Here it is – 16 of the BEST things to do in Essaouira, Morocco. Our list of things to do has some of the usual Essaouira haunts, but we also explored further to bring you some of the more unique places. We tried them all, loved them all and have put together a complete guide to Essaouira to help you explore beyond the tourist trail.
If you are coming to Morocco, you don’t want to miss the beachy town of Essaouira. Just three hours from Marrakech, Essaouira is a must-see destination with lots of things to do. There is a great energy within the small and cosy Medina walls and it’s easy to navigate… not the overwhelming maze of Marrakech souks.
I’d heard rumours of Essaouira, laid back windy beach town with a chilled vibe. A walled medina right on the beach, a fishing port, ramparts and friendly locals make for a great place to visit on your Moroccan tour or vacation.
So, we took a punt on these rumours and booked a month stay in the heart of the Medina. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. We felt at home, with no urgency to move on… we found ourselves in a perfect balance of busy and chill!
Below we share our favourite things to do in Essaouira! Consider this your complete guide with links of where to stay, day trips from Essaouira, tour reviews, the best roof top bars, how to get there and more!!
Table of Contents
Essaouira at a Glance
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👥 Population – 80,000 (approx)
📍 Location – Essaouira is situated around a small Medina 3 hours from Marrakech. It is a fishing port and popular kite surfing beach on the Atlantic Sea. See our guide on getting to Essaouira from Marrakech.
🙊 Languages – French and Arabic, but finding someone to speak English or to help with translation is easy.
🇲🇦 Currency – MAD Moroccan Dirham – ATM machines are easily found. Barid Bank ATMs are often found at Poste Maroc locations.
🛏 Where to Stay – Read our post on the Best Riads in Essaouira
☀️ Weather – The beauty of Essaouira is that the temperatures are very similar all year round. July and August are the windier months. November to February are the wetter months.
📆 When to Visit – March to October are the best months to visit. However keep in mind July and August is very busy with domestic tourism in Morocco.
Walk the Ramparts
The ramparts are the ancient city walls that separate the bustling Medina from the ocean. I had heard of them before but was not prepared for their height and the distance they spanned. It wasn’t until walking around these walls at low tide from the ocean side that made me realize how tall they were. Read our directions on how to do that below.
You can get to the ramparts from Rue Skala. It isn’t totally obvious but if you walk away from the fishing port, keep left and you will soon stumble across it.
From the ramparts you get a great view of the beach, waves and beyond. It’s a good place to visit in the morning or the evening while the flocks of noisy seagulls sore in the sky above. It’s also a favourite spot for the kids as they run from cannon to cannon along the ramparts.
Visit the Fishing Port & Eat Sardines
The fishing ports are an important hub in Essaouira. Many of the locals rely on fishing as their main source of income and so we enjoyed watching them in the morning unload fishing boats and set up their market stalls for the day.
But I also feel the need to warn you about their methods of catching. Many of the boats are trawlers which means they are not fishing sustainably. Trawlers catch a huge amount of by-catch and as a result the sea becomes increasingly overfished.
While these are our family views and values around fishing, we understand this is how it is done here in Essaouira. So, we hold no judgement, however we choose not to eat fish caught through this method.
Sardines however, are caught using nets on smaller boats. And so, with less bycatch and a smaller ecological impact we give sardines the green light… which in my family no-one eats except me! So that means sardine tasting was on me.
At the fish market, buy yourself some sardines, take them to the BBQ stations and put your purchase in the line with the others. When your sardines are ready, they’ll come served with salad and bread. Easy peasy!
Walk the Northern Beach at Low Tide
This was one of my favourite things to do in Essaouira. And we stumbled upon it by accident. Check the Essaouira tides here as it needs to be on it’s way out in order to time your walk right. You wouldn’t want to get caught trying to complete the walk around the outer wall at high tide.
To start we recommend you walk to the end of town and before the Aswak Supermarket turn left and follow your nose towards the beach. The rock pools are a great place to explore and you might find locals fishing in the holes for octopuses. You might also see men washing their horses in the large rock pools. It’s a real local’s beach, particularly on the weekend.
