This French-speaking, West African nation is friendly, fashionable, and most of all fun. Why doesn't it get the attention it deserves?
For a taste of Dakar, go to the pleasant Casa de Creole (21 Blvd. Dijily Mbaye ea Pinet Leprade, +221/823-4081), not far from the Place de L'indepence. They serve international cuisine with a French slant. The interior has a balcony eating area, a waterfall, and stained glass. Meals like filet of sole go for about $8.
If you do want to venture further afield away from Dakar, Les Paletuviers (+221/948-7776; paletuviers.com) is a resort located right alongside the friendly village of Toubacouta in the south central of the country, a few hours' drive from Dakar. It's run by a jovial Belgian couple. There's a pool, a bar, a restaurant, spacious rooms with air conditioning, and better yet, tours aplenty -- like a social tour of the village, boat tours of mangroves, bird watching tours, guided fishing, and more. Rooms start at under $100 a night, and tours start at less than $50 a day. Even better, two other hotels in the area are under the same management: Village Plage D'or, with round African cottages on a white sand beach, and L'ile des Paletuviers, a lodge with a pool, lounge, and restaurant. Zodiac boats can take you to either of these properties from Les Paletuviers, and prices are in the same ballpark. All three properties make you feel like you are a million miles away from any major tourist areas.
Or if you simply want to have a bit of a beach holiday, check out the Savana Saly Hotel (+221/849-4242, savana.sn/index-ang.html) on Le Petite Cote (about two hours south of Dakar) with doubles starting at $100. The swanky resort has pools, a small beach, cultural shows and tours, and great dining. Another nice resort with a quiet beach near Le Petite Cote is Le Warang (BP 334 Mbour; +221/957-2010) where you can stay in African-style cottages with modern amenities and there's also a large pool and a restaurant with panoramic view serving Franco-Senegalese food. Doubles start at $24.
No matter where you go in the fascinating country, you are bound to be greeted with welcoming waves, sweet people, grand vistas, and an intriguing view into the lives of modern Africans. It's a trip that may change your whole view of the continent itself.