Zanzibar Hotels

North and North West Unguja

The North and North West coast of Zanzibar is renowned for its numerous beach resorts. There are four major foci for travellers to the area; Nungwi, Kendwa, Mnemba Atoll and, in complete contrast, Tumbatu Island. As well as rest and relaxation on the beaches most resorts in the region offer a variety of water-sports, boat trips, diving, village tours and excursions to other parts of the island. However, the major attraction of a coastal holiday on Zanzibar is a chance to escape and take to the beach or pool.


The heart of Northern Zanzibar’s tourist industry is Nungwi’s West-Coast Beach. This has become an increasingly vibrant tourist destination with numerous bars, restaurants and resorts of various ratings. The beach is a busy tourist hub. Some of Zanzibar’s wildest nightlife can be found here. However there are more reserved restaurants offering top quality seafood with views of the ocean.

Though the beach is good and the sea can be bathed in at high-tide, expect the inevitable results of tourism; touts, tacky stalls and bars and a slight air of bitterness from many locals. Long walks along the beach are tricky. It is easy to get stranded by the tide.

The village of Nungwi is ever further removed from the coast due to developments that have sprung up in front of it. This small fishing village has its own bars and restaurants and visitors often take village tours to get an insight into rural Zanzibari life. Again, many locals can be reproachful towards tourists. Their traditional attitudes do not sit easily with swim-suits, drinking and dancing. When visiting villages it is best to cover up and be respectful and polite.

How to get to Nungwi

Nungwi can be reached from Stone Town without too much difficulty. The village is approximately 59 km from the capital. The Number 116 daladala runs there throughout the day from the western side of the Creek Road. The trip takes around 2 hours however, and is not recommended for the light-hearted. Daladalas travel does not represent comfort, cheap as it may be (around TSh 2,000). The daladala stops at the end of the tarmac a short walk from the centre of Nungwi village.

Most visitors choose to arrive from Stone Town by shared minibus. These leave the city at 0800 daily and sometimes at 1500. They can be booked through most Stone Town hotels. The trip costs roughly USD 10 pp each way. The minibus will normally drop you off at your accommodation though drivers may try and persuade you to choose hotels at which they receive commission.

A taxi from either Stone Town or the Airport will cost roughly USD 60. Most hotels will organise transfers for roughly this amount.

Accommodation in Nungwi


3 km to the South of Nungwi, Kendwa is smaller and less developed, but has become increasingly popular over the past five years. The beach at Kendwa is potentially very beautiful. Swimming is possible at high and low tide. Scuba diving and snorkelling as well as other water-sports are very popular. Boat trips on traditional dhows both daytime and at sundown are a wonderful experience. Kendwa is also known for its moon parties and night life which is largely centred around Kendwa Rocks Hotel.

As with Nungwi, do not expect hassle free beaches. Increased tourism has spawned a new race of ‘beach-seller.’ Expect to be approached by young men selling anything from souvenirs to themselves. Furthermore, Kendwa is a very young destination and can be very noisy. It is a great place to choose if you wish to meet people and have fun.

Accommodation in Kendwa

How to get there to Kendwa

One can take the number 116 daladala (a long and bumpy journey) from Stone Town to the junction marked for Kendwa. From here it is a 1½ km walk to the coast along a very rocky track. Alternatively take the daily shared minibus that runs to Nungwi at 0800 from Stone Town. This can be booked through many Stone Town hotels.

From Nungwi you can catch a daladala back down to the Kendwa junction (thus avoiding the major part of the very long and uncomfortable daladala journey). Alternatively one can reach Kendwa from Nungwi by taxi (if available) or even boat. There are no time tabled boats but you should be able to get a ride from a local through enquiring for around TSh 4,000 if sharing, or TSh 20,000 privately. Taxis to Kendwa from Stone Town or the Airport will cost around USD 60.

Mnemba Atoll

Mnemba Atoll is renowned for the best SCUBA diving on Zanzibar and some of the best snorkelling also. This small heart-shaped island, approximately 2.5 km off the coast between Nungwi and Matemwe, is home to the very exclusive Mnemba Island Lodge and its privately owned beach (a contradiction to Zanzibari law).

How to get to Mnemba Atoll

Though one cannot land at the beach (unless one can afford to stay at the luxury resort) day trips including transport, snorkeling, a USD 5 conservation fee and lunch can be arranged from most of the tourist spots on the north coast for around USD 40 - 50 pp.

If you have splashed out on a stay at the resort on Mnemba then the hotel will arrange transfers including boat to the island.


Tumbatu Island

Tumbatu Island is only recommended for visitors with a genuine interest in the island’s history and with some fluency with Kiswahili.

Tumbatu could not be more different from Nungwi and Kendwa. The people of Tumbatu claim to be the direct descendents of the Persian kings and are very traditional. They form two close-knit communities around the major settlements, Jongowe and Kichangani, both with different dialects despite being only 3 km apart.

Tumbatu was an independent state until the middle of the nineteenth century. Seeing the ruins and even meeting local fishermen and farmers can be a genuinely awe inspiring experience. But do not expect to be made welcome unless you are genuinely interested in their culture.

How to get to Tumbatu Island

Some hotels in Kendwa or Nungwi can arrange informal boat-trips to the island. Otherwise it is worth contacting Blue Dolphin Tours. This company is run by a Tumbatun who can arrange tours to the island for those really intrigued by it.

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