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Essaouira, Morocco

An Unexpected Surf & Party Destination: Essaouira, Morocco

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Essaouira, Morocco is a surf and party destination like no other. When I was planning a vacation for my boyfriend and me in Morocco, I learned the surf in Essaouira is the best in Morocco for beginners and intermediates alike. I had never surfed before and wanted to learn, but always found surf lessons in Europe to be over budget. Essaouira seemed like a good fit! We quickly learned Essaouria is a vibrant city with a rich nightlife and culture as well.

My partner referenced in this blog post and I are no longer together. Out of respect, I won’t use his name or show pictures of us together. I felt it important, though, to include him in this story so solo female travelers don’t seek advice from me about traveling through Morocco. I likely had a very different experience as a woman traveling with a male partner. If you have solo female travel questions, I suggest you check out other travelers’ Morocco stories! I hope my blog post can still give you advice and inspiration for other aspects of Morocco!

Surf In Essaouira

Our young and ambitious surf instructor Ayman not only taught us how to surf but also shared his dreams of one day opening his own surf shop. My boyfriend and I explored his entrepreneurial dreams and shared business advice. Sitting on the beach while practicing surf drills on land or in between surfs, it really felt like we all became friends.

Ayman was a patient and encouraging instructor, even when I kept falling off my board. It can be difficult to teach your hobby, but Ayman was clearly an excellent surfer and an excellent teacher, a rare combo. He clearly communicated specific areas for me to improve each time I fell off my board. With his guidance and support, I was able to stand on the board six times, even for only a few mere seconds! I loved the thrill of gliding on the waves!

Ayman taught us for two hours and then joined us surfing for the final hour of our instruction. That final hour really felt like we were friends hanging out in the ocean and surfing.

Who to Book Your Surf in Essaouira With?

Unfortunately, I do not have Ayman’s contact information anymore. I booked the surf instruction through this AirBnB Experience. Ayman apparently filled in for the team who’s supposed to instruct, but I would recommend requesting Ayman if you book this same experience!

There was a mix-up with our booking. The team offers two tours–a half-day and full-day instruction. I booked the full-day, but the team assumed we had only booked the half-day. My boyfriend and I hadn’t caught on until we were back in town for lunch. We tried correcting the issue with the manager, but due to rougher surf conditions we couldn’t keep surfing anyway. He offered a refund, but we asked the manager to please give Ayman the difference in form of a tip instead.

Overall, my partner and I loved our surf in Essaouira! We highly recommend Ayman as your surf instructor. The AirBnB Experience was overall pleasant, but there was that complication with the half vs. full-day tour. Either way, a full-day would’ve been a lot for beginner surfers. I’d recommend booking the half-day experience instead if it’s your first time surfing!

A Sunset Beach Ride Gone Wrong

As a seasoned horse rider and former farm hand, I was thrilled at the opportunity to experience a romantic sunset beach ride with my boyfriend, who had never ridden a horse before. The idea of galloping on the beach with the wind in our hair seemed like a dream come true. However, this dream quickly turned into a nightmare.

To preface, things go wrong when you travel. That’s to be expected! I’m sharing this story because we can laugh about it now and I hope you can too. This one negative experience does not reflect on the whole of Morocco or Essaouira and should not deter you from visiting Morocco.

We booked a horseback riding tour through an Airbnb Experience, and upon arrival at the farm, I was disappointed to see that the stables were not well-maintained. Nevertheless, the horses looked well-taken care of, so I felt comfortable with the tour. I figured I was used to American horse farms and needed to check my privilege because Morocco isn’t as wealthy, so wouldn’t have the same standard of facilities upkeep. I reminded myself that the most important thing is that the horses are well taken care of.

Unfortunately, the tour leader did not provide helmets to us, which made me feel uneasy, especially after I realized that my horse was easily spooked and unpredictable around other horses from other groups. This time, I excused the behavior because I figured I was being an uptight tourist. Tourists post Instagram photos galloping on beaches without helmets around the world. Surely I’d be okay. These horses deal with tourists who have never ridden horses daily.

