‘Durbs’, as the surfers call it, is where South Africans head most holidays to kick off their shoes and unwind, drawn by the warm Indian Ocean, year-round sun, and famously laid-back attitude, here are the best hotels in Durban.
Durban’s easy mix of Zulu, Indian and European cultures is part of the appeal, with muthi markets, moated temples and water theme parks popular with visitors. For those who want more, two UNESCO World Heritage sites – the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park – along with Anglo-Zulu War and Boer War battlefields and game parks, are a few hours’ drive away. Find only the best accommodation in Durban, bookable with Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Umhlanga’s lovingly restored Oyster Box Hotel is pure romance, from the retro murals and checkerboard terrazzo floors to urns of ferns and massed anthuriums, and a sweeping staircase to truly sumptuous suites (request a four poster). Take afternoon tea under the chandeliers of the Palm Court (saved from London’s Savoy), sip cocktails on the sexy red leather barstools of the Lighthouse Bar, and savour Seventies specialities (lobster bisque, steak tartare) in the Grill Room. Or brave the curry buffet (11 varieties with all the trimmings) at The Ocean Terrace above the waves.
Beneath the striking green ‘solar shield’ that keeps heat out and lets light in (‘aha!’), the aha Gateway’s suites are simple, functional and comfortable – all you’ll need in what is essentially an ‘accommodation wing’ for Durban’s Gateway Theatre of Shopping. Between exploring the upmarket boutiques (the complex is home to the city’s top designers), and chilling at coffee shops (don’t forget aha’s own Fig Tree Café), let down your hair at the be.UP Park, with climbing walls, interlinked angled trampolines and aerial play. There’s action karting on the roof, and year-round snow slides and fun at Snow Wonderland.
All the predictability and professionalism Hilton clients like, in the heart of the city. Perfect if you’re attending an expo or conference at the International Convention Center next door, but several decaying blocks from the beach – until these are developed, don’t walk, grab a cab. Chill at the outdoor pool above the city, or in the spa. The Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill by South African golfing great Ernie Els stocks a good selection of home-grown wines. Tuck into a steak there too, or move across to Vasco’s Restaurant, for African-inspired stews or spicy treats from the tandoori oven.
Alongside the grand old beach hotels like the Oyster Box and Beverly Hills, business developer and movie mogul Anant Singh (Sarafina!, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) has used big-screen vision and created The Pearls – two gleaming towers of glass-walled apartments, and a third with an elegant hotel – The Capital Pearls – above Umhlanga’s first boutique shopping mall. You have 60-odd shops, 16 restaurants, two spas, a gym and a pool literally at your feet. Plus a fine stretch of beach.
Six luxury suites in what was a grand private home in the heart of Umhlanga, and a self-catering suite, provide the kind of comfort and personal care (limo service, your cocktails by the pool) that prompt well-heeled regulars to make it their ‘home from home’. Executives and honeymooners vie for The Buffalo presidential suite, with a canopied extra-length kingsize bed and Jacuzzi bath.
Set right on Durban harbour in what was once the city’s red light district, this is a celebration of a colourful past, brought up to date with comfortable beds, air conditioning, satellite TV and a spa where once there were sweaty strip shows. Wodka Restaurant and Bar, with now on-trend bare-brick walls, has one of the only teppanyaki stations in town. And just around the corner is The Chairman, the city’s coolest jazz bar.
An inviting sprawl of white walls and orange roof tiles above the beach at Shaka’s Rock village, 40 minutes north of Durban, announces a place to unwind and watch dolphins (almost daily!) and whales at play. The six ensuite guest rooms are big and airy, in shades of beach sand and sky. Ask for the top floor Landlord Suite, with 180-degree sea views and a private staircase to the pool terrace. Six golf courses, a mountain bike park and horse riding are nearby.
When Anne and Evan Mexson’s children left home to study, the couple converted their sprawling two-story Umhlanga home into a six-room B&B. They haven’t skimped on furnishings (colonial wood and cane) or bedding, and neither do they skimp on breakfasts, which carry most guests through for a long morning on the beach (just a short walk away). A slew of restaurants and coffee shops will take care of the rest of your meals.
Seven suites, individually styled, all overlook the indigenous garden and pool. Ask for the Ocean Breeze, with direct and private poolside access, but all come with the works – flat-screen TV, safe, ensuite bathroom and shower big enough for a private party. Hosts Heidi and Dominiek will help you plan your activities, from beach days to shopping at nearby La Lucia Mall.
Sun International have created a fantasy Zulu Kingdom in the hills of the North Coast centred on a 24-hour casino and a theatre, The Rockwood, which stages constantly changing musicals showcasing some of the country’s top performers. The cream and blue accommodation décor is perhaps more corporate than kingdom, but provides a quiet retreat from the slots, lights and extravagant carvings and woven textiles elsewhere.
This is a relatively recent development on the beach at Umhlanga, and with floor-to-ceiling windows in some of the 10 bedrooms, and cane armchairs and loungers on the deep verandas outside, you are constantly lulled by the sounds and smells of the sea. Canelands is big on service of the friendly, not just efficient, kind and that extends to the spa and Two Shrimps restaurant. The menu changes with the availability of fresh ingredients, but you won’t go wrong with the ‘Catch of the Day’, or ‘Signature Seafood Platter’ with langoustines, linefish, king prawns, crispy squid and mussels, garlic butter and peri-peri sauce.
Still not found what you’re looking for? Bag an arty, unique stay at one of the top boutique hotels in Durban.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.