Wanna know a great reason to visit Sierra Leone? BEACHES! Here we’ll tell you all about the 9 best beaches in Sierra Leone, in Freetown and beyond!
Are you heading to Salone for the first time? Make sure you read our 19 things to know before going to Sierra Leone post!
Do you know that feeling of when you see a stunning beach in places like Mykonos or Croatia, and think ‘I wonder how this would have looked like 30 years ago?’
This is the kind of experience you’ll get while visiting many beaches in Sierra Leone. The country is blessed with stunning stretches of Atlantic coast, with wide, palm-fringe beaches, complete with white sand and clear waters.
As you may imagine, tourists are few and far between – for now.
Visiting beaches was definitely a highlight of our time in Sierra Leone. From the lively scene of Lumley Beach, right in the heart of Freetown, to the castaway vibe of the Turtle Islands, all the way to stunning Tokeh Beach – Sierra Leone seems to have a beach for everyone, whatever your tastes.
We recommend a minimum of 2 weeks in Sierra Leone to enjoy the country, including its beautiful beaches. If you only have one week, fear not – there are many wonderful beaches in the vicinity of Freetown, so even if you’re just visiting the capital you can easily squeeze in some beach time!
Here are the 9 best beaches in Sierra Leone – divided between beaches on the Freetown Peninsula, and elsewhere in the country!
Best Sierra Leone Beaches in Freetown
1) Lumley Beach
Do you only have time to visit one beach in Freetown? Well, then make sure you hit Lumley Beach, the closest beach to the capital – and also the liveliest!
Lumley Beach stretches for about 4 km, from the coastal neighborhood of Aberdeen all the way south past the Freetown Golf Course. There’s a paved promenade running all along the beach, popular with runners – it’s actually one of the few places in town where you can enjoy a run with no hills or traffic!
The beach is wide and sandy, clean for the most part – it’s popular on Sunday with locals playing volleyball and hanging out on the beach. You’ll also find several bars and restaurants, getting busy by sunset onwards, and a little night market.
2) Bureh Beach
Are you a surfer? Then take note of Bureh Beach, located on the southern end of Freetown Peninsula, about an hour drive from the capital. It’s said to be the best surf beach in Sierra Leone, with regular winds creating good-sized swells.
Bureh Beach is named after Bai Bureh, a pro-independence leader who led the Hut Tax War in 1898 against the British colonizers. At Bureh Beach you can get all the surfing info you need at Bureh Beach Surf Club, founded by an Irishman who collaborates with the local community.
If you get hungry, there are also some restaurants selling locally-caught fish.
3) Lakka Beach
A quick drive from Freetown along the Peninsula, Lakka Beach is another good option for a beach getaway. The beach is curved and the sand is a pretty golden hue, but it’s surrounded by buildings in various states of neglect – if it’s picture-perfect you’re after, perhaps opt for another beach.
However, Lakka also has two really good fish restaurants nearby, and the water did look inviting even though we visited on a rainy day.
4) Sussex Beach
Moving south from Lakka, you’ll encounter Sussex Beach, popular for being the best beach in Freetown if you like diving. The diving club was set up by an Italian man called Franco and his Sierra Leonean wife in the 1960s, and it’s still going strong – you can also have lunch at their beachside restaurant, said to make the best Italian food in Freetown.
The beach stretches around a saltwater lagoon, with cotton trees and mangroves. We saw locals swim both in the lagoon and on the ocean on the other side of it, separated by a strip of sand.
5) River N.2 Beach
Are you looking for the most beautiful beach in Sierra Leone? Stop reading, you found it! River N.2 is south of Sussex Beach, at the estuary of a little river creating a lagoon.
We visited on a cloudy day – yes, we didn’t have much luck with the weather when we visited beaches in Sierra Leone! However, even with a moody sky, we could appreciate the beautiful white sand and turquoise waters, and we would have loved to go for a swim!
