Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last February, I enjoyed a sublime holiday that I will remember as my most epic journey ever: a trip to Cape Town (South Africa) and Antarctica (the 7th Continent). You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: KLM Boeing 787 Business Class from Amsterdam to Cape Town
- Review: One&Only Cape Town, South Africa (today)
- Review: The Silo Hotel Cape Town, Souh Africa
- Review: First Class flight from Cape Town to Antarctica in a private Airbus A340 jet
- Review: Echo Camp by White Desert, Antarctica
- Review: Trip to the South Pole & Emperor penguins
- Review: Private Airbus A340 First Class flight from Antarctica to Cape Town
- Review: KLM Boeing 777 Business Class from Cape Town to Amsterdam
Today: Review of One&Only Cape Town (South Africa)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: One&Only Cape Town
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Taking pride of place in Cape Town’s most coveted location, One&Only is the only 5-star hotel in the city to offer a complete resort experience with its vast scale and world-class amenities. An inimitable destination overlooking Table Mountain, this thriving urban oasis speaks to international travelers and discerning locals alike, proffering tropical seclusion alongside the sophisticated edge of a city hotspot for dining, entertainment and wellness. Setting a whole new standard for luxury hotels in South Africa when it opened in 2009, One&Only Cape Town recently underwent an extensive refurbishment, revealing a new design that honours the destination’s ocean, land and heritage in a celebration of modern Cape Town.
One&Only Cape Town features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Cape Town.
Have you ever stayed at One&Only Cape Town? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- One&Only Cape Town enjoys a superb location in the heart of Cape Town. Situated at the entrance to the fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and boasting panoramic views of Table Mountain, the resort is a tranquil enclave on the doorstep of South Africa’s most vibrant city. The property is within easy walking distance of the Waterfront’s main tourist attractions, including the Aquarium (next door), the Museum of Contemporary African Art and the Robben Island ferry, as well as countless shops, restaurants & bars, food & crafts markets, and bars. The property is right next to the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus, which makes it a convenient base for tourists to explore Cape Town and its stunning surroundings. Canals also link the resort with the Cape Town Convention Center, with water taxis providing an easy transport option between both points, making the hotel an excellent choice for business people.
- One&Only Cape Town’s main hotel wing (called ‘Marina Rise’) is housed in a 7-story building, which showcases a beautiful design on the inside although it may look a bit bland on the outside. In 2022, the hotel unveiled an extensive refurbishment, spanning its 131 rooms and suites, as well as the entrance lobby, Vista Bar & Lounge, and landscaping, with new flooring, fittings, and fixtures. Working alongside design powerhouse Muza Lab, the property’s reimagined interiors take inspiration from shapes, textures and colors found in the beautiful Cape Town region. Each element pulls from the city surroundings, from the topography of the majestic Table Mountain to the city’s mythology and the thousands of indigenous plant species that occur nowhere else in the world. The overall feel is a chic, understated design that pays homage to African culture and recalls the muted tones of Africa’s savannahs while retaining the innate ultra-luxury ethos of the One&Only brand.
- The eye-catcher in the huge atrium-like lobby – the heart of One&Only Cape Town – is a massive, double-story, floor-to-ceiling window which perfectly frames the beautiful view of the marina with iconic Table Mountain beyond. At the center of the lobby, right in front of the enormous window, is Vista Bar & Lounge, which comes alive during the day when guests and locals mingle in one of Cape Town’s most upscale social scenes (don’t miss the afternoon tea here). The bar highlights the local Xhosa legend fondly known as ‘The Watchers’, the story of the creation of Table Mountain. If legend is to be believed, Table Mountain is actually “The watcher of the South” , one of the four giants created by mother earth Djobela to guard the earth from the menacing sea dragon. Standing tall above the bar display and in perfect alignment with the view of Table Mountain is a sculpture – named The Watchers – which was made by Cape Town-based Kenyan artist, Stanislav Trzebinski.
