Voted by me as one of the top beaches in Sierra Leone, (which boasts some of the most incredible coastline in the world by the way), there’s no question Banana Island needs to be on your list if you travel to this West African country.
Located just off the Freetown Peninsula, this small archipelago is fairly close to the capital, but feels like a remote hideaway a million miles away.
As such, it’s the perfect holiday escape… in a rustic and real kinda way.
So if you’re thinking about heading over to Banana Island during your time in Sierra Leone, read on to learn everything you need to know about getting there, staying there and what to do there…
- 15 Best Things to Do in Freetown
- 21 Things to Know Before You Travel Sierra Leone
- Visiting Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary: All You Need to Know
My trip to Sierra Leone was sponsored by the Sierra Leone National Tourist Board, but as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
Where is Banana Island?
As I mentioned in the intro, Banana Island sits off the Freetown Peninsula.
This peninsula boasts the capital to the north and in the south, the town of Kent.
And just offshore from Kent, is Banana Island.
In fact, it’s Banana Islands because yes, there are actually 3 islands in this archipelago.
The largest Banana Island, which boasts the most amenities and will be the focus of this article, is called Dublin.
Here’s you’ll find some cute accommodation options, some bars and basic shops, as well as a local population of around 600 people.
The second largest island, which sits just behind Dublin, is called Ricketts, which has a population of around 200 people and is famous for its lobster.
Ricketts is linked to Dublin by a stone causeway.
The third, and smallest, Banana Island is called Mes-Meheux. It is uninhabited and privately owned.
You can move between all 3 islands pretty easily, but in general, it’s Dublin that is the most easily accessed from the mainland.
Dublin also has the most facilities (read. still not many!) and so it’s here that I recommend basing yourself when you visit Banana Island.
When I refer to Banana Island (singular!) during this article from now on, I’m basically referring to Dublin!
Why Visit Banana Island?
Most travellers to Sierra Leone tend to spend at least some of their time in this country in and around the capital, Freetown, which makes Banana Island the perfect destination.
Close to the capital, but a million miles away in terms of the chaos and cacophony, visiting Banana Island is like stepping into a different world.
With no roads, no mains electricity, fresh well water and a rich natural landscape, visiting Banana Island is an easy way to see what life is like in more rural Sierra Leone without having to travel too far from the capital.
It’s also beautiful, incredibly peaceful and the perfect place to unplug.
A welcoming local community, who are very involved in the tourist drive here, make it feel safe too and, surrounded by breadfruit, papaya, mango and, of course, banana trees, their abundant tropical home is a pleasure to visit.
Arrive, unwind and enjoy strolls along the beach, sea swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing and more in this tiny, unplugged, tropical paradise.
When to Visit?
The best time to visit Banana Island is from December to February.
This is the dry season across Sierra Leone, with good temperatures, no rain, few mosquitoes and significantly lower humidity.
Even still, it can be hot and humid, so come prepared!
At this time of year, you are also pretty much guaranteed sailings to Banana Island, while in the rainy season (especially the peak from June to September), torrential rain and strong winds can sometimes disrupt sailings for days at a time.
Indeed between June and October, many accommodation options on Banana Island temporarily shutdown meaning, at best, it’s only day trips you can undertake during these months.
How to Get There & Around?
Unsurprisingly – a) because it’s an island and b) because it’s in Sierra Leone where boat travel seems to be a daily occurrence! – the only way to get to Banana Island is via boat.
If you’re looking to travel independently to Dublin, then it’s best you head to Kent to pick up either the local community boat, which runs a couple of times a day in each direction, or a chartered boat arranged by your on-island accommodation.
From Kent, the boat takes half an hour to reach the beach at Dublin where it “docks” aka pulls up on the beach!
Worth noting that most accommodation providers on the island have a built-in package that includes return boat travel from Kent to Banana Island, so do check with them when you reserve to find out the costs and logistics of this.
You can also easily take an arranged tour to Banana Island too.
