Cape Town Gay Travel
wolfyy’s Cape Town gay guide to hotels & where to stay, things to do, gay bars, clubs, & beaches.
The Gay Travel Experience: Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a magnificent destination for gay travelers, and visiting was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
I honestly hadn’t expected Cape Town’s gay population to be so large. But once I discovered how exciting the gay scene is, I explored every bit I could.
There are so many reasons to add Cape Town to your travel list. Besides the fact that it’s a popular winter gay vacation spot, a trip to South Africa is an easy introduction to African culture for those who haven’t visited countries in the heart of Africa yet.
Cape Town is hugely popular with Europeans seeking to escape winter in the northern hemisphere. Seasoned American travelers also fancy these sun-drenched coastlines. I met gay travelers from the UK, Spain, Canada, and the USA.
Local gay South Africans happily mingle with the tourists around the city. At the gay bars, I met a few locals who were glad to talk with a tourist like me.
Lastly, being a gay tourist in Cape Town was easy. The city is known for being an LGBT-friendly destination. There was even a Cape Town gay pride concert the day I arrived!
Gay Cape Town: Hotels & Where to Stay
The greater Cape Town area is huge, but tourists generally stay around the city center. Each neighborhood offers a unique vibe, though!
Here are some of the best neighborhoods and hotels in Cape Town for gay travelers.
Green Point & Mouille Point Hotels
I stayed comfortably at La Splendida in Mouille Point for part of my visit. The rooms were so clean and felt quite modern. The hotel’s lobby was gorgeous too, with a bit of a speakeasy vibe.
La Splendida’s staff and service were spectacular and I felt safe the entire stay. I highly recommend staying here if you can!
De Waterkant Gay Neighborhood Hotels
De Waterkant is the Cape Town gay neighborhood, an area with a comfortable urban feel. The streets are walkable and most gay bars are here.
There are so many hotels in De Waterkant to choose from, especially smaller boutique hotels, guesthouses and loft-style accommodations.
When you see the abundant selection of De Waterkant luxury apartment rentals, I’m sure you’ll start to get even more excited. I was inside one unforgettable apartment in De Waterkant that had three enormous levels and an indoor pool!
City Bowl Hotels
City Bowl hotels are often the least expensive in Cape Town. You’ll have lots of options in this neighborhood.
While City Bowl is the least safe of the neighborhoods in central Cape Town, the area is by no means comparable to the dangerous neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city that we often hear bad stories about.
I wouldn’t say you should avoid the City Bowl neighborhood. But if you choose to stay here, always pay attention to your surroundings and avoid wandering around at night.
Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel
I stayed at the gay-friendly Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel for the last few days of my trip. It’s one of the most popular and unique hotels in the City Bowl area.
The wall sculpture over my bed was so cool! I’d definitely stay here again.
More Cape Town Hotels I Recommend
Here are a few other fantastic hotels in Cape Town for gay travelers that are highly rated and perfectly located for exploring the best of the city.
Clifton Vacation Rentals
Since the Clifton neighborhood is residential, it does lack restaurant life. There are no establishments within walking distance, including convenience stores.
For restaurants and shops, you’ll need to catch a taxi to an adjacent neighborhood. Or, just have food delivered.
Camps Bay Hotels
Camps Bay is about as far south as I would recommend staying in the city. The neighborhood has a lively streetscape along the waterfront, with lots of busy bars and restaurants.
Many popular Camps Bay hotels are along the waterfront close to Camps Bay Beach. You can find quite a few stunning properties here.
South of the general Camps Bay Beach area, neighborhoods become largely residential. Accommodations in these areas will be a bit more secluded and aren’t so walkable.
If you do choose one of the guesthouses or apartment rentals south of Camps Bay, expect to travel a little farther by taxi to get to most attractions in the city.
Cape Town Gay Travel Experiences
There’s so much to do in Cape Town that you can easily spend weeks here without being the slightest bit bored. Here are the essential experiences for travelers.
