photo of La Petite Cote

Beach views in Le Petite Cote, Senegal. (Flickr)

What to do in La Petite Cote

Mostly built up in the 1980s, La Petite Cote ("The Little Coast") is the premier beach destination in the West African nation of Senegal. Running south from the Cap Vert Peninsula to the Sine-Saloum Delta (home to the stunning Parc National du Delta du Saloum), over a dozen sophisticated lodges and resorts front a stunningly clean beach, where fisherman bring their colorful boats to shore with fresh fish. La Petite Cote—specifically the Saly area of the coast—is the most popular tourist spot in the country and has the best selection of hotels in Senegal. European tourists while away the days, particularly in the winter, at this mellow, low-key, low-rise area that feels miles away from everything. There's plenty to do, and water activities include surfing or frolicking with dolphins and whales on a trip with Aqua Passions, the local dive company.

French-speaking Senegal is one of the continent's success stories, with a stable economy and a government that has never experienced a coup d'etat. Most travelers touch down in the chic capital of Dakar, where women saunter down the streets in dazzling African and Western fashions, nightclubs pump with the thriving local music scene, and restaurants in French-style buildings serve coq au vin and café au lait. Senegal was once the administrative center of French West Africa, and its ooh-la-la French legacy remains strong. But just south of Dakar, sparse and dramatic baobab tree forests stretch out to the horizon and dusty roads wind their way past traditional African villages made up of round huts and smiling faces. Taking a beach vacation in Senegal is the best of both worlds–sun and fun with culture and rich texture to boot.

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