The surf club at Bureh Beach, along with the Token Beach Resort at Token Beach, can arrange day trips for you otherwise, in Freetown, there’s lots of small operators that offer day trips and overnight options.
Tours are handy as they’ll include boat travel, accommodation and possibly some activities too. Plus they arrange everything for you, which makes life a lot easier!
Visit Sierra Leone (VSL) are a good company that run trips to Banana Island from the capital.
Once on the island, it’s then easy and safe to walk around during the hours of daylight.
The islands here are so small that you can’t really get lost!
The stone causeway that links Dublin to Ricketts can be walked and is an ideal way to explore the islands further.
What to Expect
Banana Island is basic, off-grid and feels remote af!
Even though it’s not that far from the capital, it is situated in Sierra Leone, and it’s not hard to feel pretty remote, pretty quick in this country!
Embracing this is all part of the charm of the island, so do not come here expecting flashy resorts and cocktails by the pool!
Instead, the island is populated by a few local guesthouses and 2 beach camping / glamping spots.
There’s no roads on the islands, no cars, no banks, no mains electricity and few shops.
Life here is ruled by fishing and fruit harvesting, as well as the small number of tourist services that are beginning to appear.
Lush, tropical and with a forest-filled interior, there’s a cute set of orange sand coves that form its shoreline.
In many ways, Banana Island totally reminded me of my time on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.
Another tiny tropical paradise, even though LCI is in Central America, it sits at a similar latitude, facing the Atlantic Ocean too, which is why it’s probably pretty similar.
They also speak English in Little Corn Island, with a strong creole lilt, as they do in Banana Island too.
So yes, if you’re coming to this Sierra Leonian spot, expect rural and real, basic but beautiful, unplugged and uncrowded, slow and, quite frankly, sweaty!
Yup no aircon and only a fan at night – but to be honest, you don’t need anything more thanks to the sea breeze.
Things to Do on Banana Island
Chilling is probably the top option when it comes to things to do in Banana Island, along with sea swimming, sunbathing and snapping the scenery!
On the slightly more active side, you can also kayak or take a pedalo boat to explore the coastline of the island further, as well as enjoy snorkelling and even scuba diving here.
Most of these water-based activities are best arranged with your accommodation on-island.
You can also take tours to the magnificent Turtle Islands.
Meant to be even more stunning than the Banana Islands, sadly I didn’t make it there because Turtle Islands are a 4-5 hour speedboat ride away, which was too much in terms of financials and time for me.
Nevertheless, if you have both of these at your disposal, Turtle Islands are another must see in Sierra Leone.
You can also stroll through the village of Dublin, exploring the 2 tiny churches here, the local clinic and school, plus some historical artefacts, such as canons, left from the time this island was part of the Atlantic slave trade.
There’s no signage or information, but wandering around solo is a good way to take in the landscape and culture too.
Learning more about the West African slave trade and the role of British colonialism in this human atrocity is a key part of visiting Sierra Leone.
Former slave colony – Bunce Island, which is also near Freetown – is another great place to do this.
You can also walk the stone causeway between Dublin and Ricketts if you want to explore more.
How Long to Spend There?
While you can visit Banana Island simply for the day, personally, I highly recommend spending the night here.
It’s the perfect way to really soak in the solitude and fall asleep under the stars to the sound of the lapping waves.
That said, 1-2 nights is probably enough for most of us, given the lack of wifi and patchy hot water!
Banana Island Accommodation
If you’re looking to stay in Dublin’s village in a local guesthouse, then newly built Banana Gardens offers the best value, but not a lot of natural light!
The Sun Shine Guesthouse is a slightly more comfortable village stay.
Otherwise, for budget beachside accommodation, Daltons Banana Guest House is the place to go.
Basic but cheap, these guys also arrange tours to Turtle Islands, as well as provide boat transport to the mainland.
And finally, my top pick for where to stay on Banana Island is Bafa Resort.
Offering spacious safari-style tents perched right above the water, here you can also find a good bar and restaurant, as well as lots of sandy space to relax and enjoy.
