Journaling The Journey

5 Reasons Popenguine Senegal is a Hidden Gem

Petite-Cote, Best Beaches Senegal, Popenguine Nature Reserve

Popenguine, the perfect beach town on the Petite-Cote of Senegal has become one of our favorite places in the world.  Read on to find out why!

Selecting the perfect beach on the Petite-Côte of Senegal can be tricky, as it’s essentially one long stretch of sand. This “Small Coast,” stretching from Dakar’s outskirts to the Saloum Delta National Park, boasts a string of fishing villages and towns sharing the same endless beach. Each village offers something unique, from Saly’s all inclusive resorts to  Toubab Dialao’s arts and crafts to Somone’s oyster-filled lagoon. Yet, the vibe and charm of Popenguine steels the show.

The President of Senegal has two residences.  One in Dakar, and the second in, you guessed it, in Popenguine.  He had the choice to build anywhere on the coast and he chose this hidden gem.  In addition, one of the most renowned and exclusive worldwide resorts is building a small boutique upscale hotel, right here in this fishing village and not in any other area of the Petite-Cote.

To remind everyone, as always we do not get any compensation from anyone for our writing.  These are our personal recommendations because we really enjoyed these places.

Why Popenguine is a Hidden Gem

Petite-Cote, best beaches Senegal, Popenguine Nature Reserve
Our view from Airbnb Madeleine terrace. A never ending changing landscape.

Since the coast south of Dakar is one continuous stretch of beach one may ask, but why choose Popenguine out of all the other options?  What makes it so special and why should I come here over Saly or any of the other small beach towns on this coast?  Well there are a bunch of reasons.  But first, a story about how we discovered this sleepy coastal beach town.

But First, A Story…

best beaches Senegal
Some of the many fishing activities that we saw from our terrace at Airbnb Madeleine

We were returning to Dakar from Cape Verde and had a flight to Mauritania the next day,  when Rob fell ill.  One night in a hotel, ended up to be two sleepless nights.   And he was in no shape to go anywhere but a hospital.  The ambulance arrived 2.5 hours after it was called and took us to a small hospital in Saly 30 minutes away.  The test confirmed that Rob had insane amounts of malaria parasites in him.  There was also a secondary infection.

Four days of non stop care, infusions of malaria drugs, antibiotics and a lot of angst resulted in him finally being released to a home regimen of more drugs, rest and recuperation.  That is when I found an Airbnb right on the beach of Popenguine and decided that it was the best place for Rob to become himself again.

We arrived in the tiny fishing village of Popenguine to find an incredibly welcoming vibe and tight knit community who know each other, help each other and live together in great synchronicity.  Even though Rob was mostly out of it, he started to come alive with the sunshine blazing into our beach side home, with the loud sound of waves crashing below us and the rhythm of the village life that he could witness from our terrace expanding over the crystal clear ocean.

Overall, here are the 5 reasons why Popenguine is a hidden gem and a must visit if you are looking to unplug and soak up the surf and sun.

1. Popenguine Beach

Petite-Cote, best beaches Senegal, Popenguine Nature Reserve
The never ending sandy beach of the Petite-Cote as seen from the Popenguine Nature Reserve

Popenguine Beach is a captivating haven for sun-seekers and beach lovers alike. This stunning crescent shaped stretch of golden sand, kissed by crystal-clear waters, beckons travelers to unwind and embrace the tranquility of the ocean. Whether you’re yearning to bask in the warm sun, immerse yourself in the refreshing waters, or simply let the gentle rhythm of the waves lull you into a state of pure bliss, Popenguine’s beach offers the perfect escape.

2. Popenguine Nature Reserve – Bird Reserve

Popenguine Nature Reserve, Petite-Cote, best beaches Senegal
The gorgeous Popenguine Nature Reserve filled with many interesting birds.

This reserve is absolutely stunning, with cliffs rising from behind  the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a haven for dozens of bird species.  To name a few, I spotted Ospreys, African Hawk Eagles, Yellow Billed Kites and a variety of Warblers.

In addition, this haven is managed collaboratively by the National Park Authority and the Women’s Group for the Protection of Nature (RFPPN).  It truly offers a precious opportunity to connect with the untouched beauty of Senegal’s natural world.

As Rob recuperated in the apartment, I would sneak off to the Nature Reserve and walk around the abandoned beach, peaking up to the cliffs to see what new bird I could spot for the new day.  It was always incredibly meditative and calming to be able to bury my feet in the sand and commune with these stunning creatures.

