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Clifton
Cape Town , South Africa

What to Expect: The four small white-sand beaches that face the Atlantic Ocean on the west side of town are often called the South Beach of South Africa. Boulders the size of small cars separate the beaches, which together total half a mile in length. Locals from nearby luxury apartments hang at 1st Beach, while the smaller 2nd attracts everyone, including a sizeable gay contingent. A trendy young set makes the 100-yard-long 3rd Beach the most lively. At nearly 300 yards long, 4th Beach is the biggest and most family oriented. All of them tend to be crowded in summer (December-March), when they’re protected from a biting southeasterly wind. Be warned: the water is always icy, though clean; the beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag for excellent environmental standards by the international Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

What to Do: To the beat of African drums, fire-dancers—accompanied by belly- and martial-arts capoeira dancers—entertain crowds on 2nd Beach on Monday nights throughout the summer. On a warm Friday or Saturday evening—preferably one with a full moon—experience a romantic “sundowner” on 4th Beach. As evening descends, locals light candles until the whole beach is full of hundreds of tiny flickering flames.

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