There is a lot of rubbish down at this end of the beach sadly. And normally we’d do a cleanup, but there is just so much of it! So, grab your #Take3fortheSea and continue on your beach walk back towards the rampart walls.
At one point, before the medina walls start the sand dunes rise up to the jewish cemetery wall. From up there you can look down into it and see the crumbling remains of headstones.
Carry on along the beach admiring the Medina walls from the outside. The colours of the deteriorating, sea hammered walls are a sight of beauty really. And the perspective of the Essaouira medina from down here is very cool.
You can walk all the way from, along the beach, over the rocks and back to the fishing port walls. It takes about a couple of hours to do it from start to finish. Alternatively, if you are doing the walk with young kids, you could get a head start and grab a petit taxi to the Aswak Supermarket.
Take a Traditional Hammam
No photos for this one! Instead you can admire the heavy stone that grinds the argan nut, which ultimately produces argan oil.
There are a number of places to take a hammam and massage within the Medina.
But for something a little more unique try the local traditional women’s hammam. Not only is this a perfect opportunity for an INTENSE scrub, but it’s also a glimpse into daily local ritual. Be warned, you will be surrounded by a lot of nakedness, but this said the experience doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Rather it feels like a cultural encounter, this is daily life in Morocco at its purest.
The ladies inside are extremely welcoming and guide you through the steps with a lot of hand gestures. It’s honestly one of the best things I did while in Essaouira.
You can choose the self-scrub option, in which case you bring your own soap, body scrub and oil. Or you can simply turn up with a towel and ask for the full treatment. In this case you will have a lady do the washing and scrubbing for you.
Finding the traditional ladies hammam can be a little tricky. Check the map at the end of this post for its location.
TIP: You can keep your knickers on, but everything else comes off!
Take Surfing or Kite Surfing Lessons
There is a huge kitesurfing community in Essaouira – it’s definitely one of the most popular things to do here. The wind lends itself more towards a beginner’s kitesurfing and surfing beach, but if you are up to learn this is a great place to do it! If you want some more serious surfing, then head to Tagazhout or Tamraght which is further to the South.
Given that we were staying for a month in Essaouira, one of the top things to do on our list was teach the kids to surf! So, we booked them into Mogasurf two days a week. This surf school is at the Southern end of the main beach in Essaouira.
They are an awesome team and were super flexible with timings, sometimes we’d whatsapp them the day before to book the girls in. There is a small coffee shop with snacks and breakfast at Mogasurf which was the perfect spot for me to work while the girls surfed.
And did they learn the art of surfing in their time there? Yes, they did! But what I loved the most was that they left with a real confidence of the surf and hunger for more surf days.
Click above to link to Mogasurf & Loving Surf lessons on Viator. Read our full review here.
Explore the Cosy Essaouira Medina
There is just so much to see in the Essaouira Medina and the best way to see it, is to simply wander. Put aside a couple of hours to walk and explore, take small alleyways and simply wander.
The beauty is that there are no scary parts or threatening parts of the medina. And sometimes the dark alleys with low overhangs open up into some of the prettiest or intriguing courtyards or shops.
Or if you are in the market for silver jewellery you’ll love the Centre de la Bijouterie Artisanale Maalem Ali. Here you can have a tour of their workshop and you know that you are buying the real stuff.
We also loved Semlali Jewellery who specialise in making antique inspired silver jewellery. Ali was there during our visit and we really enjoyed talking with him about Berber jewellery.
For blankets and throws, I’ll let you in on a secret… you must visit Hanan Tissage we found an incredible shop owned by Hanan. In her shop she makes everything onsite and sells them for a steal. They are absolutely beautiful, and we ended up sending some back to New Zealand, in the event that we should retire from full-time travel and look to return home.
You can find her in her shop every day except Friday, located in the Fish Market in the middle of the Essaouira Medina. If you stop in, tell her My Free Range Family said hi!
