The Best Luxury Resorts in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a glorious cultural melting pot in the Indian Ocean
Zanzibar is a glorious cultural melting pot in the Indian Ocean | Courtesy of DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Zanzibar - Nungwi / Expedia
Judy Cogan

Blazing white sands, clear turquoise waters and year-round sunshine: combine all that natural beauty with African, Indian, Arabic and Persian influences and a rich and cultural backdrop begins to form behind Tanzania’s most famous island. For centuries, Zanzibar has operated as a thriving hub for merchants and explorers, and today it’s one of Africa’s most alluring islands thanks to a wave of luxury resorts flanked by thick forests and long powdery sands. We’ve rounded up the pick of the lot.

1. Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort

Hotel, Resort, Luxury

Room interior at Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort – with wood-panelled walls, wooden floors and a thatched ceiling
Courtesy of Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort / Expedia

This luxurious beach resort, in Pongwe on the island’s east coast, was named Best Luxury Romantic Beach Resort 2020 at the Luxury Hotel Awards and is pure honeymoon heaven. Follow the trail of scattered rose petals in your elegant room to a private terrace overlooking tropical gardens, or in some cases the powdery-white private beach. Take in the view while enjoying a cold one from the minibar or a morning mug of Nespresso coffee, then get ready for a yoga class or a one-hour full-body massage – both are included in the room rate.

2. The Residence Zanzibar

Resort

Exterior view of the outdoor infinity pool at The Residence Zanzibar, surrounded by sun loungers, palm trees and the sea beyond
Courtesy of The Residence Zanzibar / Expedia

The 66 brown-tiled brick bungalows of the Residence Zanzibar don’t scream luxury, but the attention to detail in each one won’t leave you wanting. In the bathroom you’ll find natural coconut body products, while by the bed there are fresh truffles waiting to be scoffed. Each bungalow opens out onto a wide wooden deck with its own plunge pool. Meanwhile, neither in-house restaurant scrimps on choice; the Dining Room’s menu forms a fine selection of African, Omani and Indian cuisine, while the Pavilion serves up a range of Middle Eastern fare by the pool. The resort overlooks a pristine creamy-coloured mile-long beach that’s combed clean of seaweed everyday.

3. Zanzibar Beach Resort

Hotel, Resort

Exterior view of the curved outdoor pool at Zanzibar Beach Resort, surrounded by sun loungers, palm trees and thatched buildings, with the sea in the background
Courtesy of Zanzibar Beach Resort / Expedia

Part of the Wellworth Collection, this resort is big on everything from the smiles of its staff to the size of its pool and the flavours on offer in its multiple restaurants. It’s only a five-minute drive from the airport and yet gives you front row seats for golden beach sunsets that will take your breath away. There are 84 rooms and suites, including the Palace block rooms, set in the pretty landscaped gardens, and the ensuite Chalets with sea-facing breezy balconies. Food and drink options range from laid-back poolside slurping to fancier fine-dining affairs.

5. The Sands Beach Resort Zanzibar

Hotel, Resort, Boutique Hotel

Exterior view of the outdoor pool at The Sands Beach Resort Zanzibar, surrounded by sun loungers, parasols, green hedging and palm strees
Courtesy of The Sands Beach Resort Zanzibar / Expedia
Hakuna matata ain’t no passing craze and Sands Beach Resort Zanzibar has embraced this problem-free philosophy as their mantra to ensure you have zero worries during your stay. This boutique resort on the east coast of Zanzibar has just 20 rooms and villas within 12 acres (5ha) of tropical gardens, so expect heaps of attention from the friendly staff. Rooms are lovely but the seaview villas are something special, coming with an additional outdoor shower and a private terrace overlooking the long white sandy beach of Dongwe. Flick your sandals off and take a short stroll down to the nearby coral reef to snorkel amidst all manner of iridescent fish.

6. Pongwe Bay Resort

Independent Hotel, Budget Hotel

Room interior at Pongwe Bay Resort, with whitewashed walls, large bed surrounded by mosquito netting, wood-beamed ceilings, sofa and local decorative textiles
Courtesy of Pongwe Bay Resort / Expedia

The grounds of Pongwe Bay Resort, set on the beach of the same name, are filled with native flowers and banana trees swaying under the horizon of the Indian Ocean. The staff work hard to maintain the blissful look and feel of the place while preserving the natural environment, and even harder to tend to your needs. All suites feature handcrafted African furniture, Egyptian cotton sheets, king-size beds and two bathrooms – and some have their own private gardens.

7. DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Zanzibar - Nungwi

Hotel, Resort, Chain Hotel

Room interior at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Zanzibar, with a large bed covered in flower petals, wardrobe, desk and chair, and patio doors leading out to a balcony
Courtesy of DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Zanzibar - Nungwi / Expedia

Nungwi, to the north of the island, blends time-worn traditions with contemporary appeal, particularly if you stay at the Zanzibar outpost of one of the world’s leading hotel brands. The service and facilities are as exceptional as you’d expect: an outdoor freshwater pool, a fitness centre, live entertainment, and a deluxe spa all vie for attention. And down on the pristine beach – just five minutes from the palm-leaf roofs of the hotel – you’ll spy local fishermen launching off into the Indian Ocean for their daily catch, and dhow builders plying their ancient craft.

8. Fruit & Spice Wellness Resort Zanzibar

Hotel, Resort, Luxury

Exterior of beachfront at Fruit & Spice Wellness Resort Zanzibar, with white sand, palm trees, sun loungers and the ocean beyond

The hotel owner and his team of warm and welcoming staff certainly aim to please. Their objective is for you to leave feeling mentally and physically rejuvenated. The Jungle Spa – surrounded by tropical vegetation and right next to the ocean – offers a menu of natural stress-melting treatments to help you on your way. Then there are the three restaurants: each offering a variety of fresh, healthy and locally inspired cuisine with a few western favourites thrown in. When you aren’t resting in your five-star room or villa, you could be dolphin-spotting on the coast or hiking through the thick Jozani Forest – just head down to reception and book yourself onto a tour.

9. Next Paradise Boutique Resort

Resort

Room interior at Next Paradise Boutique Resort, with a large four-poster bed, sitting area, wood-beamed ceiling and a raised platform containing a large bathtub
Courtesy of Next Paradise Boutique Resort / Expedia
Being stretched out on a sunlounger by the pool all day may be many people’s idea of a resort holiday well spent, but not everyone’s. At Next Paradise, you can do that to your heart’s content but you’ll also be next door to Zanzibar Extreme Water Sports centre – the place to go wild with Indian Ocean adventures in mind. Try jet-ski safaris, scuba diving, wakeboarding or waterskiing around the island of Mnemba and the pristine coral reefs that protect the coastline from strong currents. Back at the hotel, there are four swimming pools and 25 sea-facing rooms and villas where you can catch your breath with a cocktail.

10. Kiwengwa Beach Resort

Hotel, Resort

Kiwengwa Beach Resort
Courtesy of Kiwengwa Beach Resort / Expedia

This resort on the northeast coast of Zanzibar has 134 colour-popping rooms and 19 luxurious suites kitted out with all you need for a comfy stay. There’s also a honeymoon ‘love nest’ with its own private terrace, an indoor hot tub and sprawling ensuite bedroom literally on the beach. And if you really want to push the boat out (this time not literally), you can book the adjoining suite to transform your base into a 92sqm (1000sqft) pad that staff call the Royal Family Suite. Food and drink options are plentiful, from plush restaurants to private moonlit dinners, and a laid back beach bar where cocktails and live music await.

11. Ocean Paradise Resort & Spa Zanzibar

Hotel, Resort, Spa Hotel

Ocean Paradise Resort & Spa Zanzibar

One of the major draws of Zanzibar is its world-class diving – and a stay at Ocean Paradise will make it a central element to your time on the island. A PADI-accredited dive company is housed on site, arranging diving trips for guests led by local, certified guides. Back on dry land, accommodation pays tribute to the African roundhouse style: the conical makuti thatched huts are shaded by coconut palms and leafy tropical gardens, while minimal yet modern interiors keep the focus on all the natural beauty outside.

12. Baraza Resort & Spa Zanzibar - All Inclusive

Resort, Hotel, Spa Hotel

Baraza Resort & Spa Zanzibar
The family who run Baraza Resort & Spa had all the wooden furniture, the Omani trunks and brass lamps made specially for their hotel, one of the most lavish on the island. Each of the 30 one- or two-bedroom villas flaunt white and gold themed interiors and a plunge pool facing either the lush gardens or the private 240m (800ft) stretch of Bwejuu beach. The spa is styled like an Arabian harem, with golden mosaic floors and a menu of treatments that include facials and Thai massages. There’s also a kids club to accommodate young families, as well as tennis courts for burning off bumper breakfasts and dinners.

Fancy more luxury stays in Zanzibar? Check out our guide to the best luxury hotels in Zanzibar, bookable with Culture Trip

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