10 Things To See in Cape Town

This was my second trip to South Africa, the first time was in high school with my mother and this time was a solo trip. Cape Town is located on the SW coast of South Africa, on a peninsula, and nicknamed the Mother City. It's located beneath Table Mountain and known for its beautiful harbor and beaches. I was terrified about safety before I left but was relaxed by the end of my trip so overall it was a positive experience. I had a guide that helped me feel safe and told me where to go. Don't wear a ton of jewelry, flash your iphone and walk around at night. Expect to eat a lot of passion fruit and guava and drink local wine.  The reason I was there was such a short time was because I was in transit to visit Namibia for 2 weeks. I definitely want to go back as Cape Town felt like the Los Angeles of South Africa in terms of size and everything being spread out, affluent neighborhoods with beautiful real estate, the abundance of  palm trees surrounded by the ocean. However Cape Town has a population of 3.5 million while Los Angeles' is 13.5 million.


Since South Africa is below the Equator the seasons are reversed so South Africa's summer is America's winter. Hence their summer (January) is the most expensive time to visit as hotel prices will be higher and the beaches crowded. Experts say the best time to visit is March to May and from September to November so I picked May to visit which is their Fall. When I was there it was a sunny 70F during the day but chilly at night that required a sweater. When I arrived during the day, I noticed at the airport all the Africans wearing full length down coats so I asked my airport taxi driver why he was wearing a coat and he said for him this was cold. lol  The hottest month is February and the coolest month is July.


I highly recommend doing the Hop-on Hop-off bus in Cape Town. I did it for the first time in Cartagena but saw that in Cape Town the Hop-on-Hop-off bus dominated the city! It's affordable and a great way to get around because the city is huge! The buses come every 10 minutes! They were always full of tourists. They also offer all day trips, a cruise and a sunset drive. 


The V& A Waterfront has lots of shops, restaurants, art and diamond museums, and an aquarium. You can take a boat cruise but watch out for all the seals. If you're there in the summertime check out Cabo beach club.

Table Mountain

Each gondola carries 65 passengers and rotate at 360 degrees giving you the best views as you go up and down. Table Mountain has 8200plant species, most of which is made of  a fine bush, unique to South Africa. I also saw Rock hyrax which look like large rats. The boarding station for the cable car is 991 feet above  sea level while the summit 3501  feet above sea level. At the top you have panoramic views of cape town, table bay, lions head, robben Island to the west. And also the Atlantic seaboard on the southern side. 


Bo-Kaap is a historically Muslim quarter filled with Cape Malays. They are an ethnic group that is made up of the descendants of enslaved and free Muslims who were brought from Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa to work im the Cape more than 300 years ago by Dutch settlers. Now they have a population of 325,000 in Cape Town. Many of the families of Bo-Kaap have been living in these colorful houses for generations. The first Muslim mosque in South Africa, the Auwal Mosque, is in Bo-Kaap. I had dinner in the home of a Cape Malay woman and had delicious Cape Malay food which fuses traditions from Malaysian, Indonesian and East African foods. I had roti, lentils and potato samosas. 

During the apartheid era the Cape Malays were in the "colored" racial group. In Cape Town the race distribution is 42% Black, 40% colored, 16% white, 1% Asian. When I went to Table Mountain I saw a school group there of middle schoolers and I finally understood what it meant to be "Cape Coloured" as they are called; every single child was racially ambiguous. They are the predominant population group in the Western Cape. I googled a photo to give you a visual. They are bilingual speaking Afrikaans and English.

(source wiki)

Camps Bay

Camps Bay is an affluent suburb with of Cape Town where you'll find million dollar homes perched on the hillside with oceanfront views. So the garage might be street level, but then they walk downstairs to the rest of the house. Camps Bay is famous for its beach with white sand, blue water, a Tidal Pool and mountain views. However the water is very cold because the Benguela Current flows from the southern Atlantic Ocean which is not far from Antarctica. The beach has a miami like vibe with apalm tree lined promenade and across the street are lots of restaurants and cafes with oceanfront views.
Enjoying a passion fruit margarita


Seapoint is an ocean-facing affluent suburb where you'll find lots of apartment buildings popular with retirees. Here there's a promenade next to the ocean where you overlook tidal pools and sunset views.  As I walked along the promenade I saw multiple paragliders landing coming down from Table Mountain. 


South Africa put a ban on alcohol sales  including exports from its wineries 5x during the pandemic. There are 2690  wineries in South Africa which are famous for their  Pinotage and Chenin Blanc wine. 

Chapman's peak

Is a mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula next to Hout Bay. It's  a rocky coastal roadway and with a spectacular ocean view drive. You get majestic Cape Town scenery with views to the sea below and towering mountains rising above you. 

