With miles of beautiful coastlines, there are tons of accommodation options to suit any travel style and budget. This list is by no means extensive, and we’ve chosen to share some of the places we’ve sampled over the last couple of years to give an idea of what’s available.
In general, self-catering or hotel apartments tend to be more spacious and better suited to families travelling together, as hotel rooms lack a communal space to congregate in. If staying in Durban Central or Umhlanga, hotel rooms are convenient and often cheaper than booking apartments for people without a Timeshare, and with all the food options around, you don’t really need the kitchen. However, the halaal options in areas like Ballito and Margate are quite limited, and in these areas it is recommended to opt for an apartment as you will likely be cooking or heating up food you’ve brought with.
In terms of booking, you could use a timeshare or buy a week off someone who does have one, book directly with the hotel, use Airbnb, or use an aggregator site like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Safarinow.
With timeshares, availability is usually an issue, and you often have to book far in advance to get the dates and property you want. Buying it off someone is a risk, as this is not regulated and there have been instances of people getting scammed out of their money when they arrive and realise their booking does not exist. If you opt for this, make sure it’s from someone you trust. We stayed in three places with the timeshare option, and each was lovely.
We stayed at the Durban Spa, which is extremely conveniently located off North Beach, and also has a nice heated pool and Jacuzzi. The check-in process was quick and easy, and they offer on-site secured parking which is a helpful perk as there are frequent incidents of cars being broken into at roadside parking bays. There was a fully equipped kitchen, but the six-sleeper apartment meant that the ‘benches’ at the kitchen table were also the single beds for two occupants. There is one main bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, cupboards, and TV, with another smaller room separated by sliding wooden doors to a second bedroom that is equipped with two single beds and nothing else. The second bedroom has a large window overlooking the ocean. The overall look of the hotel is quite dated and in need of an overhaul, with old fittings and floral curtains, but it is clean and functional nonetheless. The beach across the road is one of the best in Durban, with pounding waves and soft sand, all overlooked by resident lifeguards daily.
In Margate, we stayed at Margate Sands, also in a six-sleeper apartment, across the road from the beach. It has a parking garage and is centrally located to restaurants and shops, even a halaal Tiago’s a 5-minute walk away. There is an outdoor pool to cool off in, and on weekend mornings we were woken up to the sound of ‘Follow the Leader’ blasting from poolside speakers, accompanied by dancing characters all dressed up for kiddies entertainment. The finishings are all new and modern, and it is a very elegant place overall. The apartment had one main bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, along with two bedrooms with 2 single beds in each. All the rooms had cupboards, and the main living area was large, in an open-plan style. The lounge sofas were incredibly comfortable, and the kitchen was well stocked. There is also a bar in each room, along with a bar fridge. In terms of seating, there’s a dining room table, high chairs at the kitchen counter, as well as balcony furniture. A lovely place, but if you’re a light sleeper, you may have challenges falling asleep on weekend nights when the party rages in all the neighbouring buildings. The beach here is calm and quiet, and we often had the place to ourselves on a random July weekend. It does however get busy during school holidays.
In Ballito we stayed at Boulder Bay. This was also self catering as we found no halaal food in the surrounding areas and brought all our food with from home. The hotel is very comfortable, with spacious rooms overlooking azure waters and a well-stocked kitchen. The downside was crossing through the parking lot and adjacent properties to access the beach. The closest beach also doesn’t usually have a lifeguard, so at a slow pace, it was about a fifteen minute walk to the nearest swimming beach. The beach is also rather rocky, and the waves violent, but it has some of Kwa Zulu Natal’s most beautiful coastlines.
Airbnb is also a good place to find accommodation, with options available to suit all budgets and with locations all over the city and its surrounds. We stayed in one in a beachfront apartment building on OR Tambo Parade (previously Marine Parade), and the whole process was very streamlined. Our hosts communicated with us in the week running up to our stay about where to collect the keys and how to work the geyser, and we had a lovely stay for less than R700 per night. We had a fully appointed kitchen and a lounge with a TV overlooking the beach. The décor was gorgeous, and the only downside to our stay was that the couch was uncomfortable. Given the limited amount of time we spent in the room, it was an easy thing to overlook.
We also stayed in apartment at the Spinnaker, which was lovely. Newly furnished and modern, the rooms were well equipped. The only challenge is the location, and at night it’s not really a safe area to walk through. We ended up having to take the car out everytime we wanted to go somewhere, even though it was only a few minutes away. Keep in mind that the roads behind the beachfront, particularly in the vicinity of Ushaka are not the safest when booking your accommodation, and if you want to walk around at night, rather stick to the beachfront or the roads behind the Palace and Belaire Suites.
In three cases we’ve found that booking directly with the hotel offers no discernible benefits over booking through a website like Booking.com. This seems to only be a perk if you’re part of a loyalty programme such as Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy. We’ve also found that by signing up for the Safarinow newsletter, we’ve managed to save a few hundred Rands off our bookings by using the periodic voucher codes from the newsletter.
Belaire Suites, just off Durban’s North Beach, has become popular in the last few years, due to its modern décor and competitive pricing. The rooms all have built in cupboards, microwaves, and facilities to make tea or coffee. We stayed in a three sleeper room, and there was no common area to relax in. It also has no direct beach access, and after leaving the hotel, you need to walk a little way before getting to the nearest swimming beach with lifeguards. They offered breakfast as part of the booking, and said that while the general offerings weren’t halaal, they could arrange for halaal sausages for the next day’s breakfast. However, due to the possibility of cross-contamination we opted not to partake.
The Palace, also on North Beach, is situated centrally and just across the road from the beach and a ton of halaal food options, making it a great place to stay. They offer hotel rooms and self-catering apartments, all recently renovated and decidedly modern. They offer on-site parking, but if you book online through Safarinow, make sure to check the box for parking; if you do, you’ll get free parking for your stay, and if you don’t you’ll have to pay extra (we paid R150 for three days). The apartments are nice and spacious, and ideal for families. The hotel room was small, and has a lovely ocean view, but no balcony. There was a bar fridge and a kettle, along with a built in cupboard, a desk, and a single couch. The bathroom was small, but the water pressure was great, even on the 18th floor. Another plus-side is that they have a generator so even during load-shedding, one elevator still works, as do the lights and TV.
The check in process was the most exhausting we’ve encountered. We arrived there around 12PM, and were told to return at 1PM since our room wasn’t ready yet. Understandable since we were early, so we went to enjoy the beach and came back to check in. They then told us that they needed to call and check if the room was ready but that it would be ready at 2PM. We then spent some time at the pool area and returned at 2PM, only to be told they still didn’t know if the room was ready. We then decided to wait in full sight of the reception desk so that they wouldn’t forget about us, and got our room at around 2:40PM. We decided to have a nap, and were woken at 4PM by another guest entering our room, as they didn’t record that we had checked in at reception, and gave the same key to someone else! An hour after this breach of privacy, we were visited by staff to ask why we were there. The weird service continued, as we were woken on two of the three mornings of our stay by reception calling to look for housekeeping staff. We thought that that was quite unprofessional and a bummer for people trying to sleep past eight o clock! (We avoided it on the last morning by taking the phone off the hook before we went to sleep).