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Local’s guide to the best Cape Town tours & experiences

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There is so much to do in Cape Town, for so many different interests and travel styles, that it’s really impossible to condense it into one article! But if you’re looking for guided tours and experiences, this is the place to find them.

I’ve put together all the best tourist activities in Cape Town – from a local’s perspective. This means, which did I love doing best, and what experiences do I recommend to get to know our city and all that we have to offer?

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures (both peaceful and high-energy), cultural experiences, or food tours, these are the best ways to experience Cape Town.

Cape Town’s best outdoor tours & adventures

If you’re visiting Cape Town because of its incredible biodiversity and the fact that we have mountains, oceans (plural!), and endless opportunities for adventure, then this is your section. There’s so much to do, the activities below are guided experiences that bring you into contact with some of it!

Sailing from the V&A Waterfront

Price: R350 (~$21)

Why it’s great: Stunning views of Table Mountain and the city

cape town sunset cruise

One of the best ways to see the city is from the water – particularly the sunset cruise, as there’s nothing quite like golden hour and the pinkening clouds moving over Table Mountain!

You’ll head out on a catamaran, through the lovely harbor and out onto open waters. Tours usually pass this little red dinghy with seals lazing on it, and stop to watch the sunset dip past the horizon. Depending on the season, you might also spot a few dolphins.

I love the sailing tour as a way to see the city in a really peaceful, striking way – and with some sparkling wine, too! It’s also well-priced, making it popular among locals as well as tourists.

Read more about our experience of the Waterfront sailing trip or check sunset cruise timetable and prices!

Seal snorkeling in Hout Bay

Price: R950 (~$57)

Why it’s great: You get to see these amazing creatures twirl and race in their natural habitat

Cape Fur Seal

Off the coast of Hout Bay is Duiker Island, a rocky islet covered top to toe in Cape Fur Seals! They pay the Hout Bay harbor daily visits, but this is their breeding ground and colony, with hundreds of juvenile and adult seals raucously living their at-home lifestyles.

There are regular tours that take people to snorkel with these ‘dogs of the sea’. They’re done carefully, switching off boat engines and avoiding coming too near the actual island. But you’ll be able to watch the lumbering animals plop into the water and become graceful acrobats. The juveniles like to show off a bit, and often stare you right in the eyes as they twist and leap and dart about. It’s a really special, unique experience, and one I’d recommend any day!

I got a bit seasick en route, so if you’re prone to seasickness, keep in mind that it’s a possibility, and keep your heavy, hot gear off till you reach the island.

Read more about our experience snorkeling with the seals or check prices and timetables!

Ocean kayaking in Hout bay

Price: R450 (~$27)

Why it’s great: It’s lovely to be right on the water, exploring our vibrant coastline and spotting marine animals

kayaking Hout Bay

Another great Hout Bay activity! This little seaside suburb of Cape Town is one of the best places in the city to find not only seals but dolphins too. Families of dolphins have started using the wide harbor as a little haven, and can often be spotted here.

It’s also a lovely way to explore the coastline, learn a bit about this part of the city, and get active. The kayaks are all tandem, so you’ll be practicing a bit of teamwork.

I recommend doing this trip on the weekend, when you can follow it up with a stroll through Bay Harbour Market. There you’ll find incredible food, impeccable coffee, and the work of a lot of local artisans.

While the Hout Bay kayaking is my favorite, there are also kayaking trips from the V&A Waterfront, from Green Point, and from various parts of False Bay!

Read more about what to do in Hout Bay or check prices and timetables!

Boulders Beach & Peninsula tour

Price: R750 (~$45)

Why it’s great: Opportunity to meet penguins without journeying to the poles! And an incredibly beautiful full-day trip

boulders beach

Boulders Beach is home to one of Cape Town’s most surprising animals – the African Penguin! These tiny suited-up little creatures nest on and near the beach, and go for swims in the icy water. You can join them for a swim (but no touching!), explore the beach, and observe them in their natural habitat from walkways and viewpoints.

Continue along the coast to Cape Point, the very tip of Africa! This is a stunning day trip, and you’ll see so much of our rocky coastline, curious animals, and native plant life. It’s one of the best ways to see the natural side of Cape Town in just one day. You can rent a car and do the trip on your own, or join a tour.

african penguins and their chicks

Read more about Boulders Beach and Cape Point.

Or check prices for the full-day Cape Peninsula tour!

