Watch our Zanzibar Video trip before you read this article 🙂
Zanzibar went above and beyond our expectations. But that’s also because we didn’t expect much. I’ve only seen it in photos and didn’t really have the chance to do any research before coming as we came for work so everything was prepared for us. Zanzibar is an island paradise set in the beautiful East African coast. It is renowned for its amazing beach coastline overlooking the Indian ocean. Apparently, the beaches here are among the finest that Africa has to offer, making them a favorite hang out and holiday spot for tourists. There are even direct flights now from some European countries. The beaches of Zanzibar are characterized by soft sandy white beaches and sparkling turquoise waters, very much like Boracay in the Philippines, one of my go-to beaches.
The Zanzibar Archipelago
This extensive group of islands is located 25 miles off Dar es Salaam, the main entry hub to Tanzania for international travelers. Zanzibar, though part of Tanzania, is a semi-autonomous land with their own government. Zanzibar archipelago is made up of two major islands – Unguja and Pemba island. Ugunja happens to be the largest and most famous. Aside from its exotic beaches, Zanzibar also offers a mixture of wildlife viewing, historical tours, and culinary experiences. The island is home to some of the world’s most fascinating species, including whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins, red colobus monkeys, dugong and coelacanth (a species thought to be extinct with dinosaurs).
Top Beaches in Zanzibar
Zanzibar offers a perfect romantic holiday spot for couples and honeymooners. But it makes a perfect destination too for family and friends with lots of activities to keep them occupied. The island offers diverse watersports like swimming with dolphins, snorkeling and diving or going on a sunset cruise in the traditional sailing dhow. Below are the beaches we have had the chance to visit:
1. Kendwa Beach
This is probably our favorite because of its “hyggelig” vibe. There are well set-up cozy beach bars and restaurant lighting sets a romantic mood. Unlike other beaches, this one does not have issues with high or low tide so swimming here is possible at any time of the day. It is not too windy neither and doesn’t have waves so it’s definitely the perfect setting for an ultimate beach-bum experience. Kendwa beach has soft white sand with clear bluish waters and offers a spectacular view of the sunset.
Things to Do
Beach sports like volleyball and soccer add to the already exciting vibe of the beach. The azure waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Sunsets in Kendwa beach are usually accompanied by active nightlife and parties but didn’t have the impression that it was too loud and rowdy. Most of the accommodation is well placed in separate buildings from the restaurants so once in the room, you don’t really get disturbed from the parties below.
Who should visit?
This beach is good for everyone particularly solo travelers looking to socialize. It’s perfect for families too with plenty of activities to do for kids including island tours. It’s not as quiet as its neighboring beaches but unless you only want to hear the sounds of wind, then this beach just has the right level of chill vibe.
Kendwa beach has a variety of accommodation options to suit just about any style and budget. From the more high-end luxury hotels with all the amenities to those with just basic facilities, you can be sure to finding something that meets your preference.
We stayed at Sunset Kendwa and it’s not exactly beachfront. It’s a good 5 minute walk from the restaurant but we like the exercise. It’s a quality midrange accommodation and our room had a balcony that has some views of the sea.
2. Paje Beach
Paje beach is an exotic beach located in the southeast coast of Zanzibar. It feels more laid back here and secluded but can be too windy. It also gets low tide for a better part of the day. We stayed in a 3-star accommodation but it was actually our favorite. It was like a mini villa, beach-front and we had chairs outside to enjoy the best view of the sea.
Things to do
Paje beach is the place to be if you are interested in windsurfing or kitesurfing and scuba diving. You can also swim in the lukewarm waters however, during the low tide, you have to make do with sunbathing. Reef walks and sailing on dhows are also possible.
Who should visit?
Paje is a great spot for honeymooners, for solo travelers on a journey within, and for anyone looking for peace and quiet.
Rentable bungalows, lodges, and even dorms abound on Paje Beach. These options are available in both luxury and budget categories. In our 4 days stay at Cristal Resort, we ate all of our meals from the restaurant of our lodge. We weren’t eating meat and had really good vegetarian options, we don’t remember feeling gastronomically-deprived at all. We saw some walk-ins come to eat so they must be among the good ones in the area because it doesn’t seem like there’s many.
3. Bwejuu Beach
Bwejuu is a seaweed fishing village located just north of Paje. It’s not the best beach for swimming by Zanzibar’s standards, but its natural beauty and unique atmosphere draws you in. The cooling evening breeze and sight of swaying palm trees at this beach make it outstanding as more of a retreat. Bwejuu beach is quiet and a good place if you are looking for a spot to reflect and clear your head.
Things to Do
Bwejuu makes for a nice day trip accessible by a short van ride if you’re staying at Paje. Snorkeling and swimming are also some of the most popular activities here though I’m not personally thrilled at the thought. You can also take leisure walks around the village, enjoy a nice cold beer from few but cozy bars, or sunbathe undisturbed.
Who should visit?
Like Paje Beach, Bwejuu can be a great escape for new couples and anyone looking for peace and quiet. It can be more quiet and secluded here so if you come for self-reflection and don’t mind the algae on the beach when swimming, this can be what you’re looking for. We didn’t stay here and didn’t have the impression that there were a lot of accommodation options compared to Kendwa or Paje so make sure to book in advance.
