The only times I’ve ever been to Cape Town have been for business conferences—but that’s no excuse not to carve out time to explore the city. I’ve learned that the best way to get beneath the surface of a destination when you’re short on time is to have a local take you around. Here are 5 great Cape Town tour companies that will get you off the tourist path and open your eyes to a new side of the city.

1. Escape + Explore
Ingram Casey, the founder of year-old outfitter Escape + Explore, has curated Cape Town’s coolest adventurers to show you the wild side of the city. Part of the fun is getting to know the amazingly cool guides, including four-time South African surf champ Nikita Robb, ultra runner Graeme Trautmann, and Matt Botha, who summited Kilimanjaro barefoot. If you’re in town on business, the crew doesn’t mind rising at dawn to scoop you up in their adventure utility vehicle for a sunrise hike up Lion’s Head, a trail run atop Table Mountain or a SUP session in Camps Bay. If you’ve got more time they can combine activities for a multi-adventure day peppered with interesting facts about Cape Town’s history, culture, and environment.

2. Run Cape Town
Short on time? Explore Cape Town at a faster pace with Run Cape Town. Tours allow you to sightsee while also getting a workout. It doesn’t matter if you’re speedy or slow, the pace is tailored to your fitness level. Training for a marathon? Your guide can take you on a route to match your training program. Choose between an urban run through Cape Town’s historical city center or a coastal run along False Bay. For something truly unique, run an 8 to 10K route through the streets of the Gugulethu township.

3. Andulela Experience
Co-founder Monique Le Roux and her team at Andulela Experience specialize in connecting visitors with locals. The popular cooking and food tours allow you to actually sit down at the kitchen table in a local’s home as they explain how to prepare traditional Cape Malay dishes such as samosas and koesister (a type of spicy doughnut). The Cape Town Jazz Safari Dinner Tour takes visitors into the home of a local musician who performs while you dine on a four-course meal.

4. Ikasi Experience
Ikasi Experience was founded to develop township entrepreneurship and talent throughout Cape Town. Ikasi is a slang term for township and co-founder DJ Loyd says he wants to showcase what’s good about township culture rather than what’s wrong. Some of the organization’s many projects include a township-based market where vendors have free access to stalls, a mobile soup kitchen, and a mentorship program. Ikasi Experience Tours are meant to tell the untold township stories, explains Loyd. “There’s not filter. We take people into the shack and they hear stories right from people in the community.”

5. Cape Sidecar Adventures
There’s no better way to take in Cape Town’s spectacular coast than in a vintage World War II sidecar. Cape Sidecar Tours will take you past the beaches of Camp Bay and into Hout Bay and even out to Constantia for wine tastings at boutique cellars such as Beau Constantia.

Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to Cape Town!

Photo by Marie Frei