With the recent (and quite worrying) news that British travel company Thomas Cook is planning to increase the number of tourists in Morocco over the next three years – there’s no better time to start uncovering some of the country’s hidden gems.
Oualidia is a coastal village situated between El Jadida and Safi (and a mere three-hour drive from Marrakesh). The best way to visit the village is to fly in to Marrakesh and spend a couple of days swamped in the mayhem of the red city and then escape to the coast. Most tourists will choose to pay a visit to Essaouira – and whilst the whitewashed town is a sight to behold – it’s also jammed full of tourists.
Rent a car or get a local taxi from Marrakesh straight to Oualidia (you should expect to pay around 800 Dirhams each way). The drive is pretty stark for the majority of the journey but once you hit those slinky coastal roads you’ll want to have your phone handy.
Once you get to the village—which is comprised of a couple simple and tiny cafés and seafood restaurants—you’ll immediately feel the energy shift from the franticness of Marrakesh.
Oualidia is a sleepy coastal town that’s located around a snug lagoon – and not much else. It’s the ultimate—and lesser-known—relaxation spot. King Mohammed V used to holiday here in the 1950s (and the present king’s children attend surf lessons on the lagoon).
The area is sparse on hotels, but be sure to check in to the beautiful La Sultana – it’s the first luxury hotel on the lagoon and by far the best. Check in to one of the hotel’s 12 rooms and you won’t be disappointed. Choose a Prestige Deluxe room and you’ll get a two-story building to yourself, complete with outdoor Jacuzzi that’s filled with warm water straight from the lagoon. Order some mint tea, climb in the hot tub and sit beneath the stars. You won’t see a thing for miles as the hotel faces the lagoon and is backed by endless cornfields.
In the morning, you can use one of the hotel’s two swimming pools to cool-off, or you can go down and swim in the lagoon itself. We recommend taking the local fishing boat (it’s 20 Dirhams or 100 for the entire boat) and they’ll take you across the lagoon and on to the public beach.
On one side you’ll find the Atlantic ocean crashing against the Saharan sandy beaches (perfect for surfing) and on the other side you’ll find the super-calm still waters of the lagoon. Be sure to keep an eye out for the kids selling fresh oysters. The region is famously known as the oyster capital of Morocco; the locals pluck them directly out of the lagoon and pass them to you with a squeeze of fresh lemon – you can’t get any fresher than that.
Head back to the hotel in the evening and take a night-swim in the property’s beautiful indoor pool and treat yourself to a Hamman at the hotel’s spa – it’s the perfect respite before heading back to Marrakesh.
Rooms at La Sultana Marrakech from $411/1509 AED per night and La Sultana Oualidia from $465/1707 aed per night.