Elmina, Ghana

Photo: Mac-Jordan Degadjor via flickr
Photo: Mac-Jordan Degadjor via flickr

The coast of Africa has been one of your favorite destinations for years. You’ve traveled between Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. You’ve started and ended numerous trips in South Africa. While the islands—including the Seychelles, Madagascar, and Réunion—remain dream destinations long after your initial visit. Though each of the countries has a unique history, government, and landscape, they all have one major thing in common. They’re all on the east coast. You’ve never considered Africa’s west coast when at least a partial beach vacation is on your mind.

Ghana is hoping to become West Africa’s first great beach destination. The “Warrior King” was the first African country to declare independence from its European colonizers in 1957. Unlike some of its neighbors, Ghana found peace and stability in its sovereignty. It’s now one of the most developed, thriving, and welcoming countries on the continent. Add year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches, and frequent flights from Europe, and you’re suddenly wondering why it’s taken you so long to consider Ghana.

You arrive in Accra but quickly head west out of the crowded, humid capital. It doesn’t take long for you to start becoming enchanted. Old castles and forts dot the coast. Long, golden-sand beaches lie in between them. While little cities are filled with colonial architecture, fascinating museums, and colorful fishing boats.

Photo: Elmina Bay
Photo: Elmina Bay

Elmina is one of those cities, and it has a riveting history. The Coastal Plain city was the first European settlement—and then the site of the area’s first colonial war—in West Africa. The Portuguese triumphed over the Castilians in the 15th century, only to have Elmina seized by the Dutch two centuries later. Much of the city’s history is connected to the Portuguese. It grew around São Jorge da Mina Castle. The oldest European building below the Sahara was the headquarters for trade and then slaves in Ghana. The church that sits in its courtyard is now a museum dedicated to the West African slave trade. Plus Fort São Jorge da Mina, now known by its Dutch name Fort Coenraadsburg, sits on a hill overlooking the city. Together, they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But remember, the historic sites are only part of the reason you’re here. Elmina’s waterfront castle is surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of fishing boats. The beaches begin just beyond the port. As you again head west, the buildings become smaller and are set farther apart. Long stretches of the windswept beach are empty, save for scavenging seagulls. While a small resort sits just behind the tall palm trees that line the sand.

The Elmina Bay Resort is a new, modern hotel. Its two-story buildings are surrounded by low shrubs. They overlook a quiet pool, wooden sun loungers, and palapas at the edge of the beach. Freshly caught grouper and snapper are served at the Beachside Bar & Restaurant. Cool sea breezes and perfect sunsets will ensure you linger at the resort. Make that linger in Ghana. West Africa will no longer be overlooked as a beach destination.

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