4. Jambiani Beach
Jambiani is a sleepy fishing village located on the southeast coast of Zanzibar. The beach is quite spectacular with amazing views and color spectrum of the ocean. If you’re not planning to spend much time in Stone Town, then Jambiani may be the next best place to arrange tours around the island. It’s not quite as good for swimming as Paje or Kendwa due to fluctuating tides, but swimming is not the only thing you do at the beach.
Things to Do
Jambiani is pretty well rounded in terms of activities — from kitesurfing and deep sea fishing to snorkeling and even blue safari tours, an activity where you are taken in a boat to different sandbanks and you swim in the pure waters, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing. You can also take leisurely strolls along the white sands where you can see women harvesting seaweed during low tide. You can also get a beer from one of the accommodations that’s sits elevated from the beach so you get nice sweeping views of the sea, both majestic during low tide and high tide.
Who should visit?
Jambiani is great for all kinds of travelers. If you’re interested in watersports or island adventures, Jambiani Beach has lots to offer, as well as catering to those who are looking to spend a quiet and leisure vacation without too much noise.
There’s a good variety of accommodation from budget bungalows to more expensive boutique hotels here at Jambiani. Some places attract a younger crowd and can be quite loud at night though we haven’t experienced this, while others are perfect for families or couples.
5. Nungwi Beach
Located at the northern tip of Zanzibar, Nungwi beach is home to over 20 dive spots and some scenic areas for relaxing. It is an exotic beach with pristine white sand and turquoise waters that does not have to deal with high and low tide. It’s perfect for swimming round the clock without having to chase the ocean. Nungwi beach is also famous for its party atmosphere.
Things to Do
Scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming are definitely great options here. Beach sports like soccer and volleyball are also available. One major highlight is watching the amazing sunset while cruising in the dhow sailing boat. You can also visit the Mnarani Turtles Conservation park at the center of the village.
Who should visit?
Nungwi is a great place for groups of friends and singles looking for exotic nightlife action, parties, and social interaction. We didn’t choose to stay here as we felt Kendwa was more our vibe but we were told by our tour operator that the beach is very similar to Kendwa, but more for the younger crowd due to its vibrant nightlife.
Nungwi is renowned as a beach resort town in Zanzibar so it boasts a variety of high-end, all-inclusive resorts as well as smaller hotel style residences and bungalows. Many of the resorts here cater specifically to Italian tourists who often fly straight from Italy and spend their entire Zanzibar holiday at their resort without leaving. Nungwi has very few local style restaurants. Nevertheless, hotels and lodges here provide some pretty good local dishes, though they may not be as cheap.
Other Beaches in Zanzibar
Below are other beaches worth mentioning but we didn’t get the chance to visit. These are more idyllic beaches that receive fewer visitors and therefore more quiet areas. The beach quality may not be the best and they get several hours of low tide. But we think these would be great options for 2nd-time travelers or those looking for other secluded get-away options.
- Pongwe beach
- Matemwe beach
- Kizimkazi beach
- Kiwengwa beach
- Michamwi beach
How to Get to Zanzibar
From Dar Es Salaam, you can fly or take a ferry to Zanzibar. The ferry takes about 3 hours to arrive and costs around $30. Upon arrival at the ferry terminal in Zanzibar, you will have to pass through immigration before proceeding with your tour so make to bring your passport bearing the Tanzania visa. You can also get a visa from Zanzibar on arrival.
If flying, the cost would be around $60. The Zanzibar International Airport is located just a few kilometers from the main city center of Stone Town. Once you arrive, you can take a taxi and begin exploring the island. There is also an option to fly from Arusha, though with a very small plane of around 10-12 capacity. There are also direct flights from several European cities such as Germany, Italy, and Belgium.
How To Get Around the Beaches in Zanzibar
You can hire a local tour operator to arrange your entire trip or parts of your trip. Renting a car is also possible but I heard that the process can be tedious and I don’t think this is worth it since you only drive some parts of your trip and mostly stay put in your chosen beach. We have seen tourists drive with a motorbike so I guess this is a more flexible option. In our case, we were picked up by our tour operator from when we arrived by Ferry and brought to our hotel. The next day, they arranged for us to see Stonetown with a local tour guide (recommended) and the other days, we were picked up to drive to the beaches. There are local vans and buses around Zanzibar. We have used them to visit the other beaches in certain areas and they are safe, cheap and comfortable (doesn’t get too crowded). There is no timetable though or specific route information but you can easily consult your hotel how to get to your desired destination, and they would be happy to give you all the information. They can also arrange tours for you and chosen activities. Overall, arranging the trip by yourself especially if you’re alone or a couple would be very doable and you can just wing it there. Those with kids in tow or elders may want to book the tours in advance with your chosen accommodation.
We absolutely loved our stay in Zanzibar and would go back in a heartbeat! The quality of the beach and diversity of activities you can do, plus how accessible it is with bus rides, makes it an ideal getaway on its own worth traveling to. When you come, allot at least 5 full days to really appreciate her beauty. When you’re coming for a safari too, it’s best to do Zanzibar after so you can just relax and let go after an action-packed wildlife encounter. Save the best for last!