If you ever find yourself in the exotic West African country of Ivory Coast, or Cote D’Ivoire, San Pedro is a place you must put on your tourist map.
While your sojourn in this country will begin from Abidjan, which is where the International Airport is located, there’s more to see outside of this bustling city. Take time out over a weekend and head to the destination of beautiful beaches, San Pedro.
A Peek into the City
San Pedro, with its striking Spanish name in a Francophone country, is the second largest port of the country, after Abidjan. As a result, it is a hub for traders, businessmen and expatriates. Situated beside the Atlantic Ocean, the town hugs the coastline, offering stupendous views and access to numerous beaches.
How You Can Get Here?
The easiest and best way to get to San Pedro from Abidjan is to take a flight. In less than 45 minutes, you will be transported to your destination. Air Cote D’Ivoire is now operating daily flights between the two cities. At an average, unless you hit peak festive season, return tickets tend to cost around CFA 80,000 (USD 140) per person.
If you’re in a large group and feel that a flight is proving expensive all together, you can drive it. Be prepared though, that the roads are quite rough in patches and the four-hour drive actually takes closer to seven hours. On the upside, you will enjoy the beauty of this green country along the way. There are rows and rows of plantations, rich with cocoa trees, palm trees, rubber trees and what not. But do keep food and water on the way, for you will not see a decent restaurant anywhere on the route. Petrol pumps are your best bet if you’re looking for a washroom, but approach them with minimal hope.
Things to Do in San Pedro
The primary tourist attraction in San Pedro is access to beautiful seashores. So don’t expect a travel itinerary for this destination. Just head to the beach near Hotel Sophia and spend a lazy afternoon with a chilled drink in your hands. Bask in the sun, read a book in the shade or take a dip in the waters. If you are utterly confident, you could head out with a surfing board to experience the waves first hand.
In the evening, you could take a walk around the posh Ballmer area, which is where San Pedro’s elite reside. Mount one of the hills to watch the sun setting into the sea. A kaleidoscope of colours will light up the sky while you take in fabulous views of the ocean stretching out for kilometers.
Later, once you’ve developed an appetite, you could try a chicken braisse or a sea-food platter in one of the restaurants by the waters. Take a walk under the moonlight after that, or if you’re looking for some fun, head to Amnesia, San Pedro’s most happening night club.
Stay in Comfort
So where are you going to stay once you get here? The Hotel Sophia, Les Jardins d’Ivoire and Le Canelle are the best hotels in town. Service is good, location is excellent (they are right on the beach), but keep in mind, that they are also expensive. You could expect a room for CFA 80,000 (USD 140) per night in one of these hotels.
Sounds too much? If you’re ready to compromise on comfort and luxury, try Hotel Atlantic in the city area. Your room may not overlook the sea, but you will be a stone’s throw from restaurants, patisseries, supermarkets and nightclubs. A room could be booked for as little as CFA 20,000 (USD 35) per night.
Grab a Bite
Hotel Sophia, Les Jardins d’Ivoire and Le Canelle also have classy fine-dining restaurants. Yes, the food is expensive, but you can’t go wrong there. Expect a per person cost of around CFA 20,000 (USD 35).
In close proximity to these hotels, you will find Le Meme Coin, an open restaurant right on the beach, with pizzas, panini and petanque. The last one, if you’re not aware, is a popular French game and if you happen to walk into Le Meme Coin on a weekend, you’re quite likely to catch a tournament in progress.
Right next door is Hotel Rialto, also equipped with a restaurant; as well as a Vietnamese food joint. If you’re heading into the city, you can stop at Patisserie Eva, the town bakery, for some snacks. They have a rooftop seating arrangement, and tend to attract crowds in the evenings.
Get a Whiff of Local Culture
Want to get a little more adventurous and experience local cuisine and culture?
Head to one of the many Maquis in town. These local eating outlets are popular among the natives and will serve up a drink, along with roasted chicken (poulet braisse), roasted fish (poisson braisse) and a variety of other Ivorian delicacies. There are a number of these joints near the Laak area of San Pedro. Alternately, head to the local beaches, just down the road from the Hotel Sophia and Les Jardins d’Ivoire, and you will find a popular hub of Maquis thronging with Ivorians, especially on weekends.
Spend an afternoon sauntering through the Grand Marche of San Pedro. A local bazaar with almost everything, from fruits and vegetables to household items, tissue, plastics and other odds and ends, this marketplace takes you straight into the heart of Ivorian life and culture. You could pick up some pagne, the cloth used by the people here to make their garments, which is available in an assortment of colours and designs. Don’t forget to drive a hard bargain though!
Places to See Near San Pedro
There are a number of interesting places near San Pedro that you could head to if you have the time and inclination. You can read my soon-to-come posts on Grand Bereby, Sassandra and Tai National Park to know more.
The sun and sands of San Pedro await you. Akwaba!
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PIyushi Dhir is the author of the romantic novels, 'In Search of Love' (2014), 'I'm Yours, The Next Time' (2015) and 'Enmeshed Evermore' (2015). A voracious reader, a keen traveler and an ardent dog-lover, Piyushi currently resides in Ivory Coast, Africa. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.