Zanzibar; the romantic, exotic archipelago, reminiscent of Arabian nights and Indian Ocean indolence. Only 15 minutes flight from the mainland, the wonderfully sleepy island of Zanzibar is one of East Africa’s finest beach destinations, surrounded by coral reefs with idyllic beaches lined by huge sweeping palm trees. Zanzibar beaches are the obvious addition to a safari on mainland Tanzania, or should we say that a short safari is the ovious addition to your Zanzibar holiday, with the beautiful Selous less than an hour away.
Though many visitors spend a night or two in Stone Town, the charismatic island capital, the real attraction of is its glorious coral sand beaches, and the fantastic snorkelling and diving. Tourism has eclipsed spice trading as the main form of income, but islands retain their rustic African charm despite the developments of the last decade. Zanzibar is a land apart, entirely charismatic and well worth a visit.
Zanzibar Beaches – The best beaches in Zanzibar
Nungwi Beach & Kendwa, North Zanzibar
Nungwi and Kendwa beaches are truly beautiful; they are on the only side of the island which is consistently crystal clear water lapping brilliant white sands. The rest of Zanzibar’s beaches (east coast, as the west coast really doesn’t give you anything!) are tidal which means whilst you may be able to sink your toes in to the powdery sand, the sea may be a bit of a trek away, depending on the time of day. Nungwi & Kendwa are home to some big hotels and a backpacker culture, but the beaches are exceptional here, and there are fantastic hotel options if you know where to look.
Nungwi & Kendwa Beaches – Where to stay
Our favourite hotels include the new exciting addition to Zanzibar’s beach resorts, Zuri Zanzibar, Hideaway of Nungwi, Diamonds La Gemma & Essque Zalu. These are all absolutely fantastic value for money and suit those who like to be around a bustling environment and on a stunning beach – staying in these hotels means you get your own slice of privacy in a really fun part of the island.
Matemwe, North East Zanzibar
Matemwe beach can be found slightly to the east of Nungwi and Kendwa. As such, contrary to the more northern beaches, it can be tidal here. The area has been relatively untouched by tourism until recent years, and it can now get a bit busy. However, when the tide is in some hotels here offer a pocket of Indian Ocean paradise for an unbelievable price.
Matemwe Beach – Where to stay
There are a few really well established boutique hotels here far from the madding crowd such as Sunshine Hotel, Matemwe Lodge and Kasha. Sunshine is our favourite to recommend and is a slightly more intimate version of Pongwe Beach Hotel (below), with some fantastic rooms and villas to choose from for a great price. However, when choosing between Sunshine and Pongwe, you must consider the plus of Pongwe’s consistently pristine beach…
Pongwe, East Zanzibar
Pongwe has one of the only east coast beaches which isn’t tidal as it sits neatly in a concave break in the coastline. As such, if you like long beach walks, it is maybe not for you as you don’t get a sweeping beach picture, but it does give you a certain little slice of luxury in as much privacy as you can get on the island.
Pongwe Beach – Where to stay
Pongwe Beach Hotel for the beach and incredible value for money rooms is the only place to consider in this area. It is quirky and not uber-luxury, but does have added bonuses like private pools in the sea view rooms at an absolutely incredible price.
Paje & Dongwe, South East Zanzibar
Paje has more hotels which we like to recommend than in the Northern parts. Situated on the mid-east coast of the island, Paje and Dongwe’s beaches are long and sweeping giving that classic Indian Ocean feel, but again, it can be tidal. You get some super luxury and intimate hoetls though, and as such, some of our absolute favourites are in this area for a very spoiling Indian Ocean paradise.
Paje and Dongwe Beaches – Where to stay
White Sands Villas in Paje is a real glossy luxury find. It’s name pretty much says it all – Its sumptuously vast villas provide clean, simple and yet brilliantly appointed respite, privately swathed in fab sandy gardens. Dongwe is home to Breezes – and contrastingly to White Sands, it is a bigger hotel and mid-range but ideal for families with all the mod cons you could need from a relaxed Indian Ocean family holiday.
For a similarly relaxed environment to Breezes, look no further than Echo Beach – the opposite of pretentious Indian Ocean luxury and ideal for some. Luxuriantly Arabic style, the sister hotels Baraza and The Palms are also amongst the finest hotels on the island. Baraza has 36 bungalows each with a private plunge pool; this is our favourite hotel for families wanting the best the island can offer. The Palms next door has only six rooms and offers a more intimate experience that fits very well with couples wanting to keep to themselves. Any of these would be perfect for a luxury Zanzibar holiday or a Zanzibar honeymoon.
Jambiani, South (South!) East & West Zanzibar
Jiambani is a great place to visit for the best kite surfing on the island as there are consistently good winds. However, our favourite hotels are admittedly up the road towards Paje and Dongwe. As you get further south, the beaches disappear and then up the west coast, apart from the attraction of Stone Town, beach wise, it really isn’t anything compared to the west.
Zanzibar Beach Holidays: Further Reading
While we try and make our website as comprehensive as possible, if you would like some more background information, have a read through the Cadogan Guide to Tanzania and Zanzibar – South East Islands Chapter, North Coast Islands Chapter, East Coast Islands Chapter written by one of our director’s Annabel. The most recent edition was published in 2005 so some of it might be slightly dated but generally it’s as comprehensive as they come.
If what you’ve read here isn’t enough (we hope it is though!), take a look at our blog on further information on where to stay in Zanzibar.