If planning a break on Zanzibar for the first time, the biggest dilemma occurs which beach on Zanzibar to choose. Should you stay North or rather choose (North / South) East coast of Zanzibar? What are the differences between Zanzibar beaches? All beaches on Zanzibar have palms, white sand and turquoise ocean. Zanzibar or Unguja Island is the most popular island in Zanzibar Archipelago which includes numerous islands, among others Pemba Island, Mafia Island and Latham Island. Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean, just 25 km off the coast of mainland Tanzania. Easily accessible, either by a mere 20 minutes flight from Dar es Salaam airport or a little less than three hour ferry to Zanzibar leaving from Dar ferry terminal. Once in Stone Town, most of the beaches are on average an hour and half of drive away.
Beaches on North of Zanzibar – Almost no Low Tide
Nungwi and Kendwa are the most popular beaches on Zanzibar and that is for a good reason. Unlike the rest of the island, the top island location is blessed by not having to deal with high and low tides. Perfect place if you are looking to swim around the clock without have to walk far out to sea to chase the ocean mile away.
Both, Nungwi and Kendwa are also known for party atmosphere, yet it’s not to be compared with typical party beach destinations elsewhere in the world. However, Nungwi has two sides, the main busy side dotted with many hotels, very busy beach, and lively in the day and night, while being on the opposite quiet side of Nungwi is the opposite. Here you will find an empty beach for yourself without noise, crowds or beach boys. This side is haven for travellers seeking more peace, solitude and privacy and my favorite place on the North of Zanzibar. Due to popularity of both locations, dont expect hassle free time on the beach. Your beach relaxation will be interrupted regularly by so called beach boys (papasi in Kiswahili), selling just anything from weed, souvenirs, fruits and sex while local women usually offer massage and henna painting. The quiet side of Nungwi
Kendwa Beach -Kendwa is located just few miles before the Nungwi Village. It is slightly more laid back than Nungwi while still lively enough to enjoy the beach life at its best. You can find all: laid back bars and restaurants along the beach, beach volleyball for some fun in the sand, diving centers and some parties in the evening time.
Beaches on East Coast of Zanzibar
All of East coast of Zanzibar is tide dependant and a little windier than the opposite side of the island. If you are into wind sports like kite surfing and kitesurfing, East Coast of Zanzibar is the right place to choose for your holiday stay on Zanzibar.
North East Coast Zanzibar Beaches
North East Coast Beaches of Zanzibar are considered Zanzibars top location, mainly with up market luxury resorts and hotels. Tidal difference here is still lesser than on the southern side. On the sandy stretches of beach seaweed is common seasonal annoyance, don’t expect tidily combed beaches without seaweed like in the North. However seaweed presents oftentimes the main income source for locals in this area.
Matemwe beach offers fine white sands and remains reasonably unspoiled although there are still occasional sellers and touts. In low tide time swimming is impossible and the beach turns into desert full of coral flats., therefore is good to book a hotel with pool in this part of Zanzibar. Matemwe village is great starting point for diving trips to archipelago’s best reefs – Mnembaisland , less than a mile offshore.
Pongwe is idyllic place. But not for those with itchy feet! Pongwe is quite remote, which makes it great place to relax and unwind without touts on the beach. If walking on the beach, most likely you will be the only one. If planning to do trips around Zanzibar from Pongwe, keep in mind its not the best location. All snorkelling and dive trips take at least an hour in a car each way.
Meal wise there are not many bars or restaurants around, so you will be dependent on hotel when it comes to food. All in all, depending on the angle, for those looking for privacy, intimacy Pongwe is perfect beach. Solo travellers might feel in minority in Pongwe as guests are mainly couples and romantic honeymooners.
If you are all inclusive type of traveller, then book hotel or resort in Kiwengwa. Majority of big hotel establishments are all inclusive, and the village is extremely popular among Italian guests, even local kids automatically greet you with ciao bella. This tells a lot about Kiwengwa that is turning into Italian village. If still want to spend your vacation on Zanzibar in Kiwengwa and don’t want to stay in big resort, there are some smaller lodges and bungalows as well as private type houses to rent. Swimming in Kiwengwa at low-tide is not possible but majority of resorts have large pools. Beach boys touting goods and service are present on the beach but less annoying and irritating and they are not as persistent as the ones in Stone Town.
