An Essaouira surf is perfect for kitesurfers looking for some of Africa’s most wind-battered spots. But there are also beach breaks and point breaks aplenty on the coast to the south. Check out this guide to find out where to look for them…
Essaouira surf at a glance
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- Epic kitesurfing
- Essaouira is a beautiful city
- Close to some of Morocco’s less-busy surf breaks
- Swells get blown out easily
- No challenging waves in the city itself
- Some pollution issues
This guide is a part of our larger guide to surfing in Morocco.
What will I find in this guide to surfing in Essaouira?
An introduction to Essaouira surf
They call Essaouira the wind city. It’s easy to see why. The strong sirocco from the Sahara meets the seasonal trade winds off the Atlantic at this point on the Moroccan coast. They swirl and smash into each other to create pretty much constant gusts. Of course, that plays havoc with the waves, especially when the wind is at its highest in the summer.
However, don’t go writing off that Essaouira surf trip just yet. The city does boast a long scythe of golden sand just on its southern side. It’s a gorgeous beach, but also gets some decent beginner waves during the winter season, when cross-Atlantic westerlies are in full flow. In addition, the southernmost end of Essaouira beach is a veritable mecca for kitesurfers. Finally, the coast that runs south from here hosts some of the country’s most upcoming and lesser-known surf spots, which you can reach with after just half an hour in an affordable taxi.
That said, we wouldn’t recommend the Essaouira surf if you’re solely coming to Morocco to get on the waves. This one’s much better for seeing a little culture and tasting some tagine with a bit of surfing on the side. The fact that Essaouira is a downright gorgeous town of medieval coral-stone walls and dusty streets with cafés and medinas is just a bonus on that front.
Where is Essaouira?
Essaouira is around two thirds down the west coast of Morocco. It occupies a headland that pokes out into the Atlantic Ocean on the one side. To the east are the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The popular tourist city of Marrakesh is just under three hours’ drive inland. Casablanca is about four hours’ drive to the north-east. Morocco’s most famous surf town of Taghazout sits two hours away by car, past some of the best surfing territory in the whole country.
A guide to the Essaouira surf spots
This is the main city beach. It’s also known as Plage Essaouira. Find it stretching south from the medieval gateway of the medina, backed by a promenade that’s always buzzing with rollerskaters and strollers. Looking out to the ocean, it’s possible to see Mogador Island. That rugged bulk of rock helps to protect Plage Essaouira from most of the prevailing N-NW swells throughout the whole year. Sometimes, when things turn far north and powerful enough to wrap around the bay (usually in the winter), there’s occasion for chest-high breaks that are simply perfect the absolute surfing beginner. A smattering of foamy rentals and surf schools on the beach itself can help if that’s you!
The southern end of Essaouira’s main beachfront is often referred to as Plage Tagharte. More exposed to the open Atlantic than the rest of the shore here, it gets better, bigger and more consistent waves. However, it’s also prone to closeouts and mushiness when the summer winds begin. IN fact, onshores and crossshores are such a problem in these parts that the spot is usually the preserve of kitesurfers only between May and September. When the gusts do cool, you can expect some short rides. Typically this is all shorebreaks but also a small left-leaning point right at the south. Good for beginners on medium swells – lots of whitewash.
Sidi Kaouki is a small village a little over 30 minute’ drive from Essaouira. It’s fast become the best surf town on this stretch of Moroccan coastline. You can easily get there in a private taxi and rent a board when you arrive or sign up to one of the regular surf trips run by the outfitters in Essaouira itself. The breaks are all on along and very beautiful stretch of beachfront. There are five or six named peaks, including a right-hand reef point break that offers something for more seasoned surfers at the north end of the bay. Summer is often blown out. The best surf happens in the summer on W-NW swells and easterly offshores.
You’ll need to take a rough track to the rocky coastline south of Essaouira to find Cap Sim. Essentially a right-hand point, but with some short left sections, it’s a fickle wave that works best on steady 5-6ft westerlies and northerlies (if you’re after extra punch). Underfoot is a mix of sand and jagged rock. Cap can throw up some gorgeous barrels when it’s shining, but you will need a strong easterly to help shape up the hollow walls for that. It does happen.
The best Essaouira hotels for surfers
Essaouira is a great place to stay if you’re keen to mix up culture and surfing in Morocco. To prioritise the waves, we’d recommend focusing on hotels near the beach or in nearby Sidi Kaouki. For exploring the medina and souks and old fortifications with a potential side trip to the swells, go for somewhere in the historic heart of Essaouira itself.
surf house Maroc ($)
This is the option if you want to surf EVERY day. It’s not located in Essaouira at all. Instead, it’s down in nearby Sidi Kaouki, some 30 minutes’ drive south. There, a long beach break and a great reef await. In addition, this budget-friendly hostel has a tempting 9.2 rating, along with simple but affordable double and triple rooms. Some have sea views. There’s a traditional Berber-style communal area. Breakfasts are healthy, filling Moroccan foods – fruit juices, flatbreads. You’ll have a great time, especially in the winter surf season!
Madada Mogador ($$)
You’ll have an unrivalled view of Essaouira Plage from the gorgeous rooftop of Madada Mogador. It’s a high-class hotel with a prime location on the side of the Medina. Apart from being able to check the wave quality from the terrace, rooms are uber-stylish, mixing traditional North African riad styles with sleek contemporary touches. After a session on the Atlantic, try the in-house restaurant, which specializes in seafood tagines.
