The Best of South Africa - an Active + Leisure travel itinerary for Cape Town, Wine Country and Safa
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Cape Town, South Africa is a long-haul hybrid travel destination from the USA, no matter what coast you live on. As example, starting a trip from San Francisco requires two 11-hour flights just to get into the country and then two more plane hours to get to Cape Town. But if the travel time is a possible deterrent for you, the strength of US dollar in this country just may counter it. We traveled 16 days in South Africa, and were surprised on how far our money went. We were either able to eat cheaply for only a few US dollars per meal, or splurge at 5 star hotels and upscale restaurants, for a fraction of what we would pay in the USA. Add that to an incredible coastline, options for animal safari and an abundance of outdoor activity to choose from and a vacation in South Africa just may be the best hybrid travel trip you ever take.
Whether scrambling up Table Mountain, hiking around Cape of Good Hope or trail running around Kirstenbosch Gardens, there is plenty of opportunity to stay active while sightseeing in Cape Town. In addition, walking along the gorgeous beaches or cycling through wine country are great options as well.
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In Cape Town, we loved the classy Bed & Breakfast with its own infinity pool at 52 DeWit. And we had some fabulous meals at Aubergine and the Bungalow in Clifton. In wine country, we stayed at the lovely Franschoek Country House and enjoyed fabulous wine-paired, multi-course meals at Roca's, Miko, and Monneaux. We heard that dinner at Rueben's was also fantastic but books up 60 days in advance in the summer. Our safari at Kapama Karula was most indulgent experience to celebrate a decade birthday. Go here to read more about our experience at this fabulous reserve.
Click here for current prices and more luxury hotel options in Cape Town
Click here for current prices and more moderate hotel options in Cape Town
How to Connect
Hiring local guides to hike Table Mountain or drive you through wine country is a great way to support local tourism efforts in South Africa. See links to the guides we hired throughout the itinerary below. In addition, eco-tourism is a way of life in this country and there are many organizations that would benefit from financial contribution to continue their efforts. Cape Nature Conservation - a resource for accommodations and activities that support conservation and educate the public on environmental campaigns – is one example. This group aims to establish a 'Conservation Economy' in the Western Cape and to turn biodiversity conservation into a key component of the local economic development processes in the province. Go here to learn more about this organization.
Trip Rating - L1-L2 Although primarily English-speaking, with many familiar foods and a history of British influence, Cape Town has areas at night that may require heightened awareness for safety. In addition, you need to be comfortable driving on the left side of the road. So for this reason, we rate in somewhere between L1 and L2.
For more about Paradox Travel trip ratings, go here.
Month of Travel - December – Summer in South Africa
Length of Trip - 16 days, including our Wine Country tour and Safari
Day 1 & 2 - Getting there
Overnight flight - SFO to Frankfurt – >11 hours
Overnight flight - Frankfort to Johannesburg –> 11 hours (arrive 10am)
Day Flight - Johannesburg to Cape Town -> 2 hr (arrive 3pm)
TIP - Check into who your airline partners are. For this trip, Lufthansa and United were partners. The exact same flights were several hundred dollars less when booked through Lufthansa instead of United. And we still got mileage points. The one downside is that it’s hard to get upgrades using your United status, once you book through the partner airline.
Pick up rental car - we used Avis
Accommodation suggestion - Hilton Cape Town City Centre
Activity Suggestions - Explore Victoria & Alfred waterfront in the evening – Uber or take cab, as parking is difficult in this area.
TIP - Don't be afraid to use Uber in Cape Town. The dollar is so strong that we were able to take Black Car to dinners each night and around town, for ~ $5.00 US. Score!
Day 3 - Kirstenbosch Gardens
Activity Suggestion - Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens - walk or trail run garden paths or hike skeleton gorge; picnic
Dinner Suggestion - Fork Accommodation suggestion - Hilton Cape Town City Centre
Click here for current prices and more hotel options in Cape Town
Day 4 - Table Mountain
Activity Suggestions - early morning > Table Mountain Hike – India Vestre route w/guide, take Gondola down, afternoon > Clifton Beach - sun your buns
Dinner Suggestion - Bistro Bizerca
Accommodation suggestion – Hilton Cape Town City Centre
Day 5 - Wine Tasting and Coastal Day Trip
Activity Suggestion - Day trip – Steenberg Farm Vineyards – lunch Bistro 1682
Drive to Kalk Bay and Muizenberg beach
Dinner Suggestion – Restaurant Aubergine
Accommodation suggestion - B&B – 52 DeWet (*** HIGHLY recommend)
Day 6 - Shark Diving
Activity Suggestion - Shark Dive - Gansbaai
TIP - Gansbaai is an hours drive from Cape Town and highly weather dependent. Have an activity backup plan in case the water is too rough and your outfitter cancels the trip. Or be flexible and swap activity days as needed.
Dinner Suggestion - NV-80
Accommodation suggestion - 52 DeWet
Day 7 - Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope
Activity Suggestion - Drive to Boulders Beach & Cape of Good Hope
TIP - Go early to both Boulders Beach and especially the Cape! The entry system at Cape of Good Hope is not great and the line of cars will be long if you go late. They will try to convince you that you can't drive around the park, and need to take the shuttle instead. This is not true. You can drive, but there is not a lot of parking at the funnicular /The Point.
Drive back - over Chapman Peak past LLandudno Beach
Dinner Suggestion - The Bungalow in Clifton
Accommodation suggestion - 52 De Wit
Day 8 - Wine Country
Drop off Rental car - get picked up by Paradise Touring driver 10am, head to wine country (~ 1 hour drive)
Franschhoek Winery suggestions - Rupert , L’Ormarin, then Lunch at Miko – Mont Rochelle Vineyard
Dinner Suggestion - Roca’s – Dieu Donne Vineyards
TIP - make reservations in wine country 30-60 days in advance, good ones book instantly.
Accommodation suggestion - Franschhoek Country house
Click here for current prices and more accommodation options in Franschhoek
Day 9 - Wine Touring on Bikes
Activity Suggestion - Bike & Saddle Wine Tour
Winery Suggestions - AM -> Aaldering and Brenaissance wineries, lunch Clos Malverne; PM -> Cavalli winery (or Rust en Vrade)
Dinner Suggestion - Monneaux (or Ruebens)
Accommodation suggestion - Franschoek Country House
Day 10 - Hoedspruit
Leave Franschhoek - guide transport to airport
Flight - Am Cape town to Hoedspruit, South Africa
Accommodation suggestion – Kapama Karula Game Reserve
Click here for more hotels that are close to game reserves in Hoedspruit
Days 11 – 13 - Safari
Safari Kapama Karula
Go here to read more about Our Incredible Kapama Karula Safari Experience
Day 14-16 Head Home
Flight - Hoedspruit > Johannesburg (1 hour early afternoon)
Flight - Johannesburg > Frankfurt (11 hr night flight)
Flight - Frankfurt > SFO (11 hr)
TIP - while in South Arica – check into an upgrade to Business Class on one of your legs. You will pay in RAND, which doesn’t cost you a lot when the US dollars is strong. As example, we purchased Business Class upgrades for ~ $4200ZAR or $300 US each, which was a bargain for an 11 hour flight.
Click here for current prices on hotels in Johannesburg
TIP - If you would love help coordinating private guides or any other aspect of your South African Adventure, we recommend Cindy Botha at African Travel Gateway. They are super friendly, easy to work with and extremely responsive by email or phone.
(to see more animal photos from our Safari and read A Review of Kapama Reserve, go here)