A country frequently on travel advisory lists, Liberia’s diverse landscape and long stretches of pristine beach may leave you wondering why this small West African nation can’t stop civil fighting long enough to benefit from some tourism. While it is one of the more developed countries in the region, its poverty, instability, high crime rate, health risks and limited public transportation have put an end to any hope of developing a tourist industry, and thus Liberia’s beautiful coastline; glories of the past and single national park remain largely undiscovered by outsiders, who are simply not willing to risk their lives to see it all.
When to Go
Liberia is hot for most of the year, with a wet season lasting from May to October. The coastal belt is particularly hot and dry from December to March, due to the Harmattan wind from the Sahara. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing, preferably cotton, and waterproof garments during the rainy season.
Getting There & Away
The main entry point is Monrovia International Airport, about 60kms from the city center. The airport has limited facilities, but there are some restaurants and first-aid services. Inbound roads lead from Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea Republic, but they may be impassable during the rainy season. The most common public transport is the passenger boat service, which runs between Monrovia and Buchanan. There are also smaller watercrafts that pass through the inland rivers. There are no bus and rail services, and taxis and car hire are the only forms of land transport.
Health & Safety
Crime rates in Liberia are relatively high, and rape and prostitution are notably on the increase. Avoid walking around alone and at night, and try not to flash your money in public. Probably one of the scariest prospects is an encounter with a Liberian gang combatant armed with a machete, not as far fetched as you may think. For the most part, women are treated with respect here, and apart from regular offers of marriage and occasional confessions of love, them men are normally well-behaved. Serious health risks include cholera, malaria, typhoid and polio. All water and milk are potentially harmful, so sterilize or stick to bottled water and tinned milk. Bring a supply of first-aid tools and medications; medical facilities are inadequate and often unsanitary.
Food & Hospitality
Food comes in a broad range of prices, with Western restaurants at the high-end and local food being extremely cheap. Liberian cuisine involves a lot of starchy and fried foods, with popular items including fufu (fermented cassava dough) and pepper and goat soup. Portions are normally the size of a small mountain, so watch your waistline.
Hotel rates are relatively expensive, although affordable for most. Accommodation is limited though. Low-cost motels and bed-and-breakfasts may leave something to be desired, but usually provide cooking and laundry facilities. Usually, the higher the price, the higher the level of security, with most hotels having guards. There are also a few youth hostels and camping and caravanning sites.
Three days in Monrovia
Five days touring the beaches
One day in Sapo National Park
One day in the Firestone Rubber Plantation
Monrovia: the diverse and bustling capital is threaded with small lagoons and inlets perfect for leisurely walks and picnics. The area around Gurley street features several restaurants and bars.
Firestone Rubber Plantation: is one of the world’s largest rubber plantations, and easily accessible to day-trippers from the capital.
Beaches: some of the most beautiful sandy beaches can be found in Robertsport. Popular beaches include Caesar’s Beach, Kendaje Beach, Sugar Beach and Elwa Beach. Most of them charge a small entrance fee.
Sapo National Park: this well-preserved forest wilderness is bounded on the left by the Sinoe River and is home to some interesting plant and animal species. It’s only accessible on foot, but that just adds to the natural feel of the place.
Swimming and boating: most of the beaches offer boat and canoe rentals. Try one of the short boat tours for beautiful views of the North Atlantic. The sea is clearest from December to May.
Fishing: visit one of the traditional fishing villages along the coast and try some of the local seafood. The Saint Paul and Mensurado villages make great fishing sites where you can compete with the locals for a big catch.
Nightlife: there are several bars and nightclubs catering to the growing student population. Some of the most popular venues are Elements, Casa Pueblo and Calle Real in the capital.
Outdoor trips: visit the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, a 5 minutes drive from Highway 1, for horseback riding, hiking, trekking and various outdoor activities.