Adventurous travelers looking for an adrenaline fix in Cape Town will happily discover that South Africa’s Mother City is more than just a pretty face.
Written by Lauren Maker
Beyond the postcard-perfect scenes of towering mountains, rocky shores, powder-white beaches and rows of vineyards, there’s a host of adventurous things to do in Cape Town.
Whether you’re hiking, climbing, sailing or diving, here’s where to start your Cape Town adventures:
Abseiling down Table Mountain
Topping our list of adventure attractions is Table Mountain. The famous flat-topped sentinel is one of Cape Town’s most popular destinations, drawing an estimated 1 million visitors to its summit every year to take in the breathtaking views.
Most folks choose to ascend and descend via the rotating cable car, but steely adventurers wanting to test their endurance have other options. If you’re up for the challenge, we recommend strapping into a harness and abseiling your way down the half-mile mountain face. It’s an exhilarating experience!
Helicopter flip around the Cape Peninsula
When you’re visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it makes sense to capture the splendor from all angles – especially from above on a helicopter trip. Don’t miss the opportunity to chop-chop around the Cape Peninsula, home to Cape Point, where two oceans meet.
The dramatic Cape Point promontory extends into the sea like a finger, marking the line where the cold Atlantic collides with the warm Indian Ocean. To truly grasp the magnificence of its geography, you have to see Cape Point from the sea; to hover alongside its craggy cliffs above the blue-green power of two oceans in what might be the most memorable helicopter ride of your life.
Lions Head sunset hike
A sunset hike up Lions Head is something of a rite of passage for any self-respecting Cape Town local. When the workday ends, it’s not uncommon to see scores of nine-to-fivers swap their suits for hiking gear and trek to the top of Table Mountain’s famous neighbor to catch the sunset over the sea. We say it’s a must-do for visitors too!
Following a circular route up the mountain, you’re rewarded with views all-around: from the City Bowl to the Twelve Apostles Mountain range overlooking Camps Bay. The hike itself is suitable for most fitness levels. Older children should be able to do it with ease too, however, there is a chain-link ladder towards the end that might pose a challenge. But we’ll make sure your local guide is with you all the way to assist.
Learn to Surf on Muizenberg Beach
Surfs up! Cape Town is home to some epic surfing spots, but none more famous than the Surfers Corner of Muizenberg Beach. Here, the waves break along a soft sandy shore, making it the perfect place to learn to surf.
Lessons start on the beach, where the basics are explained and demonstrated before you paddle out. Your instructor is with you all the way, helping you catch waves and get to your feet. You’ll leave having learned the meaning of “only a surfer knows the feeling!”
Good to know: all equipment is provided.
Marine life kayak tour
Discover the world’s most scenic coastline in a kayak tour, exploring the Atlantic Ocean and discovering its abundance of marine life. Departing from the V&A Waterfront, you have two hours to spend seeking out dolphins, whales, seals, penguins, and sunfish. With the mountains of Cape Town as your backdrop, this experience is unmatched anywhere else on earth.
Western Cape adventure activities
Further afield, the greater Western Cape province promises plenty of options for adrenalin-fueled fun.
Ziplining in Elgin
Zoom down a zipline in the company of soaring eagles! Just one hour’s drive from Cape Town, the fynbos panoramas of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve await. This previously inaccessible and pristine World Heritage Site is now yours to explore on a tree canopy zip-lining adventure in Elgin. It’s fully guided and suitable for nature enthusiasts of all ages.
Hermanus whale watching boat trip
Whale season in the Western Cape (June to December) is a special time of year when Southern Right Whales arrive in the warm-watered bays to calve. The best way to see these majestic mammals up close is on a boat ride in the whale watching capital of the world: Hermanus.
Launching from the harbor of Gansbaai, your 2-hour whale-watching cruise takes you towards Hermanus to see its white pearly beaches and the cliffs of De Kelders. Not forgetting the stars of the show, your chances of seeing whales in the wild are excellent.
Good to know: boats are not permitted to come within 50m of whales. It’s still much closer than you would see them from the shore, but if photographing them is your goal, make sure you have the necessary lens.
Bungee jump from Bloukrans Bridge
Are you ready to fling yourself off the world’s highest commercial bungee jump? Bloukrans Bridge straddles the border between the Western and Eastern Cape, along the scenic Garden Route. Only adrenalin junkies with nerves of steel need apply. It’s a long way down!
Explore the Cango Caves
The quaint town of Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo is known as the ostrich capital of the world because of its many ostrich farms (and delectable ostrich cuisine). It’s also the launching pad for a Cango Caves adventure.
A short drive from town will take you to the limestone caverns of the Cango Caves, spectacularly shaped by nature through the ages. There are two tours you can choose from. The Heritage Tour takes you through Van Zyl’s Hall and Botha’s Hall through the Rainbow Chamber, Bridal Chamber and Fairyland Chamber to the Drum Room.
The Adventure Tour follows the same route but continues deeper into the cave, becoming progressively more difficult. Jacob’s Ladder, with over 200 steps, leads through The Grand Hall into The Avenue and into the low confines of Lumbago Alley, where you’ll follow more steps downwards into the cellar-like chambers of King Solomon’s Mines. From there you have the Devil’s Chimney, the Coffin, Devil’s Kitchen and the Devil’s Post Box to look forward to. Thrill-seeking adventurers are guaranteed a devilishly good time!
Need to know: If you are pregnant or suffer from claustrophobia, high blood pressure, asthma or any muscular ailments, this tour is not suitable for you. Children under the age of 8 are not permitted on this tour option.
No adventure list is complete without the mention of skydiving! The beauty of this exhilarating sport is that it can be done anywhere in South Africa, but we recommend skydiving in the gorgeous Garden Route. Why? Because the scenes of mountains, forests, lagoons and beaches below are just too good to miss.
There’s no better place to go tandem freefalling than in Plettenberg Bay (Plett, to the locals), the most scenic drop zone in the world.