Zanzibar is one of my favorite islands in Africa. It encompasses all that East Africa has to offer from a cultural perspective, delicious food, and some of the top beaches in the world. There’s no where better to see Zanzibar’s famous aqua beaches than in Nungwi.
I stayed in Nungwi for five days enjoying the good life and have researched everything from hotels, to restaurants, to activities so you’ll have everything you need to know about staying in Nungwi.
Where to stay in Nungwi
There are no shortage of places to stay in Nungwi. Nungwi has accommodation options for all budgets, from the lowest of backpackers to ultra 5* resorts. In recent years, Nungwi has become a sort of backpacker party hangout spot. It’s always been home to the resort types so it’s interesting watching these two groups of travelers mesh in the bars and retaurants of the area.
Staying at Beach Baby Lodge
Almost all of the nice resorts have beach front access that is patrolled by security guards to make sure beach boys don’t disturb the guests too much. I ended up staying for five nights at the famous Beach Baby Lodge. It’s not ultra budget but it’s certainly on the more budget side of things.
However, Beach Baby is located near the northern tip of the island and they have an amazing roof deck with unobstructed views of the beautiful blue ocean. During high tide, it’s absolutely stunning to watch the crazy colors of the ocean as I enjoy my lunch. Nungwi is famous for its sunsets and there’s nowhere better to view the sun set over the horizon than at Beach Baby Lodge.
The rooms are basic but comfortable, especially for one person.
Where are the best beaches in Nungwi?
Nungwi has perhaps the most picture perfect beaches in Zanzibar. This is because the low and high tides in the area aren’t as extreme and there is a much higher concentration of sand vs seaweed and coral which is more prevalent on the eastern side. Nungwi is particularly stunning at high tides during the day time when you can really see the colors shine.
The beaches in front of the big resorts like the Riu, Zuri, and Gemma Dell L’est are absolutely stunning. The beach is full of fluffy white sand as well as stunning rock formations all throughout the beach. The beaches are pretty much free to use for everyone. The resorts will have their own areas slightly inland from the public beach. Don’t get too close to the resorts however as you might get in trouble with the security people. For the most part, as long as you’re foreign looking enough, you won’t be bothered by security unless you go into the hotels.
Unfortunately, as naturally beautiful as the beach and water is, Nungwi has been overdeveloped. There aren’t many areas that you can just chill on your own without being bothered by beach boys or just other tourists walking around. This is the price to pay for being in such a paradise.
Beware of all the beach boys
Zanzibar is known for its beach boys perusing the beaches trying to settling day trips and other goods to tourists. Nowhere is this more prevalent than on Nungwi. Because Nungwi has the most tourists in Zanzibar, expect to deal with the most beach boys on a daily basis. For the most part, they will leave you alone if you just say you’re not interested but some of them get very aggressive.
The big beautiful resorts of Nungwi
Nungwi is known for its high end resorts along its beaches. From the southern tip, you can start at Kendwa Rocks hotel (which is Kendwa not Nungwi), and walk to the northern tip and witness all the numerous hotels in the area.
From Kendwa Rocks hotel, you will see the following hotels in order:
Zuri Zanzibar is one of the first resorts you’ll see. Compared to the other resorts, Zuri had the most modern and inviting looking beach space. A collection of hammocks, sunbeds, and beach bars made this the most inviting hotel I saw along the way.
Riu Palace Zanzibar
Next to Zuri is the Riu Zanzibar Palace. This is one of the highest end resorts on the island with a huge beautiful infinity pool overlooking the beach. They don’t have as big of a beach access as Zuri and what space they did have was completely packed full of people when I visited.
Gemma Star of the East
Next to the Riu Palace is the famous Gemma Star of the East hotel. They actually have two hotels here, one being much higher end and more expensive than the other. They have a huge jetty that leads to overwater restaurants allowing for stunning views of the beach.
Royal Zanzibar is the last beach before you head towards the main part of the town of Nungwi. They also have beautiful pools and rooms. Although, because of their proximity to the town, their beach is also very busy with people from all over. It didn’t feel as private as the previous three hotels.
