15 of the Best Beaches in Zanzibar

When you imagine an idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise water and palm trees waving lazily in the breeze the images you have in your head are much like the beaches of Zanzibar. The island’s beaches are considered to be the best in Africa and the popular Kendwa Beach on Zanzibar’s northwest coast was recently voted the best beach in Africa and the 4th best beach in the entire world. High praise indeed which we think anyone who has visited our island would agree with.

Famous for their powdery white sands and clear tropical waters, Zanzibar’s beaches are a gateway to a colourful world of coral reefs and marine life just off-shore. And when we are not swimming, snorkeling or diving we are relaxing under the shade of the palm trees. We are listening to the sound of the breeze through the trees, the calls of the birds and the hum of everyday life in this magical place. The term ‘tropical paradise’ may be overused, but on Zanzibar we feel it is most appropriate.

There are over 25 well known beaches around the island and many more smaller stretches worth exploring if you want to get off the beaten track and listen to the sounds of nature in peace and quiet. When asked “which beach is the best beach in Zanzibar” our answer is: there is no best beach, there is only the best beach for you.

Choosing the best beach for your visit depends on what activities you have planned for your holiday in Zanzibar. There are beaches that are suitable for wind and kitesurfing, beaches next to world class scuba diving sites and beaches that are picture perfect for sitting at a beach bar and lounging around all day long. For first-time visitors, it is recommended that you check if your chosen area matches your planned activities and expectations and this guide to the beaches of Zanzibar is here to assist.

In general, the beaches on the northern part of the island are busier and offer a wider range of tourism focused activities and accommodation options. If you like a to do a lot of relaxing and socialising, the northern beaches are a good choice. The beaches on the eastern side of the island tend to be quieter with a more laid back atmosphere and are popular with diving and surfing enthusiasts.

It is important to note that the west coast has calmer waters than the east coast and much less dramatic tidal changes. East coast tides will result in the ocean being up to a few hundred metres away from the beach during periods of low-tide. While this is great if you want to investigate tidal pools and explore, it is not ideal if all you want to do is swim and you need to walk 5 minutes to get to the water’s edge. It is something to keep in mind.

To help make your decision a bit easier, we present a selection of our favourite beaches of Zanzibar below with detailed descriptions of the type of accommodation, facilities and activities available at each. Our list is in strictly geographical order starting from Stone Town where most visitors will arrive to the island and moving clockwise and north around the island. We trust that you find a beach that inspires you to come visit our island and experience all the natural beauty and cultural heritage that Zanzibar has to offer. Karibu!

Northern Zanzibar Beaches

When discussing the beaches in north Zanzibar we are usually referring to just two: Kendwa and Nungwi. They are both very popular, have a huge variety of accommodation and restaurant options and can get quite busy during the high season. For travellers that like a lot of action around them, these are the perfect beaches for you.

Kendwa Beach

Location: Northwest coast – 56 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 80 minutes by taxi or bus
Great for: All-day swimming & amazing sunsets
Popular budget hotels: Sunseabar Beach Hotel, Sunset Kendwa, Kendwa Beach Resort
Best luxury hotels: Zuri Zanzibar, Kendwa Rocks, Riu Palace, Kilindi Zanzibar

Kendwa Beach, a once little known hippie hideout on the northwest coast, is renowned for its pristine, white sands and clear waters, offering a tranquil retreat with a wide choice of luxurious accommodations. Unlike many other beaches on Zanzibar, Kendwa allows for uninterrupted swimming, thanks to its tide-free nature, although this calmness means it’s not really suitable for more adventurous water sports.

Visitors can enjoy a range of other activities however including snorkeling, scuba diving and unique to Kendwa, skydiving. The atmosphere in Kendwa strikes a harmonious balance, being more laid-back than Nungwi, yet gently bubbling with life, especially during the weekend and at full-moon parties.

Recently ranked as one of the best beaches globally, and the top in Africa, Kendwa Beach beckons travelers seeking an unparalleled beach experience coupled with indulgent relaxation.
Learn why Kendwa Beach was voted the best in Zanzibar.