Each tent has a power point and a fan (which come on between 7pm and 7am) and there’s a clean communal shower and toilet block that includes hot water… most of the time!
No wifi here, but there is phone signal, so if you have a Sierra Leone SIM card you’re in!
What to Bring for Your Visit
As I’ve alluded, power can be an issue on Banana Island, so I recommend bringing a head lamp with you in case of power cuts and / or for the night time.
With no banks or ATMs, you’ll have to bring all the cash you need with you to Banana Island too, as I don’t believe any places here take card payment.
It goes without saying that swimming and beach gear are a must for this top island spot, as well as a hat and sunscreen to protect you from the strong rays.
Comfortable, loose clothes are also a good option for when you’re not at the beach and it’s worth bringing long pants and long sleeved tops for the evening to a) keep the mosquitoes away and b) to keep warm when the cool evening coastal breeze picks up.
A small backpack is also a good idea, as you’ll want to comfortably carry your camera, water and beach gear if you go exploring round the island.
A dry bag might also be helpful for keeping electricals water and sand free.
Hand sanitiser is also a good idea for Sierra Leone, as are wet wipes and tissues.
Finally, bring a charged portable charger with you, so you can charge your camera and phone even if the power does die on you!
For more info about what to wear in Sierra Leone, check out this full packing guide I wrote.
Mini Travel Guide to Sierra Leone
How Long to Visit For?
1 week is a good amount of time to see a lot that Sierra Leone has to offer, including Freetown, the surrounding beaches and islands, plus some of the nearby wildlife destinations too, such as Tiwai Island.
How to Get There?
Most travellers arrive into Sierra Leone via the capital’s international airport.
Flights from Europe are direct with Brussels Airways, Air France or via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc.
Kenya Airways and Turkish Airlines also operate flights here from other destinations.
As always I use Skyscanner to find the best prices.
To get from the airport to central Freetown, it’s then best to take the ferry service, which is timed to run with arriving flights.
Sea Bird Express are the main operator and tickets cost $45 USD.
The ticket office is located outside the airport, just across the street from the arrivals hall.
Learn more in this post I wrote all about arriving into, and navigating, Sierra Leone’s airport.
How to Get Around?
It’s best to get around Sierra Leone care of a tour company or an arranged driver.
Visit Sierra Leone (VSL) can help with both, including visits to explore Freetown and trips to Banana Island.
Where to Stay in Freetown?
It’s likely you’ll stay in Freetown for at least one night during your time in Sierra Leone, so here’s my top picks for accommodation in the capital…
- The Lead Hotel
- Home Suites Boutique Hotel
- Mamba Point Hotel
- The Stafford Lodge
- Cole Street Guesthouse
All of these recommended options are situated in the Aberdeen district of Freetown, which is where the sea ferry from the airport arrives into.
This makes getting to your hotel nice and easy.
Travel Insurance for Sierra Leone
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money in Sierra Leone
Cash is king in Sierra Leone, so I advise bringing lots of USD, Euros or Pound Sterling with you, which can then be exchanged in banks or on the street in Freetown.
Don’t rely on ATMs, even in the capital, as many don’t work and cash withdrawals are limited.
Paying by card in this country is really only available in top-end hotels, restaurants and bars.
On the occasions that you can pay by card (and as a good back up option generally when you travel), I highly recommend a Wise card.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates and no sneaky transaction fees, I never go anywhere without mine these days.
Sign up to get yours here.
You need a Yellow Fever certificate, as well as a Covid-19 vaccination certificate to be granted entry to Sierra Leone.
Bring paper copies of both to show officials at your point of entry.
Always consult a health practitioner before you travel to West Africa.
They will advise you about other recommended vaccinations to get ahead of your trip, as well as about any anti-malaria medication you may need.
Where to Travel After Sierra Leone?
After Sierra Leone, I travelled north to The Gambia.
Learn more about my time in this fantastic West African country here.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my complete travel guide to Sierra Leone’s Banana Island.
Have I convinced you to head to this remote gem yet?
Have any more questions about it?
Then don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments box below and I’ll get back to you…