Discover South Africa’s incredible KwaZulu-Natal province with a visit to the coastal city of Durban. Stroll along the promenade from the theme park, uShaka Marine World, to the space-age Moses Mabhida Stadium. Ditch the usual sterile hotel experience for a cool boutique hotel on the east coast of South Africa.
Famous for its stretch of beautiful beaches, Durban is quickly rising as the new star in South Africa’s holiday destinations. Here, it’s warm all year round with temperatures rarely lower than 11C (52F) in winter. Explore Africa’s largest shopping mall and the fifth largest aquarium in the world from the comfort of one of these top boutique hotels, bookable on Culture Trip.
The View Boutique Hotel and Spa
Courtesy of the View Boutique Hotel and Spa / Expedia
This family-run, boutique hotel features expansive views of the Indian Ocean. It’s located in a charming residential area, away from central Durban. Each room is individually designed, with some featuring hand-carved wooden beds. The refined spa offers massages and body treatments, plus there’s also a fine-dining Italian restaurant on site. Although the beach is 1mi (1.6km) away, the sunset views from the property’s pool are second to none.
The welcoming, four-star Still Waters Boutique Hotel is nestled at the centre of a lush botanic garden in the neighbourhood of La Lucia, Durban North. The property also has a pool and serene fish ponds peppered throughout the gardens. Some of the spacious rooms feature outdoor terraces. Grab a seat at the pagoda and watch the tropical birds flutter through the trees. The beach is just a short stroll away.
Also set in the verdant Durban suburb of La Lucia, this hotel offers a quiet stay less than a 10-minute walk from the beach. Whilst there is no restaurant on site, a complimentary made-to-order breakfast is available each morning. The hotel also features an outdoor pool, an honesty bar, BBQ facilities and a garden area. The comfortable lounge and library are wonderful spots to grab a glass of wine and get to know your fellow travellers.
Avondale is an elegant, four-star hotel in the vibrant Morningside suburb of Durban. Tuck into local cuisine at the on-site restaurant Arabisto, an upscale Halal establishment that serves a complimentary daily full English breakfast. After dinner, go for a stroll around the property’s lovely manicured gardens. Close to Florida Road, a trendy area filled with restaurants and bars, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to check out Durban’s food scene and mingle with locals.
Intimate and luxurious, the four-star Ocean Vista Boutique Guest House has only seven rooms and prides itself on solicitous, welcoming service. The property’s ocean-facing rooftop deck is reputed to have some of the best panoramas in the city. Cook a proper South African braai on the barbecue; there’s also outdoor seating and a pool to enjoy. The friendly, knowledgeable staff are happy to help you plan day trips.
One of South Africa’s most acclaimed properties, this five-star luxury boutique hotel and spa is set right on the beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean. Rooms are spacious and filled with original antiques from the area. The property has a range of dining options, including a gourmet breakfast buffet that is popular with locals. There’s also a spa with a hammam, a fully equipped fitness centre and an oceanfront outdoor pool. Families will love the in-house cinema and kids’ activity programme. Look out for Skabenga, the hotel’s beloved resident cat, who loves greeting guests.
Enjoy a luxurious stay at this small, intimate guesthouse. With only 15 classically decorated rooms, you can expect to receive personalised service in a warm, friendly environment. The age-old house was built in 1892 and is a part of Durban’s rich history. Some rooms provide a clear view of the old St James church. The professional staff are more than happy to organise a personalised tour, so that you can visit Durban’s historical sites, coffee shops and artisan markets.
The Benjamin is a charming hotel located on the buzzing Florida Road. Once a Victorian colonial villa, it has since been transformed into a boutique hotel. All 41 double rooms are air-conditioned and have en-suite bathrooms. Their glass conservatory-style restaurant serves delicious meals, including a full breakfast with eggs to order. Explore Durban in the morning, then kick back in the afternoon at the shaded pool. Durban Beach is just a 10-minute drive away.
This award-winning, five-star boutique hotel boasts a 180-degree view of the Indian Ocean. Sleep comfortably in colourfully decorated rooms with mini-bars, enjoy cocktails on the infinity pool’s deck and dine in style at the on-site restaurant – try the slow-braised lamb shank. Beyond the hotel, visit the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve or play a round of golf at the nearby Beachwood Course.
Once home to the French consulate, the eMakhosini Boutique Hotel has been beautifully restored with a hint of traditional Zulu. Stay in one of 24 individually appointed guest rooms – each with its own en-suite bathroom and decorated in a fusion of French elegance and African simplicity. Dining options include Story Durban, a seasonally inspired restaurant; the Cellar, a private dining experience for those special occasions; and the Gin Bar & Library, which opens up to the large swimming pool and patio.
If you are looking for a unique stay, book the Concierge Boutique Bungalows. Where else would you be greeted by long oversized black dachshunds? The beautiful dogs add to the homely feel of the hotel that, while hidden along a small side street, is still in the heart of the city near the ocean. There are 12 guest rooms laid out in four bungalows, each with its own unique colour scheme. Enjoy food from the award-winning Freedom Café, housed in a steel container on the same property.
The Quarters Hotel on the trendy Florida Road is hard to miss. This quaint white hotel is made up of four Victorian homes, restored by award-winning architects. The result is a unique hotel of immense charm and character. Inside, you will find a combination of modern sophistication and old-fashioned warmth reflected in everything from the decor to the welcoming attitude of the dedicated staff. Trendy eateries and nightclubs are within walking distance from the hotel.
Built in 1928, the colonial mansion in Berea housing the Audacia Manor Boutique Hotel has been beautifully restored. Spacious, individually decorated rooms come with king-sized beds, air-conditioning and fully appointed bathrooms with separate showers. The Manor House rooms have balconies providing 180-degree views of the city and Indian Ocean, while the Coach House offers private courtyards with outside spa baths and indoor/outdoor showers. From here, you are minutes from the ICC and Golden Mile beachfront.
Makaranga is well known to Durbanites as a famous Sunday garden outing for families who want to explore the botanical gardens. The property also houses a luxurious boutique hotel. Each suite is tastefully furnished and opens onto a private patio, where you can appreciate the beauty of Makaranga; book the four-poster bed suite for an extra special stay. Feeling peckish? Dine at the gorgeously decorated Nonna restaurant; it serves up one of the best weekend brunches in Durban. There’s also an on-site spa and pool to escape the midday heat.
Shubnum Khan contributed additional reporting to this article.
These recommendations were updated on May 27, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.