Having spent many weeks traveling through Zanzibar, Paje was probably my favorite area. Not only is it the kitesurfer’s paradise with some of the most beautiful and flattest water to kite in, but it’s maintained a chilled vibe that other areas in Zanzibar can’t claim.
Having stayed in numerous other areas of Zanzibar like Nungwi in the very north, and Matemwe in the northeast, I can say that my favorite beach is in the area around Paje. While Nungwi has the most dramatic water colors by traditional beach standards, I was completely mesmerized by the incredibly wide beaches that Paje has to offer.
The difference between low tide and high tide in Paje are absolutely astounding. At low tide, it’s like a beautiful beach desert, and once the water slowly rushes in as high tide approaches, the colors are amplified leaving in a sense of awe at how nature can be so beautiful.
In addition, make sure to read my comprehensive guide on traveling Zanzibar if you are planning to visit!
The beaches of Paje
The beaches of Paje are something else. They are probably the most visually stunning beaches in Zanzibar. Some might argue Nungwi has the nicest beaches but I would say the area in the southeast where Paje is reigns supreme.
The east coast is in my opinion the best coast in Zanzibar. The beaches are much more beautiful on the east side. The wind also blows from east to west affording you a breeze at most times of the day. I stayed on a west facing side of the beach at the Residence Hotel and was sweating half of the time.
The beach in Paje stretches for many kilometers of pure white sand bliss. At low tide, you can see the water receding for hundreds of meters and you can even walk out to the furthest stretches of the beach.
At certain times of the day, you can even see the local herds of cow on their rush hour commute home.
How to get to Paje?
Paje is located on the southeast side of Zanzibar. This is the best area of the island in my opinion.
From Stone Town, it is roughly one hour by car from the airport or ferry terminal. The going rate for a private taxi is always negotiable. Most taxi drivers will rip you off without a doubt so make sure to bargain hard.
As of 2020, I think the acceptable rate for a taxi transfer is probably $30-40 (or 70,000 to 80,000 shillings).
If you’re on a budget, then your best bet will be to take the dala dala from Stone Town’s main bus station. These are local mini buses where you can expect to have little space. They aren’t as bad as local buses I’ve taken in other countries but obviously you’re getting what you pay for.
The price for the dala dala to Paje is 2,000 shillings (~$1) from Stone Town. Being a Muzungo (foreigner), don’t be surprised if you are charged double this rate. If you have a lot of luggage, they might make you buy a second seat to store your stuff which isn’t a bad idea anyhow if you want more room to stretch out. The dala dala takes over two hours from Stone Town to Paje.
Where to stay in Paje?
Paje has no shortage of accommodations to choose from. Even though it’s not a traditional luxury beach getaway destinations, there are accommodations of all budgets here. Being a Kitesurfer’s paradise, you will find everything from hostels to luxury 5 star resorts.
When is the high season?
During the high season with the strong winds, expect to pay much more as kitesurfers descend in huge numbers. The strong winds which make kiting amazing is between the months of June and August, as well as December to February. Expect accommodations to be much more expensive during this period.
I visited in November during COVID times so not only was the wind weak, but prices were a fraction of what they would normally be. They told me that during normal years at high wind season, you could see 300 kites out in the water a day!
If you are not a kitesurfer and have no plans to try it out, I’d recommend visiting in the low wind season otherwise it will be packed with kiters and you’ll pay much more for accommodation for no reason.
Where did I stay? Mr. Kahawa
I stayed at Mr. Kahawa during my five nights in Paje. Kahawa (which means coffee in Swahili) is an eclectic cafe and restaurant located right on the beach. It’s kind of a hang out spot for local expats and tourists alike. The coffee and Wifi is great here so you can expect to see all types of people here.
They also have five different rooms on the beach. I stayed in the Sea view apartment which was absolutely amazing. The room has a luxurious rustic Middle Eastern vibe with the insides being crafted out of stone. The room came with a huge outdoor patio with direct views of the beach. The patio had comfortable couches and lounge chairs. The views of the beach here are absolutely incredible.
