A Kenya beach stay is perfect for unwinding before or after a safari, a honeymoon treat or to get away from grey days in the northern hemisphere. Kenya beach holidays offer a great mix of stunning white beaches, colourful marine life and the unique Swahili culture. There’s a coral reef running the length of the country which both protects the coast and offers great diving and snorkelling. The Kenya coast is also a wildlife haven. It is bordered by forests hiding elusive elephant herds and river deltas and estuaries full of crocodile and hippo. For the best Kenya beach holidays, you are looking at one of three possible areas:
- South and just north of Mombasa lie some great beaches for first-class beach holidays. About an hour’s drive south of Mombasa is the famous lovely and lively Diani Beach. Further south again are some smaller beach resorts.
- At Malindi, a number of international-standard resort hotels lie on idyllic tropical beaches. Malindi lies about 2 hours north of Mombasa. Watamu Bay, to the south is quieter and the Marine Reserve with its coral reefs affords excellent snorkelling and diving.
- Lamu Island, off northern Kenya, is a long-term favourite. A magical, atmospheric, slightly crumbling old Arab port, in whose narrow alleys unique Swahili traditions and customs have been preserved. It’s best for the more adventurous and seasoned visitor to Kenya.
Kenya Beach options – Diani Beach
Set slightly away from the larger hotels are bijoux houses for families, luxurious private villas and romantic retreats. Funzi Keys and Alfajiri Villas set the standards here. For more modest budgets, Asha Cottage in Diani and the Pinewood Beach Resort & Spa on Galu Beach are great options.
After Mombasa, Malindi is Kenya’s second largest coastal town. It’s an interesting mix of the local Swahili culture together with Arab and more recent Italian and German influences. Several international-standard resort hotels lie on idyllic tropical beaches. Malindi Marine Park draws plenty of visitors, and a break in the reef allows waves big enough to surf to reach the shore. Alternatively try your hand at deep sea fishing or visit the reefs and marvel at the colourful fish from a glass-bottomed boat.
Watamu Bay, to the south, is a quieter option. The Marine Park, with around 700 species of fish, affords excellent snorkelling and diving. It used to be a quiet fishing village and still has the same ambience but now it also has a number of resort hotels and private holiday homes. We recommend Hemingways. Close to Watamu are the ruins of the lost town of Gedi. It is an important archaeological site and well worth a visit.
Shanzu and Mombasa
Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city. While the cobbled streets and colourful, exotic markets are entrancing, the sheer hustle and bustle of Mombasa can be overwhelming! Most visitors visit the old town of Mombasa as a day excursion to soak up the atmosphere. But they prefer to stay on the long stretches of white beach.
The Lamu Archipelago is a collection of unspoilt, idyllic islands off the far north of Kenya. Lamu is the largest. For centuries this has been a calling point for the Arab dhow traders trading spices, mangrove poles and ivory. More recently, it became a rich hippy destination, beguilingly different from the rest of Africa.
Lamu Town on Lamu Island is a highlight; a magical, atmospheric, slightly crumbling old Arab port. Here, unique Swahili traditions and customs have been preserved from outside influence. There are no cars in Lamu town, as the alleyways are too narrow, so your transport is by donkey, dhow boat or on foot! Life appears to have changed very little over the years. The streets are lantern-lit at night and the scent of spices and seafood mix in an irresistible way. You can while away happy hours watching the fishermen, the traders and the donkeys. The more energetic can shop for local woodcarvings or crafts.
On the other side of the island, a 10 minute boat ride away, low-profile Europeans have renovated old houses in the nearby village of Shela. Some of these are let as exclusive use villas.
Activities include windsurfing, creek fishing or deep-sea fishing, sailing, day trips to Lamu Town. Another highlight is the ancient ruined forts of Manda Island. From November to March, there is snorkelling and diving on offer.
Other islands nearby include Manda and Pate. These have Swahili ruins dating back centuries as well as some luxurious hidden away beach retreats such as Manda Bay.