A sailboat off Kendwa Beach
Steps to Kendwa Beach
Relaxing on Kendwa Beach
Snorkling at Kendwa Beach
Kendwa from above
Kendwa Beach Bonfire
Kendwa Beach
Villas on Kendwa Beach

Nungwi Beach

Location: North coast – 59 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 80 minutes by taxi or bus
Great for: Nightlife and luxury holidays
Popular budget hotels: Kivulini Garden Lodge, Badolina Bungalows, Coccobello Zanzibar
Best luxury hotels: Royal Zanzibar, The Z Hotel, Hotel Riu Jambo, Smiles Beach Hotel

Nungwi Beach, located on the northern tip of Zanzibar, is a lively and vibrant destination renowned for its array of hotels, restaurants and bars. The beach is recognized for its warm temperatures year-round, making it an ideal location for those looking to enjoy the sun and the sea in any season.

Nungwi is also famed for its amazing sunset views, creating magical and Instagram-worthy moments for visitors. After the sun sets, the nightlife at Nungwi is thriving, with various bars hosting parties and beachside restaurants offering a range of local and international flavors. Beyond the lively atmosphere, the northern area of Nungwi hides a largely unspoiled empty beach area for those seeking solitude.

Visitors will also find opportunities to witness and engage in dhow boat building activities at the local fisherman area, a trademark of the Indian Ocean region. The cultural richness of Nungwi, a result of the historical spice trade, is evident in the local’s livelihood, religion, values, and cuisines, making it a true hodgepodge of cultures and is Zanzibar’s busiest and most popular beach.
Discover Nungwi Beach.

Nungwi Beach Zanzibar
Nungwi Beach

Eastern Zanzibar Beaches

The beaches of Eastern Zanzibar run all the way down the eastern coast of the island, starting with Matemwe Beach in the north, curling around Chwaka Bay and the beaches of the Michamvi Peninsula and then heading south all the way down to Jambiani Beach on the south eastern coast. That is close to 80 kilometers of coastline to explore. With so many beaches there is something for everyone on the east coast, from laid back hideaways to popular resorts with plenty of entertainment. Water sports, particularly kitesurfing and scuba diving are popular activities on many of the eastern beaches.

Matemwe Beach

Location: Northeast coast – 40 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 1 hour by taxi or bus
Great for: Serene escapes and diving trips
Popular budget hotels: Salama & Mbuyuni Bungalows, Mchanga Zanzibar, Kiganja Retreat Zanzibar
Best luxury hotels: Matemwe Lodge, Zanzibar Sunrise, Emerald Zanzibar, Zanzibar Pearl

Matemwe Beach, nestled on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, is a tranquil and relatively unspoiled haven offering a serene escape with its pristine shores and crystal-clear waters. Overlooking a shallow, coral-fringed lagoon, Matemwe provides breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean and is renowned for its unique landscape during low tide, revealing a coral desert that is ideal for photography and enjoying the varying shades of turquoise.

Matemwe’s proximity to the famous Mnemba Atoll makes it a prime starting point for snorkeling and diving trips, allowing visitors to explore the abundant marine life in the vicinity.

The local economy is deeply intertwined with fishing and seaweed harvesting and the sight of fishermen sailing across the lagoon in their dhows at high tide is a common and picturesque scene. The area remains a significant thoroughfare for locals, and the essence of the local lifestyle, intertwined with the beauty of the unaltered beach, makes Matemwe a perfect tropical beach escape.
Explore Matemwe Beach.

Matemwe Beach Zanzibar
Matemwe Beach

Kiwengwa Beach

Location: Northeast coast – 40 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 1 hour by taxi or bus
Great for: Family-friendly relaxation and tranquil beach escapes
Popular budget hotels: Zan View Hotel, Mambo Mazuri, Sea Crest Hotel
Best luxury hotels: Melia Zanzibar, Bluebay Beach Resort, Marijani Beach Resort

Kiwengwa Beach, situated on the East coast of Zanzibar Island, is a paradise for those who prefer a more relaxed and tranquil vacation. The beach is known for its pristine white sand, stunning ocean views and its breathtaking sunrise, making it a picturesque location for early risers.