- Besides the Marina Rise wing, which houses the lobby, restaurants and most rooms, One&Only Cape Town’s resorts grounds also comprise two small man-made islands. Lending the hotel the ambiance of a chic and serene oasis within a large city, these lushly landscaped islands are surrounded by the marina’s picturesque waterways and are connect to main hotel area by a walkway flanked by greenery (it’s only a 5 minute stroll between both resort areas; buggy service can also be provided when needed). One island houses the spa (more on that below) while the other island features the pool area, a poolside restaurant (called Isola) and 40 ‘island’ rooms & suites. Enveloped by swaying palm trees, the free-form pool is truly a show-stopper and the perfect tropical enclave to relax a little after a day of sightseeing. The shapely bends of the pool create separate seating and lounging areas, and several larger cabanas are available, offering extra privacy.
- One&Only Cape Town features 131 spacious rooms & suites. The bulk of these rooms & suites (91 in total) is located in the Marina Rise wing, with views of either Table Mountain or the harbor, while the 40 rooms & suites (including a few two-bedroom suites) are ground-floor units located around the main pool. During my holiday, I stayed in a ‘Marina Table Mountain Room’ on the Marina Rise wing’s third floor. The elegant bedroom with king-size bed opened to a balcony with a stunning vista of Table Mountain, while the ensuite bathroom featured an egg-shaped bath, rain shower and two marble vanities. Perfect blending modernity with tradition, the room design included elements like a curved headboard for the bed and handmade ceramics in organic shapes, all representing the textures and colours of Table Mountain: the golden yellow of the sun, the green of the plants and the blue of the sea, and the black surface of the Cape pine trees and silver leaf pine.
- Located on the upper floors of the One&Only Cape Town’s Marina Rise block are two signature suites embodying luxury living: the Table Mountain Suite and Presidential Suite. Offering world-class facilities and amenities, these signature suites are designed to anticipate anything one may need with a feeling of ease and a front-row seat at one of the best addresses in the country.
- The Table Mountain Suite is a collaboration of design, nature and luxury with the view of the famous mountain in all its glory. The uniquely designed space comprises free-flowing lounge, dining and bar areas with nuances of natural tones dotted throughout the suite. The master bedroom is filled with natural light and elegance throughout. A seemingly inconsequential design element of the Table Mountain Suite’s lounge area is a table held by a replica of Table Mountain’s Ghost Frog.
- A few doors down and adorned with every conceivable luxury, the Presidential Suite features two bedrooms with gorgeous views of Table Mountain. The aesthetic and symbolic meaning of The Great African Sea Forest can be seen throughout the suite, with cool, blue tones of décor complementing the original works of art and photography from South Africa’s most prominent artists.
- Atop One&Only Cape Town rests an enormous penthouse, called Lion’s Head Penthouse, offering unobstructed views of Table Mountain, Robben Island, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, the Cape Town Harbour and the V&A Waterfront. The exquisite, two-story penthouse comprises four generous en-suite bedrooms, a stylish library, handsome study with fireplace, fully-equipped gym and sauna, beautiful kitchen and scullery with its own service entrance and two separate outdoor entertainment spaces – both with private swimming pools, spectacular views and BBQ facilities. The residence is designed in a modern contemporary style with an open-plan layout and floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise light and frame the outlook, and with an impressive art collection adorning the walls and spaces. The Lion’s Head Penthouse is the ultimate luxury residence and for the utmost discretion the penthouse can be accessed by a private entrance and elevator.
- One&Only Cape Town is home to several bars and restaurants (all but one of them located in the Marina Rise wings):
- The resort’s signature restaurant is the only Nobu in Africa, serving global renowned Japanese-Peruvian cuisine invented by Michelin-starred master chef, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, with a selection of dishes that hero local South African ingredients.
- Ochre is the resort’s breakfast dining room, featuring a design inspired by South African heritage and local elements. Each morning (from 6:30 to 11 am), hotel guests can enjoy a decadent breakfast spread offering delicious sweet, savoury, local and continental dishes along with a variety of hot dishes made to order.
