The Kenyan coast feels like a different world from the savannahs of safari country. Low-lying and sandy, indented by mangrove-lined creeks, and shaded by coconut palms, the coast blends the bright light and colours of the tropics with the sparkling azure-blue of the Indian Ocean, where you squint through the afternoon sunlight to watch traditional lateen-rigged dhows sailing out beyond the coral reef.
While being on safari can often feel like participating in an enjoyable group challenge, with its daily rhythm of game drives, bush meals and campfire anecdotes, a beach holiday releases you much more into the gentle embrace of local life. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, you’ll basically be left to your own devices – though there are plenty of activities to fill your days if you have the energy. From diving and snorkeling to city tours, shopping trips and cultural and historical excursions, these can all be organized by Ultimate Africa Expeditions.
If you want to explore underwater, we’ll help you choose the right spots at the right time of year. If you want honeymoon privacy, stylish luxury, affordable comforts or a lively resort base, boutique hotel, we’ve got the ideal hotels. And if you do want activities – whether it’s a visit to the old city of Mombasa or a safari trip inland to the alluring Shimba Hills or Tsavo East National Park or Taita Hills Sanctuary– we can organize all that.
Most travelers use their beach stay simply to relax after several days on safari. But you can also do a further safari from the Kenya coast, or even use the coast as a base for your whole holiday, taking safari trips inland.
Where to stay on the Kenya coast
Absorbing as coastal culture can be, most visitors are here for the beaches, many of which can match tropical seashores almost anywhere in the world, with powdery fine sand, and sea that is safe and blissfully warm and can be crystal clear in the right season. Kenya’s coast is protected for nearly its entire length by a major barrier reef, which has created a broad, sheltered lagoon for most of its length, where the reef is anything from 50m to 1km from the shore.
Kenyan coast is divided into a number of quite distinct regions. Mombasa Island is the hub, with Watamu, Malindi and Lamu to the north, and Tiwi, Diani, Msambweni and Funzi island to the south.
The island city of Mombasa, surrounded by creeks and East Africa’s biggest port. It’s fun to visit 16th-century Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese, and shop in the alleys of the old city.
After Mombasa, the coast road crosses the blue waters of Kilifi Creek and the next significant resort area is the much quieter resort of Watamu, a low-key peninsula stretched along a beautifully sculpted coastline of old coral islands and headlands with the deep mangrove creek of Mida Creek behind it. Watamu has a small, traditional village, and there’s an excellent beach here and good diving and snorkelling, plus some wonderful excursions for wildlife and culture enthusiasts in the shape of the Arabuko-Sokoke National Park and the ruins of Gedi.