Table mountain hiking tour

Price: Starting at R1,400 (~$78)

Why it’s great: Hiking up the iconic Table Mountain is must-do (and free) – this is just the guided, informative version

No one should visit Cape Town without seeing Table Mountain! If you don’t have the fitness required to hike it, catch the cable car up – ideally during a weekday, otherwise you may be standing in a queue for an hour.

If you do want to tackle the challenge, it is so worthwhile! You’ll see vegetation that grows nowhere else – plants endemic to Table Mountain alone – and such fantastic views. I recommend Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine as two of the absolute best routes. Just don’t go alone – number one safety tip for Cape Town is to always do things in a group.

If you’d prefer a tour guide so that you don’t have to worry about group sizes and navigation, and can learn more as you go, check prices for this hike up and cable car down or this hike up India Venster (another Table Mountain trail)!

Kelp foraging workshop in Scarborough

Price: R850 (~$45)

Why it’s great: You get to learn so much and discover just how amazing and delicious kelp is!

Lindy showing us what kelp we can eat

The coastal foraging workshop is such a unique and fun experience! It includes foraging for seaweeds and kelp along the coastline, followed by a five-course meal prepared using the same seaweeds, coastal plants, and home-grown vegetables.

Lindy Taverner, the facilitator, teaches about the diverse seaweeds and small species that kelp forests protect alongside how to forage and process seaweeds as a nutritious food source. You learn how to identify different oceanic plants and their optimal methods of preparation, while Lindy emphasized the importance of sustainable foraging practices, including only picking half the seaweed and leaving the stem intact for regrowth.

After foraging, we were treated to a feast at Lindy’s home. The dishes included nori chips, caramelised seaweed candy, kelp lasagna, and miso soup with kelp noodles.

The RE Wild workshop offers a unique experience that not only broadens culinary horizons but also strengthens your connection with nature and your understanding of sustainable foraging practices.

Safari and game drive

Price: R4,400 (~$260)

Why it’s great: With game drives and on-foot wildlife tracking, this is an amazing way to see more of our nature – and explore beyond Cape Town

elephants at the waterhole

Many who visit South Africa have the Big Five in mind – but they’re not actually that easy to find near Cape Town. You can visit Aquila, the closest game reserve, or do a multi-day trip to the Garden Route. Both are good options and will show you more of the country’s wild side!

My top recommendation is the multi-day tour, because it takes you to my old hometown of Oudtshoorn and introduces you to the entirely unique Klein Karoo. You’ll do 4×4 safari game drives and track wildlife on foot with a local ranger, and explore the area.

If you want to get really into it, you can even do a 5-day safari and throw in a trip to Addo Elephant Park!

Check prices for the 2-day Wildlife Safari!

City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Price: R292 (~$16)

Why it’s great: You can see so much of the city in one day

red bus tour cape town

The hop-on-hop-off bus tour is an easy, convenient way to explore Cape Town. You’ve likely done the same tour in other cities around the world!

The bus stops at our city’s most popular tourist attractions, including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Camps Bay and Long Street. There are different routes, and you can choose between a focus on the outdoors, the winelands, and history.

Read more about the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tour, or check ticket prices and timetables!

Food tours, vineyard-hopping & cooking classes

If your vision of the perfect vacation includes a lot of wine, unique and delicious food, and fun foodie experiences, these Cape Town tours are for you!

Franschhoek wine tram

Price: R680 (~$37)

Why it’s great: Award-winning wine and beautiful views

franschhoek wine tram

My husband and I did this for our anniversary and absolutely loved it. You’re driven from Cape Town to Franschhoek, a town with 300 years of history in winemaking.

There, you’ll hop on the old tram, which takes you past stunning rolling hills and stops at the area’s most popular wine estates.

Depending on how slow you like to take it, you’ll be able to do tastings at three to seven estates – we did three, languidly, but I know friends who’ve sprinted through all seven and had a very good time of it! The wine is some of the best you’ll find in the world, and the charcuterie boards are made to match. In other words, it’s a wine-lovers paradise and the perfect day trip.

Read more about the Franschhoek wine tram and our experience of it.

Or check timetables and prices for the tram!

Constantia wine tour

Price: R292 (~$16) plus wine tastings

Why it’s great: Brilliant wines, lovely wine estates, and easy transportation

Eagles Nest wine estate

Speaking of wine! If you want to go vineyard-hopping but don’t have the time or will to do a whole day tour out of the city, no worries. We have wine estates right at the foot of Table Mountain in the leafy suburb of Constantia.