- Famed for its afternoon tea and innovate cocktails, Vista Bar & Lounge is at the heart of the resort, framed by the backdrop of Table Mountain.
- Isola is the only F&B venue located outside the main Marina Rise wing. It offers poolside casual dining to in-house guests, serving Mediterranean and South African cuisine.
- The exclusive Spa Island features one of the most comprehensive and expansive wellness centers in Cape Town. An oasis of serenity and privacy surrounded by water and greenery, the spa offers 12 treatment suites of which two have private wet areas for couples’ treatments. Two vitality pools complement the relaxation spaces, sauna and steam rooms, and a relaxation lounge offering snacks and beverages. One&Only Spa offers tailored treatment plans, making use of powerful authentic techniques, indigenous ingredients and highly natural, paraben-free products produced by ESPA. In addition, facial treatments are available in partnership with French premium skincare brand Biologique Recherche, who have developed an innovative skin assessment and treatment system using their own unique range of high-end skincare products.
- One&Only Cape Town has a long history of supporting African creatives and talent, and the resort is privileged to hold a collection of artwork from esteemed regional artists including Norman Catherine, Walter Oltmann, Willem Boshoff, Johnny Thwala, Claude Chandler, Stanislaw Trzebinski, Ben Tuge, Deborah Bell, Kevin Brand, Esther Mahlangu and Jeremy Wafer, as well as being home to a contemporary African Art Gallery. The latter is positioned on the first floor of the hotel and managed by the Johannesburg-based Melrose Gallery team. The partnership, which began in 2019, is a showcase and celebration of the work and ideas of pan-African contemporary artists. With four captivating exhibitions per annum, the gallery at One&Only Cape Town is open to guests and local residents, supporting African art, culture and creativity. Next to the gallery is a fitness center, featuring state-of-the-art fitness equipment from Technogym with personalised workout programs.
- One&Only Cape Town prides itself on personalised service, and ensuring their guests see and experience the best of what is important to them – opening doors to places, people and memories not always accessible to, or known by, other visitors to the city. The resort has conceptualised and curated a number of experiences available exclusively to guests. Attention is paid to every detail, and quality is assured. These include bespoke wine-tasting experiences, either in the resort’s impressive wine studio, or out in the winelands themselves, visiting choice farms and sampling the country’s greatest creations. Cooking classes, mixology experiences and outdoor activities such as hikes and yoga classes atop Table Mountain provide further opportunities to get a real sense of Cape Town and its residents, leading guests to quickly understand why the city holds the hearts of so many.
- One&Only Cape Town is building on its sustainability efforts, which include food waste solutions and a complete resort-wide ban on single-use plastic. The resort has also embarked on conservation partnerships with Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, whereby a portion of the suites’ revenue goes to both organizations (approximately $300 USD to $350 USD per stay). This contributes to a steady stream of support for parts of South African conservation:
- On Table Mountain, the elusive Ghost Frog is one of the essential focuses of the threatened amphibian program created and run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. With almost 30% of the 135 South African Frogs species categorised as threatened, the urgency for action continues to grow, and the future of these animals looks dire. The Endangered Wildlife Trust is the only South African NGO focusing full-time on frog conservation, locked in a battle to protect a range of amphibians from habitat loss, pollution, contamination, and climate change.
- Created in 2009, the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation has rescued, rehabilitated and released over 800 turtles to date – truly life-saving efforts on South African shores. Turtles are amongst the oldest and most iconic marine animals, and sadly all seven species are listed as endangered or critically endangered. One of the biggest threats to these creatures is plastic, with over 71% of turtle hatchlings rescued found to have consumed it upon arrival at the center.