Villa Garance ($$)
We stayed in this charming riad-style hotel in the heart of Essaouira in 2019 (I think!). It’s a beauty. The best feature has to be that high-up rooftop terrace where you get a gorgeous morning breakfast of flatbreads, jams, olives, and fruit. The rooms were spacious and had lovely nook bathrooms done in the Berber style. Mostly, you’ll be staying right in the heart of the old town, close to the markets and the best eateries. Surf trips can be organised with help from the surf school that’s just one block away. Or just ask reception to help you grab a taxi and get to Sidi.
Hotel Le Médina Essaouira Thalassa sea & spa – Mgallery ($$$)
You’ll need a bit of cash in the bucket to think about coming to this luxury Mgallery hotel. But it could just be worth forking out for. The place has a massive pool fringed by royal palm trees. It’s got a full Moroccan hammam and health facility. There are beautiful green gardens packed with grassy lawns and flowers. On top of that, it’s sat right on the most beginner-friendly of Essaouira surf spots. That means you’re a stone’s throw from the city’s main beach and waves.
A guide to the Essaouira surfing season
There are two very different seasons that govern the quality of the Essaouira surf…
This is the prime season for Essaouira surf. Winds dip. Atlantic westerlies are come into play. The heat drops off to leave longer sessions in the morning before the breezes ruin the glass. It’s all to play for. Things start in earnest around November time. However, for the biggest swells of overheads at Morocco’s biggest wave spots on the points near Essaouira, you’ll likely need to wait until December.
Remember that even on the most powerful of W-NW swell, Essaouira Beach isn’t the best surf spot. It’s great for beginners because it’s well protected. More advanced riders or serious intermediates will prefer Sidi Kaouki, where there are loads of surf lodges right by the beachfront and a whole range of peaks to pick from (see above).
- Bring your warm wetsuit (4/3) for the winter months. Boots may be necessary for longer sessions.
It can get bloody hot in Morocco in the summer. We’re just warning you in case you were tempted to bring along that 4/2. No way. A 2mm all over will do in this scorching season. That’s if you can even find the waves…
The months between May and August see a real uptick in the strength of the coastal winds around Essaouira. Bearing in mind this city is famous for its winds, that means some serious gusts. They’re enough to destroy any glassy walls and completely blow out nice conditions. In fact, we’d recommend leaving the hotter months to beginners who don’t mind riding mushy whitewash.
Kite surfing is a different matter, of course. Essaouira Plage is a haven for anyone bringing the harness and the kite to Morocco from around May onwards. Oh, and if you’re absolutely determined to
- 2mm wetsuit or rash vest.
Surf shops in Essaouira
Essaouira has some fine surf shops. Some even post regular updates on conditions and swells, so you can get your fix of local wave knowledge before hitting the hammam.
We’d say Gipsy is the best surf shop in Essaouira by a country mile. It’s sleek and breezy with uber-friendly staff. The stock ranges from well-known global surf brands to some local tees and shorts. You can check out the rack of boards and get your fill of other hardware – leashes, tail pads, wetsuits. The folk are also really friendly and know plenty about the local spots. Don’t be afraid to ask about conditions and where to go.
Explora Kite & Surf Shop
The Explora name is a leader in the kitesurfing scene in Essaouira. However, they also offer some things in the way of traditional surf hardware and fashion Look for their small outlet in the medina. Or, head down to their board rental post right on Essaouira Plage.
Where to eat in Essaouira
After a long day on the Essaouira surf, be sure to check out one of the top eateries below…
Shyadma’s Vegan Food
Meat free? Don’t miss Shyadma’s Vegan Food. It was arguably the best veggie/vegan food we had during our whole time in Morocco. The chickpea tagine is damn fine. You’ll also get a cracking set of nibbles to kick off the meal: Cumin with doughy flatbreads, salty North African olives, spicy harissa. Yum.
Get to Pasta Baladin nice and early. The tables of this small Italiano eatery on the main street of the Essaouira medina fill up fast. You’ll want to score one of the seats outside, too, if only for the stunning views of the centuries-old city walls that loom above. Meals are a nice break from Moroccan cuisine – think linguine and tagliatelle with a choice of tomato and cheese sauces. There’s plenty for veggies.
The Hungry Nomad
The Hungry Nomad is just as much a social event as a place to grab a bite to eat. Just 65 dirham gets you access to the multi-dish selection, which includes couscous, spicy lentil dals, salads and a whole load more. Expect a communal vibe where everyone chats to the person next to them.
Things to do when you’re not surfing in Essaouira
Essaouira surf will transport you to a wonderful and enthralling city that’s got immersive souk markets and imposing bulwarks. They lead the way when the waves aren’t working.
Walk the city walls
Essaouira’s old city walls are one of the most amazing features of the town. A lot of them are not navigable, but there’s a section on the north-west side of the medina where you can scale to get great views of the Atlantic waves crashing against the quays. If that doesn’t whet your appetite for surfing in Morocco, we don’t know what will!
The bazaars and souks of Essaouira aren’t as frantic as their counterparts over in Marrakesh. However, you will still get a feel for traditional Moroccan markets when you delve in. Argan oil (a local specialty) is sold everywhere – like, seriously, EVERYWHERE! There are soaps, spices, saris, and a whole load more to boot.
How to get to Essaouira
A bus to Essaouira from Marrakesh (where most people will land after traveling to Morocco) takes about three hours. There’s a single stop in a town with cafés and coffee shops along the way. Buses are relatively comfy, with undercarriages for luggage and air conditioning throughout. Look for Supratours for the most popular service. The first bus leaves Marrakesh at around 9am.
There’s a dedicated company offering transfers straight from Marrakesh and the airport there to the waves of Essaouira. Check out Souk to Surf for more information and details on departure times and prices. This option is a good balance between price and comfort.
This ultimate guide to Essaouira Surf is always being updated and changed. If you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, we’d sure love you to get in touch. You can use email or just drop a message in the comments below.