River N.2 is managed by a community association. They also run a beach restaurant, handicraft market where you can pick up some souvenirs, and a guesthouse – rooms are simple and catering to backpackers, but at the time of our visit they were in the process of upgrading rooms and adding aircon.
There’s a 5000 leones (50 cent USD) entry charge, which is then reinvested in community projects.
6) Tokeh Beach
Looking for the best beach resort in Sierra Leone? Look no further – The Place at Tokeh is (pardon the pun) indeed ‘the place’ to be!
If you are staying in Sierra Leone only for a week or shorter, we recommend spending a couple of nights on Tokeh Beach – The Place offers accommodation in large, luxurious bungalows steps away from the beach, and there’s also a restaurant with excellent seafood dishes and cocktails.
However, you don’t need to be a guest of The Place to enjoy Tokeh. The beach is open to everyone, and it’s only 20 minutes walk from River N.2, making it easy to visit two beaches on the same day!
7) John Obey Beach
John Obey is one of the best beaches in Sierra Leone if you want to escape the crowds. It’s a long sandy beach, located about an hour drive from the city in the Western Peninsula.
The swimming is great, and there are a couple of good seafood restaurants. John Obey Beach was also the location of Tribewanted, a social project where a group of volunteers and locals established an eco-community including permaculture gardens, water harvesting, earth domes and wooden huts, in addition to providing micro loans.
There’s a documentary about the Tribewanted project, and according to online research they provided accommodation for a few years – but it is unclear whether the project is still running at present.
Best Sierra Leone Beaches Beyond Freetown
8) Big Sand Beach (Banana Islands)
Would you like to leave Freetown for a day, but don’t know where to go? The Banana Islands are probably the easiest day trip from the capital, with a one-hour taxi ride to Kent, and then a 40 min boat crossing.
The Banana Islands are three – Dublin, Ricketts, and Mes-Meheux. The first two are inhabited, and linked by a causeway, whereas the latter is uninhabited. People living in the islands are the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans, who formed a settlement after the abolition of slavery.
In Dublin, you’ll find two guesthouses and Big Sand Beach, where you can relax, swim or snorkel. Local fishermen might offer boat trips and transfers to Mes-Meheux, where yet more wonderful beaches await.
9) Turtle Islands
Last but not least, the Turtle Islands! This remote archipelago is made up of 8 islands, and located about 3 hours sailing from Bonthe Island. You can also get there from the Banana Islands, but it takes about 7/8 hours on fairly uncomfortable boats.
We spent one night on Baki, one of the Turtle Islands. We stayed in a very basic guesthouse right on the beach, and had a lazy afternoon walking between the mangroves, swimming, and just lying in the shade beneath the palm trees.
The Turtle Islands are worth visiting to see some of the best beaches in Sierra Leone – or so we were told. Unfortunately, the day we visited was cloudy and grey, so the beaches weren’t really at their best.
On top of that, getting to the Turtle Islands is a very long journey, requiring a jeep drive from Freetown to Yagoi (about 5 hours – half of which along very bumpy roads), then a 45-minute boat ride to Bonthe, and then a further 3 hours by boat to Baki.
Skip the guesthouse if offered, and bring your own tent instead – or ask the tour operator you’re travelling with to provide one. Food will be cooked for you by village ladies, and it’s really excellent – I’m still drooling over those fried fish skewers!
So, getting to the Turtle Islands is a hassle, but they’re still worth including in your Sierra Leone itinerary if possible – you’ll really feel away from it all, with nothing but the whisper of the breeze and the sound of the waves to keep you company.
And if you’re lucky and it’s sunny, try asking for a boat ride to the surrounding islands and sand bars – who knows, you might find the best beach in Sierra Leone!
I was a guest of Blogilicious and the Tourism Board of Sierra Leone as part of the #explorefreedom campaign. Thanks Muneera for having us, and thanks Claudia, Annette and Cacinda for all the adventures!