- With 131 rooms & suites, One&Only Cape Town is a fairly large hotel and might feel a little busy during times of high occupancy. If you are looking for a more intimate luxury property with a small number of rooms, you should have a look at Ellerman House or The Silo. That said, One&Only Cape Town is still my favorite hotel in the city because of its laid-back resort vibe, One&Only ethos and warm hospitality.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- While the Marina Rise rooms offer spectacular Table Mountain views, their balconies face north and are in the shade for most of the day. But frankly, why would you want to spend your time on your hotel balcony in a city like Cape Town? And if you are in need of tanning or relaxing in the sun within the hotel grounds, you can always retreat to the pool area, which is located on its own little island and which enjoys sunshine from sunrise til sunset.
- The waters around the hotel and the private, man-made island are lined by residential condos, which partly block the Table Mountain views from the rooms on the hotel’s lower floors. If an unobstructed view of Table Mountain is what you are looking for, make sure to book a room on one of the higher floors.
- One&Only Cape Town’s swimming pool is heated, except for the winter months (May to September). However, alternate arrangements can be made by the hotel if you want to make use of a heated pool during the colder winter months.
- With 131 rooms & suites, One&Only Cape Town is a fairly large resort, and might feel a bit busy during times of high occupancy. For example, during my stay, the spa was fully booked for most days (so make sure to book your spa appointments prior to arrival). If you’re looking for an intimate luxury property with a smaller number of rooms, you should have a look at The Silo Hotel or Ellerman House. That said, One&Only Cape Town is still my favorite hotel in the city because of its laid-back resort vibe, One&Only ethos and warm hospitality.
- One&Only Cape Town offers world-class resort facilities (especially for a city hotel). IMHO, the following additions could make this already excellent property even better :
- I assume it would be an awesome experience for guests visiting during the colder winter months to be able to relax in an outdoor hot tub near the pool or to enjoy the fabulous views of Table Mountain from around a fire pit on the deck in front of the lobby.
- The hotel is the perfect base to explore the city, especially for first-time visitor, due to its location at the V&A Waterfront, which is a tourism hub. However, IMHO, the real beauty of Cape Town is found on its Atlantic shore, where some of the world’s most stunning beaches are located (Camps Bay, Clifton, Landudno). Although these beaches can easily be reached by taxi, it would be awesome if beach shuttle service was provided by the hotel during the summer months. This would offer its guests the possibility to relax on the beach and to enjoy the best sunsets in the world (hereby bringing the Atlantic Coast beaches a bit closer to the hotel, fitting the property’s resort vibe). Complimentary shuttle service between the Atlantic Coast (Camps Bay) and the V&A Waterfront is offered by several hotels on the Atlantic side of Cape Town, but unfortunately not by the hotels in the V&A Waterfront. A beach shuttle is definitely something that could further differentiate the hotel a bit from its high-end competitors in the area.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 7/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8,8/10
- Overall experience: excellent 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like One&Only Cape Town (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: I recommend to book a room with a beautiful view of Table Mountain.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to early April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town for the best beach weather. During the winter months (June to September), the weather can be wet, cold and overcast (limiting outdoor activities).
HOW TO GET THERE
One&Only Cape Town is a 30 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. The latter is served by several major European, American, Asian and African airlines. Check the Wikipedia page of Cape Town International Airport for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cape Town.
Below is a selection of my photos of One&Only Cape Town. To view more photos (including breakfast as well as dinner at Nobu), click here.
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Very well reported.
Great review as always! our travel consultant booked us into the One and Only in CPT and so glad your report matches her recommendation!
We are scheduled to go to Kenya, SA with Sabi Sands then 4 days in CPT August 2020. The last few days of August we arrive in CPT. Our travel consultant says late June through August for best chance of migration which we want to see, however I saw in your report and if we go to CPT end of August then it may be cold, rainy in CPT. Do we sacrifice the migration, go at end of September 2020 and this way it will be spring in CPT or ditch CPT if we go in August. We are coming a long way from the US to be dissapointed. Thank you so much for your thoughts!
We were just at the One and Only in Sept 2022, capping off an amazing safari in Botswana and SA. Beautiful hotel like their other properties, great service, etc. two things we did not like as they were having a convention-overwhelming crowded and just too big for us. Also, we have eaten at many NOBU’s and this one was disappointing. Otherwise great hotel