So we've told you how to spend the perfect weekend in Ghana's capital Accra, soaking up the best of the cities foodie spots, shopping and nightlife but sometimes all you really want to do on a Sunday is get away from it all. Some of our favourite memories of Ghana were on our day trips out of the city so we've rounded up our top five places to go when you need to escape the city and still be back in Accra in time for dinner.
1. BOJO BEACH - APPROX 30 MINS drive FROM ACCRA
Not far out of the city but on the Western side of Accra is the rustic and simple Bojo Beach Resort, located in Bortiano. Bojo is perfect for a Sunday afternoon as it's not too far, pretty clean, easily accessible and the gate fee is much cheaper than some of the other more upmarket beach resorts. When you arrive a little canoe ferries you across the Densu River, encouraging you to leave your cares and worries on the bank as you cross over to a blissful day of gentle waves and sandy walks. The downsides are that the militant bag checkers at the gate won't let you bring your own food and let's just say that the shack-chic restaurant isn't a renowned foodie hotspot. They also have big speakers that were playing an inexplicable selection of sad R&B love songs on the day we went, but if you sit far enough away you can ignore it. The upsides are it doesn't get too packed, you can order drinks from the comfort of your beach towel, and whether you're in a big group or just reading on your lonesome, the vibes are relaxed and low key. It's not number one on Trip Advisor's Things To Do in Accra for nothing!
2. Aburi - approx 45 mins/1 hour drive from Accra
Aburi is North of Accra in Ghana's Eastern region, and is where people spend weekends escaping Accra's sweltering summer heat or the dryness of the harmattan, where the cool wet mountain air and dramatic views across the surrounding landscape provide relief. We spent one memorable Sunday walking along the palm lined pathways that fill the Aburi Botanical Gardens (024 877 2227) which were planted in 1890. As we wandered through with our very informative guide, we passed many friends gathered over lazy picnics, couples reading to each other in the shade of the trees while the more energetic bonded over frisbee games or power walks across the lawns. Despite the people, the gardens are big enough that it all still feels very peaceful, with nearly 100 acres of natural forest to explore. If it's your first time we highly recommend doing a walking tour with one of the guides who give insightful yet humorous histories of the trees and the surrounding area. If you want to take it at a faster pace, hire bikes from the Aburi Bike & Hire Tours found just outside the gardens.
On the drive back into the city we stopped for lunch at the Lansdown Ibru Heights- a neighbouring boutique hotel with stunning views across the valley and a poolside feast that made all the walking around the gardens worthwhile. Hidden away in the hills, it's quieter and more exclusive than the nearby well known Hillbury hotel. They do make you work for it, you'll find it at the end of a long and winding dirt road, but once you arrive there's no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with some grilled fish, a glass of crisp white wine and an expansive pool from which to watch the clouds fumbling across the mountains.
Top tip: It's worth calling ahead and they can 'WhatsApp' you directions (026 960 1541) and make sure to go there with enough time to leave before it gets dark and in a car that can handle dirt roads.
3. Akosombo- Approx 2 hours drive from Accra
Also in the Eastern region, further up from Aburi is the equally lush green highland of Akosombo. This part of the Eastern area is dominated by the Volta lake, one of the world's largest man-made lakes, created by the construction of the Akosombo Dam as a source of hydroelectric power under Kwame Nkrumah. To celebrate a friend's birthday, we gathered up some friends, filled up our car boots with drinks and snacks and drove out to spend the day at the Akosombo Maritime Yacht Club which overlooks the lake. This is definitely a place where you need to bring the party rather than hope to find it there waiting for you, but with the right company it's the perfect place to enjoy a lazy day catching up with friends by the lake and dancing on the patio. If sun lounger lazing gets too sedentary for you, hire one of the boats or jet skis for a spin down the river. Another place in the area to spend the day or make a weekend of it is the The Royal Senchi resort, which while we didn't manage to visit was highly recommended to us.
4. Ada Foah- Approx 2 hours drive from Accra
Further down at the estuary of the Volta river to the Atlantic Ocean is Ada Foah Beach. Many of Accra's wealthy have weekend getaway homes along this shore and it is known to be where Ghana's rich and famous like Fuse ODG get away to play at the weekends. It's also known for it's water sports and fishing so we took a 30 minute speed boat for 150 cedis along the river, stopping off at some of the islands and passing quiet villages. The Volta region is one of rolling hills and valleys, rivers, lagoons and waterfalls so the beaches along this Volta estuary are some of the best in the country, but the sea currents make swimming a little dangerous. While in the area we checked out the new Aqua Safari Resort whose pool and restaurant looks out on to the River Volta, so you can watch the fishermen glide by on the water while you relax on the bank.
There are private islands where knowing the right people might get you an invitation to one of their frequent parties or check out Marathaha Beach Camp - we didn't get a chance to but 'Flying Fourchette' has a great review here of the more relaxed campsite. Next time we've been also told to check out Wli Falls, Ghana's highest waterfall (east of Hohoe next to the Togo border) and have a hiking adventure up Mount Afadjato (880m), Ghana's highest mountain.
5. Cape Coast - Approx 2.5 hours drive from Accra
We took a two and a half hour drive from Accra to Ghana's central region to visit the Cape Coast castle in the former capital city of Cape Coast. A World Heritage Site, the castle held African slaves before they were shipped to the Americas or the Carribbean. It's an important yet sombre visit, with knowledgable tour guides who spend 45 minutes showing you through the dark dungeons. Walking through the Door of No Return took us to a beach teeming with fishermen's boats and children playing in the sea, yet it is with a heavy heart that we walked back through, mindful of our ancestors who were unable to. A plaque at the entrance commemorates the visit of the Obama family in 2009 where Michelle Obama's great-great grandfather is said to have been held in the castle before being shipped to Virginia as a slave. It's worth spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the museum and the town centre, or take a half hour drive to Kakum National Park and raise your spirits walking the 40m high canopy walks through the forestry.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite places to get out of Accra in the comments below.
Author: Kiran Yoliswa, Co-Founder SBA