Day Trip to Sidi Kaouki
Sidi Kaouki is a super chilled beach about 25 minutes from Essaouira. We definitely recommend that you grab a grand taxi or bus and head to Sidi Kaouki for the day… it was one of our fav day trips from Essaouira.
We had read that it’s a good thing to do if it’s windy in Essaouira as the bay would offer more shelter… we did not find it any less windy to be honest. But nonetheless we loved the laidback vibes and could have visited again if we had time.
If you decide to take a trip to Sidi Kaouki then read our handy all-in-one guide before you go.
What sets Sidi Kaouki apart from Essaouira beach first of all is the fewer number of people and tourists. Towards the far right of the beach is an old house that appears to be falling to ruins. It is said that this house is a shrine of sorts. According to our friend from Essaouira Moroccan tourists rent rooms on a short term basis in this building – Sidi Kaouki – to make a pilgrimage of sorts.
The main parking is at the northern end of the beach where you can also find a cluster of homes and guest houses. Then beyond that point the beach stretches as far the eye can see to the south and it’s mostly empty.
There are a handful of restaurants to grab lunch and there’s a public toilet that costs 2 dirhams to use. If you’re up for a surf, there are also a few surf shops where you can book a lesson or rent a board.
Our kids loved the rock pools at low tide, and there are plenty of opportunities for camel or horse riding or ATV trips along the beach.
Getting to Sidi Kaouki
The easiest way to get there is to head to Bab Doukalah and wave down a grand taxi. It shouldn’t cost more than 100 dirhams.
Alternatively, the Lima Bus also leaves from Bab Doukkala every two to three hours. Look out for bus number 2. It costs 8 dirhams each way and takes 45 minutes to reach Sidi Kaouki. Arrive 15 minutes early if you want a seat, and to be sure the bus doesn’t leave without you. In our case the bus actually left 10 minutes ahead of schedule… so the timetable seems to be very relaxed.
For a rough idea on bus timings we used this website here. It’s in French, but relatively easy to understand, Bus number two will take you to Sidi Kaouki.
Visit Ida Ougourd Market
One of our more unique recommended things to do in Essaouira is to catch a Lima Bus or Grand Taxi to the local market in Ida Ougourd on a Wednesday. This is around 45 minutes from town by bus and is interesting if you are looking to see a little more culture and tradition.
We recommend you get there in the morning for a local breakfast. This is traditional Morocco at it’s best. Alternatively, walk around the fruit and veggie section of the market and pick out supplies for a tagine. Get your chicken, spices, tomatoes, potato, carrots, beans, olives and preserving lemons for a few dirhams. Next take your produce to the small kitchens and they will assemble a tagine and cook it for you. It will take about 60 minutes for it to cook. And honestly you won’t get a better tasting tagine than that.
Vendors sell anything and everything from biscuits to jewellery and trinkets. Browse their wares then stop for a cup of tea. Be sure to dress modestly as this is very much a local market and therefore it’s important to maintain a respectful standard of dress.
There is very little else happening here in Ida Ougourd unless it’s a Wednesday – so be sure you have the right day of the week. Bus number one, leaving from Bab Doukkala will take you to Ida Ougourd.
Read our dedicated post on visiting Ida Ougourd Market right here!
Visit the Museums
You could jump into the Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum for a quick look around. Foreigners pay 70 dirhams to enter.
Over two stories you will find items on display that share a little history of Essaouira. Our favourite room was the Gnaoua music room that highlights the importance of this musical instrument within local custom and culture.
You will receive a brief explanation as you enter in English in the form of a photocopied A4 sheet of paper. However the rest of the signs are in Arabic and French. So if you want to know more you’ll need to have your Google Translate App ready.
We actually preferred the Bayt Dakira Museum which is the Jewish Museum AND it’s free. This small space was once a synagogue and has been beautifully restored. It gives a great account of Jewish Moroccan history.
Walk to Jimi Hendrix Sandcastle – Dar Sultan Palace
At the far end of Essaouira beach, just passed where the river meets the ocean is the place where Jimi Hendrix is said to have spent time chilling. The remains of Dar Sultan Palace sit at the top of the dunes. It is an interesting area to wander around, there are some great photo opportunities.