South East Zanzibar Beaches
Hotels on this side are spread between various beaches and neighbour different beach villages, all with their own individual atmospheres and appeals. These are Jambiani, Pingwe, Bwejuu, Paje, Dongwe and the Michamvi Peninsula.
Furthest South there is Jambiani. Definitely the liveliest option in the area with good range of restaurants and bars on the beach. Jambiani is also beach where locals mix with tourists. While sitting in the bar or lying on the beach you can observe Zanzibari fishermen and seaweed farmers at work as well as local kids playing football. Good snorkelling spots are near as well as the option to hire a bicycle and explore further down the coast. Low tide time is not possible for swimming unless you dare to swim a mile away from the beach.
Another lively stretch of beach with abundance of beach bars with laid back vibes. Most of the lodges and bungalows are beachfront or second row. Paje, along with Jambiani and Dongwe is prime location for kite surfing specially during December till February and between May to October. While one can easily walk miles along the beach stretch, it is sometimes a bit harder to sunbathe directly on the beach, specially near kiting centers that occupy some parts of the beach for putting together kites. Same might happen in the water, there is an area which is used by kite surfers and swimmers should stay away to avoid accidents in the water. taking this into account, Paje beach is great for both- lazy bums and active kiting addicts. Low tide is not the time for swimming, but is great for walking among low water pools across the beach. If you need access to swimming 24/7 book hotel with pool.
Bwejju, Pingwe and Dongwe Beach
Bwejuu has a lovely beach for most of the year but in Christmas time the beach could be heavily covered with seaweed. If staying in Bwejju there is not many bars or restaurants available except for existing bungalows and hotel bars. Bwejju is very quiet, remote and for more social life in the evenings you will have to hire a taxi and go to Paje or Jambiani. Those addicted to internet might experience no signal on mobile network as well as some electricity cuts regularly happen almost on daily basis. If in more expensive hotels, this is not a problem, but in low budget lodges there is HakunaMatata atmosphere where everything stops for the time without electricity. No cooked meals if they cook on electric stoves, no ice, no WiFi. Bwejju in couple last years has some problems with local gangs robbing beach walkers and breaking into houses in the village. Make sure you don’t walk at night alone and leave valuables on a safe place. Michamwi beach is sparsely populated and quiet. You will find only few resorts here which makes it perfect for those who need to literally escape the civilization and want indulge in the ocean. Like anywhere on East side of Zanzibar, keep in mind swimming is not possible at low tide and the beaches come with seaweed. If staying in Bwejju or Jambiani, Paje, hire a taxi and go for romantic sunset views. Its stunning! On the way you can stop at famous Rock restaurant too!
South Zanzibar Beaches
The further south you go on Zanzibar, the more populated it becomes. And with people comes culture – head to Southern Zanzibar for cultural and spice tours along with more opportunities to engage with the locals.
Kizimkazi beach is popular for dolphin spotting tours rather than beach destination in true sense. If you are into cultural experience in Kizimkazi you can visit the oldest mosque (Dimbani mosque dating from 1107 AD) in East Africa and tourists are allowed to enter.
There are a number of lodges and restaurants and bars in Kizimkazi as it is popular among day trippers Swimming on Kizimkazi? Kizimkazi along with z
Those who are stuck in Stone Town and do not wish to take a day trip to Zanzibar beaches, there are few places within and near Stone Town to dip in the sea.
If in Center of Stone Town, best place does dip in the ocean is on the beach in front of Serena hotel, further into ferry direction water is dirty, bay is full of parked boats as well city sewage pipes are installed into the sea in that area. There is no security so it’s good to have only towels and basics for swimming. You can leave your belongings in bar nearby.
If you are fan of pools, then the best pool that can be found in Stone Town is just a mile or two out of Shangani. Zanzibar beach resort is overlooking the local beach, having the biggest pool in Stone Town. Beach here is not friendly for swimming, but pool is superb. Place is oftentimes empty, so is great escape from hectic Stone town.