3. The People

People of the Petite-Cote West Africa
One of the many small shops in the fishing village

Many places have lovely people, that is true.  However, the fabric of this village are it’s absolutely warm, welcoming and helpful people.  For a second I thought that perhaps I dreamed it, but no.  Talking to many other travelers and reading other travel posts about this village the common thread is the outstanding generosity and kindness of the people of Popenguine.

Since we had a kitchen in our beach apartment, I was dreaming up different recipes to create for Rob’s recovery.  In the village there aren’t any proper grocery stores.  Just a string of small kiosks each with something slightly different.  There are also a number of locations with fresh fruit and vegetables and of course fresh caught fish.  Surprisingly, I was able to find almost everything that I needed to create a few amazing vegan feasts.

4. Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande Basilica

Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande Basilica Best beaches Senegal
Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande Basilica

The Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrande Basilica is an interesting church that attracts many Catholic visitors annually.  It has unique architecture and pretty stained-glass windows.  In addition, it has the very unique Black Madonna which is holy to many of the visitors.   Keep in mind that the church holds an annual pilgrimage in May and June and therefore the village is very busy during this time.

5. L’echo Cotier

Best beaches Senegal
The view of the Popenguine Nature Reserve and beach from L’Echo Côtier

Typically we do not list restaurants as a place of destination.  However, L’Echo Côtier, is arguably considered the Petite-Côte’s finest restaurant. Picture white tablecloths, exquisite seafood, fantastic wines, and a private deck, all nestled above a vast beach with gentle Atlantic waves. Blissful!

A Map of Popenguine

This map was made with Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

This map shows some of the most interesting locations in the village.  Please note that the Airbnb that we stayed in could not be marked.  However, it is about 100 meters on the coast from the Post Office, which we did mark on the map.  The beach runs along the whole coastline.


There are many accommodation options in the village.  First, it is important to understand where you want to be?  Clearly, if you are here on the Petite-Cote, most likely you are here for the best Senegal beach and would want to be right on the water.  But do you want to be closer to the main shops of the square in the south or closer to the Popenguine Nature Reserve in the north?

Airbnb Madeleine (Mid-Range)

Petite-Cote, best beaches Senegal
The terrace of our Airbnb

Part of what made our stay so magical was our Airbnb right on the water just 50 meters from the main square  It is a bit tricky to get to, but the host made sure that we found our way.  And as the doors opened and the pounding waves and sea breeze filled the apartment, we knew we were home.  The terrace overlooks the ocean and the village activities below.

We watched fishermen leaving with their boats in the morning and returning in the late afternoon.  Kids make the beach a soccer field in the evenings and sheep herders wash their sheep in the ocean when they can.  The sunsets here are extraordinary.  This terrace became our entertainment throughout our stay.

The apartment has air conditioning in the bedroom and fans throughout.  There is a large screen TV and good wifi.  In addition, inside the living room there is a small kitchen with a medium sized fridge.  Basically, everything I needed to make a variety of meals.  The cost was approximately $50 USD per night.

Villas Badiène (Luxury)

Beach in front of best beaches in Senegal
The beach in front of Villas Badiene

If you want to be even more secluded and be next door to the Popenguine Nature Reserve, then Villas Badiene is worth considering.  This hotels offers a truly pampered experience,  with private fitness instructors, babysitting and beauty services.  They have 3 options: private large rooms overlooking the ocean and a master suite (which has its own terrace and Jacuzzi).  In addition, there is the Villa Teranga which has accommodations for 8 people.

The private rooms start at $180 USD per night for 2 people.

Kër Cupaam – Tourist Camp (Budget)

Kër Cupaam
The entry to Kër Cupaam Community

The Ker Cupaam tourist camp was founded in 1985 and is entirely managed and run by the Women’s Group from the village of Popenguine.  The profits generated by the camp provide income for several families in the village. Each year, 10% of the annual income is redistributed into education, health and social causes in the village of Popenguine.

The accommodations are quite spartan, but the feeling in this complex is one of community and togetherness.  It is located next to the Nature Reserve.   However  the camp is across the road from the ocean (so you are not located right on the beach).   But the prices for these accommodations fit even a strict budget.  The ladies even cook for visitors and understand a vegan diet.

A dorm room bed is under $10 USD per person.  There are private accommodations as well.

Wrap Up

Best Beaches Senegal, Petite-Cote
A small store in the fishing village

Although we didn’t initially plan on visiting Popenguine, it turned out to be one of the most idyllic places and definitely a hidden gem of West Africa.  If you want to forget the world and immerse yourself in one of the best beaches of Senegal, then consider this little village.  It may just give you what you need – just like it did us.

Have you been to the Petite-Cote?  Did you visit any of these fabulous fishing villages?  What did you think?  We would love to hear from you!

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