Explore the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront, dubbed “South Africa’s most successful real estate development,” is by far the liveliest part of Cape Town. Tourists and locals stroll quaint pathways, passing performers, gift shops, and tons of waterfront restaurants.
Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre is the enormous mall that straddles the waterfront. Don’t miss the upper-level restaurants with views of Table Mountain!
Keep an eye out for sea life in the harbor. Adorable sea otters play along the promenade of Alfred Basin. I saw them near the Old Port Captain’s Building.
Relax at Cape Town's Beach Clubs
Sometimes a beach club is a great alternative to an actual beach, especially if you prefer having a full bar within reach. It’s also not uncommon to meet other Cape Town gay travelers at these beach clubs.
I loved Shimmy Beach Club for the beautiful glass-wall pool, friendly staff, and modern design. I spent a long afternoon here relaxing in the sun and having dinner.
During the day, the crowd here is primarily sunbathers. After dark on weekends though, Shimmy Beach club turns into a bustling party spot!
Grand Africa Beach Club is a great second option. While they don’t have a pool, they have a lot more space for you to spread out on a sofa or lounge chair. Grand Africa is a better choice if you have a larger group of friends since they have large individual lounge areas.
Work Out at the Sea Point Outdoor Gym
Need to get a workout in? The Sea Point Outdoor Gym is a series of playgrounds with fixed bars and other workout equipment. It’s perfectly situated along the ocean promenade in Sea Point.
You’ll likely run into other travelers keeping in shape, or even locals just making the best of the summer. It might be a good chance to wear some sexy workout clothes!
Explore Local Tidal Pools
Exploring the wonderful tidal pools that dot the Western Cape is such a unique local experience. Few travelers actually make a point to see them because they don’t always know they exist!
Central Cape Town has only one tidal pool in Camp’s Bay. But, there are a bunch more within a reasonable driving distance. Check out Cape Town Tidal Pools’ Instagram for some inspiration.
I recommend visiting the Dalebrook Tidal Pool in Kalk Bay. There are fewer tourists and the vibe is so relaxed. Many restaurants dot the waterfront here in Simon’s Town, too. Not far away from here, you can visit Woolley’s and St. James Tidal Pools.
Boulders Penguin Colony & Cape of Good Hope
Seeing the African Penguins is one of the most popular things to do in the Western Cape. I definitely couldn’t pass up seeing these adorable creatures!
However, if you have the chance, I suggest driving on your own and exploring the coast. There are so many impressive sights along the journey toward the Cape of Good Hope.
The Boulders Penguin Colony is about a one-hour drive from downtown Cape Town. Look out for wild ostrich and baboons along the ride, too.
Don’t forget a windbreaker while traveling to the areas south of Cape Town. The winds here can be intense. They change drastically depending on the day and season, but I endured some whipping sand during my visit to see the penguins.
The Cape of Good Hope is a very popular tourist spot, as it is the southernmost point in the western cape. I visited with the City Tours bus, and it seems it is mainly a place where people line up to take a photo, which felt rushed and inauthentic.
However, the stop our bus made beforehand to Cape Point was absolutely breathtaking. High up on the cliffs, there are lots of neat perches where you can see the cerulean water crash along the rocks far below.
Cape Town Beaches
Beautiful blue water is normally something you’d find in a tropical climate, but Cape Town has its share of azure beaches. While the water is quite cold, its cyan color is gorgeous.
Beaches in Clifton are the most popular in Cape Town. The softest, whitest sand along the calm ocean feels like heaven. Plus there is plenty of space to spread out.
These beaches follow a naming convention of Clifton 1st through Clifton 4th. These names are only for locational convenience, as they are not physically separated.
To get there, you must descend the cliffside pathways from Victoria Road. While it’s not a treacherous journey, you will need to traverse about 8 to 10 minutes of stairs.
Cape Town’s strong winds usually kick up a ton of sand, but here you’ll enjoy protection from the cliffside. It adds to the long list of why Clifton Beach is so popular.
