Arty and bathed in faded glory, beachside Bassam was Cote d'Ivoire's former French capital, until a yellow-fever epidemic broke out there, prompting the French to move their capital to Bingerville. The city is laid out on a long spit of land with a quiet lagoon on one side and the turbulent Atlantic Ocean on the other. If you take a dip, watch the strong currents.
When you've had your fill of the sun and sand in the south, or the hot winds and dust in the north, head to the green, green peaks and valleys of Man. Here the air is cooler, the food lighter and the landscapes muddier: perfect hiking territory. For local art, check out the Tankari Gallery and Jacky Gallery in the centre of town.
Parc Nacional de Taï
There are many places in West Africa that could be dubbed one of the region's 'best-kept secrets', but perhaps none so as much as Taï, a 5000-sq-km reserve of rainforest so dense that scientists are only just beginning to discover the wealth of flora and fauna that lies within.
Sassandra, a low-key beach resort in the far western corner of Cote d'Ivoire, may be a little dog-eared these days but there's something endearing – and enduring – here, for travellers keep going back. Perhaps it's the warm welcome at the gorgeous Best of Africa resort 35km east of Sassandra at Dagbego. The owners can help arrange trips in the area.
Framed by a strip of soft white sand on one side, and the distant shadows of the fertile Parc National de Taï on the other, a stop in San Pedro promises a sweet marriage of beach life and forest treks. It's also the best place to overnight if you're heading overland into Liberia via Tabou and Harper.
Quiet little Assinie tugs at the heartstrings of overlanders, washed-up surfers and rich weekenders from Abidjan who run their quad bikes up and down its peroxide-blonde beach. It's actually a triumvirate of villages: Assinie village, Assinie Mafia and Assouindé. Watch the rip tides; they can be powerful.