Fora’s Guide to Essaouira, Morocco: Hotels & Things to Do

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Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


    The “Bride of the Atlantic,” Essaouira, Morocco, is equal parts culture hub and boho resort town. Set along the country’s central Atlantic coast, the city’s known for its fresh seafood, beautiful beaches and relaxed medina experience. 

    Read on to learn what makes the town a worthy addition to any Morocco itinerary. Then, connect with Fora, and we’ll put you in touch with an expert travel advisor who can help you plan and book your trip — plus unlock VIP hotel perks, like complimentary daily breakfast or room upgrades.

    What makes Essaouira, Morocco worth visiting? What’s it famous for?

    Essaouira, one of Morocco’s best places to visit, is a breezy oceanside destination perfect for culture connoisseurs and relaxation-seekers alike. Its Old Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its cultural significance. Then the city’s namesake beach draws surfers and kiteboarders, especially in summer when the Atlantic’s trade winds are at their strongest. Essaouira is also an excellent destination for foodies, with fresh seafood and a bevy of local and international restaurants.

    (If you want to learn more about the local food in Morocco, check out our guide.)

    Top sites & things to do in Essaouira, Morocco

    Read on for the best things to do in Essaouira.

    (For things to do in Morocco, more generally, check out our guide. Or, connect with a Fora Advisor for tailored recommendations.)

    1. Medina of Essaouira: walk the ocean ramparts & shop the souks

    Essaouira’s medina is unique among Morocco’s historical trading hubs. Whereas the souks (traditional Moroccan markets) in cities like Marrakech and Fes are known for their lightning pace, boisterous vendors and labyrinthian alleys, the Medina of Essaouira is quieter and comparatively hassle-free. 

    You can stroll through the markets at your own pace, taking in the variety of local artwork, craft goods, spices and more while engaging with traders and artists in a more relaxed setting. You can find a lot of locally made souvenirs (and often meet the artists themselves when you find an item you like). 

    Some sections of the medina border Essaouira’s lovely coastline, too.

    2. Check out Port Essaouira (one of the best spots for sunsets)

    More than anything, Essaouira is a port city, and a significant portion of Morocco’s seafood comes through the fisheries here. But the port’s real draw is the series of ramparts and walls that line Essaouira’s shores. Many of the battlements date back to the colonial era, yet stand remarkably well-preserved hundreds of years later. You won’t find a better view of the ocean almost anywhere else in the city. 

    There are also plenty of restaurants where you can plan your day around sunset to snag a spot by the water over drinks.

    3. Surf at Essaouira Beach

    Most surfers visit Agadir and its surrounding beaches further south to take advantage of the Atlantic trade winds. But Essaouira also benefits from these winds. They’re particularly strong in July and August, and may be a little too rough for some beginners. Otherwise, consistent waves and a soft, sandy beach are great for beginner and intermediate surfers throughout the rest of the year. Plus, there are a ton of places offering surfing lessons and rentals (many places offer kiteboard and wakeboard rentals, too). 

    As always, Fora Advisor can help you plan and book your water-based activities.

    Where to stay in Essaouira, Morocco: 3 great options

    Here are a few of our favorite choices for where to stay in Essaouira, Morocco.

    (Essaouira's hotels tend to have a lax, bohemian vibe. If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience in a different destination, check out the best hotels in Marrakech, Morocco.)

    1. Heure Bleue Palais: the best place to stay in Essaouira for a laid-back experience

    Plush Moroccan pillows fill a massive sofa while a brass tea kettle and pastries sit on a wooden table

    Image courtesy of Heure Bleue Palais

    We stayed at Heure Bleue Palais, a Relais & Châteaux property, during our recent scouting trip to Morocco and found that it matched the city’s bohemian energy well. 

    The property was once a luxury home before it was converted into a hotel, and features about 30 rooms. Much of the design is reminiscent of a traditional Moroccan riad, with a central garden courtyard and a rooftop pool and bar area. While all the rooms are well decorated — with an emphasis on traditional Moroccan designs — there’s also a homey feel.

    Perhaps best of all, Heure Bleue Palais’ location is fantastic: both the beach and the Medina of Essaouira are only about five minutes away on foot. 

    Plan your stay with a Fora Advisor to get the most out of your stay at Heure Bleue Palais (and to unlock Relais & Châteaux partner perks).

