From the name Cape Coast you can already picture a beach – and that means: ocean waves bathing the sandy shore as the sea-cool breeze gently caresses the palm trees in the tropical sunshine. But this city is much more than just another town with an inviting coastline. This is a city with a history that chronicles one of the darkest crimes of man against man – the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Legend has it that Cape Coast was founded in the 15th century as a small fishing village by Oguaa, a hunter who subsequently named the village after himself. When the Portuguese arrived in 1471, they named it Cabo Corso which means the short cape. Cape Coast became the biggest slave market in West Africa, with captives arriving from as far as Niger and Burkina Faso at the height of the slave trade. It shores became the departure point for slaves who were kept in Cape Coast Castle, before being packed into ships like sardines, literarily and sent to the Americas.
Today, the tokens of the slave trade remain in the city with the castle declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Several important personalities have taken a tour of the castle in the past few years. In 2009, American president, Barack Obama visited the castle with his family.
Beyond the slave history, Cape Coast has remained the fishing port it started as. The beaches are still there with the waves beckoning on you to come take a dip in the waters and refresh yourself.
Cape Coast is not just another beautiful coastal town, but it is also a historically rich city. First on the list of ‘Must See’ is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cape Coast Castle where slaves were kept before being sent on the journey of no return across the Atlantic to the Americas. A few kilometers away, you can see the other slave castle in nearby Elmina, the St. George Castle (Elmina Castle), which is also a world heritage site. Near Elmina Castle on a hill across is the Fort Sao Jago, while in between in the lagoon is a large fisherman community. The University of Cape Coast is worth checking out, while your trip to Cape Coast is not complete without a visit to Kakum National Park.
One of the most popular culinary delight in the region is the fante dorkunu, widely known as kenkeh and usually eaten with fish and gravy. Fufu is another popular staple eaten with palm nut soup. Another local favorite is banku, a proportionate blend of corn and cassava into a smooth dumpling eaten with spicy sauce. Jollof rice, waakye, and beans and plantain popular called red-red by the locals are equally popular. Aside from the hotels though, there are very few international restaurants where you can get intercontinental dishes in the city. You might as well enjoy what the local outlets have on offer as they are really good.
Akpeteshie is a locally brewed gin from palm wine. It is quite common among the coastal communities of West Africa where it is called different names, e.g. in Nigeria it is known as ogogoro. Palm wine is also popular and drunk fresh. Coconut juice, pito and other fruit juice can be found on the streets. You can buy bottles of wines, spirits and other drinks at departmental stores. Apart from the local bars and pubs where several people gather to enjoy the evening, the best night-out options are at the hotels like Oasis, Coconut Groove Beach, and the Elmina Beach Resort in Elmina.