The Cape Town Gay Beach
Clifton 3rd Beach is Cape Town’s gay beach. It’s been a wonderful gay beach hangout for many years and travelers love relaxing here.
The vibe at Clifton 3rd may not be as energetic as the gay beaches of the world’s party destinations, but the serene and friendly experience free of commotion was refreshing.
Every time I visited Clifton 3rd Beach, I had a relaxing time. Even though it’s tamer, It was still among the more memorable gay beaches I’ve been to. I even met another American that was with a group of friends nearby.
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Camps Bay Beach
Try Camps Bay Beach if you’d like to avoid the tourists that usually focus on Clifton, yet still enjoy a beautiful beachfront. You’ll find many more locals hanging out along the Camps Bay Beach shores.
The beachfront in Camps Bay is also much easier to reach since you don’t have to climb down many steps.
While Clifton is my favorite beach in Cape Town, Camps Bay Beach offers more convenience. There are plenty of restaurants and food stalls and ice cream shops right along the street.
Looking for seclusion? You’ll certainly find it at Sunset Beach. The narrow beachfront is popular with kite surfers, windsurfers, and of course, sunset lovers.
Since Sunset Beach is not protected from the wind and it’s a bit farther from central Cape Town, you won’t find too many people here.
If there’s a day with weak winds, I recommend a visit. It’s quite peaceful and the view of Table Mountain during sunset is marvelous. You can get an Uber or drive your own car directly up to the beachfront.
Beaches Outside Central Cape Town
There are dozens more beaches in the Cape Town area. While many of them are far outside the city or aren’t suitable for swimming, they’re still quite stunning.
Personally, I would have loved to get off the bus to explore the Misty Cliffs area. Blue water, a stunning adjacent rock outcrop, and a tourist-free oceanfront will make your eyes open wide.
Fish Hoek Beach
You’ll love Fish Hoek Beach if Misty Cliffs piques your interest. An endless expanse of roaring ocean waves collides with a completely deserted shoreline. Fish Hoek Beach is a sight for the adventurer.
This spot is not so much a place to relax, but instead a beautiful display of nature. You’ll also need a car to get to Fish Hoek Beach.
Cape Town Gay Bars & Clubs
Gay nightlife in Cape Town is so lively, another reason why travelers love this city! While it isn’t a world gay party capital, I still highly recommend spending a night out at a couple of the gay bars.
Café Manhattan is a must-visit gay bar in Cape Town’s De Waterkant gay area. It’s a good choice no matter whether you’re by yourself, with a group, or with a significant other.
With an unpretentious and comfortable vibe, it’s an easy place to meet other gay travelers.
There is plenty of room to socialize inside. Café Manhattan also has an outdoor terrace that looks over the street, as well as some indoor seating.
Specialty cocktails here are on the sweet side, so I stuck with basic mixed drinks and beer. Prices are higher relative to the other gay bars, but everything is still affordable.
Zer021 Social Club
Zer021 Social Club is one of the best local gay bars for exciting drag shows. This modern venue warmly welcomes every member of the LGBT community and their friends.
While on the smaller side, there’s plenty of room for dancing. And I love the outdoor seating area, where you can enjoy some satiating bar food.
Since Zer021 Social Club is near the City Centre neighborhood (which isn’t the safest at night), it’s best to arrive and depart via taxi!
Crew Bar (Permanently Closed)
Crew Bar was Cape Town’s original gay club, but sadly closed for good in late 2022. Anyone who has visited Cape Town in the past decade will probably tell you about a night out at Crew Bar.
The Pink Candy Night Club
The Pink Candy Night Club, formerly known as Pink Panther Club, has become the most popular Cape Town gay club in recent years.
I spent a Friday night here having a blast with my South African friend Neil. The DJ was fun and the bartenders, clad in their pink booty shorts, were super friendly.
The Pink Candy Club is toward the southern end of Cape Town’s gay area. When you approach the venue, don’t be fooled by a dim entrance with a perhaps intimidating man standing in a doorway.
