Kenya’s coastline is dotted with dazzling tropical beaches, each with its own character. Lamu being more cultural, while Nyali’s proximity to Mombasa makes it more urbanised. From powdery sands to sacred forests and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, read on for the best seaside spots and their surroundings
The surrounding lush vegetation sharply contrasts with the white, powdery beaches and the turquoise water, lending Diani a radiant appeal. There is a wide range of accommodation, with beach resorts, hotels, hostels and honeymoon tree houses. If you are not a water sports enthusiast, spend some time at the Colobus Conservation or hug a tree at the Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest.
Watamu beach does not stretch for miles on end, but what it lacks it length, it makes up for with adventure. Its enormous coral reef makes it a perfect spot to snorkel and scuba dive. Sea turtles nest on a stretch of the beach near to the reef. If you are lucky, you could swim with whale sharks, depending on the time of the year. If not, head out to Arabuko Sokoke forest for a short safari. History buffs will be delighted by the sight of the Gede Ruins, an abandoned medieval settlement.
Malindi beach is adjacent to Watamu beach, but you get to it first from Mombasa. The locals call it ‘Little Italy’ due to the large population of Italian tourists. Anglers come too, during the deep-sea fishing season, while water sports enthusiasts are present year-round to snorkel, waterski and scuba dive. The club scene comes alive after dark.
Lamu is the land of dhows. Dhow sailing is a cultural tradition in Lamu and the locals hold an annual competition. Dhows are the cheapest mode of transport, used to ferry people from Lamu beach to Shela beach and Manda Island, all the way to Kiwayu Island right next to Kiunga Marine National Reserve.
You can set sail to watch the sunset in the deep sea, or cruise all the way to the marine park to snorkel and swim with dolphins if your timing is right, or you can go on an excursion to view the ruins of Takwa. Best of all is spending the night at sea on a luxurious dhow after a sumptuous meal of freshly caught fish.
This is a real hidden gem. This tranquil beach is often snubbed in favour of its neighbour, Diani beach, due to its lack of amenities. Besides the 4-star Tiwi Beach Resort, the only other accommodation are cottages and guesthouses, with no bars and restaurants to hang out.
Tiwi makes up for this deficit by being one of the best snorkelling spots – you can actually touch the coral reef as you walk along the shores of the beach. It is well-liked by locals, particularly those from Nairobi. What makes this beach more appealing is the lack of beach boys. If you still insist, you can easily cross the Mwachema river in low tide to get to Diani beach.
Shanzu is a secluded beach located in North Coast. The extensive length of the beach sparkles like a million tiny jewels under the dazzling sunlight. The coral reef starts right at the shoreline and the coconut palms form the backdrop to the beach. It is perfect for passive beach holidays; besides a trip to Fort Jesus, there are no adrenaline-stirring adventures available. Maybe that is why it is favoured by German and Swiss tourists.
Nyali beach, being a short distance from Mombasa, is well developed and appeals to holidaymakers who do not wish to wander far from the trappings of urbanisation. There is plenty of accommodation from which to choose. The beach itself is close to Mombasa Marine Park, where you can go snorkelling. You can also opt to view the marine life through a glass-bottomed boat. Spend time off the water at Haller Park, Mamba Village Centre or Nguuni Sanctuary. At night, hit the club scene in Mombasa or within Nyali.