They also had another two loft style rooms that face the ocean. These rooms are significantly bigger and have a huge lounge space right in front of their balcony. However, they don’t have the same ridiculous balcony I had. Both rooms are amazing and you can’t go wrong with either one.
Where to eat in Paje?
One of the things I liked about Paje is that there is a small beach community here with many restaurants and bars where you can choose where to eat. The food here is similar to that of local restaurants in Nungwi offering familiar dishes like grilled seafoods, curries, chapati, etc.
A locally run restaurant on Paje Beach that I frequented many times. The prices are cheaper than other places with most dishes around $6 to $9. Beers were 5000 TZS which is roughly $2. They also are right on the beach with great views of the ocean.
Mr. Lecker Lecker
Another local restaurant located next to Bucaneers Diving, Lecker Lecker had the best food out of everywhere. It was hard to find at first but I randomly stumbled upon them on a Friday night when they set up some tables on the beach.
This is a locally run restaurant and prices reflect so. They offered all the typical seafood dishes you’d want at favorable prices. I ate the grilled chicken and grilled prawns here and they were cooked to perfection. I heard they also make a delicious lobster for slightly more but did not have enough time to try it.
B4 is one of the most popular spots in the area. It’s a hotel that has a big kite shop and you’ll see many kiters hanging out here. The restaurant faces the beach and serves some of the best burgers you can find on Zanzibar. No joke, having not had a burger for weeks, this burger was absolutely delicious. At $9, it’s pricey but this is East Africa so Hakuna Matata.
This place turns into a bit of a party late at night and in high season, you can expect the beats to be pumping late.
I stayed at Mr. Kahawa and their beautiful loft apartments. They also have an amazing restaurant and cafe that everyone frequents. They are a veggie + seafood spot with amazing smoothies to boot.
I tried numerous wraps they had on their menu which were great. This is definitely a hipster style hangout with food to match.
Kitesurfing in Paje
Kitesurfing is without a doubt the main draw of Paje. It’s beautiful endless beaches are nice, but you can also find the same thing in Jambiani down south without the kite scene. Paje has become the Kite capital of Zanzibar due to its favorable winds, shallow water, and lack of sea urchins.
Peak season for kiting is from Jun to August and Dec to Feb. Other times you will of course have windy days but not the constant wind that these months bring. I visited in November and only had one day out of five where I saw some kites out.
Where to Kite in Paje?
There are countless shops on Paje where you can book private lessons or rent gear. I didn’t go to all of them because the winds weren’t so good when I was there in November.
Nevertheless, they were all open and looking for business. There are kite shops run by foreigners and kite shops run by locals. I found that the local shops offered significantly cheaper prices. While I already learned my kiting in Dakhla, Morocco, I still went around to ask for prices.
At the local shops like Kite Exotic or the kite shop by Fisherman’s Restaurant, they were charging $30 per hour for private lessons. This is actually very cheap by any standards. I can’t attest to the quality of these local shops but I met someone that took lessons from one of these places and was able to get up on the kite within a day or two.
For non-local shops, B4, Kite Paradise, Kite Center, and Airborne were shops that I found. They are quite a bit more pricey at around $50 per hour for private lessons which is actually the normal rate in most of the world. The equipment at these places looked newer and of higher quality. Nevertheless, if you are new to the game, I think going with a local shop to save money is an okay move.
Is Paje Worth staying if I’m not a kitesurfer?
Some people might be deterred from staying in Paje because it caters so much to kiting. I’m here to say, that there’s no need to fear this. Paje has one of the nicest beaches in all of Zanzibar. Being seaweed and sea urchin free, it has perhaps one of the best and most beautiful beaches in Zanzibar.
The white fluffy sand stretches for many kilometers. The water is crystal clear transitioning from a light turquoise to an aqua depending on the tides. It’s also completely safe to swim in with no sea urchins. At low tide, you can walk out all the way out hundreds of meters where you will find just stunning beaches and even the occasional sand bank.
Paje also has a chilled vibe unlike Nungwi which is trying to be crazy party central. There are still beach boys in Paje but they are much less aggressive than the ones in Nungwi.
Whether you are on a backpacker or a five star budget, you will find lodging options of all types here.
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