Zanzibar Often Referred To As The ‘Spice Island’

Zanzibar Often Referred To As The 'Spice Island'

 The Zanzibar Archipelago’s sat off the eastern coast of Africa, 20 miles into the Indian Ocean from mainland Tanzania. A lot of people think Zanzibar’s one big tropical island, but there are actually more than 40 spread throughout the entire archipelago. Here, island hopping’s not just a holiday pastime, it’s a way of life. You can get out and explore what each island has to offer, the beaches are often stunning, with powdery white sand, shaded by palm trees. The sea is shallow, but venture further out into the sparkling, turquoise water and you'll find coral reefs for great snorkeling and diving. The larger islands are lush and highly fertile and everywhere the air is suffused with the aroma of fruit and spices: it's an intoxicating, exotic atmosphere.

Popular as a post-safari choice, a Zanzibar holiday can also be a great stand-alone escape. The main island offers an exceptional diversity of accommodation, from simple beach lodges and small boutique hotels to all-inclusive beach resorts and luxury hotels.

Stone Town, old Town

Stone Town’s the old quarter of Zanzibar City, the island’s capital. It dates back to the 1st century, and over the years African, Arabian, Indian and European influences have blended to create the way of life here. It’s ripe with things to see and do, from big catholic cathedrals and colonial-style houses, to authentic Hamamni Persian baths. And thanks to all this, the entire district’s been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Zanzibar beach holidays

Options for a Zanzibar beach holiday are many, but broadly, the island can be divided into five areas: Nungwi in the north, the east coast, the south-east, the west coast, and a few offshore islands.

1. Kendwa Beach

This is probably a favorite because of its 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 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 get disturbed by 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.

2. Paje Beach

Paje beach is an exotic beach located on 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.

 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 anyone looking for peace and quiet.

Accommodation Options

Rentable bungalows, lodges, and even dorms abound on Paje Beach. These options are available in both luxury and budget categories.

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 a 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

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 the 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 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.

Accommodation Options

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 you 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 do 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. Remember the beach is very similar to Kendwa, but more for the younger crowd due to its vibrant nightlife.

Things to Do

Scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming are 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.

Accommodation Options

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. 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

What to expect on a Zanzibar beach holiday

Sun, sea and sand: a Zanzibar beach holiday offers these in abundance. Zanzibar’s beaches differ, but almost all feature crystal-clear waters lapping at the edge of powdery-white sand that trickles through the toes. Be aware, though, that off many beaches, especially on the east coast, low tide can reduce the broad, shallow lagoon to a virtually empty puddle, and swimming is often only possible when the tide is in.

It is always worth consulting online tide tables, as the daily range along the East African coast varies through each month and typically ranges from around 1 meter to more than 3 meters.
Zanzibar offers some excellent snorkeling, and world-class diving – which is centered around Mnemba Atoll to the north-west, and the Menai Bay Conservation Area, to the island’s south-west. But even if you’re not a water enthusiast, the chance to view the coastline from a traditional wooden dhow is not to be missed.

If you're in search of a remote island getaway, Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast has two other gems: Pangani, an old town with huge history with nice beach, a new favorite for beach lover, and the newly accessible hideaway of Matema Beach