Destination spotlight: Cape Coast in Ghana, Africa

One reason that many people decide to travel to Ghana in Western Africa is to learn about the history of the land and people. While there are many worthwhile areas to visit in Ghana, those looking to learn about Ghana’s past, as well as experience some nature and adventure, should head over to Cape Coast.

Depending on what type of atmosphere you are looking for, two popular accommodation options include the Oasis Beach Resort and the Hans Cottage Botel. If you’re looking for something right on the beach, in the heart of the city, and near great shopping markets, Oasis is the way to go. This hotel/hostel is also within walking distance to Cape Coast Castle. However, if you want something in a more rural setting and closer to the major tourist attractions, such as Elmina Castle, Kakum National Park, and the crocodile pond (on site), then the Hans Cottage Botel is for you.

So what should you do to make the most of your time in Cape Coast? Here are the top picks:

  • Elmina Castle– This castle was first built in 1482 and was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea. It acted as a trade settlement until it later became a stop on the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade route. This is the bigger of the two slave castles and is a must-see for travelers in Cape Coast, as you will be taken on a guided tour and learn about the history of the slave trade. Moreover, Elmina Castle is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Cape Coast Castle– Cape Coast Castle, while the smaller of the two, is still definitely worth the visit. Originally built to be used as a trading post for timber and gold, it later become part of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade route. A tour of the castle gives visitors insight into the slave trade’s past, as well as a look at the dungeons and Door of No Return. Visitors will also be able to see the plaque dedicated to President Barack Obama from when he visited the site in 2009.
  • Fort William and Fort Victoria– These forts were once lookout posts used to protect Cape Coast Castle. Both are replacements for Smith’s Tower and Phipp’s Tower, respectively. While they are not in use anymore, visitors can still visit the forts for a small fee.
  • Kakum National Park– This park is one of the most famous national parks in Ghana and is comprised of mostly untouched rainforest. While there is supposedly 40 species of mammals, I did not see much aside for some birds. The real highlight of visiting the park is the canopy walk, which allows hikers to traverse over a swinging bridge suspended high over the trees. At times, you actually feel as though you are going to fall over the edge, making it quite scary (yet fun!). While the activity costs 30 Ghana Cedis, bring a student ID (or something that looks like it could maybe be a student ID) and receive 50% off. In terms of getting there, if you are staying at Hans Cottage Botel you will be able to hire a taxi that will take you round-trip for 40 Ghana Cedi (although, I was able to talk my driver down to 30 Ghana Cedi).
  • Crocodile Pond-Located on site at Hans Cottage Botel, there is a pond surrounding the hotel restaurant that is filled with crocodiles. It is pretty wild to see, and some people even pet and sit on them (although, I will admit, I didn’t try this). When I asked a worker at the hotel if people are really allowed to sit on the crocs his response was, “Yes. As long as the crocodile is not hungry, he will not bite you.”