We have made our information on Zanzibar as comprehensive as possible, but the best way to get to grips with the islands is to give us a call and chat through your plans. Although the information is all here, our team of experts have been organising holidays to Zanzibar for 20 years and are constantly returning to see what’s changed, so our first-hand knowledge coupled with an understanding of your expectations is by far the best way to narrow down your options!
ZANZIBAR | THE AREAS
Where is Zanzibar?
Zanzibar is conveniently located on the shores of Tanzania and exceptionally well placed to bookend a safari of a lifetime. With so much on offer here accommodation and activity wise, Zanzibar has something for even the most selective of travellers. The vast and wild Selous Game Reserve is a mere 45 minute flight away. As you can see, with a Tanzania beach and safari holiday, nothing so luxurious could be easier.
Getting to Zanzibar
Zanzibar is only a short 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam international which is the landing point for flights from all over the world. You cannot directly fly to Dar es Salaam from London or the US, but many airlines (KLM, Emirates) have two stop flights which make the travel fairly easy (usually via Amsterdam and Dubai).
The best beaches on Zanzibar
- Nungwi and Kendwa (North)– The best beaches on the island. Really beautiful and classic Indian Ocean paradise. Non-tidal turquoise waters and really powdery white sands. Can sometimes be busy.
- Pongwe (East) – Pongwe sits in a little concave bit of coast line which means the beach is glorious and when the tide isn’t completely in, it is seaweed free and very pretty. Not the long sweeping beaches of the north, but a pocket of pure beachy gold. Less busy than the north.
- Paje and Dongwe (East) – Although tidal, here sit some of our favourite luxury boutique hotels. You would not be let down here in terms of accommodation. The beach is beautiful, but getting your toes wet is a bit harder than in the northern Nungwi regions as the sea is further out and very tidal.
- Matemwe (North-East) – Slightly to the east of Nungwi, Matemwe is slightly tidal but when the tide is in there are a few of our favourite fantastic value accommodation options.
For more information see our Zanzibar beaches page
Stone Town Zanzibar
Visitors to Zanzibar tend to arrive and leave via Stone Town, the island capital and an historic hub of commerce and culture. This ancient centre was the seat of the Sultans, whose crumbling palaces, bath houses and mosques are a legacy of this opulent and vibrant time at the heart of the gold trade.
The town has a very different commercial attitude today, and one that thrives on the growing tourist market. The labyrinthine streets are lined with traders selling everything from mass-produced art works to ancient wooden doors, from tie dye t-shirts to jewels. The muezzins’ call to prayer echoes across the rooftops at the break of day, while cats, goats, dogs, roosters and babies often make themselves heard in between! This old town remains a wonderful place to spend a night or two, getting lost among the elegant, ancient buildings, eating fresh fish on the sea front and breathing in the sights, sounds and smells of a truly Swahili centre. A stay in Stone Town is always a wondrous assault on the senses, but a couple of nights are enough if you value peace and quiet and a good nights sleep! Nowadays there are a good number of Boutique hotels in Stone Town – often recently renovated.
The islands off Zanzibar
Pemba Island – Pemba is truly off the beaten tourist track. It is beautiful, culturally rich and with a few top notch hotels which we love to recommend. It has some of the best diving in the world in pristine coral reefs and for those who love to be active, this is your place. The only downside is that the beaches are very tidal – so if you are looking for long white sands, you are better off on Zanzibar.
Mafia Island – Like Pemba, Mafia is relatively new to the tourism industry. However, it is home to some great lodges. Many are drawn to Mafia for the whale shark diving – an experience not to be forgotten. Give yourself 5 days here and you have a fantastic chance of seeing these majestic creatures up close. See our blog post all about it.
Private islands off Zanzibar
Mnemba Island – This private island has only one lodge, Mnemba Island Lodge. It is the ultimate Indian Ocean beach destination for those who want complete seclusion away from the crowds. Mnemba is the ultimate Tanzania honeymoon beach lodge. This tiny island is everything you can imagine of a remote windswept paradise and often voted one of the most romantic destinations on the planet.
Fanjove Private Island – Yes, Mnemba is the ultimate, but for those who do not wish to fork out over $1,500 per person per night and want a private slice of pure beach heaven, you cannot get better than Fanjove. Beach-shack-chic but ideal for those who crave luxury in its purest natural form.