The walk takes around an hour one way. We recommend that you tie it in with a horse ride. We booked our horse ride as explained below, and rather than take the car lift back to the medina we walked back. Walking from Diabat, towards the sandcastle and then back along the beach meant a shorter walk. This made visiting the Sandcastle with kids a little easier.
Visit the Sunday Market
The Sunday Market outside Bab Doukkala is a great place to witness local life in action. The street Av. Moulay Hicham closes on a Sunday making way for local vendors. They come out to sell second hand treasures, spices, fruit and vege, clothes and shoes. It’s an eclectic mix of products and produce but above all else it’s an extremely interesting market to walk through and people watch.
Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop Bar
There are a handful of really great rooftops to watch the sunset from in Essaouira. From up here you can catch a great view of the ocean and a bird’s eye view of the Medina.
If you enjoy chilling with a drink in hand at the end of the day, then Taros is the main rooftop bar in town. Extending over a couple of terraces, you have a few seating options, it gets really busy for sundowners so get there early to get your terrace of choice.
A live band plays every night from 8pm, children are permitted to enter, and they have a small menu if you fancy a bite to eat at the same time. Taros is fun, and the energy is good… we definitely recommend a drink here!
If you are looking for other cool bars in Essaouira then read our full post and rooftop bar review here.
Take a Horse Ride on the Beach
Quick question… have you seen Instagram superstar Yassine Cavalier? If you haven’t then look him up on Instagram. Riding horses at high speed along the beach, at the far end of Essaouira is something of a sensation thanks to Yassine.
There are many places along the beach where men wait with reins in hand offering horse rides. There are equally as many camels as well. But if you want to book professional, with horses that are well cared for, then I definitely recommend that you book with Yassine.
Read our full review of horse riding the beach in Essaouira.
Take a Cooking Lesson
Learning to cook a tagine or cous cous is something of an art, but also easily learnt. I highly recommend taking a cooking class while in Essaouira. I now have a few Moroccan tagine recipes up my sleeve and recreating them gives me great satisfaction! Eating them even more.
Your guide will take you through the local markets before your lesson to purchase everything you’ll need to cook a quality Moroccan feast. In these markets you will learn about local flavours and spices, and also the best local haunts for food and produce.
Take a look at these two popular Moroccan cooking workshops below. And check our review of our cooking class from Fes.
Eat M’semen and Harira
Part of visiting a new place is trying the local food. The tagines are incredible, but have you tried M’semen and Harira?
M’semen can be best described as a multilayered bread, fried in oil on a hot plate. Stalls in Av. de l’Istiqlal street sell m’semen with a spicy lentil and vegetable blend, plain or sweet with honey, cheese or chocolate.
Harira is a thin soup made with chickpeas, haricot beans, angel hair pasta, tomato and spices. It’s deliciously filling and great when paired with m’semen.
What’s best is that dinner of a soup and m’semen will cost you no more than 20-30 dirhams in the Essaouira medina. If you want a cheap meal, either breakfast, lunch or dinner then this is the spot!
ATV Quad Bike Tour
This was one of the things we didn’t do while in Essaouira. Mainly because we were kept so busy with all the other activities we tried. We did see many groups going out on ATV tours at the far end of Essaouira Beach. Many leave from Diabat and head south along the beach to the remote beaches of Essaouira.
These excursions come very highly recommended and when we get back to Essaouira this will be one things we will do for sure.
Map of Things to Do in Essaouira
Some places on this list of things to do in Essaouira are a little tricky to find as they are unmarked on the map. Read the text above for specific directions and then click on the interactive map here for more details.
This list covers everything we saw and did in Essaouira and we hope it helps you select a few things to do too. Get in touch if you have any questions or drop a comment below.
If you are looking for a beautiful riad for your Essaouira stay, then you must read our full review on Ryad Watier. It was hands down, the best place we stayed at in Morocco.
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