Scuba enthusiasts can participate in shore dives. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): Camps Bay is an affluent suburb of Cape Town and is home to Camps Bay Beach. // © 2016 Cape Town Tourism
Over the top in almost every conceivable way, Cape Town is a city that visitors will inevitably come home from with rave reviews. They’ll tell tall tales of mountains in the city, nearby vineyards and crystal-blue waters that are just a short ride from the heart of downtown. And here’s the best thing about these reviews: They’re true. Just past the city limits are a string of dazzling white-sand beaches, a series of trails that seem to lead right into the sky and more, all offering some of South Africa’s best adventures.
Hike Table Mountain
Visible from almost anywhere in Cape Town, Table Mountain is the city’s most defining geographic feature. A grand, flat-topped backdrop to its urban tableau, this venerable mesa rises to a height of 3,558 feet and is more than 2 miles wide. Because the landmark is preserved as a national park, clients will find plenty of natural pleasures here.
Mountain biking, rock climbing and even caving are available, but hiking the summit remains the quintessential Table Mountain experience. Energetic clients can ascend via Skeleton Gorge — a strenuous route that leads past waterfalls and through dense, indigenous jungle to Maclear’s Beacon, the mountain’s highest point. But there is also an option to take a cable car to the top and go for a brisk walk — trails crisscross the mesa, so clients can still get the views without feeling the burn.
Play in Camps Bay
At its heart, Cape Town is an ocean city. Once renowned as the “Tavern of the Seas,” it was established back in 1652 as an outpost for the Dutch East India Company ships that passed through. While still a significant port, Cape Town’s connection with the sea is far more recreational these days.
And much of that recreation takes place at Camps Bay, a well-known (and well-heeled) suburb that’s home to a series of small, sheltered coves, as well as Camps Bay Beach. Bring a ball — and some game — and join a volleyball match or bring a surfboard to ride the fast waves back to shore.
For a cocktail, walk up the hill to The Bungalow, a posh place perfect for apres-workout lounging, complete with a plunge pool, artisanal cocktails, cushy banquettes and views out to the cliffs and the blue beyond.
Dive the Deep Blue
With two oceans blending together just off the coast, Cape Town offers easy access to dozens of famous underwater sites. While shark cage diving gets much of the attention, true scuba enthusiasts will want to fill up their tanks, hop on a boat and descend to one of many subaquatic spots that range from the wreck of MV Treasure — a Panamanian vessel that sunk in 2000 — to Whale Rock, a well-known reef. Or, visitors can just dive from the shore. It’s a rare pleasure, but one that’s possible here.
Explore by Board
In recent years, stand-up paddleboarding has exploded in popularity. It’s relatively easy to learn, as few other watersports offer such a relaxed way to experience the natural environment. In Cape Town, several shops offer lessons, rentals and guided tours, including those at the bustling Victoria & Albert Waterfront complex. Here, clients can climb on a board and explore private canals that sit in the shadow of the city’s downtown towers.
See the Sea at Sea Point
Recently renovated, Sea Point is a promenade that has long been a place for local residents to come together. Visitors can pump iron at the outdoor gym, practice yoga or kick a soccer ball in the abundant green park space; or they can jog, skate and bike on the actual pathway. Although the frigid waters here can be treacherous, swimmers can take advantage of the Olympic-size pool at Sea Point Pavilion.