When you think of Kenya, the first thing that comes to mind are its spectacular safaris and exotic wildlife. But Kenya is also home to some of Africa’s best beaches. From north to south, the Kenyan coast is dotted with endless stretches of white sandy shorelines, magnificent coral reefs, crystal clear water and an abundance of beachside activities. With so many beautiful beaches to choose from, it can be tough to find the right one for your travel itinerary. In this blog post, we share some of Kenya’s best beaches to help you find the perfect getaway for your holiday in Kenya.
Diani Beach is one of Kenya’s most popular beach destinations and for good reason. Lined with white-sand beaches, coconut palms, and aquamarine waters, this beach looks more like a postcard than reality. Colorful coral reefs protect the shore from choppy surf, creating the perfect conditions to simply relax, swim or float in the water. If watersports are your thing, Diani is a fantastic spot to learn how to kitesurf, surf or even go snorkeling. Diani is also home to a wide range of boutique resorts, beachside bars, lively nightlife options, and delicious restaurants, making this destination one of Kenya’s most vibrant coastal cities.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture during your holiday in Diani Beach, we suggest joining this Diani village experience with a local community organization. The village is full of charming homes and set against a backdrop of Diani’s famed coconut palms, which your local guide can climb to help pick coconuts that you can cut open to drink and enjoy. You’ll also have the opportunity to help prepare the local delicacy of cassava in coconut milk, design your own local crafts, and exchange traditional stories from local community members. By booking this Diani Beach community experience, you also contribute to the economic empowerment of young people and women in the community through life skills training, education, and mentorship.
Popularly known as Turtle Bay, Watamu Beach is one of Kenya’s most popular underwater adventure destinations. The beach is a part of the Watamu National Marine Park, making this the perfect stop for scuba divers and snorkeling enthusiasts looking to explore its rich coral reefs, which support over 600 species of fish. With the world-renowned Local Ocean Trust protecting this important ecosystem, you can expect to spot a variety of turtle species such as the hawksbill, olive ridley, green, and even the rare leatherback turtle during your snorkeling or diving excursion. If you are lucky, you might even spot a whale shark or dolphin during your time underwater!
If you need to take a break from the ocean, we suggest visiting the nearby Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, which is the largest indigenous coastal forest in all of Eastern Africa and home to over 600 plant species, 240 bird species, and 260 butterfly species. The forest is also home to rare mammals such as the golden-rumped elephant shrew, which resembles a giant mouse with an elongated nose, and the Aders’ duiker, which is a miniature forest-dwelling antelope. Other mammal sightings in the forest include the Sykes’ monkey, yellow baboons, and wild elephants.
For nature lovers, there is truly no better beachside destination in all of East Africa than Watamu.
Situated in the north of Kenya, the ancient Swahili settlement of Lamu Island is one of Kenya’s most exotic beachside getaways. With tropical beaches such as Manda Bay and Shela Beach lining the coast and its unique blend of African-Islamic-Arabian culture, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers one of Kenya’s unmatched travel experiences. Featuring spectacular views and a peaceful atmosphere, the beaches of Lamu Island are the ideal getaway for travelers looking for some rest and relaxation with all the comforts of a luxury resort. If a little more privacy is what you’re after, then book a traditional homestay at one of Lamu’s exclusive beach-front villas, which includes all the special conveniences to make your holiday truly unforgettable. In the evening, sail out onto the bay on one of Lamu’s renowned dhow boats to catch one of the island’s majestic sunsets.
If you want to head back into town, you can explore the charming alleyways of Lamu’s Old Town with a local guide who is sure to share their favorite hidden gems with you. We also recommend trying some of Lamu’s traditional Swahili cuisine, which features dishes such as coconut rice, samosas, makaki, and bajias, which a local chef can prepare for you at a unique dining experience right in the comfort of their home.
With so much to see and do in Lamu, we suggest allocating a few days on your holiday to explore all that this unique island paradise has to offer.
