The best time of year to visit Cape Town
Planning a holiday can be a lot of fun, but there are some big decisions to make before you start. The biggest question: what time of year should you visit? Read on to find out what the weather is like, how busy the city is, and what things to do in each month of the year.
Visiting Cape Town in January and February
January is one of Cape Town’s busiest months, and for good reason. It’s usually hot and sunny, and there are loads of summer events to attend. Summer is in full swing. The daily temperatures average between 17°C (63°F) and 28°c (82°F), although it can reach as high as 40°C (104°F). Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, which means that it gets its rainfall in the winter months, so January and February are mostly dry. Expect long, warm days with blue skies, when the sun only sets after 8pm and there’s always something going on. It can be windy sometimes, and Cape Town is a fantastic windsurfing destination in January and February. January is peak season, which means flights and accommodation are a little more pricey, and attractions can be busy so it’s a good idea to plan your timing to get there before the crowds. Luckily you have over 14 hours of daylight to work with every day, so you’re in no rush. By February, things have calmed down a little, but it’s still quite busy.
Perfect for: beaches, water sports, views, outdoor activities, adventure
Pack: sandals, swimsuit, loads of sunscreen, shorts and dresses
Visiting Cape Town in March and April
March is the beginning of the shoulder season, when the summer holiday crowds have left. During March and April, there are a number of very big events, including the Two Oceans Marathon, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and Easter Weekend, which bring in quite a few local and international tourists. These few weekends can be very busy, and flights and accommodation are booked up long in advance and can be a little more expensive than other times. If you’re not coming for those events specfically, plan around them for lower price. Temperatures in March and April are between 15°C (59°F) and 27°c (81°F). By April, the first cold fronts of the winter sometimes begin, bringing an average of six days of rain throughout the month, whereas March only has an average of two rainy days.
Perfect for: big events, shoulder season rates, outdoor activities, fewer crowds
Pack: summer gear, swimsuit, and one or two warmer items for the evenings
Visiting Cape Town in May
By May Cape Town is starting to cool down significantly. This is when the first rains fall, and days are often chilly enough for a light jersey/sweater. Temperatures in May are between 13°C (55°F) and 22°c (72°F). There are very few tourists around, so there is easy access to all the major attractions, although you run the risk of rain putting a damper on things. May comes with it’s own advantages though. There is seldom any wind, so on clear days the beaches are beautiful. The sea is actually warmer in the winter months too, so the beach isn’t off the cards yet. Rain only falls an average of nine days in the month so there are many gorgeous sunny afternoons still to be had. May is also the month when the annual winter restaurant specials kick off, and you can enjoy some of the world’s best fine dining experiences at a fraction of the usual price. Accommodation providers also have winter specials. May is the perfect time to skip the crowds, save money, and still have a great time in this fantastic city.
Perfect for: saving money, wining and dining, road trips, quiet beach days
Pack: light jerseys or sweaters, a jacket, boots, but also clothes that suit warmer weather
Visiting Cape Town in June, July, and August
June, July, and August are mid-winter, so they’re the rainiest months as well as the coldest, but there are still many reasons to visit. There are barely any crowds at the top attractions, for starters. Just make sure your trip doesn’t coincide with Table Mountain’s annual winter closure (usually for two weeks at the end of July). The restaurant and accommodation specials continue throughout these colder months, and flights are much cheaper than other times of year. It’s also worth mentioning that Capetonians have a very South African definition of cold. Temperatures are between 11°C (52°F) and 20°c (68°F), and most days are a crisp but bearable 13°C (55°F). Rain falls an average of 10-11 days in each month. There is occasional snow on the high-lying mountain regions outside of the city, and there are regular clear days in the Winelands where you can have lunch beside a fireplace with spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains and sprawling vines. It’s also the greenest time of year, and while days are shorter, there are still around 10 hours of daylight every day. On clear days, hiking is incredible. There are waterfalls tucked away in iridescent green forests, and mornings often bring moody fog in from the sea. July and August are also peak whale season, when southern right and humpback whales can be seen calving in the shallow waters just off shore.
Perfect for: off-peak rates, fewer crowds, wining and dining, amazing views and skies, hiking, whale watching
Pack: rain jackets, boots, layers (the weather can change over a few hours), scarf, coat
Visiting Cape Town in September and October
September marks the start of spring in Cape Town. You’ll catch the end of whale season, but this time of year is most famous for the wildflowers. All over the Western Cape, blooms take over vast fields and mountains and splash the region with bursts of colour. The rains ease up a little, falling only five to eight days each month. Temperatures are between 13°C (55°F) and 21°c (70°F), and most days are 14-16°C (57-61°F). The winter specials also end around this time, so the days of frugal travel are over, but it’s worth the extra few pennies for the longer, warmer days, drier weather, and outdoor adventure. There are some great music festivals to attend too. It’s also shoulder season, so prices are still lower and you’ll be able to miss the crowds that come with summer.
Perfect for: seeing wildflowers, whale watching, outdoor activities, hiking, outdoor events
Visiting Cape Town in November and December
During the summer months toward the end of the year, Cape Town really comes to life. The long, balmy days are a treat for locals and visitors alike, and people come out in droves to go to beaches, attractions, festivals, and events. There are food and wine festivals, outdoor music shows, beach parties, and all kinds of summer joys. This is the start of peak season, and there’s something cool going on every day and night. By December, things are in full swing and it’s the most festive time of year by far. The wind picks up in the summer months, but this is also the time you’ll find picture-perfect summer days. There’s hardly any rain, and temperatures are back up between 17°C (63°F) and 28°c (82°F). It’s a great time of year
Perfect for: parties, outdoor events and activities, beach days, hiking, adventure
Pack: sandals, swimsuit, loads of sunscreen, shorts and dresses, possibly a light warm top and jeans for the occasional evening chill