This is the longest I’ve gone without updating my blog! I’ve always enjoyed writing in addition to the quick social media updates on Instagram. However, task paralysis over the last few months has done me in. But, I’m back with an exciting travel recap to share. I made my way to THE continent for the first time ever and as you can imagine it was an amazing experience. I traveled for the New Year holiday to Ghana for what their tourism bureau has termed “the return”. Here are all the details about my trip below.
I went to Ghana with a group of four friends and we opted to go with a travel group for this trip. They planned our itinerary, transportation, and a few meals, but were key for the visa process. Ghana has visa requirements which can be a little intimidating. The visa can take a few weeks to process and only lasts for three months, so you have to time your application just right. To apply, we needed a passport photo, completed application, copy of vaccine certificates, confirmed hotel information and your passport. Yes, you read that correctly, we had to mail our passport to the Ghanaian embassy in DC as part of the process.
With our tour company planning the “must sees” we focused on planning out where to eat and do. For this, our main guide was American blogger Demetria Lucas. She recently moved to Ghana and has been sharing her experiences on her podcast and social media. From her, we found other content creators that shared many great restaurants and experiences. A good portion of where we ate/did came from social media posts.
Where We Ate
This was probably my favorite restaurant from the visit. After seeing Usher walking through Vine on Instagram, we knew we had to stop by there too. We went for a new year’s day brunch and were surprised to see typical American brunch fare like chicken and waffles. I opted for a Ghanaian version of a biryani to try something different and thoroughly enjoyed it. The food at Vine is amazing, but really the highlight is the beautiful space!
Brasa was our stop for our New Year’s Eve dinner. It was a cute restaurant with great cocktails and entrees.
The Polo Club
Not be confused, the Polo Beach club, the Polo Club is a restaurant on actual polo grounds and the food is pretty good too. I sadly spent most of my visit there on the phone with the airlines after a cancelled flight, so I didn’t get to take it in like I wanted to, but thought the food and atmosphere were great.
We also tried the red red, banku and fried fish at a couple of local spots. I enjoyed it all!
This time in December is called Detty December by the locals and American immigrants. Ghanaians and Nigerians told me that the party scene during the December holidays are epic! So we definitely planned to partake. What you should know about going out in Ghana is, they do not have the liquor laws we do in the states, so the party don’t stop at 2am! In fact, it starts at 2am and will go through the early morning. At one club, the dj kept saying “we are partying till daylight!” and he meant it.
Our itinerary was filled with early days (do not recommend), so we did not get to go out as much as we wanted to or as long as we wanted to, but we tried! One night we were part of the welcome party at Bloom Bar. Beautiful space that is all outdoors. We headed out at about 2am and saw the crowd coming in at that point.
We also visited Polo Beach Club during our visit. This time we were smart! Took a nap till about 12am and headed to the club at 1am as things were just getting started. This club which is right on the beach was packed with people prepared to dance the night/morning away. Had we gotten a section for the visit, we would have been able to hang much longer but still had a good time.
The music festival featuring afrobeats artists has become one of the big draws for the week between Christmas in New Year. I am not a huge afrobeats fan, but was excited to go along for the festivities. The festival was two days, but we only ended up making it to one day and came towards the end due to travel woes. We had VIP passes which gave us access to another entry and closer view of the stage on the sides.
The festival had great installations for social media posts, lots of food and clothing vendors. However, some of the criticisms you’ve seen online are justified. There were nowhere near enough trash cans onsite. The organizers change the plans on the fly with little warning. For example, Burna Boy was supposed to headline the first night, but switched to the second day after the first day was in full swing. But again, it’s a festival that seems to be catered more towards 20 somethings, so I wouldn’t expect too much from it.
Also note that the name will change to AfroFuture for next year to end those lawsuits from Coachella.
Of course, we planned to buy all of the things while in Ghana. It’s really popular to visit seamstresses and get clothes made there if you have time. People also pick up tons of fabrics, art, shoes and jewelry. There are some high end shops and boutiques that are popular in Accra. We stopped by a pop-up at the Kempiniski but did not make to any of the stores in the city. We did however visit the Accra Arts Centre Market, but were discouraged from going to the larger more famous Makola Market by our guides. They said it was not great for tourists. The Arts Centre market was perfect though. We each found what we were looking for. Friends got art. I got the specialized converse I had been eyeing. All great stuff.