Thanda Island – At around $25,000 a night, it has got to be unbelievable. But take a large group and occupy it’s 9 luxury rooms and it becomes a (admittedly, only slightly!) more affordable option for those who want complete Indian Ocean exclusivity.
THE BEST HOTELS IN ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA
Zanzibar Hotels | Where to stay in Zanzibar
The island of Zanzibar has a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets and interests. We have categorised these to Zanzibar Beach Hotels, and Zanzibar Stone Town Hotels. You could spend days and days trawling through the internet finding the best options.. There are a lot! As a taster though, here are a few of our personally vetted favourites.
Budget Hotels in Zanzibar
- Pongwe Beach Hotel – This funky hotel is perfect for those looking for a bit of luxury without blowing the budget. Private plunge pools at $180 per night on one of the best beaches on the island means you really can’t go wrong here.
- Sunshine Hotel – Slightly more intimate than Pongwe, this is a fantastic option for those who want their little bit of privacy and personalised service for an unbeatable price.
- Breezes – Family friendly and full of fun, Breezes has a fantastic atmosphere. As a larger hotel you would think it may not, but it offers a surprising communal experience with so much on offer activity wise. An ideal choice for a family holiday hotel, importantly, without breaking the bank!
Mid-range Hotels on Zanzibar
- Palms – Romantic, private and in true Zanzibar style, Palms is a great option for those who are after a memorable and intimate honeymoon. With private beach huts, great rooms, fantastic service and a nice beach at a very reasonable price, what’s not to like?
- Zuri – The exciting new member of our Zanzibar hotel family; Zuri seems to have it all. Set on the most beautiful beach on the island and with 54 fantastically equipped rooms, it offers you real luxury for an incredible price. Did we mention how amazing the beach is? It is incredible and by far the best on the island.
- Matemwe – Asilia’s beach property is a well ran little lodge and a great option for family’s with the Matemwe Retreats. It offers you a nice and private retreat (as the name suggests) with all the benefits of Zanzibar’s fantastic activities to be enjoyed by all ages.
Luxury hotels in Zanzibar
- Xanadu – Wow. Luxury villas with private pools all set within luscious gardens and on a fabulous beach. Could it get any better than this? Oh yes, yes it can, because the chef is ex Michelin star. The ultimate Zanzibar honeymoon choice.
- Kilindi – Similar ideas to Xanadu and set just 5 minutes from the best beaches on the island.
- Zawadi- Sleek and stylish. Zawadi is real luxury. The food is excellent, the rooms pristine and the views from your room completely idyllic.
- Baraza – A true Zanzibar style beach resort. A fantastic romantic spa and a kids club makes it a fabulous choice for both honeymoons and families alike. A bigger hotel, but with everything you could need for a luxurious stay on the island.
- White Sands – Located on the south east coast, White Sands is perfect for families who want a bit of luxury and their own space. You get a whole villa to yourself if you have 4 people and your own pool and living room area.
Why go on a Family Holiday to Zanzibar?
With so many fantastic hotels, kids clubs galore and activity central, Zanzibar is a top choice for young families and older teens. Combined with a safari in Southern Tanzania, and you have a family holiday of a lifetime.
Why go on a Zanzibar Honeymoon?
The name of the island alone evokes the exotic, mysterious and romantic. We get lots of requests for honeymoons involving Zanzibar and for good reason – very few other parts of the world can lay claim to such beautiful beaches with such a vast array of accommodation all within a couple of hours of world-class safari areas.
Zanzibar Package Holidays
Zanzibar has a lot of hotels.. Some of them are fabulous, and some not so fabulous. We have visited every single hotel we like to recommend on Zanzibar so will be sure to find you something unforgettable which suits both your budget and preferred style. In fact, we only really use 10% of Zanzibar’s vast array of accommodation options – ensuring you skip the rubbish and get to the gold. Combining a safari is also never simpler than with us – we have been working in Tanzania for over 20 years with regular revisits to the best safari lodges and wildlife spots, so we really do know our stuff.
Dar to Zanzibar – Safari and Zanzibar Holidays
After your 20 minute flight to Dar es Salaam, you only have to hop over a short 40 minute flight and you are in the beautiful and watery Selous Game Reserve. Add another half an hour west, and get to the wild and fabulous Ruaha National Park (the office’s favourite!). Northern Tanzania is pretty easy too, though flights are rather more expensive – give yourself just over an hour in the air though and you can hop from a famous Serengeti safari right into Indian Ocean paradise… Quite the combination!