Zanzibar is one of the most beautiful and exotic islands in the world. Home to sultan’s palaces, bustling markets and idyllic beaches, Zanzibar is an island paradise for any type of traveller. Although the beaches are where most of us are callled, Stone Town is worth a few days in itself.
However, most visitors are seeking pristine beaches with turquoise water. Each beach in Zanzibar has its own unique atmosphere. The sea varies from deep turquoise in the north, to a kite surfer’s paradise in the east. Ideally, you will have time to visit both, but this guide will help you narrow it down to suit your expectations of the best Zanzibar Beaches.
Nungwi- North Coast
Nungwi is one of the busiest and most popular beaches in Zanzibar. While it can get crowded in high season, don’t let that put you off. Its waters are perfect for swimming at every time of day. Because of this it is perfect for snorkelling. The sand is the soft white you see on postcards. Locals are friendly, helpful and a mine of information on the best tours and excursions.
Nungwi is one of the best situated beaches for a snorkelling trip to Mnemba Atoll. For a shorter trip, there are numerous sandbanks nearby. With a wide selections of hotels and restaurants, which are never too far from a party, Nungwi is my top pick for the best that Zanzibar has to offer.
My picks for Nungwi:
- Stay at Bagamoyo Spice Villas- just a minute’s walk from the beach. Contact directly for best rates.
- Eat at Mama Mia for mouthwatering Italian food.
- Practice yoga while the sun sets on the rooftops of Flame Tree Cottages. Lessons take place in morning and evening and cost around $20 per person.
Kendwa- North-West Coast
Kendwa is situated about a 15 minute drive down the west coast from Nungwi. To me it is Nungwi’s slightly more mature older sister. The beach is much smaller than Nungwi but has the same great water that allows swimming all day. Kendwa’s main attraction is the Kendwa Rocks resort. Outside of the resort, you might find it hard to find a restaurant, although a walk into the village provides more options.
Kendwa Rocks is also home to the Full Moon Party. Taking place on the Saturday after the full moon, the party provides a chilled out beach party vibe. Here, you are guaranteed to meet everyone you’ve crossed paths with on the island! You can easily walk from Kendwa to Nungwi. It takes about 30 minutes on the beach and is a nice stroll. Check the tide times so you don’t get cut off at high tide.
My picks for Kendwa:
- Stay at Kendwa Rocks hotel. Their cottages are perfect for a group.
- Unwind at the Kendwa Rocks rooftop spa.
- Party in Kendwa Rocks to celebrate the Full Moon. Sunset Bar has a fun pre party the night before.
- Snorkel with Zanzibar Watersports at the beautiful Mnemba Atoll.
Read more: Full Moon Party- Zanzibar Style!
Paje- East Coast
Paje is very different to the northern beaches but definitely worth a trip. The vibe is laid-back and chill, perfect for relaxation. Because of this it attracts a backpacker crowd. The beach is mostly used for kite-surfing, which can make swimming a difficult endeavour. However, it can be just as enjoyable to grab a glass of fresh mango juice and watch the surfers do their thing. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are a number of kite-surfing schools that will teach you whatever your level.
Paje is my top pick for eco-travel in Zanzibar. The tide goes out quite a distance providing the perfect conditions for seaweed harvesting. The Seaweed Centre, which is open to visitors, allows the women of Paje to make a fair income for their work. Their homemade soaps, sponges and spa products are to die for!
My picks for Paje
- Stay at New Teddy’s Place or Why Not Villas
- Drink coffee and watch an outdoor movie on the beach at Mr. Kahawa.
Jambiani – East Coast
Jambiani is very similar to Paje. In fact, you can easily walk or drive between the two. Jambiani is the quieter of the two. It’s the place to go if you just want to switch off without being approached on the beach. There are some beautiful resorts here, if that is your preference, but I would still advise you to get out and explore the locality too.
- Stay at The Loop
- Eat at Fadhil’s Restaurant for a truly local experience (Contact Fadhil on +255 778 720 566). Located just beside the Loop, he will serve you amazing home made local food until you can’t eat another bite!
Michamvi/ Pingwe- East Coast
There are many smaller beaches on the east coast that are home to luxury resorts. I won’t go into them in detail as they really depend on your preference and whether you want to spend your stay in a resort or based near a village. However, I will draw your attention to the Michamvi Kae/ Pingwe area as they are home to two of the most interesting activities on Zanzibar. From Michamvi Kae, Surf Zanzibar run Stand-Up Paddleboard tours to the mangrove forest. The money from the tour helps to sustain and conserve the mangroves which are a lifeline to the village to keep the sea at bay.
The famous Rock Restaurant is situated in Pingwe. It is a truly unique dining experience. Situated literally on a rock in the middle of the Indian ocean, the Rock serves up mouth-watering meals. Visit on the night of the full moon for an extra special view. Reservations are essential.
My picks for the Michamvi/ Pingwe Pensinsula:
- See the mangroves with Surf Zanzibar Sunset SUP tour.
- Dine in the middle of the ocean at the Rock Restaurant.
Bububu – 10km Outside Stone Town
I have recently discovered this rarely visited gem, just outside of Stone Town. While the beaches in Stone Town are nothing to write home about, the beach at Bububu is practically deserted of tourists. There are some historic ruins to view. For those who are feeling more active, you can rent kayaks and paddle between some of the local beaches.
- Stay at Mangrove Lodge – a beautiful, Zanzibari-Italian owned eco lodge.
Want to read more like this? Check out my Top 5 Activities in Zanzibar.
Subscribe to the blog to never miss a post!
Thanks to my travel buddies Carmel and Trisha for the beautiful photo of Nungwi and of Stone Town from the sky!