Zanzibar is a tropical island situated 65km off the coast of Tanzania. Swaying coconut palms and white sandy beaches surrounded by azure waters make Zanzibar the most popular white sand beach destination in East Africa.
Zanzibar has some of the most idyllic, unspoiled and just plain beautiful beaches in the world. Contrarily to most famous beach destinations, Zanzibar still has its traditional allure and a feel of unexplored terrain.
Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Unguja and Pemba Islands, and several islets. Zanzibar Island (known locally as Unguja, but as Zanzibar internationally) is 60 miles long and 20 miles wide, occupying a total area of approximately 650 square miles. It is characterized by beautiful white sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs and the magic of historic Stone Town – said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa.
The beaches in Zanzibar are a paradise, interspersed with picturesque fishing villages, where the people live a simple way of life, unchanged over the years. There are more than 25 fantastic beaches in Zanzibar, and some are so peaceful and remote that the only noise breaking the silence is likely to be the ocean.
At the northern tip of the island is Nungwi, approached by a road lined by banana palms, mangroves and coconut trees. This is the dhow building capital of Zanzibar Island, so it is a good place to see traditional craftsmen at work.
On the west coast of Zanzibar, Mangapwani beach is worth a visit, and to the east are the beaches of Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani, Kiwengwa, Uroa, Bwejuu and Jambiani, all with stretches of beautiful white sands.
Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands which are ideal for a day-trip. Prison (or Changu) island is the most popular with tourists because it is only a short trip from Stone Town. Originally, it was used by Arabs to detain recalcitrant slaves, and then a jail was built by the British, but it was never actually used. Visitors to Zanzibar will notice a large population of ancient Aldabra tortoises. Other islets near to Stone Town are Chapwani, Chumbe and Bawe.
Accommodation in Stone Town
Zanzibar Coffee House
The Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel offers a touch of magic and romance in an authentic Arabic house deep in the heart of Stone Town. Transformed into a stylish hotel with harmonious interiors, antiques and rich fabrics, it is one of the oldest buildings in Zanzibar, built in 1885. Guests begin each day with the aroma of fresh coffee on the roof top at breakfast and can relax in the early evening gazing across the minarets as the sun goes down.
There’s a feeling of timelessness at the Zanzibar Coffee House Hotel that conjures up another world. The Zanzibar Coffee House is one of the most reasonably priced lodges that Planet Africa books.
The Swahili House
The Swahili House has 5 floors built around a beautiful court yard – an ideal spot to enjoy a quiet moment away from busy Stone Town life.
All the rooms are restored and decorated in traditional Swahili style. The Swahili House would definitely not be the same without the rooftop terrace, which houses a bar, restaurant and a very relaxing Jacuzzi overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Enjoy a cocktail, lunch or dinner while indulging in stunning views of Stone Town and the Swahili Coastal area.
Kisiwa House is centrally located on a quiet street amidst the hustle and bustle of the ancient village of Stone Town.
With only 11 rooms, Kisiwa offers an intimate feel and the décor is very tasteful. The staffs are friendly and more than willing to help answer your many questions about Stone Town.
Complete with courtyard and rooftop restaurant, you are guaranteed an authentic welcome to Zanzibar.
Mbweni Ruins Hotel
Mbweni Ruins is a small hotel just outside of Stone Town. It is perfect for those who want to be close to the museums, shops and restaurants of Stone Town, whilst remaining on the beach.
It is only 15 minutes by car to the center of Zanzibar’s capital, and Mbweni provide a free shuttle service three times daily.
Mbweni Ruins sits in lush tropical gardens that slope gently down towards the sea. It has lovely communal areas, all with wonderful views across the sea and an unobstructed view of the sunset. The bar/lounge and dining area is a large open-sided thatch building, with a separate wooden deck that extends out over a high coral cliff, above the beach. There is also a lovely pool down by the beach which has lots of loungers for lazing.
There are a large number of activities to choose from, from kayaking through the mangrove channels that surround the area, walking in the gardens, dhow excursions, diving, fishing and use of the Bustani Spa.
Accommodation in Zanzibar Beachside
Z Hotel – Z Hotel
Z Hotel is a chic, boutique hotel situated in a secluded plot on the corner of an idyllic beach in Nungwi, located on the northern tip of Zanzibar.
Set in a lush, tropical garden with direct access to the white powder beaches and warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the Z hotel has been finished to a high specification by an international team of architects and interior designers: each room has floor to ceiling glass doors leading onto a balcony which looks out across the Ocean.
All rooms feature LCD TVs, DSTV cable television, Wi-Fi and Philippe Stack furniture. If you want to be in a bustling area with ample opportunities for swimming in the sea, then the Z Hotel is a good option for you.
Anna of Zanzibar
Anna of Zanzibar is a very exclusive boutique hotel on the beautiful eastern coast of Zanzibar. You will stay in one of only four villas with elegant colonial style décor and sweeping views over the Indian Ocean.
Rooms are equipped with air conditioning, wireless internet connection, mini bar, and wine cooler – so you will never be without your creature comforts.
The garden pool and beach are very conducive to long lazy days.
