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The Best Zanzibar Beaches (and where to stay)

Best Zanzibar Beaches

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

Best beaches in zanzibar

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.
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Kendwa- North-West Coast

Kendwa Rocks

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

Best Zanzibar Beaches

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

Zanzibar Best Beaches

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

Best Zanzibar Beaches

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.

Beaches in Zanzibar

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Thanks to my travel buddies Carmel and Trisha for the beautiful photo of Nungwi and of Stone Town from the sky!

36 thoughts on “The Best Zanzibar Beaches (and where to stay)

  1. Kelly Duhigg

    Great read. I love how you broke the post down by each beach and specific thinga to do and see there. Makes me want to go ro zanzibar. I also love how you made it feel like each beach has its own personality. Thank you!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Thanks for reading! I was surprised by the different vibe to each beach, each totally Zanzibari but also totally different.

  2. Brittany

    Your photos of each of the different beaches are beautiful! I really like how you explained how each beach is different and where to stay/eat and the activities you can do at each place! Beautiful content!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Thank you! 🙂 I wanted to include the information I wish I’d known before I went there. Thanks for reading!

  3. Jean

    Oh I’d never considered going to Zanzibar for beaches. Looks like a great place to pretend to be a mermaid. The photos are making me miss the beach!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Haha now you’re making me consider buying one of those mermaid tails for my next trip 😛

  4. Raymond Carroll

    Nice post. Pictures are great. The only country I’ve been to in Africa is Egypt. Worked there in the 1990’s – El Minia, Beni Suef, & Al Fayoum. Have always wanted to see more of the continent. Zanzibar looks lovely. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’d love to visit Egypt! Africa is definitely a continent worth exploring. I’ve only seen a tiny piece yet every time I leave with another country on my list!

  5. Pete

    Days of research there. And nights too, evidently! Very useful information to have – exactly the sort of thing you won’t find easily online searching.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I will be more than happy to return to research some more in the near future 😉 Thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      The fruit and juice there is amazing! I never knew what fruit tasted like until I went to Zanzibar 😛

  6. Emma

    My best friend went here and said it was the most amazing place she’s ever been to in the world. I think she might be right. Those beaches are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Anyone I know who visits Zanzibar comes away saying the same thing. There’s a reason I’ve been back 4 times 😉

  7. Cori

    It’s amazing how different one beach can be to another, even when they look similar in photos! The locals can always tell you which beach is for what and all the unwritten rules. I’m totally enamored with the Rock Restaurant! Very cool!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      My top tip for Zanzibar is definitely to make local friends, even just to find out the inside scoop on the Kendwa/Nungwi rivalry 😉 The Rock is a truly unique dining experience, it was one of those “pinch myself” moments 🙂

  8. Ivy

    Thank you for this list! We’re planning on visiting Tanzania in November and were having a hard time deciding where to base ourselves on Zanzibar. Sounds like Nungwi will be most fitting for us

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I feel Nungwi has the best of everything! It’s not going to feel remote but there are quieter parts of the beach and plenty of sandbanks to visit by boat when you want that “deserted island” feel. Enjoy Zanzibar!

  9. George

    Thank you for showcasing this beautiful place and opening my eyes to Zanzibar as a travel destination. The beaches looks amazing and it seams like a perfect place to capture some great beach portraits. Also, how clear are the water? As a hobby photographer I’m in constant research for the perfect destination to take underwater photos. Thank you for this post, its much appreciated.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Zanzibar has made me vow to get a GoPro! The snorkelling there was amazing. I couldn’t believe how far ahead I could see underwater!

  10. Abigail

    These beaches are all so gorgeous. A slice of paradise on Earth. Kendwa is my favorite among the list – those beach huts look like straight out off a page from a travel guide! So picturesque!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’ve heard they’ve renovated the hotel there even further since I was last there. The spa in Kendwa is to die for!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Me too. I felt like Indiana Jones ducking under branches and dodging roots on the paddle board!

  11. neha

    I have heard a lot about Zanzibar recently. And your post reaffirms what I have learnt about this pristine place. This makes me want to go there even more. The beaches are so different and thus you are spoilt by choice..

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      It really is paradise! I never expected that all the beaches would be so different. I’d definitely suggest beach hopping while there 🙂

  12. Adrenaline Romance

    The first time we heard about Zanzibar was in a Metal Gear game we played many years ago. Hehehe!

    Kidding aside, these are beautiful, sandy beaches! Many of them look very similar to the beaches we have here in the Philippines. If we have the chance, we will visit Zanzibar.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Oh I would love to visit the Philippines someday! I am definitely a beach girl at heart but love the history in Zanzibar too.

  13. Elaine

    I so want to go to The Rock!! We were supposed to go to Tanzania and Zanzibar at Christmas but switched to Namibia and Botswana so I still have all these places on my list! Book marking this for when we make it there!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Namibia is one of my favourite destinations, great choice! If you go to Sossusvlei Dunes (and you must!) skip Dune 45 and head straight for Big Daddy, you’ll hate me on the way up but will thank me for the views 😉