When I arrived it looked as if the club was empty, but after climbing the stairs and passing through security, you’ll find quite a crowd.
Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest times to visit this gay club. However, the club occasionally hosts a Thursday night party.
The Station on Bree (Gay-Friendly)
My good friend Neil owns a gay-friendly bar in Cape Town called The Station on Bree. He’s a local gay South African who I actually met on a trip to Fire Island Pines in 2018.
The Station on Bree is in the heart of the City Bowl neighborhood. They serve food late into the evening and have plenty of outdoor space to enjoy summertime weather. While they’re open until 4 AM on weekends the crowd usually peaks around midnight.
Try to attend First Thursdays if you are in Cape Town at the beginning of the month. The Station and their neighbor bars shut down the street for a giant monthly festival.
Cape Town Gay Saunas & Cruising
Shaft Cruise Zone
Shaft Cruise Zone is a relatively new gay sauna and cruising venue in Cape Town that opened in April 2021. They’ve got all the classic facilities including a steam room, video lounges, showers, a sling, and private rooms.
You can also grab a drink at Shaft Cruise Zone’s bar or enjoy their sun deck when the weather is warm.
Hothouse Steam and Leisure (Permanently Closed)
Hothouse Steam and Leisure was a popular local gay sauna for over 20 years but closed for good amid the pandemic. Locals always loved this place and it’s sad to see it closed!
Restaurants in Cape Town
Cape Town’s beautiful summer weather makes eating at outdoor restaurants a spectacular ritual. There is such a grand food scene with cuisines of all types. For most tourists, there’s a wealth of opportunities to try food from different African cultures.
Sotano: Mediterranean Dining
Sotano is the perfect brunch spot. They are part of Hotel Splendida in Mouille Point. Their Mediterranean menu is impressively satiating. It’s not too greasy, yet still filling.
In the warmer months, Sotano has a tranquil outdoor deck seating area with views of the waterfront. It very much embodies the majestic vibes of Cape Town.
The restaurant is open decently late until 11:00 PM. They also have a lovely indoor lounge with tables and a full bar. It’s definitely a classy spot to stop for drinks!
Beefcakes: Drag Shows & Dinner
Weekday showtimes are 8:30 PM and Monday nights are movie night. The food options are a bit limited, but that’s to be expected given they serve the entire restaurant at once.
The crowd at Beefcakes is about half women, and half men, at least on the night I went. The restaurant tends to be popular with women for large group outings. The best part about Beefcakes aside from the hilarious drag show is the cheerful staff.
I’d make a reservation ahead of time if you’re planning to eat at Beefcakes, especially if you’re traveling in a group. The restaurant will usually fill up on weekends.
La Parada Tapas
La Parada has the best Tapas in Cape Town, hands down. They have one location at the V&A Waterfront and another in City Bowl. Both have indoor/outdoor seating.
Servers at La Parada are super friendly and willing to help you choose between equally enticing small plates. They offer early dinner specials too, making a huge amount of food quite affordable. I got five plates of tapas for 300 Rand ($17 USD), plus a tip.
Beer fans should try the Jack Black Cape Pale Ale. I loved it, and there’s nothing better than supporting local breweries.
Addis in Cape Ethiopian Restaurant
The authentic Ethiopian restaurant Addis in Cape was definitely a memorable experience for me. It was actually my first time eating traditional Ethiopian food!
I got to try real Injera, a type of spongy flatbread. They served a giant stretch of the stuff over a traditionally large dish. The waiter then brought a small dish of water to rinse my hands and showed me the proper way to eat it.
Get ready for some live music! Piano Bar is quite popular and they attract an eclectic crowd. The space is quaint, entertaining, and open pretty much all the time.
I stopped by for an early lunch and enjoyed the cozy terrace. Mornings are quiet, but the evening cocktails and jazz crowd is much livelier. Whether you go for a midday snack or drinks and a show, Piano Bar’s menu will have something delicious.
Check out their weekly event lineup. I didn’t get to visit again for a show, so if you’ve been, let me know!
