Many low cost and charter flights from European hubs land in Agadir. Although slightly further from Essaouira than Marrakech by road, Agadir is a very viable airport for Essaouira and the drive (largely along the Atlantic coast) although windy and hilly, has great views of deserted beaches and Argan forests. Several such flights arrive late at night, so an overnight stay may be necessary (see below).
There is no rail network in southern Morocco, so the options for travelling from Agadir to Essaouira are hire car, private transfer, public bus or collective ‘grand’ taxi. Depending on the length of your stay and the location of your accommodation in Essaouira, you probably won’t need a car when you get here (see the FAQ on getting around Essaouira), so this post focuses on the other transport options between the two cities.
More and more buses are departing from Imezgane bus station, in a suburb of Agadir about 10km from the centre. I haven’t been, but apparently it’s busy and features all the worst aspects of bus stations and transient populations. Check which station is used by the company you will travel with.
Back in November 2012, we took a bus back to Essaouira from the Massira bus station (which used to be the main one). It’s nearer the centre of town, well-organised and has a decent cafe. Most buses start in Imezgane and then pass through Massira, but potentially not all. The most reliable, best organised companies are CTM, Supratours and Pullmann – all sell you a reserved seat. You can call them all for info and CTM offer online booking. There are many other bus companies used by locals; these companies tend to be cheaper and as a result may be over-crowded, poorly maintained and the ticket price seems to vary (ie tourists pay more). They also tend to take longer as anyone can hop off or on anywhere. I would definitely recommend CTM, Supratours or Pullmann. Our bus was with the Pullman company and left at 20:30. When we travelled (Nov 2012), that was the latest departure for Essaouira – most of the other companies have a morning departure. It was a good bus: comfy and well-driven. Note: each of those three companies above stops in a different location in Essaouira, but none is far from the medina.
Do not let anyone persuade you to take a bus via Marrakech to get to Essaouira – this will double your journey time and may mean a lengthy connection in Marrakech. The route from Agadir to Essaouira along the coast is direct and takes 3 hours (or maybe a bit more, depending on the length of the toilet/tea stop). Buses generally don’t have toilets and some people find the steep, winding coastal road disagrees with their stomach, so take travel sickness tablets if you are sensitive!
You can get a grand taxi (big, often battered, old Mercedes) at any time of the day or night. This could be a good option for a group or if you have missed the buses. It will probably cost you as much as the bus per place and there are 6 places in the taxi, so it won’t be comfortable (unless all the other passengers are really skinny!!) unless you book several places (you can always hire the whole thing). The grand taxis park up in a square called ‘Batouar’ or Place Salaam. It is surrounded by 24 hour cafes if you need to refuel before the journey. The rates are fixed, although drivers might neglect to show you their rate card. Find one which is heading for Essaouira and haggle hard! Agadir grand taxis are white, Essaouira ones are blue. Either can take you once all places are sold, but an Essaouira taxi can only take you to Essaouira.
NB: It is cheaper to take a ‘grand taxi’ to Imezgane to the bus station than a small one, but you might find it difficult to flag down the big taxi.
Several major car hire companies (including Avis, Europcar and Hertz) have offices in Agadir and may offer airport pick-ups or drop-offs.
If the above sounds like hard work and you really want just to get on your way, a private transfer is a great option to take the haggling and the uncertainty out of your journey. You are on holiday, after all. If you are interested in a private transfer from Essaouira to Agadir, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you arrive late in Agadir, my advice would be to get a good night’s sleep, and travel to Essaouira the next day. You can get good deals online in 3/4* package holiday hotels out of season. If the timetables allow, one option would be to get up early the next day, get a petit taxi (orange coloured car, negotiate for the driver to use the meter or give you a fixed price – 10-15dh should do) to Massira to get a bus ticket and leave any luggage. You should be able to reserve on the day of travel, but to be sure, you could reserve with CTM online in advance. You could then spend a morning admiring the beach in Agadir. A day in Agadir is enough in my opinion – the Souk El Had is also worth a visit and I’ve heard good things about the Berber/Amazigh museum.
Phone numbers and schedules (correct at April 2014):
Pullman du Sud: +212 (0) 5 28 84 60 40 (departs Agadir at 2030 for Essaouira)
CTM: +212 (0) 5 28 82 53 41 (website shows departures from Agadir at 0800 and 12:30 for Essaouira) – www.ctm.ma
Supratours: +212 (0) 5 28 84 12 07 or 05 28 22 40 10 (website shows one departure from Agadir at 0900 for Essaouira) – www.supratours.ma
* Please note: schedules *may* change during Ramadan. Read these notes on travelling during Ramadan.