Best hotels and hostels in South Africa

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    MalaMala Main Camp

    While very comfortable, Main Camp doesn't offer plunge pools, throw pillows or chic interiors. And it doesn't care – everything here is about providing ultimate wildlife experiences. Key is the relationship its guides have fostered with the animals over decades (MalaMala was the first photographic safari reserve in the country). At 135-sq-km, it also dwarfs the other reserves. Guests are encouraged to dine with their safari guides at each meal, which promotes even more understanding of the environment, wildlife and South Africa – it also makes activities feel much more personal. Apart from anything else, it's considered one of the best places in Africa to see leopards, with other sightings, Big Five and otherwise, all likely as well.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Sea Point to Hout Bay

    Ellerman House

    Imagine you’ve been invited to stay with an immensely rich, art-collecting Capetonian friend – that's what the vibe is like at the Ellerman House, an elegant mansion overlooking the Atlantic. The rooms are studies in tasteful design, with heated floors, studded headboards, ocean-facing bay windows and original artworks. Beautiful gardens and oodles of luxe services and conveniences are all on hand. The mansion and its more contemporary-styled pair of private villas house an incredible contemporary art gallery. Two deluxe spa rooms have double sliding wooden doors opening to a pool deck.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

    Subterranean bliss, Earth Lodge is unlike any other lodge in Africa – where else can you look up though a skylight to an elephant looking down at you? Using sloping topography brilliantly, its ultramodern rooms, open communal areas and private plunge pools are flooded with light. The super-thick walls and polished-cement floors are dotted with artwork and natural materials. It's an architectural triumph and supremely comfortable (plunge pools are standard), as well as wonderfully remote. In short it feels like paradise.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Sea Point to Hout Bay

    Tintswalo Atlantic

    The only hotel in Table Mountain National Park has been rebuilt with its secluded seaside charm intact following a disastrous fire in March 2015. Luxurious Tintswalo hugs the edge of Hout Bay beneath Chapman's Peak, with an unbroken view of the Sentinel towering over town, and whales passing in season. Savour the location over lavish meals in the terrace restaurant, which is connected by a boardwalk along the water's edge to the pool and tropical-themed rooms.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Western Cape

    Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

    This superb luxury choice set on 25 sq km includes horse riding, hiking, local excursions and excellent food in the price. Each of the free-standing cottages has an outdoor shower on the deck. The Grootbos Foundation runs a number of environmental and community projects – ask about the Progressive Tourism Package.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in North West Province

    Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge

    Madikwe’s second-oldest lodge is also the reserve’s only non-five-star option, but Mosetlha’s relatively low rates are not its only attraction. With nine open-fronted cabins around the campfire, Mosetlha is truly off the grid – it has no electricity or running water. But staying here is romantic rather than rough. The ecolodge features in Hitesh Mehta’s authoritative book on the subject, Authentic Ecolodges. It made it into Mehta’s ‘innovative technology’ category for its donkey boilers, bucket shower and VIP (ventilation-improved pit) toilet. Paraffin lamps stand in for bedside lamps, conversation for TV, and the meals are as delicious as the bushveld air. It's a wonderful choice, with outstanding guides and a prevailing sense of authenticity.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in The Wild Coast

    Mdumbi Backpackers

    Marvellous Mdumbi, a 23km drive north of Coffee Bay (the 17km gravel road is normally passable in a 2WD car), is a rural retreat set in rolling hills above a wide white-sand beach. A collection of simply furnished rondavels (round huts with a conical roofs) and safari tents share the grounds with a former chapel and cafe. Excellent meals are provided. There are lots of activities, including surfing, boat trips, kayaking and hiking, plus numerous opportunities to meet the local Xhosa people in a genuine setting. Volunteers looking to stay longer can also get involved in various community projects undertaken by Mdumbi’s affiliated nonprofit organisation, Transcape (www.transcape.org). Book a day ahead for the shuttle here from Coffee Bay (R60).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Johannesburg

    Satyagraha House

    A wonderful urban sanctuary, Satyagraha is built around the Kraal, a 1907 traditional African-style thatched house where Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi lived between 1907 and 1908 with the owner and his friend Herman Kallenbach. This innovative guesthouse offers seven chic minimalist rooms; two in the original house and the others in contemporary buildings surrounded by a serene garden. Satyagraha also operates as a museum (admission R70, open 10am to 4pm) detailing the history of Gandhi's time in South Africa and his philosophies on life. A visit can be combined with a vegetarian meal in the Kraal (breakfast/lunch/dinner R170/250/335).

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Durban

    Concierge

    One of Durbs’ most cutting-edge sleeping options, this cleverly conceived spot – 12 cosy rooms in four pods – is more about the design (urban, funky, shape-oriented) than the spaces (smallish but adequate). The bathrooms are open, so best for singles or close couples. For breakfast, roll out of bed and head to Freedom Cafe, also on the premises. As of 2017, the Concierge was under new management. At the time of writing the owners were working on revamping the lobby and adding a cheese and chocolate bar for guests. Also note that the hotel and Freedom Cafe (on the same grounds) no longer serve alcohol.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Outpost

    Sleep inside or out, with the press of a button. Set high above the Luvuvhu River at the northern extreme of Kruger, the outward-facing walls of these 12 super-contemporary ‘living spaces’ can be raised by remote, allowing you to wake to a breathtaking panorama. Walks through local gorges and the fever-tree forest are highly recommended, as are wildlife drives. The lodge – which employs local staff almost exclusively – operates under a community-partnership arrangement where a portion of profits is paid to the Makuleke community. After the expiry of its lease, the lodge will be turned over in its entirety to the community.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

