Zanzibar offers a perfect romantic holiday spot for couples and honeymooners. But it makes a perfect destination too for family and friends with lots of activities to keep them occupied. The island offers best beaches, diverse water sports like swimming with dolphins, snorkeling and diving or going on a sunset cruise in the traditional sailing dhow.
If you’re seeking a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, or perhaps looking to round off an amazing safari adventure in Tanzania’s many national parks and game reserves, then the beaches in Zanzibar are your best option. Aside from the white sandy beaches and turquoise ocean, the island is home to a tropical forest with extinct Red colobus monkey, servaline genets and Zanzibar leopards. Whether it is a personal holiday trip, with friends or family members, the variety of beach options, all of which can be accessed from Stone Town, offers an exclusive experience that will leave you in awe. Of course, your choice of which beach to visit depends solely on your mood and vacation preferences, but here are the top seven for your consideration:
by Tom Blakey
Whether you’re taking a trip from Tanzania to Zanzibar for some post-safari relaxation, a chilled beach holiday or a romantic East Africa honeymoon, the main draw of this African island paradise is the beaches.
But with so many stretches of white sand to choose from, how do you choose the best beach for the type of Zanzibar holiday you want?
Here is our comprehensive guide and map of the best beaches in Zanzibar – for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing and staying at a beautiful beach resort.
Bwejuu is one of the top beaches in Zanzibar.
This white sandy beach on the island’s southeast coast is lined with palm trees and only an hour and a half away from stone town.
It’s one of the quietest parts of Zanzibar and a popular choice for those seeking total relaxation, peace and privacy.
There are plenty of activities and excursions to do around the area, including a mangrove forest and dhow boat trip, a visit to the local village of Bwejuu, a reef safari, snorkelling and diving, a visit to Stone Town, or a day trip to the Jozani Forest, which is home to the Red Colobus Monkey.
All three of the above beach resorts make up ‘The Zanzibar Collection,’ a portfolio of privately owned luxury hotels and resorts inspired by the magic of this exotic beach destination.
Michamvi is a peninsula on the central east coast of the island.
Although there are two large beach resorts in the area, Michamvi feels remote and has long stretches of empty beaches to explore.
The peninsula consists of two parts, Michamvi-Pingwe and Michamvi-Kae.
On the eastern side is Michamvi-Pingwe, with a vibrant coral lagoon and beautiful palm-fringed beaches set in a string of scenic coves between high coral-rag cliffs.
On the western side is Michamvi-Kae, which faces west towards Chwaka Bay.
Nungwi Beach on the northwest coast is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Zanzibar and recently made the list of Top 25 Beaches in the World in TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards 2018.
Nungwi is definitely one of the liveliest areas on the island and the numerous beach resorts, hotels, restaurants and bars offer a variety of night-time entertainment.
However, this beach isn’t just for party-goers. The Nungwi coast has fantastic coral reefs which are ideal for diving and snorkelling – you may even be lucky enough to see dolphins, green turtles and, at certain times of the year, whale sharks.
Facing west, Nungwi Beach also has some of the best sunsets in Zanzibar and a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow sailing boat is a must.
Sometimes referred to as the “little sister” of Nungwi Beach, Kendwa Beach is much quieter than its sibling in the north.
This is one of the few beaches on Zanzibar where the tide doesn’t really change, which means the clear waters are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
Colourful starfish also call this beach home and can be found just offshore (but be sure not to pick up these creatures or disturb them in their natural habitat).
The sunsets at Kendwa beach are legendary, so pick your spot on the beach when the sun starts to lower. Once it dips below the horizon, the beach comes alive in new way with nightlife and relaxed beach parties.
This small fishing village on the south coast of Zanzibar consists of two adjoining settlements: Kizimkazi Dimbani to the north and Kizimkazi Mkunguni to the south.
The coastline here is very different from the classic palm-backed lagoon of the east coast.
Here, a coral rag cliff elevates the waterfront above the ocean and the beaches take the form of small coves rather than broad expanses of sand.
For this reason, there are fewer accommodation options and the area has a distinct and authentic atmosphere.
The village of Kizimkazi is famous for its dolphin safaris. However, if you’re visiting Kizimkazi please be mindful about joining boat trips which offer the opportunity to swim with dolphins.
There are no regulations regarding dolphin tourism in Zanzibar and most tours are run by boat drivers with no experience or interest in animal behaviour.
Often boats crowd round the dolphins and chase them, and tourists jump into the water to swim, with no monitoring of the dolphin’s behaviour.
Instead, contact us to ask about how to swim with dolphins responsibly in Zanzibar during your holidays, if this is something you are keen to do.
Matemwe is a section of coastline on the northeast of Zanzibar.
The long, idyllic beach at Matemwe (the longest beach in Zanzibar) has some of the finest sand on the island and amongst the palm trees at the back of the beach you’ll find traditional fishing villages, which offer a fascinating insight into the local culture.
Around two kilometres offshore, just beyond the main reef, is the world-famous island of Mnemba Atoll; a popular scuba diving spot surrounded by pristine and very accessible coral reefs.
The area around Matemwe Beach has the best diving and snorkelling on the island, plus some excellent kitesurfing and sailing.
Pongwe beach is arguably the best swimming beach in Zanzibar.
Pongwe’s quiet arc of beach is dotted with palm trees and backed by dense vegetation; this is about as close to a quintessential tropical paradise as you can get.
Pongwe Beach is lucky in the fact that the whole beach is protected by an offshore reef, which keeps the inner waters calm and safe for all to swim in. Snorkelling and boat trips can also be arranged to the reef.
Located on the southeast coast, Paje beach has all the makings of a perfect beach: long stretches of white sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, turquoise waters and exquisite sunsets.
Bordered by a small village on one side, Paje is peaceful and quiet, making this beach a great alternative to the busier, more developed beaches in the north of Zanzibar.
Paje beach is known for its water sports and the excellent kitesurfing conditions draw amateur and professional kitesurfers from all over the world to this specific area of the island.
In addition to this, the clear, warm waters are great for scuba diving, as the reefs offshore are home to turtles, starfish, trumpet fish, moray eels and other colourful marine creatures.
You might also see locals collecting seaweed at low tide at Paje beach, which is used to make soap via a women’s cooperative.
The products come wrapped in banana leaf and can be purchased at local shops; buying a bar or two is a great way to sustainably support the community, plus the soap’s natural ingredients are incredibly good for your skin.
You can find out more about Zanzibar’s seaweed soap initiative in this recent article by the BBC.
After sunset, the beach turns into a lively party spot, though the atmosphere is relaxed and international.
Whether you’re looking to explore the island’s colourful coral reefs on a scuba diving trip, or simply recline on the powder sands with a cocktail in hand, we hope this map and guide to the best beaches in Zanzibar has helped you decide which beach is best for the type of holiday you want.