Cape Town Gay Travel
Cape Town gay travel recommendations for the best hotels, gay bars, clubs, beaches, safety & the gay neighborhood.
The Gay Travel Experience: Cape Town, South Africa
Traveling Cape Town was one of the best travel experiences of my life. At the beginning of my trip I never expected to find such a large gay population in Cape Town. But once I discovered the exciting local gay scene, I explored every bit I could.
There are so many reasons for gay travelers to add Cape Town to their list of places to go. Besides the fact that Cape Town is a popular LGBT destination, a trip to South Africa is an easy introduction to African culture for those have yet to visit the heart of Africa.
The pace of life is relaxed, locals are cheerful and you can’t beat the prices.
Cape Town is hugely popular with Europeans seeking to escape winter in the north. Seasoned American travelers also fancy these sun-drenched coastlines. I met gay travelers from the UK, Spain, Canada and even an old friend from New York City!
Local gay South Africans happily mingle with the tourists around the city. At the gay bars, I met a few South African guys who were glad to talk with a tourist like me. It’s always nice to be welcomed by affable locals.
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 concentrate around the city center. Each neighborhood offers a unique vibe.
Hotels in Green Point & Mouille Point
The best Cape Town neighborhood for travelers is Green Point / Mouille Point. Green Point hotels have great access to popular beaches, great restaurants and the gay bars. Plus, the area is one of the safest.
I stayed comfortably at La Splendida in Mouille Point for part of my visit. The rooms are clean and modern. The service was spectacular and I felt safe the entire stay.
Staying in the Gay Neighborhood: De Waterkant
De Waterkant, is the official Cape Town gay neighborhood. an area with a comfortable urban feel. The streets are walkable and most gay bars are here.
Abundant luxury apartment rentals in De Waterkant might just convince you to book a trip right now. I was inside one unforgettable apartment that was three levels and had an indoor pool!
City Bowl Hotels
The City Bowl neighborhood encompasses Cape Town’s central business district. There is always a bustle in the streets. Lots of unique restaurants offer different African cuisines and coffee shops are steps away.
City Bowl is the least safe of the central Cape Town neighborhoods. However, it is by no means equivalent to the dangerous neighborhoods outside of central Cape Town 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.
Clifton Vacation Rentals
Clifton is the ideal spot for beach view lovers. The area is residential, so you won’t find any traditional hotels here. instead, there are plenty of beachy Clifton vacation rentals overlooking blue ocean water from the cliffside.
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 things delivered.
Staying in Camps Bay
Camps Bay is about as far south as I would recommend staying in the city. The neighborhood has a lively streetscape with lots of busy bars and restaurants along Victoria Road.
Camps Bay is very walkable, full of life and is quite safe. South of here, neighborhoods become largely residential. If you stay south of Camps Bay, expect to travel a little farther by taxi to get to most attractions in the city.
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Cape Town Gay Travel City Experiences
Even after two weeks in Cape Town, I still hadn’t finished all the activities I had planned to. There’s so much to cover. Here are the essential experiences within the city. In the following section, I’ll discuss day trips outside the city.
Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront
Dubbed “South Africa’s most successful real estate development,” the V&A Waterfront 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 a look 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.
Beach Clubs in Cape Town
Sometimes a beach club is a great alternative to an actual beach, especially if you prefer a full bar at your disposal. It’s also not uncommon to meet other Cape Town gay travelers at these beach clubs.
The two main beach clubs in Cape Town are Shimmy Beach Club and Grand Africa Café.
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!
The 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.
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. This area is very safe, but I would still never leave any items unattended.
Things to Do Outside of Cape Town
Much of what Cape Town has to offer is outside the central city area. Luckily, Uber and tour bookings are widely available. Here’s my list of must-do experiences.
Western Cape Tidal Pools
Few travelers make a point to see the wonderful tidal pools that dot the Western Cape. Exploring these is such a unique experience. I had never seen one before!
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. Cape Town City Tours operates group tours to see both the Boulders and the Cape of Good Hope in the same day
The Boulders Penguin Colony is about a one drive from downtown Cape Town. Even though seeing the penguins tops every tourist’s Cape Town bucket list, I couldn’t pass up seeing adorable African Penguins! Look out for wild ostrich and baboons along the ride, too.
Don’t forget your 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 the southernmost point in the western cape. I visited with the City Tours bus, and it seems it mainly a place people line up to take a photo near, 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 much colder than the Caribbean, the swaths of cyan are just as pretty.