    Fora Perks at Heure Bleue Palais:

    • VIP welcome, breakfast daily.

    2. Riad Dar Maya: a boutique take on Moroccan riad-style properties

    Riad Dar Maya is a design-forward property that puts a contemporary boutique spin on Moroccan riads. There are only five rooms, and each is as spacious and artful as the next. Location-wise, the riad is only a couple blocks from the beach as well as the entrance to the Essaouira Medina.

    Riad Dar Maya also hosts a traditional hammam, an intimate lounge and a seafood restaurant that sources ingredients locally and seasonally. (Even the welcome pastries are delicious.) Enjoy complimentary breakfast on the riad’s rooftop terrace, in the communal dining room or outdoor courtyard.

    3. Le Jardin des Douars: an upscale resort set in the city’s scenic outskirts

    If you don’t mind staying further from Essaouira proper, or prefer to stay closer to the city’s main airport, consider Le Jardin des Douars. The property melds a breezy, rustic vibe with a lavish Moroccan flair. Choose between expansive rooms or suites while enjoying well-manicured gardens and courtyards. 

    All of the experiences here celebrate local Moroccan culture. The onsite restaurant sources everything locally, as does the spa, whose  wellness treatments draw from local traditions. 

    (Another bucket-list idea: ask a Fora Advisor about La Sultana Oualidia, one of our favorite hotels in Morocco. It’s about a three-hour drive north of Essaouira and toward Casablanca.)

    Plan & book your Essaouira, Morocco itinerary with Fora

    Essaouira, Morocco is a welcoming coastal city with a great boho vibe. To get the most out of your stay, connect with a Fora Advisor. From expert travel tips to unlocking perks at the best hotels in the city, Fora Advisors can help you level up your vacation.

    Essaouira, Morocco: tips & FAQs

    We’re sharing some of the most frequently asked questions from Essaouira travelers below, as well as our insight. If you have more questions, your Fora Advisor is a great person to connect with. 

    Alternatively, our Morocco travel guide dives into things like places to visit, the country’s climate and more.

    Can you swim in Essaouira? Are bathing suits allowed?

    Essaouira is a great watersports destination (surfing, kiteboarding), but it’s not the best place for swimming. The water is fairly chilly through most of the year, and the winds tend to make sunbathing uncomfortable. 

    While local customs for bathing suits are more modest than what you’ll find in the West, resort areas will be a little more relaxed.

    Is English widely spoken in Essaouira?

    Not exactly. But you shouldn’t have too much trouble with hotel staff, at least with basic English. Among locals, Arabic and French are the two most common languages spoken in the city.

    Navigating the city for a day or two on your own is perfectly doable. But if you’re looking for a deeper dive, Fora Advisors recommend exploring  Morocco with a guide for the best experience.

    What are the best months to visit Essaouira?

    It depends. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy milder weather, September and October are ideal. However, March can be a good time to go if you’re not overly worried about unpredictable weather (rain, chillier temperatures, etc.).

    April to June offer the best beach weather. If you’re interested in surfing or kiteboarding, July and August offer larger swells and windier conditions.

    What’s Essaouira’s weather & climate like?

    Compared to the rest of Morocco, Essaouira enjoys a relatively mild climate year round. The average temperature in winter is around 60℉, while summer’s highs range in the high 70s. Rain is only common between November and March, and even then it’s sporadic and generally light. 

    Essaouira is sometimes known as the “Windy City of Morocco” because of Atlantic trade winds that peak in July and August. Most of the year, it’s not enough to be an issue. But it’s something to keep in mind if you want to lounge on the beach.

    (Check out the best time to visit Morocco for an overview of the weather in other destinations.)

    Is it easy to get to Essaouira from other major cities in Morocco?

    Relatively so. Most flights from the United States first land in Casablanca (Four Seasons’ Casablanca Hotel is a solid stopover choice). From here, you can take a connecting flight to Essaouira (usually the fastest choice). The drive takes between four and five hours. 

    By car, Essaouira is about 2.5 hours from Marrakech, five hours from Rabat or around seven hours from Fes. Flights from the latter two cities are significantly faster, even after you factor in the time you would wait in security or luggage lines.

    More Morocco travel inspiration

    Check out more guides for Morocco travel inspiration:

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