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

A huge botanical gardens at the foot of Table Mountain, a serene escape from the city. It has 7,000 plant species such as proteas, birds of paradise, wild gardenia scattered throughout the 1,300 acres of the park. They offer free guided tours. My favorite spot was the winding canopy walkway that runs above the treeline, which gives you an amazing vantage point over the gardens. In the summertime they have concerts in the park. It's 20 minutes outside of the city but worth a visit. Admission is $12, half price for South Africans and even cheaper for students. According to their website the best time to visit to see the fynbos (native flower/shrub) and the maximum number of plants in flower, is in Spring - August-November.


I visited the Imizamo Yethu township which is an informal settlement that houses 30,000 people, 8000 families and 6 schools. Townships historically were racially segregated underdeveloped areas that popped up outside of cities in South Africa. A non-profit from Ireland has helped to build the housing in this township and they also have running water and electivity but they don't have toilets and showers inside of their shacks. There's shared porta potties outside and at home they use a bassinet to wash up. Mass fires are a major risk of living so close so they are given fire alarms if they buy into the insurance program.

Boulder's Beach penguins 

This is the one thing I really wanted to do but didn't have enough time to do! I didn't realize this is outside of Cape Town and is only done as an all day tour.  


I exchanged money at home before I left. My bank allows you to request currency at the teller and then pick it up the next day and I got a good rate. However I found that I used my credit card everywhere in Cape Town except for the airport taxi but it was nice to by-pass the long currency exchange line at the airport. 


I can wax poetic about airlines, points and miles so I left this for the end. I took this picture at Newark of One World Trade Center.

South African Airlines discontinued their USA route during the pandemic so United Airlines picked it up. United has a 15 hour direct flight from Newark three days a week and from Washington Dulles three days a week So I had to fly from Newark to Cape Town and returned direct to Dulles landing at 7am. The TSA agent had the nerve to ask my why my hair in a ponytail didn't look as blonde as in my passport photo and why didn't I doll myself up for him. Sir I've been traveling for 24 hours from Namibia, its too early in the morning for this. I normally don't get jetlag, but I needed a few days to recover afterwards. There's an app to prevent Jet Lag. I also couldn't find my Jet Lag pills in my luggage until after I got home, but you have to take them during the flight. 

I have a United credit card so I used my points to pay for my flight. At Newark airport in terminal C, United has three United Club lounges and one Polaris Lounge.  For such a long haul flight, you know Polaris will be full so upgrade early. Make sure you read The Best Travel Essentials for Your Next Trip and Top 5 Best Travel Pillows posts for essentials for a long haul flight. 

For this route United flies a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner which doesn't have any window shades! It uses dimmable technology so you push a button to select how much light you want. The windows are 65% larger than traditional aircraft windows. The Dreamliner also has no First Class, instead it has 48 lie-flat Polaris business class seats, 21 Premium Plus seats, 39 Economy Plus seats, and 149 economy seats. 

Do not purchase an upgrade later because if the flight is full you might not get it, especially on a long haul flight, buy whatever seat class you want at the time of purchase. Upgrade priority goes to United Premier members so you might get on a waitlist and never clear it. In 2019 United got rid of their award chart listing which is the set amount of miles needed for each flight which means there are no minimum or maximums for United award prices which means it's even harder to book award flights. 

I don't have to tell you about the benefits of Polaris but the one complaint people have about it is that during boarding all passengers walk through the Polaris section. Your amenity kit comes in a small Away luggage case and includes pajamas and slippers. Premium Plus has a 2x3x2 seating configuration with seven extra inches of leg room and an adjustable pull out footrest. The amenity kit comes with slippers and noise cancelling headphones. Economy Plus has a 3x3x3 seating configuration with six extra inches of leg room. 

There's no bathrooms at the back of the plane, the mystery door is a staircase to the flight attendants sleeping compartment. So if you're in the back row of an overnight flight, most likely the flight attendants need to stay awake by chatting with each other in the kitchen and that may keep you awake. The exit row at the front of economy is next to the bathroom, so you will always have lots of people standing in line next to your seat bumping you. Hopefully these tips help you pick where you might want to sit. Tricks for flying in business class for less.

The TV had 100 movies/TV shows to watch so I made sure everything I watched was African themed. I highly recommend watching The Elephant Queen! It's a documentary that tells the journey of a family of elephants in the African savannah when they are forced to leave their waterhole. It explains how all the animals are connected with each other and how important water is to them. I learned so much from this about things that were never explained on my safari. 

And then I watched functionalized African movies: The Woman King (Viola Davis), Black Panther Wakanda Forever, and Beast starring Idris Elba who while on a South African safari was stalked by a rogue lion. It's basically Jaws the movie but with a lion. I was on the seat of my pants the whole time! 

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