Coco Safar Espresso Bar & Restaurant
Coco Safar is both a breakfast patisserie and a traditional dinner restaurant. They have cozy seating with a street-side elevated terrace which lets fresh air flow through the restaurant.
The ambiance is quite chic, too. The dim lighting and calm atmosphere make Coco Safar a great evening date spot.
Grab some coffee at the Coco Safar espresso bar if you’re walking through the Sea Point neighborhood earlier in the day. This is a separate section from the restaurant.
Cape Town Safety for Travelers
Safety in South Africa is such a huge concern for travelers, so I’m dedicating an entire section to giving you the pertinent facts and quelling any fears.
There is a lot of old, outdated, and misleading information on the internet concerning crime and safety in Cape Town.
As someone who stayed in different Cape Town neighborhoods and walked through many others for two weeks, I can definitely offer advice for when to take extra caution and when to not be worried.
Misperceptions About Cape Town Safety
First of all, the geographic area of Cape Town is huge. this leads to confusing generalizations. Most importantly, the truly dangerous neighborhoods are far outside the central Cape Town area. They are nowhere near where tourists stay.
Check out this article’s neon-shaded map of overall safety in Cape Town, noting the green-shaded coastal area by the “Cape Town” map label.
This spot is where the tourists visit. It’s far away from worryingly dangerous neighborhoods like Khayelitsha, shown in the center of the red mass to the southeast.
News on Cape Town safety can easily confuse someone who’s unfamiliar with the city. This Economist article points out how violent crime in the city is spiking, which is technically true, but it’s not occurring anywhere near Cape Town’s tourist scene.
These dangerous suburbs are 20 to 30 minutes by car outside the tourist area of Cape Town. You really shouldn’t have any reason to visit them as a vacationer.
In the next sections, I’ll discuss specific neighborhoods within central Cape Town you can bet on for safety, and which are less desirable.
Safest Areas Of Cape Town For Tourists
Clifton, Sea Point, Green Point, the V&A Waterfront, and the shore along Camps Bay are all quite safe Cape Town neighborhoods. By day, you won’t have any issues walking around these areas.
Of course, keep your wits about you and if something feels dodgy, just leave. By night, always use an Uber to get around.
The downtown and inner-city areas generally attract more crime. For example, the City Bowl neighborhood is not as safe for tourists, but it’s not so dangerous that you must avoid it. I stayed here for part of my trip, and I didn’t have much to complain about.
Every city has troublemakers though, so just remain vigilant. In City Bowl and De Waterkant, you’ll likely encounter street beggars, some of them teenagers. When they ask you for something, do not engage with them no matter what. Just keep walking.
Neighborhoods Tourists Should Avoid
Many suburbs outside of Cape Town have sky-high crime and murder rates that you should completely avoid.
I’ve never talked with a tourist who has ventured far outside the city into one of these historically crime-ridden areas. But every now and then you hear sad news, like when 11 American tourists were robbed at gunpoint while out in Khayelitsha in January 2020.
Tips to Stay Safe in Cape Town
All travelers in South Africa should follow strict safety practices out of an abundance of caution. Most importantly, travel by car after dark. Uber is reliable and widely available. Locals mention not to take the Cape Town My Citi buses.
Avoid hanging in the street outside bars or clubs, especially in De Waterkant or City Bowl. Most Cape Town theft occurs when people are walking alone in the dark.
Avoid paying any mind to beggars on the street. They’re most prevalent in the denser areas of the city, away from the waterfront. By giving them your attention, they can take advantage of your distraction by having someone else pickpocket you.
Never let anyone help you with an ATM transaction. Many tourists have been robbed of their wallets/bank cards by individuals lurking around ATM machines who offer help, and then run off with your stuff.
These are just a few of the many safety tips for travelers that I recommend. See wolfyy’s ultimate list of safety tips for travelers. Learn safety strategies from protecting personal belongings, preventing fraud, and practicing situational awareness.