Activities include snorkeling at Mnemba corals, kiteboarding, scuba diving and fishing trips and the opportunity to explore the nearby Kiwengwa Pongwe Forest. The beach is ideal for families, with fewer beach vendors compared to other areas allowing for a more peaceful experience. Those seeking a serene beach escape with a touch of local culture will find Kiwengwa Beach to be a perfect choice.
Read more about Kiwengwa Beach.

Kiwengwa Beach Zanzibar
Kiwengwa Beach

Pongwe Beach

Location: East coast – 45 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 1 hour by taxi or bus
Great for: Honeymoons and intimate moments
Popular budget hotels: Queen of Sheba Beach Lodge, Amber Lodge, Coral Bay Hotel
Best luxury hotels: Pongwe Beach Hotel, Tikitam Palms, Toa Hotel & Spa, White Paradise Zanzibar

Pongwe Beach is located between Kiwengwa and Uroa on the East coast of Zanzibar Island and is known for its breathtaking morning sunrises and the tranquil atmosphere it offers. The beach is much less crowded compared to other popular beaches in Zanzibar allowing visitors to enjoy the serene environment and the natural beauty of the surroundings.

The nearby Pongwe Bay Resort is a popular choice for honeymooners with its lush gardens, rooms with ocean views and a range of activities and amenities including an outdoor pool, spa and a private beach area.
Read more about Pongwe Beach.

Pongwe Beach
Pongwe Beach

Michamvi-Kae Beach

Location: East coast – 67 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 1.5 – 2 hours by taxi or bus
Great for: Peace, quiet and lovely sunsets
Popular budget hotels: Sagando Bungalows, Milele Lodge, Michamvi Spirit Lodge
Best luxury hotels: Konokono Beach Resort, Michamvi Sunset Bay Resort, Princess of Zanzibar

On the east coast of Zanzibar but on the west coast of the Michamvi Peninsula lies Michamvi-Kae Beach looking out over Chwaka Bay. The Michamvi Peninsula is better known for the popular Michamvi-Pingwe (or simply Pingwe) Beach on the east side which we discuss below. While both beaches are excellent in their own way, Michamvi-Kae offers a clear view to the sunset as it sets behind mainland Zanzibar across the water. Michamvi-Kae takes a bit of effort to get to and is the beach that requires the longest journey to reach from Stone Town – up to two hours. The effort is worth it however with less tourists and a much quieter beach experience.

Michamvi-Kae Beach
Michamvi-Kae Beach

Pingwe, Dongwe and Bwejju Beaches

Location: Central east coast – roughly 60 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 90 minutes by taxi or bus
Great for: Tranquil retreats and culinary experiences
Popular budget hotels: Dongwe Club, Le Mersenne, Anna of Zanzibar
Best luxury hotels: Zawadi Hotel, Baraza Resort, Le Mersenne, Breezes Beach Club

The serene beaches of Pingwe, Dongwe, and Bwejuu on Zanzibar’s southeastern coast are a haven for those seeking a tranquil and disconnected retreat. Bwejuu, with its serene and laid-back village vibe, offers moments of solitude and is conveniently located close to popular tourist spots.

Dongwe, lined with gorgeous palm trees and cozy beach huts, provides opportunities for various water activities and exploration of small marine animals during low tide.

Pingwe, close to a spice farm growing ginger, chilli, vanilla, and lemongrass is renowned for its culinary experiences, especially at the famous Rock restaurant. The area is less developed, allowing visitors to truly embrace the Hakuna Matata atmosphere and experience the local culture and lifestyle in a more intimate manner.
Learn more about Bwejuu Beach, Dongwe Beach and Pingwe Beach.

