Although most people visiting Zanzibar certainly are just looking to relax on the beach the entire trip, the archipelago of islands has so much more the offer! Made up of over 50 islands, overflowing with a unique and interesting history, and culturally rich, you can’t miss all the amazing things Zanzibar has to offer.
1. Go Beach Hopping
Of course the biggest appeal in traveling to Zanzibar are the stunning beaches. Images of clear and turquoise waters and white sands beaches are certainly the first to come to mind. But don’t get stuck just to one beach! The country is so full of countless unique and untouched beaches (it is an island after all) so be sure to explore them all and go beach hopping to find your favorite!
2. Explore Stone Town
Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar, and sometimes referred to as Zanzibar City is a small, yet incredibly compact city. The windy, narrow pathways will lead you through a maze of lovely things to explore. Whether it’s the harbor, the city’s incredible history of forts and the tragic history of the slave trade or even just enjoying it’s beaches, Stone Town never ceases to amaze.
3. Snorkeling at Mnemba Island
Unarguably the BEST place to go snorkeling in all of Zanzibar. Mnemba Island is located on the north eastern side of Zanzibar. Infamous for its private inaccessibility, it is not possible to visit the actual island itself. It can be rented out privately for a very hefty fee, hence why the average person is not so much as allowed to step foot on the island. However, it is possible to go snorkeling around the outskirts of Mnemba. Taking a boat, it’s just about a 15 minute ride through the crystal clear waters to the snorkeling location where you can see all kinds of amazing sea life.
4. Visit “I Love You” Island – Nakupenda
Nakupenda Island is a tiny and very beautiful island about a 15-20 minute boat ride off the coast of Stone Town. Usually combined in a day trip with Prison Island, it is also possible to visit just Nakupenda. In Swahili, Nakupenda means “I Love You”. If you go before noon, I can almost guarantee that’ll you’ll have the island to yourself.
In the afternoon, they set up a large marketplace and “pop up BBQ’s” and the tiny white-sanded beach will become very crowded. This island is so small that it actually disappears in the evening when the tides come up! So be sure to visit before 5pm if you want to actually see the island itself.
5. The Rock Restaurant
Perhaps Zanzibar’s most famous tourist attraction, The Rock Restaurant was one of the highlights of my trip. The restaurant is literally built on a rock in the middle of the ocean. During high tides, you take a short “sea taxi” ride to the entrance and enjoy a delicious meal in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
View the full post here: THE ROCK RESTAURANT IN ZANZIBAR – THE RESTAURANT BUILT ON A ROCK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN
6. Explore the Northern Beaches
Zanzibar’s beaches vary greatly between coasts. The northern beaches will provide you with the typical honeymoon like resorts, beautiful and clear waters, and almost constant tides. There is so much to do here, all the typical water sports, countless restaurants, and lots and lots of people. Despite the people, it has a lively, rather than overcrowded vibe, and it was such a fun area with by far the best beaches in all of Zanzibar.
7. Relax on the Eastern Beaches
The east coast of Zanzibar is a whole different story compared to the northern coast. Here, everything is relaxed. Also very full of tourists, but with far less to do (in a good way). The tides vary greatly here, however, making swimming in the ocean a bit difficult in the morning hours. It can be quite a walk to get to the actual water if it’s early. It’s also much much less expensive than the northern coast, with far better food!
8. Go Shopping at the Spice Market
One of the nicknames for Zanzibar is “Spice Island”. It would certainly be a shame to visit the country and not indulge in some of its famous spices. The best market in the country is located in Stone Town and it’s called Darajani Bazaar. Here you can buy just about anything you may be interested in; traditional clothing, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, baskets, toys, and of course….SPICES. Some of the spices they are most famous for are clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili. And although not technically a spice, Zanzibar’s vanilla is almost as famous as Madagascar’s.
