Zanzibar is chalk full of amazing hotels and restaurants. No restaurant is more famous however, than The Rock restaurant in Zanzibar’s southeast peninsula.
This restaurant, aptly located on a floating rock island out in the sea, is home to stunning views over the ocean, an amazing restaurant serving fresh seafood, and photographs like nothing else.
I came here while staying in Michamvi at the beautiful Matlai Hotel because it was located down the beach. I didn’t have high expectations because I was expecting another tourist trap in a sea of many other tourist traps in Zanzibar. However, I was quite surprised at just how pretty it was when seeing it in person. Pictures look cool for sure, but it was even better to see it in person.
If you’re visiting Zanzibar and are staying in the area, I would highly recommend a visit to this place. This post will tell you everything you need to know about eating at The Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar.
In addition, make sure to read my comprehensive guide on traveling Zanzibar if you are planning to visit!
Where Is the Rock Restaurant?
The Rock restaurant is located in Michamvi’s Pingwe Beach in the southeast Peninsula of Zanzibar. Michamvi beach is a very laid back and beautiful stretch of sandy beaches that’s adorned with a number of adorable boutique hotels like the Matlai Hotel where I spent my time.
If you’re staying in the much livelier areas of Paje or Jambiani famous for its kitesurfing, then it’s a roughly 15 minute drive to the Rock Restaurant. If you’re staying in the north like Nungwi, it will be a 1.5 hour drive to this restaurant.
The Rock is uniquely located on the beach out into the ocean. It’s essentially a large stationary rock that people built a beautiful restaurant into.
During low tide, the water recedes completely away from the restaurant exposing the sand, coral, rocks, and seaweed. During high tide, the water floods the sand giving off that beautiful blue and turquoise colors.
During low tide, you can simply walk to the restaurant from the beach. There is a ladder that you can climb up into the restaurant. During high tide, you would be swimming at the ladder but don’t worry as they provide a free canoe service to get to and from the restaurant.
The Rock restaurant is aptly named the floating restaurant. During high tide, it looks as if the island is literally floating on the water ready to be taken away somewhere.
How to get to the Rock Restaurant?
If you’re not staying in Michamvi, the best way to get here is by taxi. This is a popular restaurant so taxi drivers will all know how to get here. Worst case, just tell a driver to take you to the Uppendo hotel in Michamvi. The Rock restaurant is located directly in front of the Uppendo hotel.
As for prices, these are roughly what I think are acceptable prices to pay for one way transfers to the Rock:
- From Paje (15 minutes): $10-15
- From Stone Town (1h+): $30
- From Nungwi (~2h): $50-60
- From Matemwe (1.5h): $40-50
Of course, everyone will try to take advantage of you so try and bargain down prices to something in this range.
The best time to visit the Rock
I think if you’re after the best pictures and the best views from the restaurant, you must visit during high tide. The colors of the water are incredible and you can take the best photos this way. Also, I would come here for lunch service only as that’s when the water colors are at their most stunning. The restaurant is open until 8pm but as Michamvi faces east, you won’t be able to see any sunsets.
The tides change every day so I would check to see when the high tide is around lunch time. Sometimes, you’ll get unlucky with low tide being around noon which means high tide won’t come until six hours later. I got lucky as high tide hit right around 1pm.
I also took way too many photos of the place for anyone’s own good.
Eating At the Rock Restaurant Zanzibar
Eating at the Rock Restaurant is an experience. If you’re staying in the area, I would recommend a visit to this place. If you aren’t keen on eating the more expensive upscale food, at least visit for the views.
The food at The Rock Restaurant is primarily seafood focused with an upscale presentation. The food is actually quite tasty but you are paying the premium for it.
Make a reservation
During high season months, I would highly recommend making a reservation for lunch. This place, as you can imagine, is incredibly popular with the tourists especially to snap up the pictures and as a check off the list type of thing.
I visited during Coronavirus times and there weren’t many people but everyone told me that in normal times, reservations are highly advised.
Cost of a meal at the Rock Restaurant
The Rock Restaurant, as you’d expect, is not cheap. Any time you have such a famous place with the novelty factor like the Rock, you can expect to pay the premium. Nevertheless, you are paying for not just the food, but the experience and ambiance.
Prices for mains at the Rock range between $15 to $30. The cheapest items on the menu were pastas, with the most expensive being the rock lobster dishes that are $30+. If you want to just get a mixture of all the seafoods, get the Rock tasting plate which is around $70.
Cocktails are $10 and they are mostly okay, although nothing spectacular. Beers are $5 and wines are slightly more.
Is the food good?
I came here twice and tried multiple things including the seafood platter, pastas, and mishkaki (meat kebabs). The seafood is excellently prepared and all the accompaniments are delicious. Yes the food is twice as expensive as any other restaurant nearby, but I think if you’re going to come all this way, you might as well get the full experience!
Can you just come for drinks?
If you want to visit the Rock and see what it’s all about, you can also do so without eating. The outdoor patio is fantastic for chilling out and having a drink. The views from the outdoor deck are absolutely stunning. You can see the nearby sandbank if it’s low tide. During high tide, the colors of the beautiful water are on full display.
It’s possible to visit the Rock restaurant and go straight to the deck to enjoy drinks. I would recommend coming here in the early afternoon to see the beautiful ocean colors. As well, I could definitely come here around sunset time to just relax without the heat. As the Rock faces east, it does not see the sunset but it is still a worthwhile experience!
Explore the nearby area of Michamvi
Pingwe beach in Michamvi is very beautiful. It’s pretty laid back and you won’t find as many beach boys as in Paje for example. If you just want to take the iconic photos of the Rock restaurant without entering, then simply enjoy a meal at nearby Uppendo hotel. It’s located directly in line of sight of the Rock restaurant so you can enjoy a much cheaper meal with views of this beautiful structure.
As well, make sure to visit Baladin, another boutique hotel that brews its own craft beer. I came here numerous times because you quickly grow tired of drinking Safari and Kilimanjaro beers!
Eat at the nearby Coconut restaurant
If you want a delicious seafood experience but for a third of the price, look no further than the Coconut restaurant down the beach from The Rock.
The Coconut is a locally run absolutely no thrills type of place. They are right next to the Baladin hotel and my goodness do they serve some of the best seafood you can ask for. They grill all the seafoods that you’ll want like jumbo prawns, lobster, calamari, fish etc. They serve it with a huge helping of coconut rice or chips, along with an octopus curry for additional flavor.
The prices here are absolutely fantastic as four jumbo prawns with rice was 20,000 TZS ($9) which is significantly cheaper than at the Rock.
If you’re on a budget, then I would recommend having drinks at the Rock ($10 each) to soak in the views and take your pictures, following that up with a visit to the Coconut.
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