Dhow on Dongwe Beach at low tide
Dongwe Beach at low tide
Dongwe Beach Underwater
Dhows moored off Dongwe Beach

Paje Beach

Location: Southeast coast – 50 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 75 minutes by taxi or bus
Great for: Kitesurfing and diving enthusiasts
Popular budget hotels: Demani Lodge, Mbuyuni Beach Village, Mustapha’s Place
Best luxury hotels: Zanzibar White Sand, Kisiwa on the Beach, Amani Boutique Hotel

Paje Beach, located on Zanzibar’s serene east coast, is a secluded paradise known for its pristine white sands, clear, warm waters, and vibrant culinary scene.

A haven for water sports enthusiasts, Paje is renowned for its excellent scuba diving and kitesurfing opportunities, making it a must-visit for adventure seekers.

The beach is bordered by a traditional village offering a range of accommodations and eateries. The tranquil ambiance of Paje makes it a preferred choice for those seeking a peaceful and less crowded beach retreat. Visitors are advised to observe conservative dress standards when exploring the village and to support the local community by purchasing locally made products.
Read more about Paje Beach.

Paje Beach Zanzibar
Paje Beach

Jambiani Beach

Location: Southeast coast – 56 km from Stone Town
Access: Approximately 80 minutes by taxi or bus
Great for: Cultural immersion and budget travellers
Popular budget hotels: New Teddy’s on the Beach, Seconda Stella, PiliPili Swahili Lodge
Best luxury hotels: Belvedere Resort, Blue Oyster Hotel, Uzuri Villa – Boutique Hotel

Jambiani Beach, located on the southeast coast of Zanzibar, is a picturesque and culturally rich holiday destination. It is known for its soft white sand beaches and unique dramatic coral rock formations, offering a serene and idyllic backdrop for a low-key beach getaway.

The beach is less touristic compared to its neighbor, Paje, providing a more relaxed and authentic experience. Visitors can enjoy the local Zanzibari coastal cuisine and explore the village center of Jambiani, where the local life is vibrant, and the community is welcoming. Jambiani is a place where one can experience pole pole (slowly, slowly) life, soak up the surroundings, and immerse in the friendly and amazing local culture.

The beachfront is lined with wonderful hotels and lodges offering comfortable stays with breathtaking sea views. The Jetty Platform Bar at Spice Island Hotel & Resort is a highlight for drinks owing to its iconic overwater location, providing a different perspective and the best view in town. Additionally, Jambiani Beach is in close proximity to Kuza Cave, one of the most stunning crystal clear swimming caves in East Africa, offering yet another layer to your adventure.
Discover Jambiani Beach.

Jambiani Beach Zanzibar
Jambiani Beach

Southern Zanzibar Beaches

The southern coast is by far the most off the beaten track area of Zanzibar. For beaches you are mainly going to pick between Makunduchi on the east side or Kizimkazi on the west side. Both are lovely in their own way. Kizimkazi is slightly more popular and has more developed facilities but either are a great choice for a relaxing holiday away from the crowds of the northern and eastern beaches.

Makunduchi Beach

Location: South coast – 67 km from Stone Town
Access: Access: Approximately 1.5 hours by taxi or bus
Great for: Getting to know the locals
Popular budget hotels: Tofauti Inn, Villa Fleur de Lys, Kusini Beach Villas
Best luxury hotels: The One Resort, Clove Island Villas, Nest Style Zanzibar, Ujamaa Beach Resort

Makunduchi Beach is south of Jambiani and is completely unknown to the majority of visitors to Zanzibar. There are not a lot of accommodation options and only a few beach restaurants, although more options may be found in the town of Makunduchi which is just a kilometer or two down the road. Makunduchi is made for relaxing, so bring a good book and prepare to idle away your hours when not being entertained by the local kids. Day trips can take in any of the sights and sounds slightly further north while a bicyle or your feet will get you to the Makunduchi Lighthouse at the southern end of the beach and the somewhat famous Giant Octopus Baobao Tree just north of Makunduchi near the town of Nganani.

