Top Free Things to Do in Zanzibar

A relaxing spot in Zanzibar
A relaxing spot in Zanzibar | © astoltz/Pixabay
Gill Lange

There is no need to fork out a small fortune to enjoy the pleasures of Zanzibar. Walking, swimming, sunbathing, exploring markets and learning about history can all come for free if you know where to look. Here is how to make the most of your time in Zanzibar without denting your bank balance. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Grab a spot on the sand

Tropical paradise in Zanzibar

The eastern and northern shores of Zanzibar are home to amazing beaches with white sand and calm azure waters. Although there are no private beaches on the island, it can be difficult to find the most beautiful spots unless you’re staying at a beach resort. These resorts offer even day-trippers direct access to their stunning shorelines. Some great beaches that are easily accessible include Paje, Bwejuu, Matemwe and Kizimkazi.

Zanzibar coastline

Get the party started

High-quality cocktails

Situated in the north of Zanzibar, Kendwa Beach is not only gorgeous but also boasts bars and restaurants serving everything from cocktails to curries. Things get even more lively here around the time of full moon, when party-goers can be seen dancing the night away. Kendwa’s renowned full moon parties are free and open to everyone, taking place on whichever Saturday happens to be closest to a full moon. An electric atmosphere, pumping music and a party that lasts until dawn are just some of the ingredients that make up this unforgettable experience.

Kendwa Village

Get your window shopping fix

If there is one thing that Zanzibar is definitely not short of, it is colourful outdoor markets. The wide range of spices, fruits, vegetables, fabric and craft work displayed proudly are a sight to see. Even if you don’t want to spend any money, just roaming around these bustling markets and taking in the lively atmosphere can cheer anyone up! If you’re hungry afterwards, make your way to Forodhani Gardens, the ever-popular evening food market.

Visit the Mangapwani caves

The Mangapwani Coral Cave, along with the slave chamber, is a deep natural cavern in the coral-lined rock. The square-shaped rock cell was originally built for holding slaves. Although most visitors explore these caves through an organised tour, it is also possible to make a solo visit. Although the cave has a narrow entrance that can be accessed by a staircase, the slave chamber is more difficult to reach, so those who want to check this out are advised to find a guide. Also keep in mind that exiting the cave is tricky and requires a bit of athletic effort.

Mangapwani Coral Cave and Slave Chamber

Soak in the fishing vibe

Locals fishing for a living

While Chwaka Bay is most often visited by tourists en route to Jozani Forest, which requires an entrance fee, you can enjoy this beautiful fishing village for free. So instead of heading off into the forest to observe colobus monkeys, grab a front row seat along the stunning shoreline. Watch weather-beaten fishermen ply their trade as the sea breeze carries forward the salty smell of freshly caught fish. Tip: there are plenty of monkeys in Chwaka, too, so visitors have a good chance of spotting some without coughing up the entrance fee.

Chwaka Bay

Walk around the city by yourself

Ornate doorway in Stone Town

Zanzibar is a relatively small island with only about five main roads that all lead back to the main town. This makes self exploration, without a guide, very much possible. The inner city of Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the cultural and historical heart of the city. Spend a few hours to explore the labyrinthine alleys that wind between ancient buildings and feature a blend of Arabic, African, Indian and European architectural influences.

Stone Town

Fill up on the feel-good drug


Even science backs up the healing power of sunlight! Heliotherapy, as it is known, relies on Vitamin D as a crucial element in the process of healing and maintaining of skin health – and Zanzibar has heaps of this happy drug! Year-round tropical weather means plenty of sun and this translates to every excuse to get out and bask in the rays. Of course, taking the usual precautions is strongly advised, such as using ample amounts of sunscreen, drinking lots of water, and staying away from the rays between the peak hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Remember: working towards a slow glow is better than a painful skin peel!

Interact with the locals

Sunset football on the beach

The sunny and affable outlook of most Tanzanian people means that it is very easy to get to know the them. Better yet, these informal interactions have no time (or money) requirement and are usually spontaneous and genuine. The youth of the country is passionate about football, so taking a ball down to the beach can be a great icebreaker if you want to make some new friends!

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