Morocco has long been a popular draw for its Saharan Desert, Atlas Mountains, cities and medinas.
Its less-known but equally alluring coastal road along the Atlantic Ocean offers authentic old world charm and accommodations that have a Moroccan elegance seamlessly mixed with modern amenities and sophistication by the sea. Here are a few posts along the coast well worth visiting.
Starting in Casablanca, check out Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco and the sixth largest in the world. Half the surface of the mosque lies right above the Atlantic Ocean and a partially glass floor offers clear views of the water. This mosque is one of only two in Morocco open to non-Muslims. After an inside tour exploring its rich architecture and design, head to the panoramic bar Sky 28 at the five-star Kenzi Tower Hotel, which has iconic views of the city, including vistas of the mosque.
Be sure to grab a seafood lunch with a crisp glass of Moroccan wine at one of the many restaurants on the water's edge before continuing along the coastal road.
An hour south, Mazagan is a former Portuguese fort and Unesco World Heritage site built in the early 16th century. Part of the small port city of El Jadida, it is home to a small yet evocative medina with some of the best scarves and clothes in the country.
The five-star Mazagan Beach Resort offers a plethora of ways to dial down around its 600-plus acres, including golf, camel rides and quad biking on the beach and in the forest or relaxing at the spa or pool.
Continuing south along R301, the rugged coastal road that connects El Jadida to Essaouira, is the small village of Oualidia, known for its oyster farms and pink flamingos.
The hotel La Sultana Oualidia, with 11 rooms and suites, is a hidden and elegant gem. Grab a Champagne lunch at the property's restaurant, then relax on its private beach or with a leisurely walk along the jetty. The colors of the lagoon there are as vibrant as those in the Caribbean. It's easy to see why the area is often referred to as "the St. Tropez of Morocco."
Another 100 miles south along the Atlantic lies Essaouira, a picturesque, 800-year-old port city with Iberian influence. Once enclosed by fortress walls, it is now a large open fishing harbor, perfect for kite- and windsurfing.
Check in to the Heure Bleue Palais. It is a rich and a multisensory experience; the dusty maze of the old medina is right outside your door, counterbalanced by a refined elegance and traditional northern African charm within the walls of this Relais and Chateaux property. The service, aesthetics and gastronomy are sublime, and its rooftop pool is perfect for sunsets or sunrise.
Take a quiet camel ride on the local beach in Essaouira before heading farther south to Agadir, Morocco's answer to Miami. This major city was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960, so its high-rise resorts, restaurants and even its medina are more modern than old world.
This is where well-heeled Moroccans vacation, and the newest luxury hotel in town is the Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa, set on a private beach.
Two more hours of driving through tiny traditional coastal towns and you will finally come to Mirleft, on the southern coast of Morocco. Ascend the desolate dusty road to the rustic-chic ambience of Les 3 Chameaux, favored by the affluent and ever-arty Europeans and Moroccans. Les 3 offers panoramic views of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Take afternoon tea overlooking the sea before enjoying a poolside plunge at dusk and a traditional feast in the evening.
It is worth finishing your trip in Marrakech, two hours from the coast. There are countless riads (traditional Moroccan home with an interior garden) and several five-star resorts throughout the city, but nothing rivals the Royal Mansour.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI spared no expense in creating the palace. Each of the 53 private riads comes with three floors of unrivaled luxury and a private rooftop plunge pool. Claimed to be the only entirely hand-built hotel in the world, the craftsmanship is evident throughout, from mosaics and carpets to precious metals and carved cedar ceilings.
Each riad has an attentive yet discreet butler in attendance. In fact, it's rare to encounter them or any staff; they operate solely underground, driving golf carts along a maze of passageways and entering riads through hidden portals.
The Royal Mansour's white marble spa offers an unparalleled hammam (Turkish bath). Guests are carried, literally, through a luxurious bathing ritual that combines hot saunas, fragrant steams and a cold plunge pool, revitalizing body and soul.