Cape Town vs. Durban: Which Is the Better Vacation?


If you’ve always longed to visit South Africa and experience the exotic foods, breathtaking landscapes, and unique culture for yourself, you’ll need to choose a destination city. Fortunately, both Cape Town and Durban offer exquisite opportunities to try South African dishes, enjoy warm sun-filled beaches, and explore the local wildlife. However, these qualities can make it nearly impossible to choose between them.

Cape Town is for travelers looking to experience a distinctive modern metropolis, internationally-inspired cuisine, exquisite 5-star hotels, and contemporary museums. Those searching for South Africa’s wilder side might prefer Durban’s gorgeous beaches, subtropical climate, and numerous nature parks.

CategoryCape TownDurban
Cost of Stay: Weekly (USD)$571 per person$270 per person
TransportationTaxis, MyCiTi (public buses), car rentals, Metrorail (commuter trains), Uber, Rikki, ferry to nearby islandsTaxis, car rentals, Durban People Mover (public shuttle buses), Uber, rental bicycle
Notable AttractionsRobben Island, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, St George’s Cathedral, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Clifton BeachesMoses Mabhida Stadium, Golden Mile, Suncoast Casino, Durban Natural History Museum
WeatherWarm and dry during the summer months, may be wet and cool during winters, but otherwise mildTypically very warm and humid, though winters can be somewhat drier
Food and DrinkSouth African cuisine, seafood, international cuisine, rare meats, cafes, several restaurantsSouth African cuisine, seafood, Indian cuisine, English cuisine, some cafes and restaurants
Activities for KidsButterfly World Animal Sanctuary, The Cape Wheel, Scratch Patch Mineral World, Two Oceans AquariumuShaka Marine World, Mitchell Park Zoo, MINITOWN, Golden Mile Beach
Nature AttractionsMaclear’s Beacon, Cape of Good Hope, Boulder Beach, Kirstenbosch National Botanical GardenDurban Botanic Gardens, Umgeni River Bird Park, Sibudu Cave

Cape Town is the capital of South Africa, which lies on the west coast of Africa, and is well-known for its bewitching mountainous coastal views, freshly prepared seafood, and rich culture. Durban is also a modern South African city, but with a far more tropical feel, and while it does offer plenty of wildlife opportunities, it also has a thriving shopping district.

This article will examine the similarities and differences between these two South African destinations, helping you to choose the one that best fits your personality and vacation dreams.

Cost of Stay

Cape Town is an affordable destination, no matter the time of year. Still, you could avoid some of the larger tourist crowds by visiting during the off-peak periods. September through November and March through April tend to be excellent times to enjoy Cape Town’s impressive beaches and Michelin star restaurants.

If you’re on a tight budget, you could still enjoy everything that Cape Town offers thanks to its variety of eateries, hotels, and attractions. And besides, the beautiful views surrounding you at all times will be entirely free!

Still, not even Cape Town’s best-value amenities can compete with Durban’s budget-friendly accommodations, cafes, and activities. While Durban might not have any 5-star hotels or restaurants, it does have a wealth of natural beauty and affordable nature attractions.

Best Affordable Hotels

Cape Town has hundreds of hotels for visitors to choose from, and they vary greatly in price and star-rating. 

The Bay Hotel is a classic Cape Town hotel that exudes style, elegance, and coastal charm. With multiple pools, bars, and an unbeatable view of Table Mountain, it’s difficult to think of anything more relaxing than a multi-night stay here. The ocean is only a few feet away, so beach lovers are bound to find themselves at home.

Of course, you could also choose to explore one of Cape Town’s many boutique hotels. These eclectic accommodations always offer visitors a distinct experience that focuses on celebrating local culture, art, and food.

 

The Glen Boutique Hotel & Spa is an affordably priced and sophisticatedly furnished boutique hotel with grand, airy balconies that open onto breathtaking views of the surrounding city. Because it doesn’t sit directly on the beach, it’s a budget-friendly option, but one that offers sumptuous amenities like a full-size spa and rooftop pool.

