Finding the best beach can be a challenge in a country that is just one island full of endless shores. It can definitely seem quite overwhelming. But whether you’re looking for pristine beaches, white sands, turquoise waters, or just a little peace and quiet, Zanzibar certainly has it all. So here we have it, the best beaches in Zanzibar, divided by region.
Northern Beaches – Pristine and Bustling
The Northern Beaches of Zanzibar offer some of the island’s most picturesque shores. Pristine white sands, turquoise, crystal clear waters, and luxurious resorts. Imagine a postcard for a tropical destination. That is the North Coast. And the best beaches on the north coast? Nungwi and Kendwa. Just about a 15-minute drive away from each other, these beaches are almost exactly the same. Beautiful, clean, and full of people and activities.
Because the north offers some of the best beaches in the country, it is also usually the most crowded. Tourists come from all around to stay at their all-inclusive resorts on the pristine beachfront. Because of this, the north coast is also significantly more expensive than some other areas of Zanzibar (almost 3x the price for the equivalent stay on the east coast)
One of the most alluring aspects of the north coast is the fact that the tides do not differ so drastically throughout the day. Although there is a very clear high tide and low tide, it is possible to swim at all hours of the day (and night). On the east coast, the tide difference is so drastic that you can’t really swim in the ocean for a good portion of the day.
If you are looking to do any type of water sports like jet skiing, the north coast is the best place! Since most of the tourists go straight there, they also offer the most activities. You can also find water sports options in the other areas of Zanzibar, but it is the most easily accessible from the North Coast.
Beyond being famous for its beautiful beaches, Nungwi is famous for being the center of dhow (traditional boat) building in Zanzibar. Originally discovered by backpackers and hippies, it has become much more touristic over the years as resort after resort popped up along the beachfront. Regardless, it is still an amazing place with a wonderful mix of people. Don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful sunsets from one of the areas rooftop bars!
Although essentially the same as the nearby Nungwi beach (they are only about 15 minutes drive apart), Kendwa does boast the best place to party in all of Zanzibar. Kendwa Rocks has a monthly full moon party at their club right on the beach.
Where to Stay on the North Coast
We spent three lovely nights in Nungwi at the Z Hotel. The resort itself was simply lovely with an infinity-like pool, a private beach, and a rooftop bar. The staff were absolutely AMAZING and they made our time there feel so special. If you’re looking to go horseback riding on the beach, they also have their own stables – Zanzibar Horse Club.
If you’re looking for a less expensive option or traveling solo, Nungwi also has many bungalows to rent and lovely hostels!
Eastern Beaches – Restful and Quiet
The East Coast of Zanzibar is a completely different atmosphere compared to the bustling north coast. Everything is much more relaxed, there is far less to do (in a good way) and there is a truly peaceful vibe, Not to mention that everything is MUCH less expensive. The biggest downside is that the tides vary a lot during the day. I would say that for at least half the day they will be so far back that you really can’t realistically go swimming in the ocean (without walking a significant distance). But, once the tides come in, it makes it worth it!
Bwenjuu is a very small little town, the definition of quiet and peaceful. We stayed at the Sahari Hotel in Bwenjuu and had some of the loveliest days of our trip. We could stargaze at the clear sky with no light pollution. There were no sounds at all except for the few other guests, total relaxation. When we first drove up I was a bit skeptical of the quiet, but after just a few moments it was clear how enjoyable it would be.
The beach itself at Michamvi will most likely be fairly empty. Michamvi itself is actually a peninsula with very lovely beaches. But what used to be a quaint fisherman’s town, has turned into one of Zanzibar’s most famous tourist attractions. The Rock Restaurant was built on a rock in the middle of the ocean on Michamvi Pingwe beach. It instantly became one of Zanzibar’s most memorable icons.
Paje beach, just a short distance from Bwenjuu is one of the more popping east coast beaches. The town is a big larger than some of the others in the area and is definitely the best place to go kite surfing (probably in all Zanzibar). Paje also has a few lovely clubs where you can spend the whole night partying until you see the sun rising on the beach. B4 and Jambo are the most famous and have an amazing vibe. If you want to go club hopping, you can just walk right along the beach about 15-20 minutes between the two.
Where to Stay on the East Coast
The most important tip for where to stay on the East Coast…..Find a place with a pool. Realistically, you probably won’t be able to go swimming in the ocean until around 2pm, so a pool comes in very handy.
In general, the east coast is much less expensive than the northern coast (by about 1/3) and even stone town (about 1/2), but the same quality. We stayed at Sahari Hotel and absolutely loved it. The food was delicious, the pool was lovely, and the Wi-Fi was the best we had in all of Zanzibar (I was actually able to have full work meetings).
Stone Town (West Coast) – Perfect Combination of City and Beaches
Stone Town itself is not famous for the most beautiful beaches in Zanzibar. Oftentimes the water is a bit rougher than in other areas, not quite as clear, and full of boats (it is a port city after all). But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some amazing beaches to offer.
Nakupenda Island, about a 20 minute boat ride from Stone Town, has one of the loveliest beaches in all Zanzibar, in my opinion. It’s a tiny, entirely empty island…not a tree or a shrub in sight. As a matter of fact, in the evening the island disappears entirely as the tides come up. But visiting in the morning or afternoon proves to be one of the loveliest experiences. If you go before 12pm I can almost guarantee you’ll have the island almost entirely to yourself. The clear waters, the stunning snorkeling opportunities, the brightest whitest sands. It’s truly a little oasis.
7. Hotel Beaches
Although compared to some of Zanzibar’s other beaches, Stone Town may not be listed among the absolute best, they are still quite lovely! The nicest beach that we found was in front of the Serena Hotel or the Beach House. In the evenings the beach is full of locals playing football and enjoying the sunset. It’s really such a lovely atmosphere and opportunity to understand the local culture.
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
8. Mnemba Island – Luxurious Private Island Experience
By far the most luxurious option of them all, Mnemba Island is not for those on a budget. The island is very exclusive and private. There is a private coast guard that patrols the area to ensure no strangers land on the precious white shores. But, if you’re willing to spend a pretty penny I can assure you the experience will be like no other!
If you are more budget-oriented (like me) you can at least go snorkeling in the area surrounding the island. It is by far the best snorkeling in Zanzibar with a huge and stunning coral reef. Sea turtles are known to make the occasional appearance and are often seen hatching their eggs on Mnemba itself. You won’t be allowed to go near the actual land of the island, but the waters are stunningly clear and the snorkeling is definitely worth it.
Check out the details of this handmade swimsuit here: ZANZIBAR – THE 2 OUTFITS I MADE JUST FOR MY TRIP TO PARADISE | FASHION DESIGN
Locals will proudly tell you that Bill Gates, Naomi Campbell, and Tom Cruise have all visited this lovely place for a truly private and luxurious experience.
Looking for more amazing things to do in Zanzibar? Check out: 18 AMAZING THINGS YOU CAN’T MISS ON YOUR TRIP TO ZANZIBAR | THINGS TO DO
Have other questions before your visit? Check out: ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ZANZIBAR | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Lots of Love and Safe Travels,
Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters