Kenya is known for its national parks and its wildlife. But it also has the most beautiful beaches, with a coastline of 536 kilometers long. Besides, it has numerous islands along the coast that make for an amazing visit. Below we highlight some of the best.
Diani Beach – south of Mombasa
Diani Beach is probably the best-known beach in Kenya, as it has topped all the lists of Africa’s most beautiful beaches over the years. It’s also our favorite beach. It is a stretch of 15 kilometers of pristine white beaches, lined with coconut palms and fronting an amazingly clear blue ocean.
This beach has numerous resorts to choose from. Ranging from laidback and simple to extremely luxurious, and from small-scale boutique hotels to large all-inclusive hotels. The good thing is that it never feels crowded, and the village of Diani is close by with everything a modern-day tourist needs. From the resorts, you can arrange several excursions and day trips. Think of deep sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, sandbank excursions, and day-safaris to Shimba Hills.
Bamburi Beach – just north of Mombasa
Bamburi Beach is a stunningly beautiful beach, just north of Mombasa. As such, it’s popular with Mombasa residents, who often visit here in the weekends. This means the beach is more lively and local than Diani, but that doesn’t make it any less worth your visit. You can find a variety of beautiful resorts and hotels in Bamburi, and many different restaurants, bars and even a go-kart-track. Also nearby Haller Park is worth a visit. Its nature trails are great for shaded walk and cycling tours. In its wildlife conservatory you can hand feed giraffes, see hippos, crocodiles, snakes (in terrariums) and other wildlife, and visit a butterfly pavilion.
Malindi is a paradise beach more to the north of Kenya, at a 3 hour drive from Mombasa. It’s a popular tourist destination, and has many resorts and hotels to choose from. Malindi is a very old town, that started to have inhabitants as early as the 5th century. In the 9th century it became a kingdom, with Somali, Egyptian, Nubian, Arab, Persian, and Indian influences due long-distance trade that occurred ever since the 11th century. At some point Vasco Da Gama came and ushered the Portuguese colonization of the region. Then in the 19th century the British took over, after which it eventually became part of Kenya after its independence.
Malindi is mostly muslim up to this day, with a population of just over 100,000. It has many historical sites to visit, but just the white sandy beaches, pristine blue water and many coconut trees make Malindi worth a visit. Excursions are plenty too: visit the marine park for a snorkeling or diving trip, go for a canoe ride in a mangrove forest, or check out historical sites such as the Gede Ruins.
Known as one of the best places for snorkeling and diving in East Africa, Watamu lies at a small distance from Malindi. This small town with approximately 30,000 inhabitants is surrounded by the best off shore coral arrangements. These corals are spread over different bays that are all protected by the Watamu Marine National Park. Besides, the beaches of Watamu are of a true paradise, with the whitest sand, the ocean of the clearest blue.
The town itself is a nice blend of Arab, Kenyan and more recently Italian influences. Hotels and resorts are plentiful, and because of the Italian influence you won’t have problems finding a pizza or delicious Italian ice cream here.
This dreamy island is a bit hard to reach since boats are not safe and taking a plane is pricy. But once you are there, the island of Lamu is a special treat. It was founded in the 12th century as a port city just off the coast of Kenya. Lamu town has a beautiful, little historical center with many Arabic influences. Also Shela on the south of the main island is a beautiful village to visit, with 12 kilometers of pristine beaches to discover as a bonus. Both places boast plenty of shops, restaurants and bars that are worth a browse or taste.
On Lamu the narrow alleyways in town don’t allow for cars, and you might be surprised to not find any on this island. And since the town is a World Heritage Site and it’s prohibited to demolish any of the old stone buildings, you won’t find any in the future either. Instead, people use donkey carts for their transport, and many people walk. To go to the surrounding islands (more than 35) locals usually use dhows.
The cluster of islands around Lamu form a true tropical paradise, with plenty of amazing resorts along the beaches. Across the channel from Shela you find the mostly uninhabited Manda Island for example (it has hotels but no village), from where you can watch the most beautiful sunset over the main island. In short, Lamu is perfect for snorkeling, diving, island hopping and amazing sunset cruises.
The coastal island of Kenya are truly amazing. Wasini-, Funzi and Chale Island lie in the southeast of Kenya, just off the coast, south of Mombasa. They are famous for the coral filled Marine Parks, turtle breeding places and (almost) private beaches.
Wasini is an island with two villages close to the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park, with a sandbank that is only visible at low tide. Chale lies closer to the coast and is a private island with just one hotel and an amazing alcove beach. Also Funzi lies closer to the coast and exists of four mangrove covered islands, one of which is inhabited. It’s famous for its turtle breeding places, and from here you can also go on a crocodile safaris to the nearby Ramisi River.
Lastly, Kiwayu Island is located 60 kilometers north of Lamu and as such it’s hard to reach. To get there you fly to Lamu’s Manda Island and from there you go by boat. It takes six hours by dhow, or a few hundred dollars by speedboat. The island is 15 kilometers long and just 500 meters wide. It has one barefoot paradise lodge next to a few small fishermen villages. The corals around the island are among the best in Kenya, and it is also a turtle breeding place.
Dying to see all this and more with your own eyes? Then by all means check out our itineraries for Kenya, and we hope to see you soon!