Like Cape Town, most of Durban’s hotels can be found clustered near the seashore. However, unlike the lodging found in South Africa’s capital, these hotels are fantastically budget-friendly.

While you may not find the same height of luxury in Durban’s suites as you would in Cape Town’s, you can still enjoy reliable accommodation and attractive amenities. 

Staying in one of the several guesthouses in the area could be the best way to soak up some culture while enjoying a well-furnished, reasonably priced room. The Goble Palms Guest House is located within walking or biking distance of the beach and offers guests the chance to experience Durban’s uniquely English influences.

Main Attractions

Both Cape Town and Durban offer various attractions, but travelers interested in enjoying the absolute best in South African dining, shopping, and culture may prefer Cape Town. It’s long and storied history can be experienced in museums, or simply by walking down one of its many lively streets.

Still, Cape Town offers a lot more to visitors than bright lights and world-class food. It also has some of the most exciting natural attractions in all of South Africa. 

Boulder Beach is famous for both its shores and its native penguin population, and hikers might stay a few extra weeks after discovering that they can take a guided tour up to the top of Table Mountain. Reserved visitors can find peace and sanctuary in this bustling city by visiting Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and enjoying more than 7,000 species of plantlife.

But Durban’s natural offerings may rival those of Cape Town’s. The Golden Mile beach is stunning during the sunrise or sunset and might be the perfect place to practice some romance. If adventure is more your style, you could stop by Sibudu Cave and see one of the oldest rock shelters ever built by prehistoric humans.

Activities for Kids

Durban and Cape Town both have plenty of neat activities for children of all ages. Interestingly, the majority of these attractions tend to focus on wildlife. 

In Cape Town, kids can enjoy the Butterfly World Animal Sanctuary and Two Oceans Aquarium. And in Durban, children might relish the chance to visit uShaka Marine World and the Mitchell Park Zoo.

Food and Drink

Cape Town’s coastal position has afforded it quite many trade opportunities, resulting in local cuisine that is a mish-mash of many international favorites. Durban’s cuisine, on the other hand, has unmistakable Indian and English influences.

Still, no matter which city you decide to visit, you’re likely to see a dish called bunny chow listed on the menu. This South African specialty combines the flavors of Indian cuisine with the practicality of South African culture. 

It’s a stew-like combination of beans, meat, curry, and vegetables that’s almost always served inside of a halved loaf of bread. This dish originated in Durban, so you may want to honor it by ordering it from a local Durban eatery like Gounden’s Restaurant & Take Away.

Weather

If you’re looking to vacation in a mild climate, you may want to choose Cape Town. Durban experiences long rainy seasons and tends to be relatively hot and humid throughout most of the year despite occasional coastal breezes.

During the winter months, Cape Town’s average temperature can fall to around 60°F (16°C), making the city feel pleasantly cool. Compare this to Durban’s average winter temperature of about 75°F (24°C), and you’ll begin to see the difference.

Safety

Cape Town and Durban are both two of the safest regions of South Africa. That said, pickpocketing is a problem. Visitors should be sure to arrive during the daylight hours and stay off the streets during the night. 

Transportation

When you need to get around town, you can hire an Uber or a Taxi. However, Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus system is a little more expansive and impressive than the Durban People Mover. However, Durban offers handy rental bicycles, which could be a blast to ride.

Conclusion

There are several fascinating South African destinations to choose from, and each one offers a unique set of experiences not found anywhere else in the world. Cape Town and Durban tend to be two of the safest and most rewarding South African cities to visit.

Both destinations offer visitors the chance to relax on the beach, enjoy authentic South African cuisine, and explore the natural splendor. For travelers seeking a refined vacation experience that offers plenty of wild adventure, we recommend Cape Town. But anyone with a budget to stick to, especially families, may find that Durban’s attractions are just as satisfying.

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