The Sunshine Hotel
The Sunshine Hotel is an intimate 15 room beach hotel, located in Matemwe on the north-east coast of Zanzibar. Carefully created by professional designers, this hotel has a uniquely relaxing ambience.
Set right on an unspoiled stretch of white sandy beach, lined with palm trees and washed by warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, it’s a perfect gateway from every-day life.
You can relax on the balconies or verandas; cool down with a refreshing drink at the swimming pool facing the Ocean and chill out on comfortable traditional benches in the lounge area of our bar/restaurant.
Breezes Beach Hotel
Breeze Beach Hotel is a tastefully decorated hotel & spa on an idyllic beach. A wide variety of activities – from diving, sailing and yoga, to tennis and movies – amongst other things – you and your children will have plenty of entertainment at this seaside Zanzibar resort.
The full service Frangipani Spa offers a wide variety of beauty and health treatments for those wanting to indulge.
The personalized service, excellent cuisine, and warm hospitality make Breezes a true pleasure for urbanites looking to spend a holiday completely at ease.
Shooting Star Lodge
Shooting Star Lodge is a laid back, cozy lodge with a great atmosphere and a fantastic pool on a beautiful stretch of beach.
The couple who run the place have made it their mission to ensure that every guest is well looked after – we are sure you will be very happy in their care.
Another good mid-range places although prices are slightly higher.
Pongwe Beach Hotel
Pongwe Beach Hotel is set in a stunning location on top of rocks that tower above a small bay. The whole place has a traditional Zanzibar feel to it: whitewashed walls and thatched roofs, a lush garden with palm trees, friendly staff as well as a swimming pool.
All rooms have private bathrooms and ceiling fans. This is the best mid-range option in our opinion – very relaxed and intimate.
Matemwe Retreat takes all the intimacy of the Bungalows and turns it up a notch.
It’s even more exclusive and private consisting of just three rooms beautifully situated and with their own private pool and staff. The perfect destination for honeymooners.
Matemwe Bungalows & Matemwe Retreat
Matweme Bungalows and Matweme Retreat are located on the northeast coast of Zanzibar on one of the best beaches the island has to offer, adjacent to the well-known Mnemba Atoll around which some of most spectacular diving can be found.
Both Matemwe Bungalows and Matemwe Retreat come highly recommended by Planet Africa. One of our favorite’s destinations.
Matemwe Bungalows is an intimate lodge with just twelve luxury suites, each with views over the Indian Ocean.
The relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and excellent seafood, along with two swimming pools and lush gardens make it the ultimate, exclusive beach location. Its remoteness will make you feel like you’re on your own private beach.
Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel
On the northernmost peninsula of Zanzibar Island, Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel overlooks a sparkling expanse of iridescent Indian Ocean, a cluster of whitewashed and palm thatched cottages in rich tropical gardens.
Infused with the laid-back and exotic spirit of Zanzibar, this is a great place to relax and enjoy all that this extraordinary part of the world has to offer. The lush gardens drop down onto one of the finest and most unspoilt beaches on the island, which in turn is fringed by a wide and thriving coral reef.
All 32 rooms are tastefully furnished, with hand-crafted four poster beds and indigenous decor, and all have balconies, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, hair-dryers, electronic safes and en suite facilities with deluxe bathroom amenities.
Diving, fishing, water sports, access to a games room and the Peponi Spa, tours and excursions all mean you won’t be short of things to do while staying at this excellent beach lodge.
Fumba Beach Lodge
Fumba Beach Lodge is the perfect beach holiday resort. Located on a peninsula on the southwest tip of Zanzibar, it is a tropical paradise hideaway set well away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in Zanzibar yet only 40 minutes from Stone Town, the historical capital of Zanzibar, and from the airport.
The Lodge has 26 bandas set in beautiful gardens and shaded by baobab and palm trees. There are 20 deluxe rooms with en-suite bathrooms and private terraces, together with 4 luxury suites each with en-suite bath, open air shower, and a private roof terrace. For the ultimate in luxury there are the 2 baobab suites. These are built into enormous old baobab trees and have open air en-suite facilities with bath and walk-in shower, plus private verandas with seating and hammocks.
There is an infinity pool with sunbathing area, and close by is the Dhow Bar which is constructed from an authentic Zanzibarian dhow. There are several almost hidden shady seating areas where you can relax and three sandy beaches overlooking the sparkling Indian Ocean.
Echo Beach Hotel
Echo Beach Hotel is a small intimate hideaway set in a tranquil location on the east coast of Zanzibar overlooking a beautiful white sand beach and the warm sparkling blue waters of the Indian Ocean. A true paradise retreat providing the perfect beach holiday.
The hotel has 9 large individually designed en-suite rooms with verandas all facing the sea and set in pretty gardens around the swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Local materials have been used where possible in the construction of the bandas, with hand carved balconies, locally crafted furniture, antiques and fine silks. Each veranda has a table and chairs and also a day bed for complete relaxation.
Excellent food using fresh local produce is served in the small restaurant provided by the owner – a French trained chef. You can sit and relax with a cool drink in the adjacent lounge/bar area overlooking the beach and the infinity pool.
Diving, snorkeling, boat trips and spice tours can be arranged, and beauty treatments are also on offer.