the more challenging locations.
I’ve published a prior post where I talked about some of the best surfing spots in Cape Town for beginners to experienced surfers. If you prefer to go to a beginner-friendly spot and take lessons, be sure to head over to Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg!
5. Day trip to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope
Cost: R85 for South African nationals and R170-340 for standard entry
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope! The scenic destination lies at the southern section of Table Mountain National park and is only a 45-60 minute (scenic) drive from Cape Town. There are trails (including 26 known shipwreck trails), secret beaches, cycling, enjoy the views from the many, many unique viewpoints, go kayaking or mountain biking!
I won’t spoil too much more but you can read more about my previous visits to Cape Point and Cape Peninsula or take the BazBus for a budget-friendly day trip to Cape Peninsula!
6. Swim with Sharks (In a Cage)
Cost: R1800-2400/pp with Shark Cage Diving
Gansbaai’s claim to fame is its world-famous cage shark diving experience where you’re put in a cage, chums are dumped all around you to attract Great White sharks to surround the cage and enjoy the exhilarating experience of swimming with sharks. I’ve never felt this particular activity was attractive to me as I’d rather not condition the sharks this way but for some this may be an interesting experience.
One thing I do read about this experience is making sure to bring nausea-relief medication if you get sea-sick easily as the boat will take you pretty far into the water.
7. Snorkeling and swimming with Seals in Hout Bay
Cost: R550-990 with Animal Ocean’s Seal Snorkeling
My favourite thing to do in Hout Bay is to explore the Bay Harbour Market or pop into the world-famous Snoekies Fish Restaurant for delicious fish and chips or local catch of the day. However, a short cruise away, you can find yourself snorkeling with seals at Hout Bay’s Duiker Island (or Seal Island). Duiker is home to thousands of seal colonies and 40-60 minute cruises can be booked to see the world-famous Cape Fur Seals.
If you prefer to not swim, you can simply enjoy the 1-hour cruise and see the seals and their pups about. I’ve been told that November/December are the best time due to it being the time then the seals are most active (Cape Town’s summer season).
8. Hanging out and Kayaking with Jackass Penguins at Simon’s Town
Cost: R85-170 for visitors or R20-40 for SA nationals per SANParks Website
A visit to Simon’s Town is not complete without seeing the jackass penguins that nest at Boulders Beach Penguin colony. They are called jackass penguins because of the braying sound they make, not because their behaviour is unacceptable 😀 I’ve visited Boulders Beach twice and each time, just enjoyed seeing the penguins in their natural habitat.
You can also swim, play and feed the penguins and as the beach is the natural habitat of these flightless birds, it’s critical to care for them as well!
9. Scuba Diving (or get your PADI Certification)
Cost: R2750 for Open Water Diver or R900 for a refresher course per PADI website
Getting your PADI certification is a worthwhile endeavour even if it takes a long time and feels like school all over again (those math tests are real!) I did mine in Toronto and wished I had a better experience to enjoy both the written and practical portions. There are a number of places you can get certified and I highly recommend you do the theory part ahead of time so you are not wasting your precious vacation days on the not so-exciting written/theory part of the process.
There are numerous certified dive shops and you can pick and choose which courses (refresher, Open Water Diver or Advanced) and the helpful PADI website provides a helpful chart indicating the best time of the year to visit. Although I didn’t take a course with them, Into the Blue ranked high on my sister’s list when we looked into her getting certified in what should have been an epic 2020 South Africa trip.
10. Safari around Cape Town
The world famous Kruger National Park may not fit every itinerary (though every effort should be made to incorporate a jaunt to this incredible park). Whether it be timeline, costs or simply logistical, there are a few spots perfect for a 1 to 2-day excursion.
From Inverdoorn to Aquila Private Reserve, there are a few to choose from! While you may not sight all of the Big 5 nor have the authentic experience of camping in the wild, these parks and reserves get you close to the wildlife within a 2-3 hour drive from Cape Town along with all sorts of outdoor excursions bound to impress everyone in your group! Furthermore, you can customize the trip to fit your itinerary – so whether it be a day trip, overnight stays or a longer weekend excursion, there’s something for everyone!
11. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Cost: R80-200/pp and lower rates available for students SANBI
I thought it was a copout to include the world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in this list because adrenaline pumping activities are not likely found here. What you can find however, is a stunning garden filled with so much biodiversity that someone as inept as me when it comes to appreciating the wanders that is South Africa’s geological wealth walked away sufficiently impressed.
Although the garden itself is perfect for a slow day visit, you can also explore the trails and do a bit of hiking surrounded by some incredible views of the Table Mountain and garden itself. Furthermore, make your way to the “Boomslang” or more formally known as the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway for a breathtaking view than those found on the ground.
12. Skydive Cape Town
Cost: R2850/pp + R800 for videos/photos through Skydive Cape Town
You can go skydiving anywhere in the world but how frequently can you say that you’ve skydived and saw the Atlantic Ocean, Robben’s Island and Table Mountain all at once?
Cape Town is a stunning city when seen from the ground and above ground. I got a chance to enjoy the “above” ground experience when I went paragliding but if you’re more of an adrenaline junkie than I am, then this should be added to your list as well! The dive does take part outside of Cape Town (35-minute drive) so you might want to plan ahead to ensure it fits your itinerary and book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Where to Stay in Cape Town
Budget // Cape Town
A centrally-located boutique hostel with bunk bed to single-bed options near Greenmarket SquareBook Here
Budget // Cape Town
Another popular hostel located in Green Point with their in-house adventure tours/trips a short distance from V&A WaterfrontBook Here
Budget // Cape Town
Located on the vibrant Kloof Street, with the Table Mountain in your backyard and its own bar and bunk/twin/double bed options
Comfort // Cape Town
Spacious, stylish and modern with a panoramic view of the Table Mountain, this is comfortable hotel for the familyBook Here
Luxury // Cape Town
For an ultra-luxurious stay, consider this island resort-inspired hotel which features its own infinity pool and is walking distance from main tourist sitesBook Here
Luxury // Camps Bay
The ocean-front hotel based in Camps Bay offers stunning views of the Twelve Apostles and its very own rock pools. There is free transfers to V&A Waterfront
Will you be visiting South Africa soon? Don’t forget to make a visit to Cape Town a stop and enjoy these fantastic outdoor adventure activities in Cape Town a priority!
Where to Next?
- Kruger National Park is the premiere spot for safari in South Africa and here’s how you can do an African safari on a budget!
- If you’re looking to explore all of South Africa, consider taking the BazBus – a hop-on-hop-off cross country bus!
- Here’s how much it costs to go to South Africa as a solo traveller
- Consider taking rideshare like Uber/Bolt to get around
- Make time to in surf in Muizenberg; here are spots closer to Cape Town
- Don’t forget to plan a day for hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head!