On paper Kenya’s coast is an enticing prospect. Warm Pacific water, miles upon miles of sandy beaches and a Swahili rich cultural heritage. The perfect top and tail to a safari holiday you’d think. The reality unfortunately, rarely lives up to expectation, as miles upon miles of beach boy plagued beaches are backed by large bland resorts with the charm and grace of a warthog. Despite this, there are real diamonds in the rough, places good enough to compete with the best.
By far and away the gem of the Kenyan Coast is Lamu. A wonderful archipelago offering protected beaches and a UNESCO World Heritage town to explore. Lamu Town itself is a melting pot of rich aromas, crumbling colonial buildings and narrow winding streets with an overwhelmingly laid back charm. Just 5 minutes away by speed boat, the village of Shela and Manda Island offer desert island bliss, beach-side bandas, blissful sunsets and solitude. Lamu is more expensive to get to than further South, but the journey is worthwhile.
Lamu boasts a wealth of good accommodation, and if you willing to splash some cash, there is no shortage of options, but for fantastic value without cutting corners it is hard to beat the Robinson Crusoe-esque Diamond Beach Village on Manda Island and the cool colonial charm of Fatuma’s Tower in Shela. Both come in around the $100 per room mark. Other’s to look out for include the higher end but not up itself Kipungani Explorer and Kijani Hotel in Shela.
Further South, the highlights get more and more sporadic. Your entry point to the South and Central Coast is likely to be Mombasa. Mombasa itself is worth a visit if you have time (at least the old town) but a stay at the nearby coastal resorts is to be avoided wherever possible by anyone with a semblance of independent spirit left in them.
Working North to South, Che Shale is a simple, stylish, trendy, yet pleasingly affordable option near Malindi. Situated on a vast deserted beach, the place is a favourite of Kite surfers world-wide, but don’t let that put you off. Prices are again around the $100 per room mark.
Nearbye, Mida eco camp between Watamu and Malindi is a very simple but charming eco camp set amidst the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Mida Creek. Prices are exceedingly affordable at around $30 per room. The place is run with real heart and there’s plenty to do from exploring the mangrove boardwalks and wildlife to learning a bit of Giriami drumming and dancing.
Most tourists who don’t get sucked into the Mombasa resorts head to Diani Beach. It is still way over developed with a real beach boy problem. If you do stay, then the Diani Marine resort is a diving specialist resort that also serves as a great mid-range spot. Backpackers should head straight to Stilts Backpaka’s which according to the Rough Guide to Kenya Editor Richard Trillo, is still “the only real backpackers on the coast”.
For clients interested in combining their safari or Mount Kenya trek with a spot of R&R on the beach, Tourdust can arrange extensions at any of the above recommended accommodation. We can also arrange stays at Mombasa Resorts, just don’t be surprised if we try very hard to persuade you out of it.