Without a doubt, the Clifton Beaches are most popular. The softest, whitest sand along the calm ocean feels like heaven. Plu there is plenty of space to spread out.
The Clifton 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 8-10 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
Travelers love to hang out at Cape Town’s gay beach, Clifton 3rd Beach. Clifton 3rd has been a gay spot for many years. As you’re walking along the shore, you’re bound to find a cluster of gay guys.
Every time I visited Clifton 3rd Beach, I had a wonderful and relaxing time. I even met another American that was with a group of friends nearby.
Camps Bay Beach
If you’d like to avoid the tourists that usually focus on Clifton, yet still enjoy a beautiful beachfront, then check out Camps Bay Beach. You’ll find many more locals hanging out along the Camps Bay Beach shores.
Also, the beachfront here is 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. However, most of these beauties are either a longer drive away, or aren’t as suitable for sunbathing or swimming.
Misty Cliffs is one of the most spectacular sights along the Western Cape. You’ll need to rent a car to get here since it’s a bit desolate. I learned of this area while on the tour bus going down to the Cape of Good Hope.
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 surely appreciate 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.
If you’re on your way toward Kalk Bay (awesome tidal pool here) or Simon’s Town, I’d certainly make a stop at Fish Hoek.
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.
Lagoon Beach offers stunning mountainside views and calming sounds of the rolling ocean. Unfortunately, this area is not safely swimmable due to water pollution flowing through the adjacent river outlet. This pollution is actually a highly contentious issue amongst Cape Town residents and the local government.
For a beachside running route though, Lagoon Beach may be a great area to start. It’s a little desolate, but you can start here and make your way toward Sunset Beach.
Cape Town Gay Bars
Gay nightlife in Cape Town is quite lively, another reason why travelers love this city.! While it’s not the gay party capital of the world, you have to include a few nights out partying!
Café Manhattan is must-visit gay bar in Cape Town. Whether you’re hanging solo, in a group, or with a significant other, Café Manhattan is a good choice. Its unpretentious, comfortable and an easy place to meet friends.
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.
Anyone who has visited Cape Town in the past decade will probably tell you about a night out at Crew Bar. Crew Bar is Cape Town’s original gay club. Several of my friends have told me stories about nights here.
I did not get a chance to go to Crew Bar myself. However, the general consensus amongst gay travelers is that it’s usually a great time. Check out Roxy le Roux performing at Crew Bar in the video below!
Pink Panther Gay Club
Pink Panther Club has become the most popular Cape Town gay club in recent years. I spent the latter half of a Friday night at Pink Panther with my South African friend Neil. We had a blast.
The DJ was fun and the bartenders, clad in their pink booty shorts, were super friendly. I can’t recommend this place enough!
When you approach Pink Panther, don’t be put off by a dim entrance with a perhaps intimidating man standing in a doorway. Upon arriving, it looked to me as if the club was empty, but once you climb the stairs and pass through security, you’ll find the crowd.
Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest times to visit the Pink Panther gay club, per the advice of my friend Neil. Every now and then, the bar will host a Thursday night party.
The Station on Bree Gay-Friendly Bar
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 Cruising & Saunas
Hothouse Steam and Leisure is the noteworthy local gay cruising spot. While I didn’t visit Hothouse myself, local gay guys including my friend Neil mentioned that it’s the go-to sauna.
Hothouse is conveniently located in central De Waterkant. It’s not far from the major gay clubs. Remember though, while it is close enough to walk, you should always travel by car late at night to be safe.
Restaurants in Cape Town
Cape Town’s beautiful summer weather makes eating outside a spectacular ritual. There is such a grand food scene with cuisines of all types. For most tourists, there’s a wealth of opportunity 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. Definitely a classy spot to stop for drinks!
Beefcakes: Drag Shows & Dinner
Some may call it cheesy, but I’m always down for a spectacular drag show with dinner! Beefcakes is definitely a mainstay “classic” gay tourist spot. Every gay traveler who’s been to Cape Town knows of Beefcakes.
Weekday show times 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 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 Travel Safety
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.
Cape Town Safety Misperceptions
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 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 Cape Town 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 touristic 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 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. More on that in the Safety Tips section.
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 to 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 Khayeshelita in January, 2020.
Cape Town Safety Tips
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 wallet/bank cards by individuals lurking around ATM machines who offer help, and then 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
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 11:00 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 most 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 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 1990’s. 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.
The Western Cape province has three official languages: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Locals speak dozens more indigenous languages and dialects, so it’s almost impossible for a westerner to pinpoint which language is being used.
Before experiencing Cape Town, I expected to largely hear 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.