Our beautiful city of Cape Town is one of the best urban areas in the world for adventure sport and explorations! The sprawling city is full of mountains and ocean, and all the opportunity for adventure that these can offer.
I’ve called Cape Town home for years, and I’ve had so many incredible experiences in that time. But not everyone has years to spend here! So I’ve put together a list of all the best adventure activities in Cape Town, so that you can find the best options for you. Some of these activities can be done alone and for free, others you need to know locals, and others you can join a guided tour or paid activity.
1. Hiking and Trail Running
Of course, first and foremost is our many beautiful hiking trails in Cape Town! We have so many fantastic options, even just on Table Mountain, that you can go for a leisurely stroll, or push yourself on a challenging full day hike. Either way, you’ll be surrounded by incredibly beautiful flora on one of the most unique and miniscule biomes in the world. There are a bunch of plants you can find on Table Mountain which you can’t find anywhere else in the world!
Our hiking trails are also great for trail running, as there’s a wide variety of grades, widths, and technical difficulty. So they’ll keep you on your toes! You can also easily find circuit routes, so that you don’t have to turn around or uber back to your starting place. Newlands Forest is a great place to start, as much of it is shaded and challenging, but not too steep.
2. Mountain biking
Photo by award-winning outdoor photographer Jacques Marais — read my interview with him here!
Like trail running, there are some fantastic mountain bike trails around Cape Town. With such beautiful surroundings, you’ll find a large range of grades and difficulties suited to all different levels of mountain bikers.
Of course, mountain bikes are very expensive, so most of us have to stick to the far cheaper only-shoes-required trail running. But if you can score a bike or rent one, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Climbing and Bouldering
One of our favourite things to do is to go climbing. There are two fantastic gyms in Cape Town – CityRock for lead climbing and Bloc11 for bouldering – and both are really great for building up your strength and having some fun.
But of course, the real adventure is on the mountains. The best place to climb in Cape Town is at Lakeside Pinnacle, located at Silvermine, a nature reserve on the outskirts of the city. This climbing area has a great range of grades, and there are some really good climbs here for beginners, as well as really challenging, fun climbs for highly skilled climbers. I’m a real middling climber, and it’s got a good few climbs to offer me!
Besides the climbs themselves, you also have an absurdly good view of the city and the ocean from here, so once you achieve the top of your climb, you’ll want to linger.
Highlining is an adventure sport becoming increasingly popular in Cape Town! Highlining is much like slacklining – walking across a type of tightrope – except they’re rigged high above the ground. For safety’s sake, highlining also includes a lot more gear, including safety ropes, harnesses, and anchors.
Enthusiasts are rigging lines all over the city’s natural spaces – wherever they can find a chasm between two rocky outcrops, at least. While you can set up a couple of slacklines and highlines in Cape Town, you can also go outside the city to incredible natural spaces like Rocklands in the Cederberg (featured in the pic above). This is also an incredible spot for climbing and bouldering!
A great bit of fun and a lovely way to see the city is from up in the air! Glenn and I went tandem paragliding for our first anniversary, and it was terrific. You soar through the sky, whipping about and floating up on eddies of warm air. You’ll look out over Signal Hill (your starting point), Sea Point, and the far-stretching ocean.
Paragliding is also sure to get your blood pumping. Particularly when you have to run off the mountain with your tandem partner – actually run off! – and you feel yourself lifting off the ground as you go.
6. Snorkelling & freediving
Photo by underwater photographer Helen Walne — read my interview with Helen here!
And back to the ocean! As I mentioned, we have a wonderful amount of marine life here on the tip of Africa, and we’ve got some good people working hard to keep it that way.
If you take to the seas, be sure to wear a thick wetsuit, and ideally some booties, as our waters are very chilly. I went snorkelling for about twenty minutes once without a wetsuit, and it took half a day to recover properly… It was worth it though – along with hundreds of brightly coloured sea anemones, I saw a little sand shark!
Cape Town has a number of great beaches and dive sites for snorkelling and freediving adventures. But if you want to do a guided tour, this snorkelling with seals experience was just magical. We loved seeing the seals curling about in the water and blowing bubbles!
7. Spelunking (Caving)
Caving in Cape Town is one of those adventure activities that is harder to get right, but is absolutely amazing if you can. And small groups go pretty often, so if you can just find the right people, I’d highly recommend it!
We went spelunking in Kalk Bay, and the caves were truly phenomenal. We had to shimmy over deep crevasses, squeeze through narrow slits, and at one point even do a crawl-slip-backwards-and-twist maneuver to make it through. At another, we passed below a ceiling of small sleeping bats! After that heart-pumping experience, we made it to a large cave with little candles placed all around it. So beautiful!
The Mother City’s beaches are famous for their great surfing conditions, making this certainly one of the best outdoor activities in Cape Town. The best season to visit Cape Town for the surf is definitely winter, as the swell is better, the water warmer, and the wind low!
There are plenty of learning schools for those of us with no actual experience on the board – particularly on the long Muizenberg beach, you can easily find a surfing class. You can also find board rental here, making it the best area for visitors to surf.
But if you have your own board and some experience, beaches like Llandudno and Big Bay are terrific fun. You’ll find some strong, smooth waves and great conditions – you just need to look out for them!
9. Sea Kayaking
Continuing our ocean-based Cape Town activities, we have sea kayaking! And I just can’t talk it up enough. Our oceans here are never glassy-quiet, but they’re so full of marine life, and so richly blue, that a gentle kayaking along the coast is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.
You can borrow or rent a kayak and explore on your own – we did this in Llandudno, and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of pink pulsing jellyfish. And depending on the time of year and the area you’re in, you can also see dolphins and whales! In the picture above, we’re kayaking in Hout Bay, where we saw a dolphin mum and calf.
It’s also a wonderful way to see Cape Town from the water, and you can join a kayaking tour from the Waterfront if you want more of a city exploration experience.
While there’s no opportunity to go sandboarding within the city, you don’t have far to go! Atlantis Dunes are roughly 40-minutes drive out of the city, and they offer fantastic opportunities for some really fun sandboarding.
Atlantis looks like a pretty small area from the outside, but once you’ve walked in among the dunes, you’ll be surprised by how far they stretch. You’ll get a real workout walking up them each time, and a heart-pumping joyride going down! Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to find guided sandboarding trips, so honestly, this is more one for the locals.
Adventurous things to do in Cape Town
So, now you know everything I know about the various adventures in Cape Town! It’s an incredible city with so much to enjoy in the air, in the water, and on the mountains. Our natural spaces are just awe-inspiring, and a simple hike among the trees and fynbos is truly one of my favourite adventures in the world. But there’s lots more besides! If you’re eager for adventure, you’re sure to find it here.
I would love to know if you’re inspired to do any of these activities, and how you enjoy it, as well as if you have any additional recommendations I can add to the list.