A brilliant, cheap option is to take the purple line of the hop-on-hop-off tour. This line stops at some of the best wine estates in the region, and it’s cheaper than Ubering from one estate to the next – at least if you’re wanting to explore a few.

Do some wine tastings, share a charcuterie board, and explore the centuries-old vineyards. It’s one of us locals favorite Saturday activities (particularly in summer) and a great way to experience the laid-back, somewhat boozy Cape Town lifestyle.

Read more about wine tasting in Constantia or check ticket prices and timetables for the hop-on-hop-off!

Cape Malay cooking class

Price: R600 (~$36)

Why it’s great: You’ll learn to cook fantastic local dishes and learn more about Cape Town’s food culture

cape malay cooking class

The Cape Malay cooking class is a really wonderful way to learn more about Cape Malay culture – a culture unique to Cape Town – through cooking. Faldela is an excellent chef and teacher and shows you how to make some of her community’s most iconic dishes, including samosas and curry.

In the 3-hour experience, you’ll cook in her home kitchen in Bo Kaap, and then share the meal together. It’s ideal for those who like to experience a culture through their food – particularly since it’s strangely hard to find a restaurant in Cape Town that does Cape Malay food.

Just note that the meals are heavy and involve a fair bit of oil, so it’s not for everyone. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated, though, as long as you let her know beforehand!

Check prices and times for Faldela’s Cape Malay cooking class!

Cape Town food tour

Price: R1,550 (~$90)

Why it’s great: Food and alcohol tastings, fun walking tour and a knowledgeable guide

Guided food tours are a really great way to be introduced to Cape Town food culture, try some of our best and most unique dishes, and explore the city center.

If you’re spending a month in Cape Town, I’d recommend giving this a skip and exploring on your own, because you’ve got time to make mistakes and get some hot local tips! But for shorter trips, this food tour is really perfect. In one half day, you’ll learn so much, with a knowledgeable local guide and an enthusiastic walking group.

This tour also includes four alcohol tastings, which is great, as Cape Town has some truly fantastic small-batch beers, gins, wines, and brandies!

Check prices and times for the food tour!

Cultural & historic tours in Cape Town

If you’d like to learn more about Cape Town and South Africa’s history, these tours are the perfect place to start. There are only two on the list, but I’d count the food tour and the ecooking class above as cultural tours too!

Robben Island tour

Price: R800 (~$48)

Why it’s great: Unique opportunity to learn about our history of Apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment

If you want to learn more about Cape Town and South Africa’s history, Robben Island is the best place to start. This island off the coast of Cape Town is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year imprisonment during Apartheid.

This trip includes a ferry to the island and a tour of the old prison – given by one of the old inmates, who talks about life during apartheid and on Robben Island during those long years. It is a difficult, important tour.

Eighteen of the twenty-seven plus years that Nelson Mandela spent incarcerated were on Robben Island, which was a maximum-security prison. Robben Island has now been transformed into a museum. A visit to the museum will give visitors an idea of how isolated it was, and the challenges it posed to the family of those serving time in going to visit. But it also tells the story of resilience and survival where the prisoners forged bonds, fought the authorities for better conditions and organised themselves teaching each other sports, games and school. As Mandela said it is also a “celebration of the human spirit”.

To learn more about our history of Apartheid, you can also visit the Apartheid Museum and the District Six Museum.

Check prices for the Robben Island Tour.

Free historic walking tour

Price: Free

Why it’s great: The local guides are really passionate about Cape Town’s history, and make it engaging and consistently interesting

Bo Kaap neighbourhood Cape Town

One of the absolute best free things to do in Cape Town, these walking tours offer a look at Cape Town’s history and culture. They run on tips alone, and you’ll learn so much about the city from a local guide. Very fun and interesting, it’s an ideal option for anyone on a budget, and locals often take part to learn more about our city! Bookings are not required, you just pitch up at the meeting point.

They currently have three tours running at different times – the Historic City Tour, the Apartheid to Freedom Tour, and the Bo Kaap Tour. All come highly recommended!

Check walking tour times and options here!

Explore Cape Town’s best tourist attractions & activities

There you have it, the best tours in Cape Town – from a local perspective. I’ve done most of these while exploring my city, and the ones I haven’t are tours covering places and activities I loved exploring in a more private capacity!

Which tour or adventure is best really depends on your traveling style and interests. As a general starting point, I’d recommend the sightseeing bus and a trip up Table Mountain – on foot or via cable car.

If you’re keen to explore more of Cape Town without a tour guide, check out these favorites:

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