Makunduchi Beach Zanzibar
Makunduchi Beach by Oleg – originally posted to Flickr as [1], CC BY 2.0, Link

Mtende Beach

Location: South coast – 70 km from Stone Town
Access: Access: Approximately 90 minutes by taxi
Great for: Amazing white sand and the quaint Usumba Rock restaurant
Popular hotels: Mtende Beach Bungalows, Eden Rock Zanzibar

Nestled on Zanzibar’s southeast coast, Mtende Beach is one of the island’s better kept secrets. With virtually no accommodation to be found nearby, the beach is quiet and free of the throngs of tourists and local sellers often found at more popular destinations. Mtende is known for its amazing white sands merging into emerald-green water and imposing rock formations which surround the entire beach.

Access to the beach is straight forward with a well maintained road leading to an area with plenty of parking space just behind the beach itself. When planning your visit be sure to check tide times and arrange to go at low tide when the beach itself is accessible as high tide covers most of the sand.

There is not a lot to do on Mtende other than admire the natural beauty, have a quick splash in the sea and read a book. Which is just fine if you ask us. There is however a place to grab a bite to eat and drink, and what a spot it is. Perched on top of rocks that extrude out over the beach and reached via a raised wooden walkway, the Usumba Rock Restaurant is a lovely spot to while away the hours while sipping a cool drink and pondering the majesty of the sea below you.

Kizimkazi Beach

Location: South coast – 60 km from Stone Town
Access: Access: Approximately 1 hour by taxi or bus
Great for: Dolphin sightings and star gazing
Popular budget hotels: Promised Land Lodge, Mama Root, Kameleon Blue, Coco Reef Eco Lodge
Best luxury hotels: Karamba Eco Hotel, Kwanza Resort, Unguja Lodge, Bella Vista Resort

Kizimkazi Beach, situated in the southern region of Zanzibar, is a tranquil and secluded destination renowned for its dolphin sightings and dhow boat tours. This beach is not typically a beach destination due to the significant differences between high and low tides, but it offers a unique and serene experience for those looking to escape the tourist crowds and immerse themselves in nature and local culture.

The area is less commercialized, with fewer hotels, allowing visitors to experience the untouched beauty of Zanzibar and the hakuna matata mantra.

The unique landscape of Kizimkazi, characterized by dramatic rocks and cliffs, offers a different perspective of Zanzibar’s beauty. The region’s seclusion makes it a perfect environment for star gazing due to the absence of light pollution.
Learn more about Kizimkazi Beach.

Kizimkazi Beach Zanzibar
Kizimkazi Beach

Nakupenda Beach

Location: Off Stone Town’s west coast
Access: 15 minute boat ride from Stone Town
Great for: Amazing snorkling

Last, but not least we have Nakupenda which is not really a beach at all in the traditional sense of the word. Nakupenda is a distinctive sandbank island renowned for its crystal-clear waters and pristine white sands. Located just off the western coast and a short 15-minute boat ride from Stone Town harbor, it serves as a tranquil escape easily accessible to all visitors.

The Swahili name “Nakupenda” translates to “I love you,” reflecting the beach’s captivating charm. Visitors can snorkel and explore vibrant coral reefs and enjoy a variety of delicacies and drinks provided by the local tour operators. The beach is above sea level only during low tide, making the timing of your visit crucial to experience Nakupenda’s full beauty.

While the beach can become busy, an early visit allows for a more serene experience and is preferred by those wanting to capture those Instagram perfect shots without the crowds.
Read more about Nakupenda Beach.

Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve Zanzibar
Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve

Information about Tides

It is important that you know about the tides before your Zanzibar holidays. Depending on the moon, Zanzibar experiences 2 low and 2 high tides per day, with roughly 6 hours between low and high. Tides have more or less important consequences depending on the location. The north coast is the least exposed whereas the east coast has stronger tides on the shoreline.

View up to date information on tide times here.