We trotted for about an hour through the brush to get to the beach, with his thighs already beginning to burn from wearing shorts (against my advice). I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing pants while riding because your thighs will rub against the leather and become very painful, especially in hot weather.

Knowing my boyfriend was in pain and not enjoying the experience, I asked the tour guide to cut the tour short. I assured him it was not from anything of his own doing, just my boyfriend’s stubbornness to not listen to my advice before the tour. The tour guide insisted on continuing, as we were already close to the beach. We paused for the guide to adjust my boyfriend’s saddle to hopefully reduce the burn, but it didn’t really help him.

Once we reached the beach, the wind was so strong that it pelted my eyes with sand, even though I wore sunglasses. The wind was going directly in our direction, making the ride super uncomfortable. By halfway through the ride, my sunglasses were completely covered in sand and I couldn’t see a thing. My horse was also unresponsive to my commands, which made me feel unsafe, especially without a helmet. My partner was still struggling with his burning thighs. We were both miserable and kept insisting on cutting the tour short, and eventually, the tour guide obliged, but only after an hour from the original request.

Despite the unpleasant experience, the tour guide took us to a viewpoint, which was a welcome break from riding. My boyfriend and I admitted that the experience was horrible, but we tried to find humor in the situation. The ride back to the farm felt like it took forever, but when we finally returned, we immediately took the included cab back to our hotel, showered, and rested until we felt better.

Ultimately, despite numerous complaints, the tour was only about 15 minutes faster than originally planned.

If you’re interested in a sunset beach ride in Essaouira, do it! It would’ve been an incredible experience if it were not for my inability to communicate my discomforts (i.e. helmet), if we had worn more appropriate riding attire, and if the tour went in the opposite direction so that the sand was towards our backs.

Always make sure to wear pants while riding, and if you do not feel safe or comfortable, do not hesitate to cut the tour short. When booking a tour, ask what the guides do to make the experience more enjoyable despite the extreme wind conditions in Essaouira.

Despite our misfortunes, my boyfriend and I were able to find humor in the situation and make the best of it.

Surf Houses, Parties, Oh My! in Essaouira

The surf house where our experience was based was simply breathtaking. It was designed with a bohemian touch, featuring beautiful artwork and comfortable rooms that gave off a relaxed and laid-back vibe. My partner and I were in awe of the house’s beauty and found ourselves daydreaming about owning our own surf house in Essaouira, modeled after this one.

In fact, the architecture in Essaouira gave me House Hunter International vibes everywhere! I loved the blend of Arabic, Islamic, Moroccan, and bohemian beach vibes.

While exploring the city, we stumbled upon a street artist selling his paintings. We couldn’t resist and bought a couple of his works. We struck up a conversation with the artist and realized he loved to party and dance. We asked for his recommendation of where the best party was. He pointed to a rooftop and said to be there at 10 pm.

True to the artist’s word, the rooftop party was a festive scene, with travelers and locals dancing and socializing to a mix of modern music and traditional Moroccan instruments. The energy was electric and the atmosphere was warm and inviting. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic day spent surfing and exploring Essaouira.

What I particularly loved about this club/bar was what felt like a 50/50 split between tourists and locals. It’s easy for destinations to get overwhelmed with tourists or for tourists to end up surrounded by other tourists, never to meet other locals. This bar was the epitome of what it’s like to travel in Morocco–tourism and daily life perfectly blended.

Club/bar name: Taros

Every single thing we did in Morocco directly supported a small business owner and entrepreneur. I knew 100% of my Dirham was helping a family eat and a business owner pursue their dreams. Moroccans are genuinely welcoming and friendly, not in a “hey tourist I’ll be nice so that you give me more money” way.

If you remember in my first post about Morocco, the country was not high on my bucket list. We went because of a cheap flight and I’m thrilled we did. Morocco is now a destination I want to return to again and again, particularly Essaouria.

Essaouira is a surf and party destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Its stunning surf houses, awesome surf and surf instructors, and vibrant nightlife culture make it a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable adventure.

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