Ivory Coast is certainly not one of those places that jump into your head when planning a trip to Africa. But even so whoever arrives will be surprised to discover a beautiful and interesting country with super nice people.
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of the most developed countries in West Africa, and about half of the world’s cocoa beans are produced there.
Its political capital city is Yamoussoukro, and Abidjan is its largest city and also the economic capital. Abidjan is considered sometimes “Manhattan of Africa” due to the tall buildings and modern atmosphere in the district of Plateau.
Ivory Coast gained its independence in 1960, after many years under French rule. Therefore, as you may have guessed, the spoken language is French (which makes it difficult for a non-french speaker, like me…). But the French influence is much more than just the language (food, manners, politics and more).
We love to explore outdoor activities, therefore I’ve decided to dedicate this post to our favorite outdoor attractions in Abidjan and its surroundings. These attractions are suitable also for a family with kids.
At less than an hour drive from Abidjan on the North Highway you will find Domaine Bini, a plantation with rich vegetation and with primary forest, cocoa plants, rubber trees, papayas, and much more.
This place’s main idea is actually the eco-tourism. This means a place where people can come to recharge their batteries and be in contact with nature through sporting and fun activities.
A day at Domaine Bini includes three stages, the first of which is to contemplate nature. After a warm welcome where you are served a calabash cup filled with bandji (palm wine) or coconut milk, professional guides will walk you through the plantations where you are introduced to the secrets of the surrounding ecosystem and its essential components.
After an hour you’ll return to a small rustic camp, for the second phase of the day: the “feast of the ten fingers”. The meal served as a generous buffet, consists of the traditional Ivorian food (if you’re vegetarian/vegan let them know in advance). No forks or knives, you eat like an Ivorian with your fingers.
Next step: relax and enjoy nature. There are hammocks hanging on the trees (some of which, suspended several meters high, measure up to 5-6 meters wide.
A must do is the “back to the roots” spa with pure white clay bath (and they even provide you with massage!). Rinsing is done in a natural stream in the river near the “spa”. For the brave, there is also a 70 m long zip line at 10 m height from the ground.
This is a full day activity and very much recommended!
2) Banco National Park
A real reservoir and “green lung” oxygenating the heart of the sprawling city of Abidjan. The Banco National Park covers 3,474 hectares with tropical forest in the middle of the urban area. This park owes its name to the river that flows through it.
Despite the pollution, the river still houses religious and mystical ceremonies as its water are considered holly. Although in the past it was dangerous to go into the forest, today, the only danger is to get lost in the wooded paths of this vast green enclave. It is recommended to take a guide at the entrance and you can choose between one hour or up to three hours of hiking.
Don’t forget your mosquito repellent!
3) CAVA (Centere Artisanal De La Ville D’Abidjan)
We love this little pretty craft center. CAVA is located in the middle of Abidjan and you can find there many of the authentic things such as batiks, Korhogo’s canvases, loincloths, bronze statues, jewels, paintings and more.
You will also find some great pieces from Ghana, Mali or Nigeria. Each vendor has his specialty and you can even watch some craftsmen at work.
The place is certainly very pleasant, but you should go there with time and patience because you will be constantly stopped by vendors to “just take a look”. Needless to say, bargaining on the price is a must.
Kafolo is located in a tropical botanical garden just on the edge of the lagoon, this beautiful resort has a variety of plants and animals, some are going more or less freely on this vast space. There are also some activities to do on the site like canoeing, a game of petanque, a rope track and more. There is a nice restaurant on the lagoon with tasty local food and excellent atmosphere.
5) Dipi Crocodile Farm
Located on Assinie Mafia, about an hour drive from Abidjan. Dipi is considered as one of the oldest tourist attraction. When you get there you’ll have a guided tour spiced with humor that will allow you to see crocodiles from a different point of view. On an area of 7,000 m2, there are not only crocodiles but also snakes, giant turtles, monkeys, mongooses, hinds, an ostrich and more.
6) Grand Bassam
This city of Grand Bassam is about half an hour’s drive from Abidjan and in the past was the capital of the French colonial rule. The city had been abandoned after a yellow fever epidemic that had overtaken it. Today you can see the colonialist houses as they had been when abandoned, almost as if time had stopped.
In 2012 Grand Bassam was selected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Today Grand Bassam and its surroundings have many resorts and restaurants.
We especially like to walk along the market that is stretched on both sides of the main road before entering the city. Afterward, we sit in one of the many restaurants in the area.
7) Ile Boulay (Boulay Island)
This is the main island chain in the Ébrié Lagoon, near the seaport and the Atlantic Ocean. Without telephone lines and even running water and electricity for some, it is home to fishing villages having preserved their architectural and social authenticity.
The popular holiday resort of Abidjan is located there because of its relative isolation and at the same time its closeness to the city.
It is characterized by a still preserved nature, natural sites of great beauty and its famous “Bay of the Billionaires” which is the local Beverly Hills. There are some resorts on the island that offer a relaxed day with activities and lunch.
8) Parc Aventure De Bonoua
Adventure Park is a sports and leisure complex nestling in the M’Ploussoué forest. the M’Ploussoué park now houses a beautiful tree climbing course with varying levels of difficulty. On an airy and shaded domain, there are four courses adapted to all ages and all levels, spread over heights ranging from 2.5 to 10 m high. Each course, generously equipped with aerial games. There is also a small restaurant where you can enjoy snacks and typical maquis food.
Assinie, located around 90 kilometers from Abidjan, is reached by land or, for the lucky owners of a boat, via the Assinie canal. To find your way around, it is important to note that the hotel receptions and the residents’ homes are spread over two very distinct places: Assinie Terminal, on the seaside, and Assinie Mafia, separated from the coast by a ribbon of lagoon water about 700 m wide.
The lodges and other luxury hotel-restaurants are concentrated mainly on the side of Assinie Mafia, which is sometimes referred to as the “Ivorian Riviera”.
You can take a boat tour and arrive at the border with Ghana. At most hotels and lodges you will find water activities, sports activities, a restaurant, and a relaxing atmosphere.
10) The International Club & Paintball Park
The Club is located between land and lagoon half an hour drive from the city center. After the warm welcome of Sandrine and Steve you can go and relax on this small private beach or start immediately with the activities they offer such as: kayaking, paintball f, sailing, mountain biking, volleyball, petanque, ping-pong and more. There is also a small pool and some table games. There is a restaurant inside the club with the typical Ivorian food.
I hope you enjoyed this list and got inspired to travel to a less familiar place like Abidjan.
If you have been in Ivory Coast and have any other outdoor attraction to recommend in Abidjan and its surroundings please write it in the comments below.