What to Do in Essaouira, Morocco (According to a Local)

The Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira with white buildings and a brick wall overlooking a rocky shoreline.

Step away from the generic guidebook and see what the real locals do in this comprehensive guide to what to do in Essaouira. It’s jam-packed with secret local tips about places that you didn’t even know existed in this coastal town…until now!

This article is part of my Wander Like a Local series, where guest writers reveal the best-kept secrets, must-see spots, and unique experiences that only locals know. Discover hidden gems and authentic tips from those who call it home.

When I first moved to the coastal city of Essaouira in January 2023, I thought there wasn’t much to do. It felt like a quiet beach town where you could walk along the beach promenade, eat fresh seafood, take a surf lesson, and hang out in the charming, blue and white medina. 

However, the longer I stayed in this charming seaside oasis, the more I realized that there are actually a ton of amazing things to do in Essaouira. Sure, many generic guides will tell you to walk along the beach and shop in the Medina. Instead, this local guide will dig deeper and introduce you to the REAL Essaouira. 

I live here with my partner, who was born and raised in Essaouira, so I have a unique perspective on this town. I can help you figure out what to do in Essaouira, Morocco if you want to travel like a tourist but still enjoy an authentic experience.

A group of blue boats docked at a harbor in Essaouira during sunset, with a "What to Do in Essaouira" text overlay.

    

Have You Visited Essaouira?

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What to Do in Essaouira

Located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Essaouira offers a unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty. Here are some of the lesser-known spots and local favorites that will transform your visit from typical tourist trails to an authentic and memorable experience. 

A person stands and stretches arms and legs in a framed archway of a dilapidated, historic brick structure under a blue sky.
Photo Credit: Travel Morocco Today.

Walk to Diabat

The cool thing about Essaouira is that you’re within walking distance of the tiny town of Diabat. It makes for the perfect day trip from Essaouira since it’s beautiful, quiet, and filled with fun, off-beat things to do. The best part? You can walk here in around 40 minutes. The stroll from the Medina is also picturesque and will take you past incredible sand dunes and over a stunning river. 

Upon arrival, try horseback riding, quad biking, or camel riding along the beach. You can even visit the Jimi Hendrix and see where the music legend hung out in 1969 before heading to the ruins of Dar Sultan Palace. Take lots of photos before enjoying a quiet picnic on the beach as you look out at Al Jazira Island.

Outdoor dining area with colorful chairs and wooden table, framed by vibrant blue curtains, overlooking a beach with palm trees and clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: Travel Morocco Today.

Relax by the Beach at Sidi Kaouki

One of the main reasons people visit Essaouira is to hang out by the beach. However, it can be crowded and feel a bit built up. Instead, head to Bab Doukkala and hop aboard the #2 bus. You’ll pay just 8 Dirhams, and in about 45 minutes you’ll arrive at Sidi Kaouki. It’s the last stop on the line and is a cool surf town where the waves are awesome and the beach is absolutely stunning. Try surfing by booking a lesson or renting a board at one of the surf shops. Or, sip on some amazing tea at the Surf Station. You can also get away from the crowds and enjoy lunch overlooking the sandy beach at La Mouette. 

Have Breakfast at Al Jazira

This is the single best breakfast place in Essaouira. There’s not even really a sign out front but this place will be packed since locals and tourists want to dig into amazing Moroccan delights like msemen, batbout, a cheese omelet, harira, bissara, etc. Just get here early since they start to run out of things as early as 10:00 am. It’s also super authentic. Therefore, you won’t find any silverware on the table since Moroccans eat with their hands. You’ll also have to type “Snack Al Jazira” into Google Maps if you actually want to find this place. 

Essaouira Guided Tour: 3-in-1
  • A 3-in-1 tour combining "live like a local," "street food," and "historical food" all in one experience
  • Reserve now and pay later to secure your spot while remaining flexible
  • Free cancelation up to 24 hours before the experience starts (local time)
Check Availability

Grab a Fresh Pastry from Pumpkin

I know Biscoff cheesecake isn’t exactly a traditional Moroccan food, but the pastries at Pumpkin are to die for and a must-try in Essaouira. That’s because everything is baked fresh daily and is served to you in a small, downstairs cafe on the main road through the Medina. I can personally vouch for the fact that everything is amazing since I’ve tried the lemon cake, the brownies, the tiramisu, the quiche, the banana bread, the cream roll, and the energy balls. All were fabulous and be sure to get a lemon loaf or a loaf of banana bread to take home with you.

An old stone fortress with an archway and two towers under a clear blue sky, with a group of people visible through the arch.
Photo Credit: Travel Morocco Today.

