Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Image: Supplied

The Japanese may ease away their stress with a little forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, but here at the tail-end of an SA summer it’s the ocean that offers the best balm for any new year anxiety.

While the restorative benefits of wild swimming have been endlessly recounted during the pandemic, the health-boosting properties of the ocean are hardly breaking news. For centuries the benefits of thalassotherapy have been well documented, from the use of seawater for curing “diseases of the glands” in the 1700s, to the Victorians’ enduring love of saltwater sojourns. Whether it’s for health, wellness or simply a good tan, SA is blessed with coastal escapes that offer a healthy dose of vitamin sea.

The icy waters of the West Coast certainly take cold-water swimming to its logical extreme, and after a few minutes in the bracing Atlantic waters off Paternoster you’ll be glad of retreating to a luxury suite at the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.

Five-star hotels rarely get more beachfront than this, with the private terrace of the sought-after Ocean Suites giving straight onto a sandy path down to the sand. There are more affordable Courtyard Rooms and Nature King Suites too, and across the board the aesthetic is one of contemporary coastal charm enriched with organic textures and tones. Front-row sea views aside, the coastal fare at LEETO offers another reason to visit, with chef Garth Almazan serving up a superb a la carte offering of regional cuisine that takes plenty of inspiration from the ocean.

Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Image: Supplied
Enjoy, front-row sea views aside, the coastal fare at LEETO.
Enjoy, front-row sea views aside, the coastal fare at LEETO.
Image: Supplied
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel.
Image: Supplied

The ocean equally takes centre stage at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, one of Cape Town’s few truly seafront hotels. Here there’s no road, park or shopping strip separating your private balcony from the briny blue.

An aerial view of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cape Town.
An aerial view of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cape Town.
Image: Supplied

And though the terrace at Tobago’s Restaurant is a popular hangout for locals, to enjoy the Instagrammable rim-flow pool overlooking the ocean you’ll need to book a room for the night. The breakfast buffet spread is equally impressive, with bottomless Cap Classique and oysters a fine way to start the day.

The terrace at Tobago’s Restaurant at the Radisson Blu in Cape Town.
The terrace at Tobago’s Restaurant at the Radisson Blu in Cape Town.
Image: Supplied
Pool and Pool Loungers Sunset at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.
Pool and Pool Loungers Sunset at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.
Image: Supplied
The infinity pool at the Radisson Blu in Cape Town.
The infinity pool at the Radisson Blu in Cape Town.
Image: Supplied

At Prana Lodge on the lush Eastern Cape coast there’s a healthy balance of wellness and indulgence, from the serene wellness spa on-site to contemporary SA cuisine. Perched on the edge of Cintsa bay, the location is unbeatable, with just eight elegantly spacious suites hidden away amid lush indigenous gardens. Need a dip? Suites boast private plunge pools, and the warm Indian Ocean is just a short walk from the garden boasting its own private beach access.

Boutique hotels are perfect for romantic escapes, but when you have the family in tow and want a combo of sun, sea and something or the kids to do? Look no further than The Capital Zimbali, which reopened on the Dolphin Coast in November 2021.

Zimbali.
Zimbali.
Image: Supplied

It’s a resort-style experience reminiscent of Mauritius – without any pesky PCR tests or long flights — with accommodation spread across 154 rooms, suites and villas. And, while youngsters are entertained at the dedicated kids’ club parents can soak up the stillness of the signature Mangwanani spa. There’s also a wide menu of restaurants and bars to choose from, including the idyllic poolside Zimbai Beach Club.

The Capital Zimbali Room.
The Capital Zimbali Room.
Image: Supplied

For a more immersive coastal experience, head further north, to Thonga Beach Lodge. Here on the coastal dunes of Maputaland, 12 thatched suites amid indigenous forest offer memorable ocean views and a menu of experiences to match. Large rock pools offer wonderful snorkelling for children and beginners, while scuba dives make the most of the sub-tropical coral reefs offshore. But the real highlight here — beyond beachfront dining and luxury living — is the opportunity to see nesting turtles up close. From November to February loggerhead and leatherback turtles haul themselves ashore here to lay their eggs, a mesmerising experience shared with guests on nightly turtle drives and walks.

An aerial view of Thonga Beach Lodge.
An aerial view of Thonga Beach Lodge.
Image: Supplied
Thonga Beach Lodge beach deck with Champagne.
Thonga Beach Lodge beach deck with Champagne.
Image: Chantel Meltze
Thonga Beach Lodge bedroom.
Thonga Beach Lodge bedroom.
Image: Supplied
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