9. Visit Prison Island
Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, has quite a tragic history. It was used as a prison (hence the name) for rebellious slaves in the 1800s. A bit later in the history it was also used as a quarantine island for those with yellow fever. Now it is one of Stone Town’s most popular tourist destinations, most famous for the abundance of giant tortoises that inhabit the island!
10. Take a Ferry to the Mainland
Just about 1.5-2 hours and $35 and you could find yourself on a ferry ride to mainland Tanzania. The beautiful city of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania’s largest) certainly has plenty to offer and is refreshing change of environment if you’re spending a lot of time on the island. Pop on over for a day trip, or even spend a night in the city. There’s so much to discover.
11. Visit Jozani Forest
Do you want to see a breed of monkeys that can’t be found anywhere else in the world? Jozani Forest, the only national park in Zanzibar, is located on the eastern coast of the island. Not too far from Paje, it’s a wonderful place to explore. Home to the Zanzibar Skye’s Monkey which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and also the very rare Red Colobos Monkey, this forest is certain to impress!
12. Go Partying
Looking for a good night out in Zanzibar? Don’t worry as there are countless options! In the north, Kendwa Rocks, located right on the beach, is the most famous with a monthly New Moon Party. On the East coast, B4 and Jambo club near Paje will always provide wonderful Dj’s and a great time. Supposedly in B4 and Jambo, the Dj’s are from Radio Ibiza.
13. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
If you’re feeling up for an adventure, horseback riding on the beach in Zanzibar is certainly for you! Whether you’re a beginner and would like to just go for a walk through and along the ocean, or would like a full gallop in the early morning along the sands, Zanzibar has it all! We went to Zanzibar Horse Club in Nungwi.
14. Enjoy the Local Food
Zanzibar is a seafood lover’s paradise! Prawns, crab, octopus, lobster, and countless types of fish are easily on the menu everywhere. No need to search. If you’re a seafood eater, be sure to enjoy all that the country has to offer with its fresh and local products!
Also be sure to take full advantage of the abundance of delicious fresh fruit. From bananas to pineapples to mangos…there is an endless supply of delicious and local fruits at all times!
15. Enjoy Countless Beautiful Sunsets
Pinks and blues and oranges setting over the quiet ocean? Who doesn’t love a beautiful sunset? Well fortunately, Zanzibar is bursting with them. Whether you’re in Stone Town, Nungwi, or Kendwa, you’re sure to catch a lovely sunset every day. Find yourself a rooftop bar like The Z Hotel in Nungwi or 6 Degrees South and Beach House in Stone Town. If you’re more of a sunrise person, head over to the east coast!
16. Learn About the History
Zanzibar has a long and very interesting history. Did you know that the current capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town, was once the capital of Oman? Zanzibar has been colonized by the Portuguese and then the Omanis and then the British and then Oman again before becoming the United Republic of Tanzania (with Zanzibar as a semi autonomous state) in the 60s.
From the tragic history of slavery to the bright and vibrant spice trade history, there is so much to learn! Stop by some museums in Stone Town, see where Freddie Mercury was born, learn about the culture! It’ll enhance your experience so much more.
17. Water Sports
Jet skiing? Kite surfing? Just about whatever you’re looking for, I’m sure Zanzibar has it! From what we gathered, most of the water sports take place in the northern beaches- Kendwa and Nungwi. It can also be found on the eastern coast, but it is certainly harder to come by. So if you’re visiting up north, be sure to enjoy the water sports to the fullest before you leave. Jet skiing costs about $50 per half hour.
18. HAVE FUN
The most important part of any trip is to just HAVE FUN! Talk to the locals, learn from them and about them. Share your cultures and your stories. Enjoy everything that the island has to offer and make the absolute best of it! Every country in this world is so beautiful, it’s just a matter of discovering that beauty!
Have more questions about Zanzibar? ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP
For more amazing things to do in Stone Town: Check all all the amazing things to do in Stone Town: VISITING STONE TOWN? EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW -THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO EAT, WHERE TO STAY | ZANZIBAR TRAVEL
Lots of Love and Safe Travels,
Danielle and Brooke