The Best Things To Do in Sierra Leone and What to Know Before You Go

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you already know I’ve been having an amazing time exploring Sierra Leone. This West African gem is still relatively off the beaten path, which means it’s ripe for discovery! I’ve been absolutely blown away by the stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality of the people here.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable travel experience, I highly recommend adding Sierra Leone to your list. And to give you a head start, I’ve put together a roundup of my favorite things to do in this incredible country.

Here are my favorite things to do in Sierra Leone:

  • Explore the Capital: Freetown – Freetown, the capital city, will be your launchpad for your trip. It’s a mix of history, culture, and modern life. The city’s museums offer a somber yet important look at the country’s past, while others simply celebrate the culture. Stroll through the chaotically colorful markets, where you can find everything from colorful fabrics and handmade crafts to fresh produce and spices. Engage with the friendly locals, who are always eager to share their stories and traditions. And when the sun sets, immerse yourself in the city’s nightlife scene. While we didn’t get a chance to dive into the nightlife, our guide told us that it’s a must!
  • Take a Cooking Class – Since I’m a total foodie (I will fly for food!), I obviously had to dive into the local cuisine. I personally feel like food reveals so much about a country, so it’s the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the culture. Taking a cooking class in Sierra Leone is hands down the best way to do it. Not only do you learn to whip up authentic dishes, but you also get a taste of the culture and traditions that go along with them. You can contact Susan Senesie for information on the cooking class at Fun fact: She cooks for Idris Elba when he’s visiting Sierra Leone. Enough said!
  • Visit Bunce Island – One of the most powerful moments of my trip was visiting Bunce Island, a major former slave port. Standing on this island, where countless Africans were forcibly taken from their homes and transported to the Americas, was a powerful and humbling experience – especially as an African American. You’ll need to visit with a guide so that you can learn about all of the historical details along with the importance of the island. It’s a place that carries a heavy history, and it’s impossible not to feel the weight of it while you’re there. It served as a stark reminder of the resilience and strength of my ancestors.
  • Relax on River Beach #2 – I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find such a pristine beach in this part of Sierra Leone. River Beach #2 was a pleasant surprise! Our guide hyped it up, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. With its soft white sand, clear water, and breathtaking views, it’s the perfect place to unwind and reflect on my entire trip. I highly recommend staying at The Place Resort at Tokeh Beach, as it was our favorite hotel stay the entire trip.
  • Take a Boat to Banana Island – Picture this: An untouched paradise where turquoise waters lap golden sand, tall palm trees swaying in the wind, and the smell of freshly grilled seafood fills the air. That’s Banana Island. We spent our few days boating along beautiful waters, hanging out in hammocks, snorkeling amongst coral reefs, hiking through lush rainforests, learning about this former slave port island, and feasting on the freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted. My favorite meals were had at Bafa Resort, and I couldn’t recommend dinner and drinks here more. Just don’t forget your sunscreen – the sun here is insanely intense!
  • Visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary – Have you ever looked into the eyes of a chimpanzee? It’s a truly humbling experience. These intelligent creatures share 99% of our DNA, and visiting them at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary was a highlight of my trip. Admittedly, I thought that we would trek alongside the chimps like the gorilla treks that are done in Uganda. However, we quickly learned that this wouldn’t be the best idea after seeing how rowdy they could get! What were we thinking? Nonetheless, it was so heartwarming to watch them play and interact much like humans do. It was simply a reminder that we are all connected to the natural world, and we have a responsibility to protect these amazing animals and their habitats. Shoutout to Tacugama’s for their conservation efforts and their mission to provide a safe space to these incredible animals.

Things to know before you go:

  • You will need a passport AND a visa if you’re a US citizen. Give yourself plenty of time to get a visa before your arrival.
  • You will need a yellow fever vaccine to enter the country. Get vaccinated at least 10 days before your trip! 
  • The local currency is the Leone (SLL). US dollars are widely accepted, but it’s advisable to carry cash as card payments are often unavailable. You will get a better value for your money if you convert your dollars into SLL, which I highly recommend.
  • English is the official language, but Kriol is widely spoken. You should have no trouble navigating with English, but it will help to learn some Kriol phrases. 
  • The best time to visit Sierra Leone is during the dry season from November to April. I visited during the beginning of rainy season and there were showers periodically, but the rain would quickly pass. 
  • Consult with your doctor about malaria medicine and carry an abundance of mosquito spray. 
  • Bring plenty of sunscreen, a hat, and a portable fan as the heat can be very strong. 
  • When it comes to safety, you should exercise caution and keep your valuables hidden. I would recommend traveling with a guide to navigate the country and culture with ease, especially as a solo traveler. I’m a huge advocate for solo travel, but Sierra Leone’s tourism infrastructure is still in development which means I would not recommend solo travel to most at this point of time.

Sierra Leone is a country of contrasts, where natural beauty meets complex history. It’s a place that will challenge your perceptions, open your heart, and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re looking for an adventure that’s truly off the beaten path, Sierra Leone is waiting for you!

P.S. For more photos and videos of my Sierra Leonean adventures, be sure to check out my Instagram @heyciara!

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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