The best beaches in Zanzibar

The island of Zanzibar, also known as Unguja, is undoubtedly the most famous of the islands that make up the Zanzibar archipelago. Its wonderful coast formed by white beaches surrounded by majestic palm trees and bathed by a crystalline sea attracts thousands and thousands of tourists every year. Considering its size, one of the questions immediately comes to mind is: “What area of the island to choose?

Zanzibar, Kendwa beach

Zanzibar offers a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets ranging from guesthouses to fabulous luxury resorts. The decision on which area to stay in is entirely up to you. All the most touristic areas offer long pristine beaches of fine white sand, bathed by a crystal-clear sea. After spending a day in Zanzibar city to visit the ancient Stone Town, the main tourist resorts that boast the most beautiful beaches on the island are Kendwa, Nungwi, Matemwe and Paje.

  • The historic Stone Town

Stone Town is the historic district of Zanzibar City, the main city on the island. Your visit to Zanzibar would not be complete without strolling through its labyrinthine alleys and characteristic bazaars. Stone Town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Its history, culture, architecture and cuisine make it one of the must-see places in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar, Stone Town Fort
  • Brief description of the best area in Zanzibar

North coast: it is one of the best known and most popular areas of the whole island. The district of Nungwi is a lively area thanks to several hotels, beach clubs, restaurants and pubs. The long white sand beach also boasts spectacular sunsets, and the coral reef off the coast is perfect for diving and snorkelling.

North West Coast: this area is also trendy and frequented by tourists. The district of Kendwa offers a very long white sand beach bathed by an incredibly crystalline sea. Unlike the other areas, Kendwa is the most suitable for swimming because it is less affected by the phenomenon of low tide. This location is also known for the bustling nightlife and full moon parties.

North East Coast: The district of Matemwe boasts a long and picturesque beach (it is the longest beach in Zanzibar) fringed by tall palm trees and traditional fishermen’s cottages, which offer a fascinating glimpse into the local culture. A few kilometres off the coast of Matemwe is the island of Mnemba, famous for its pristine and easily accessible coral reefs. Matemwe is probably the area that offers the best diving opportunities on the whole island. We did the Mnemba boat tour from Kendwa. The issue in this area is the low tide, which sometimes makes access to the sea quite tricky.

South East Coast: The district of Paje, on the southeast coast, offers huge stretches of white sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze and crystal clear waters. Paje is also popular for its water activities, especially among amateur and professional kitesurfing enthusiasts.

South Coast: The southern area is less touristy and has more coves than beaches (most are small private hotel beaches). It is the part of the island where the most local inhabitants reside. You can immerse yourself more in the local culture in the south and arrange a fascinating spice tour. The reef is located in shallow water, and you will be able to spot turtles and hundreds of fish. In the southwest, you can visit Kizimkazi for a dolphin safari.

Fewer tourists beaches are Kiwengwa, Bwejuu, Michanvi, Jambiani, and Uroa.

Read our post: How to plan the trip to Zanzibar.

The tides in Zanzibar

The coast of Zanzibar is affected by the phenomenon of the tides. Therefore, getting to the sea and swimming can be difficult for some moments. The north coast between Nungwi and Kendwa is the most suitable for swimming, whereas the southeast coast is the most affected by the tide.

Suggested itinerary

Considering the island’s beauty, we suggest spending at least a week in Zanzibar. During our stay, we visited Stone Town (a day the city and a day Prison Island); then we moved to Kendwa, Nungwi (boat tour to Mnemba), and, in the end, we reached Pajè, in the southeast of the island, with its long beach lined with palm trees and the coral reef 300 meters from the shore. Pajè beach is lovely, but it becomes almost impossible to take a swim at low tide.

Zanzibar, Matemwe beach

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