Catch the Sunset at the Old Skala

The military fortification from the 18th century sits inside the Medina and offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s free to visit and you can hang out by one of the 19 canons to watch an incredible sunset. Just be prepared to leave as soon as it gets dark since authorities will kick you out literally the minute it gets dark. You also might recognize this spot since it was used to film scenes in the Game of Thrones

A historic stone harbor with an arched bridge, docked blue boats, and a defensive tower under a clear blue sky with seagulls flying overhead.
Photo Credit: Travel Morocco Today.

Climb to the Top of the Skala du Port

This is another 18th-century military fortification that sits by the port and is a great place to go for sweeping views of the ocean and the Medina. This tower is incredibly picturesque and was also used in the filming of Game of Thrones. Sadly, it is only open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and you will have to pay 50 Dirhams to enter. But, if you’re spending one day in Essaouira, visit on a Friday when admission is free. 

Afterward, get a true taste of this fishing town by grabbing some fresh seafood at the fish market and having one of the portside restaurants cook it up for you. The delicious fish meal will not only be memorable but is easily one of the best things to do in Essaouira.

Try Surfing or Kite Surfing

If you’re looking for big waves, then head to Sidi Kaouki. However, if you’re just starting out then visit the pros over at Moga Surf. Let them teach you how to surf since the waves at Essaouira’s main beach are subdued and better for beginners. The instructors are world-class athletes who will teach you everything they know. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try kite surfing too. The intense winds coming in off the Atlantic Ocean make Essaouira the perfect place to try this high-adrenaline sport. 

Explore the Medina

The cute, blue and white Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site from the mid-18th century. It’s compact and the streets are laid out like a grid. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about getting lost as you wander along these cobblestone streets and admire the blue and white homes that have made this city famous. Stop at Pâtisserie Driss for a pastry or Mendala Society for a coffee as you make your way through a labyrinth of streets where vendors sell everything from jewelry to ceramics to scarfs to rugs to spices. If you want to do a bit of shopping, be sure to have cash handy and get ready to haggle. 

Afterward, say “hi” to the many stray cats that call the Medina home. There are literally hundreds of them and they are eager to steal scraps of food from you when you partake in a bit of al fresco dining. So, sit down at any outdoor cafe and get ready for it to become an impromptu  “cat cafe.”

Horse Riding at Sunset in Essaouira
  • Two-hour horseback ride on a Barb/Arabian horse
  • Reserve now and pay later to secure your spot while remaining flexible
  • Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the experience starts (local time)
Check Availability

Go Swimming at Les Jardins de Villa Maroc

It’s safe to go swimming in the water along Essaouira’s main beach. But, I wouldn’t recommend it since the water is cold. Instead, get a day pass to Les Jardins de Villa Maroc. It costs 320 Dirhams per person and includes a delicious buffet lunch, a towel, and use of a heated pool. You don’t even have to worry about driving there since a shuttle will pick you up from the Medina at 11:00 am and take you back again at 5:00 pm.

The property is also stunning, and you’ll probably recognize the domed accommodations from TikTok or Instagram. So, if you’re not sure what to do in Essaouira, check this place out. If, for some reason, they sell out of day passes, you can always get a day pass to the rooftop at Heure Bleue Palais or the pool at Villa Beldi.

Outdoor seaside restaurant with white wooden furniture, woven hanging lamps, and cacti. The space overlooks a blue ocean under a clear sky.
Photo Credit: Travel Morocco Today.

Enjoy the Views from Hostel La Smala Rooftop

There are lots of great rooftops in the fishing port of Essaouira. However, Hostel La Smala has the best rooftop with epic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Old Skala. If you can, stop by around 5:00 pm and grab a seat at a white table. Relax beneath brown wicker lamps and enjoy the pots filled with cacti that surround you. Order a coffee, or any other non-alcoholic drink on the menu, and take in the breathtaking sunset views. They also serve food, but it’s limited to a few sandwiches and lots of desserts. 

Grab a Drink at Ocean Vagabond

If you’re not sure what to do in Essaouira at night then head to Ocean Vagabond. It’s this super fun, totally low-key beach bar where you can sit at a table lined with sand and watch the camels and horses walk along the beach. It’s also a great place to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset. They also have a nice, well-decorated dining room. So, if you’re not sure what to do in Essaouira when it rains then hang out here. Yes, the prices are a little high, but I’d expect nothing less from a beach bar. This bar is also located all the way at the end of the main beach. So, you can walk here or catch a taxi for around 8 Dirhams. 

That wraps up this local guide on what to do in Essaouira, one of my favorite Moroccan cities. I hope you found my local tips useful and have a better understanding of some of the best things to do in Essaouira. Use this guide to create an amazing itinerary that will help you fall in love with this magical city. 

 

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