Cape Town Travel Tips
Hopefully the advice in the prior section doesn’t scare you. The Cape Town gay travel experience is wonderful, but it’s best to be prepared.
Heading to Cape Town? Make sure you have everything on this essential South Africa packing list for a fun and comfortable trip.
Things Get Quiet After Dark
Everyone seems to vanish from the streets after sunset. This is largely a function of the dramatic temperature drop and perhaps an overall safety precaution.
This also coincides with the fact that people eat dinner rather early in South Africa. If you’re used to eating late, you’ll be in for a surprise! Beyond 11 PM, most restaurants are closed.
Weather Forecasts are Usually Wrong
Cape Town weather forecasts are usually unreliable. If you see colder than expected summer temperatures or bad weather forecasted during your trip, just ignore it. South Africans will laugh if you mention this. They know it’s true, and they will tell you why.
The Western Cape experiences very unpredictable weather patterns. Additionally, temperatures vary drastically over the course of the day.
Definitely pack layers, even for summertime. You’ll need typical light clothing for the sun, a windbreaker jacket for mornings and sunset, and a slightly insulating jacket or light sweater for cooler nights.
Tipping in South Africa
South Africa embraces a tipping culture, as is common in Britain and the United States. Make sure to tip service staff with your bill. A 15-20% tip is common.
Servers will ask you how much tip you’ll leave when they run your card. Responding with a percentage is perfectly fine to avoid doing math on the spot.
Watch Out for Load Shedding
Keep the likelihood of experiencing load shedding if you’re planning to visit Cape Town during their summer months. Load shedding means certain sections of the city have their electricity turned off for a small portion of daylight hours.
Normally, this is not much of an issue since restaurants can still cook with gas-fired grills and many establishments have private generators.
If you decide to book a vacation rental, you might be more affected than you’d like. This is not a one-time event. It’s something scheduled to happen daily.
Most hotels and commercial spaces will have generators, which may persuade you to avoid staying in an apartment rental. But, if two to three hours without an internet connection in the afternoon doesn’t bother you, you’ll be fine.
Pack Your Beach Snacks
I quickly discovered while walking the shores of Clifton that there are no beachside bars or restaurants. There wasn’t even a grocery store remotely close to Clifton Beach.
Vendors wade through the beachgoers selling snacks, drinks, and ice cream. Sometimes they’ll set up a table stand, so, make sure you bring cash.
While Cape Town is a culturing and relaxing experience, let’s not ignore the massive poverty that surrounds the city. As you will see on your trip from the airport, huge numbers of people live in squalor.
Massive neighborhoods built from sheet metal line the areas alongside highways outside central Cape Town. In fact, the large majority of greater Cape Town’s population lives in severe poverty. Many are without proper sanitation or even a police force.
While this article was published back in 2014, The Guardian provides an eye-opening narrative of how these individuals survive.
Interesting Facts About Cape Town
Cape Town’s relentless wind is dubbed “The Cape Doctor,” and for very good reason. The clean air we enjoy throughout the city of Cape Town is not because of low pollution levels; it’s because the strong winds carry it away!
It’s impossible to miss how electric fencing surrounds every residence in Cape Town. Blatant armed response security signs are posted everywhere.
Seeing this for the first time can be a little jarring. The current is not enough to kill you if by chance you came into contact with one, but you’re still getting shocked!
Remember that crime here used to be much worse, especially in the 1990s. The imminent danger of robbery required people to take the most extreme of measures to secure their homes and businesses.
Electric fencing remains popular today as the best way to protect property throughout South Africa.
Before experiencing Cape Town, I expected to hear a lot of the Afrikaans language during my visit, which has influence from Dutch, German, and English. While most South Africans know this language from learning it in school, it seems that just about everyone uses English instead.
Traveling to South Africa? Check out wolfyy’s Johannesburg gay travel guide.
Make sure you have these South Africa packing list essentials before you go!
See wolfyy’s complete collection of gay travel guides for more gay destination ideas around the world.