Rooi Els was founded in the 1930s when 3 business men, namely Harold Porter, Arthur Youldon and Jack Clarence, bought the land. Rooi-Els, translated into Afrikaans as Red Alder – despite the fact that the Red Alder tree no longer occurs anywhere near town -, is the first little village you reach as Clarence Drive meets Hangklip. It is just five kilometres south of Kleinmond, and for this reason the little hamlet often fades into obscurity, lumped together with Kleinmond.
The nearby Hangklip Lighthouse, which can be accessed via a walking trail along the coastline, was built in 1960.
The town roads are narrow, un-tarred and without street lights. Klein-Hangklip mountain dominates the village, and is home to a pair of Verreaux's eagles. Other animals that may be noted are chacma baboons, rock hyrax, small antelope, African clawless otters and occasionally caracal and leopard.
Rooi Els does not boast a long strip of sandy beach for its angular nature means that the little town is surrounded on three sides by water. To the east is the Rooi Els River estuary that drains into the sea after flowing under the bridge that carries Route 44 across it. It is a beautiful beach to walk on, swim in and dive and boat from, and sunsets here are notorious. It also functions as an excellent whale watching site during winter.
Birders love Rooi Els for the endemic Cape rockjumper, rock thrush and other unusual birds, and residents even claim to have seen the odd leopard on their roads on a moonlit night. On the north bank of the Rooi Els River, roughly a kilometre from the sea, is the Rooiels Cave where Stone Age relics have been uncovered.