What to See
I arrived late for my itinerary due to flight delays so I missed the full tour of Accra, but here are some things I thought were interesting! My absolute favorite stop was the WEB DuBois Museum. DuBois spent the last few years of his life in the home which is now a museum. He is also buried here. Guests can walk through the house and see DuBois collections of books including some gems of African American history. Our tour guide there was amazing, so I encourage you to go through a guided tour on your visit.
Black Star Square (also known as Independence Square), is another must stop. This public square is used to celebrate and commemorate Ghana’s independence. Due to my late flight, I missed the visit to the square, however the New Years Eve party we went to was hosted there. The party was a dud, but the views were amazing! During your visit, make sure to go and take the trip to the top for views of the city.
We also stopped over at the National Museum of Ghana for a brief tour. This museum gives good insight into the history of the region including going back to the stone age. It was a bit smaller than I expected, so I’d say don’t plan to spend too much time there and self-guided is all you need.
Where to Stay
As you search for hotels, don’t assume that Accra does not have top notch accommodations because they do! My hotel, the Alisa Ridge, seems to have been a well known/respected hotel over the years, but it is in dire need of some upgrades. When you make your way to five star hotels like the Kempinski, you realize it does not have to be this way! If I visited again, I would pick hotels like the Kempinski a popular hotel for American tourists. The Movenpick Accra, and the Marriott were also recommended. Just outside of Accra, there is the Bridgeview Resort which from the videos I’ve seen, it looks amazing! In short, if you like to stay in luxury when traveling, there are options in Accra. Beautiful, reasonably priced options.
We also took a day trip to Kumasi in the Ashanti region. It is about a six hour drive so we flew and then still had an hour drive to the village. At the village, we got to see the community members making hand woven kente cloth. We also learned more about the cocoa plant and the efforts by Ghanaians to build the chocolate industry in Ghana rather than exporting all of the cocoa to Europe. We also took part in a traditional naming ceremony before leaving Kumasi. Your first name is the day you were born, my name is Akosua.
While I enjoyed the experience, I would recommend skipping Kumasi if you are having a shorter visit. The travel time is a lot for what amounts to about a two hour visit. When you add to that a day trip Cape Coast (shared below), it can make your trip more draining than relaxing.
Visiting Cape Coast
As a descendent of enslaved Americans, visiting the Cape Coast was one of the main purposes of my visit. Here, our enslaved ancestors had their last moments on the coast of Africa before being shipped to the new world as cargo rather than human beings. The harms of slavery begin right here on the coast. It was shocking to see it in person.
The drive from Accra is about 3-4 hours depending on the traffic. It can be a rough ride, (I got car sick!) so be sure to take medicine if needed. Our first stop was to the Assin Manso often known as the slave river. Here, our ancestors took what is referred to as their “last bath” before being moved to the slave castles. As descendents, we take a symbolic walk to the river to take a bath of the return. To be honest, I was good with my emotions until we started singing Lift Every Voice and Sing. The full circle moment of that song and the moment in history at the river hit heavy.
Cape Coast Slave Castle
Next, we visited the Cape Coast Slave Castle. Our ancestors were imprisoned here in dungeons. The abuse that we have come to know as part of American history began here. The most stunning piece our guide told us, the black layer that we saw above the brick was made of feces and blood of our ancestors because the dungeons were not cleaned. These were unimaginable conditions to live in. While there, we debated about whether we should smile in these photos, but then I thought, our return is a miracle. When our ancestors were stolen off the coast of Africa, we as their descendants were never to return and certainly not free or of our own will. Our existence shows their strength and perseverance. We celebrate that.
As a descendent of American enslaved people, visiting the West coast of Africa is such a powerful thing. There are so many things I will cherish about this trip especially visiting Cape Coast. Seeing Africa thriving despite the challenges that colonialism continues to bring the continent. Experiencing luxury and culture that is deeper than any picture the west ever painted for me. And finally, from the moment I boarded my plane from to Accra, being in majority Black spaces for a whole week! Something I will never take for granted.
If you are considering making the return to Africa, specifically Ghana take this as your sign to GO.