Located less than an hour away from the beaches of Watamu is Kilifi, Kenya’s bohemian paradise. With its laidback coastal vibe, eclectic restaurants, and secluded beaches, Kilifi is the perfect place to spend a carefree afternoon lounging and sunbathing on the beach while staring out across the emerald waters of the Indian Ocean. As the sun starts setting over the horizon, hop on a sunset dhow cruise (traditional wooden sailing boat) to take in the mesmerizing Kilifi sunset while sipping on a tropical cocktail. Once the night sets in, head back over to the beach to catch the spectacular phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton lighting up the night as the ocean waves gently roll onto the seashore.
In Kilifi, you can book a night at an ecologically-minded lodge, where you can connect with adventurers from all around the world who are interested in supporting local communities and taking care of the environment. At this lodge, there is an emphasis on the responsible management of waste and resources by applying the ‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’ philosophy that aims to preserve natural resources, landfill space, energy and emissions. The toilets are even built with recycled materials and produce natural fertilizer for the garden, which is where all of the fresh and delicious produce for the restaurant is grown. You can also choose to join an informative coconut workshop with a local community organization committed to empowering young girls with quality education through mentorship programs and workshops on health and wellbeing.
Whether you choose to relax by the ocean, give back to the community, spend the afternoon in a hammock or go for a sunset stroll on the beach, there is no shortage of entertaining things to do in Kilifi.
Located just outside of Mombasa, Nyali Beach’s calm ambiance feels like it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With plenty of upscale restaurants and resorts to choose from, Nyali Beach normally attracts travelers looking for a secluded getaway with all the amenities, as it’s considered one of the less crowded beaches on the Kenyan coast. With its long stretch of idyllic white sand, this is the ideal beach to relax in your own private space and enjoy beachside activities such as swimming and sunbathing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can opt to take a surfing lesson or even go snorkeling at the beautiful Mombasa Marine Park.
If you’re looking to take a break from relaxing by the beach, there are also incredible nature excursions nearby such as Haller Park, Shimba Hills National Reserve or Nguuni Nature Sanctuary. If a cultural experience is what you’re looking for, head back into Mombasa and book an art workshop with a local artist, learn to design jewelry with a community organization, or support the work of an environmental group by planting mangrove trees that will help against mangrove deforestation in Mombasa.
Located on Kenya’s scenic north coast, the secluded getaway of Shanzu Beach is perfect for travelers looking to reset following their safari excursions around the country. Boasting miles of soft white sand beaches, palm-lined shores and crystal clear water, the best thing to do at Shanzu is to simply relax and enjoy the pleasant surroundings while sipping water straight out of the coconut. If you’re looking to get out on the water, you can book a glass-bottomed boat trip or even go scuba diving and snorkeling to the nearby coral reefs.
Shanzu Beach also hosts plenty of oceanfront dining and entertainment options, which means you don’t have to venture too far to find some fresh seafood or to grab a cocktail and dance the night away. Other nearby activities to do in the area include taking an excursion to the nearby Fort Jesus or booking a workshop with the Mombasa Girl Guides Association, which provides training for handicapped young women who sell traditional leather crafts and jewelry.
Known as ‘Little Italy’ due to the large population of Italian tourists, Malindi Beach is one of Kenya’s best destinations for water sports and adventure activities. Start your morning at the crack of dawn and set off for a deep-sea fishing excursion out in the Indian Ocean that is suitable for both beginners and professional anglers alike. If you decide to stick close to shore, indulge in the crystal clear waters of Malindi by going snorkeling or scuba diving to the colorful coral reefs that dot Malindi Beach. For those more comfortable above the water, book a windsurfing class or even head off on a sailing excursion along Malindi’s extensive coastline.
To witness one of Kenya’s most unusual natural attractions, pay a visit to the nearby Marafa Depression, which is also known as Hell’s Kitchen. This strange sandstone canyon features jagged gorges that are layered with a kaleidoscope of colors, making this an otherworldly destination to catch the sunset. For a more culturally-immersive activity near Malindi, we suggest booking a community-based village experience in Bore, which supports the local people through skills training, tree planting and other activities that contribute to the sustainable development of this community through tourism.