The Z bills itself as the original boutique hotel in Zanzibar. It definitely feels less like a big resort than the other hotels with a more rustic and charming vibe. However, compared to the boutique hotels on the east coast of the island, it doesn’t compare.
Double Tree Hilton
Located on the northern tip of Nungwi, the Double Tree Hilton has their resort looking directly out on the beach. The resort doesn’t look quite as premium as the other ones further south bordering Kendwa town.
In addition, the Doubletree’s beach sees a massive amount of seaweed during low tide so it’s not as picturesque as the other beaches in my opinion.
Where to eat and drink in Zanzibar
The quality of the food is quite decent with numerous seafood offerings on each menu. Most of the restaurants are located along the beachfront with great views of the water. Alternatively, you can also walk into the town and look for local restaurants serving the traditional mishkaki and other seafood dishes for a fraction of the price.
Run by an Italian guy, this restaurant right on the beach offers Italian style pizza (pretty decent too), fresh seafood, and quite decent negronis.
Beach Baby Lodge for sunset
Beach Baby lodge in the north of Nungwi is a bit of a watering hole for visitors and locals alike. It’s much more casual and is more of a bar than a restaurant. The top floor has an amazing view of the beach which is stunning. The sun also sets directly in front of the lodge which with the elevation makes for a more stunning view.
The drinks are also good and happy hour is 2 for 1.
Right next to Beach Baby are numerous restaurants right on the beach. At night, there are tables all around the beach where you can dine with sand on your feet and stars directly above you. Ocean Blue is one of the restaurants but they all have essentially the same menu. Seafood, and meats served with rice or chips.
Everything is also similarly priced at between $6-9 for a main dish.
M&J cafe is located off the beach but serves delicious food for a cheaper price. They also double as a cafe and juice shop offering fresh juice smoothies. Wifi is abundant here so it’s a great place to chill and do some work.
This huge bar and restaurant is located in the middle of Nungwi town right in front of the beautiful part of the beach. It’s definitely the place in normal times that throw parties attracting all the people on the island. If this is not your thing, then it’s still a fantastic place to have a sundowner as it’s right in front of the sun.
There is also shisha available here although for a much more expensive price than say in Egypt but certainly something I’m keen for.
Located next to Spanish Dancers dive shop, this restaurant was a popular hang out spot for tourists. They had a really nice deck facing the beach with comfortable lounge chairs and tables. They even have sun beds with umbrellas out front that are free to use for customers.
Located at the northern tip of Nungwi, this guesthouse and restaurant was one of my favorite spots. They have a chilled and rustic bar area equipped with a half wooden dhow boat turned into a lounge area. They also have tables directly in front of the beach where you can have views of all the local fishing boats.
Activities in Nungwi
Nungwi with its stunning beaches means you will have no shortage of activities to do. Water sports and land based activities are all on offer. I would start by asking your hotel what their prices are as a reference point. If you’re looking for cheaper prices, then I would definitely go visit a tour agent shop on the beach for what will most likely be lower prices.
Sometimes, you can haggle with the beach boys for lower prices because essentially they are just street agents selling you the same tour, of which they’ll get a commission from.
If you’re staying a high end resort, it’s almost always the case that you’ll be paying a huge premium. Some of the popular tours from Nungwi are the following:
- Stone Town city tour
- Spice Tour
- Jozani Forest
- Snorkeling (all over the area)
- Dolphin tour
- Horseback riding on the beach
- Sunset cruise on a catamaran
- Day trips to Mnemba Island for snorkeling
Diving in Nungwi
Scuba diving is very popular in Nungwi. There are countless dive shops doing day trips all over the island all day.
Having already dived in Mnemba Island prior and having spent two weeks in Mafia Island diving, I wasn’t looking to do too much in Nungwi.
Tumbatu Island located off the west coast of Zanzibar is nearby to Nungwi and makes for a quick day trip. Tumbatu island offers much prettier corals than the more popular Mnemba island. The fish life here also seemed to be fantastic and I’d say it’s probably a better place to dive than Mnemba. However, make sure to dive here on the right tide times otherwise the visibility will be terrible.
We saw huge seahorses as well but I think it would have been incredible if the visibility was better. Unfortunately, it appears we went at low tide when the visibility was 5m or so.
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