    Kosi Forest Lodge

    The only private lodge in iSimangaliso’s Kosi Bay region, and surrounded by the sand forest’s Umdoni trees, this intimate 16-bed lodge offers a dreamy, luxurious – given the remote circumstances and limited electricity and wi-fi – experience. Accommodation is in romantic safari tents. They're a blend of Out of Africa (wooden decor and muted furnishings) and natural (the ultimate in ingenious outdoor bathrooms). There are activities (some included in the nightly rate) on tap, and guest transfers are available from nearby Manguzi. If you want to get here yourself you'll need a 4WD vehicle to navigate the sand roads.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Limpopo

    Leshiba Wilderness

    Perched in the clouds of the Soutpansberg mountains, this Fair Trade–accredited resort is based on a Venda village, created with the help of acclaimed Venda artist Noria Mabasa. Rooms have a lovely traditional feel wedded to high levels of comfort with adobe walls, thatched roofs and manicured grounds. It’s signposted 36km west of Louis Trichardt on Rte 522. Surrounded by wildlife, including rare brown hyenas and leopards, and with greenery supplied by 350-plus tree species, the hideaway offers self-catering and full-board accommodation in rondavels, with features such as private plunge pools and views of Botswana.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Nottens Bush Camp

    This comfortable, family-run, six-room camp offers a fine safari experience. The open dining area and two rooms (Nos 3 and 4) overlook the water hole, though the beautiful pool does not. Lighting is limited to candles and paraffin lamps, which is romantic (but not everyone's cup of tea). There is power for fans/plugs in the rooms, but not the common areas. There are two family suites (kids over six are welcome). Wildlife is common, with rhinos and elephants patrolling at times (a lion left its print in cement during the pool's construction). Traversing rights are shared with Sabi Sabi, which ensures great wildlife viewing.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Londolozi Varty Camp

    Built on the site of the Varty family's original 1920s Sparta Hunting Camp, Varty Camp was Londolozi's first photographic safari lodge and has metamorphosed into a contemporary safari marvel. The original 1920s huts are still on show behind the modern grand lounge, which stares out over the Sand River and frames a gorgeous jackalberry tree (the very tree that inspired the site of Sparta). It's more down to earth than Londolozi's other options, and children over six are welcome (there are interconnecting rooms). Varty's eight chalets and two suites exude luxury and comfort, and guiding at Londolozi is always first class.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Free State

    Otters' Haunt

    The accommodation at this cheerfully overgrown place is decidedly rustic, but the secluded location right on the Vaal River is unbeatable. Options include bungalows, thatched-roof cabins set around a swimming pool, and a three-bedroom cottage with its own pool. Turn left after you cross the bridge out of town and continue for 2km along the river. All sleeping options come with kitchenettes and/or access to braais. This is also a river activity centre; grab a canoe or a raft and go for a paddle downstream, or tackle something else from the long list of activities on offer. Group discounts are available. Pets allowed.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Cape Town

    Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

    A world apart from the rest of the city, sitting in three hectares of gardens, the sugar-pink-painted ‘Nellie’ is a colonial charmer with its chintz decor and doormen in pith helmets. Rooms sport elegant silver and moss-green decorations. Facilities include a large pool, tennis courts, a luxurious spa and several restaurants. It’s great for families since it pushes the boat out for the little ones, with kid-sized robes and bedtime cookies and milk. Even if you don't stay here, drop by for afternoon tea – it's a Cape Town institution.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Free State

    Kalm Guest Suites

    With an ornate style she calls 'maximalism', interior designer extraordinaire Karen Hickman has gone to town on two guest suites, 'Yours' and 'Whose', festooning them in every colour, material, animal print and knick-knack around. The result is genius, and in 2017 Karen also added wood-burning fireplaces and braais to the cosy units, which are surrounded by Alice in Wonderland –style gardens. Karen lives next door with her husband in a home that's received an equal overdose of her artistry – she might let you see it if you ask nicely. And you really should see this.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Kruger National Park

    Letaba Rest Camp

    One of Kruger's best rest camps, this leafy Letaba River haven has shady lawns, resident bushbucks, SANParks' most attractive pools and a wide variety of accommodation, with great views from various bungalows (Nos 32, 33 or 59 to 64) and six-person cottages (ask for newly refurbished No 101, class FQ6). There's a Rustic Kitchen garden restaurant and a well-stocked shop, too. Although elephants are a common sight in the river here, be sure to visit the Elephant Hall Museum. Each evening (except Sunday) wildlife films are shown.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in KwaZulu-Natal

    Mantis & Moon Backpacker Lodge

    This place has more accommodation options than subtropical tree varieties in its compact jungle garden: a giant teepee, small rustic cabins, and tree houses, some with glass walls. There’s a hot tub, a rock pool, a bar and an incredible glass and wood yoga studio. In recent years it has made a shift away from a rowdy party atmosphere and begun catering to those who enjoy a healthy, laid-back lifestyle. There is no shortage of activities that can be booked from the backpackers, including yoga classes (R100), surf lessons (R350) and day tours to nearby attractions.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Free State

    Clarens Country House

    Within the Clarens Golf Estate, this collection of spacious, comfortable apartments is set in century-old sandstone architecture, with an attached gallery displaying works by renowned local artist (and co-owner) Peter Badcock-Walters, and views through floor-to-ceiling windows of the Maluti Mountains. The service is exceptional and detail-oriented: think decanters of sherry, electric blankets and home-cooked breakfasts in your private dining room. Otherwise the cottages are self-catering, with a braai available on the manicured lawn, just beyond the rose garden.