The Best Time to Visit Zanzibar
The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October during the cool, dry season with minimal rainfall and warm weather and sea temperatures. This period is also the high season for safaris on the mainland and the island is busy with all facilities in full operation.
January and February when it’s hot and dry are also popular months to visit Zanzibar. Temperatures are slightly higher and rainfall is still minimal. While still busy, there is a slightly more laid back atmosphere than the peak summer months.
There are two rainy seasons in Zanzibar. The main season, called the “long rains” is during mid-April and May. The second rainy season, “the short rains” that last only for a few minutes, usually in the mornings, is from November to December. Visitor numbers during the rainy seasons are lower and some businesses may be closed but visiting the island during these months offers a unique experience that many enjoy.
Daytime temperatures remain fairly constant on Zanzibar throughout the year. Maximum temperatures rarely exceed the mid 30s in Celsius (approximately 90 Fahrenheit) during the hot season with the rainy seasons being 3-4 degrees lower. During the night the temperature doesn’t usually go below a mild 21 degrees Celsius anytime of the year. The sea is warm enough for swimming all year around, from 25 degrees Celsius in August to 29 degrees Celsius from December to April.
Zanzibar Climate Overview
January in Zanzibar
January in Zanzibar marks the beginning of the short dry season, bringing with it a warm and humid climate. This period, extending into early March, is characterized by higher temperatures, with daytime highs often reaching up to 35°C (95°F). Despite the prevalent sunshine, visitors might encounter occasional afternoon thunderstorms, which are usually brief and won’t significantly disrupt outdoor activities. The sea temperature remains invitingly warm, around 30°C (86°F), perfect for swimming and water-based activities.
The north-eastern ‘kaskazi’ wind blows during this month, affecting the north and east coasts of the island. This moderate wind, ranging between 20 and 30 km/h (11-17 knots), can bring seaweed onto eastern beaches but is ideal for kite surfing, particularly in areas like Paje and Kiwengwa.
January is outside the peak tourist season, making it a great time for those seeking a quieter holiday experience without the high-season costs. Accommodation and other tourist services may offer more competitive prices during this period. The island’s cultural vibrancy is also on display, with the mango season in full swing and the end of the clove harvest in Pemba. For wildlife enthusiasts, it’s an excellent time for swimming with whale sharks off Mafia Island, thanks to the clear visibility.
In general, the atmosphere in Zanzibar during the month of January is relaxed and welcoming, offering a serene start to the new year.
February in Zanzibar
February in Zanzibar is the hottest month of the year, with daytime temperatures frequently reaching or even surpassing 35°C (95°F). This dry month offers clear skies and sultry, humid conditions, setting the stage for ideal beach holiday experiences. The warm seas, with temperatures often above 30°C (86°F), invite visitors to swim for hours. The north-eastern ‘kaskazi’ wind, a characteristic feature of the Zanzibar climate, begins to mellow, offering a gentler breeze across the island. This change makes the southern and western coasts, such as Kendwa’s wide beaches and Kizimkazi, more appealing for sunbathing and dolphin-watching excursions.
A significant highlight of February is the Sauti za Busara Music Festival in Stone Town, a vibrant celebration of African music. The festival transforms Stone Town’s Old Fort into a lively hub of African jazz, pop, and taarab beats, drawing crowds and creating a festive atmosphere. While this period sees Stone Town bustling with activity and increased tourist traffic, it also offers a unique cultural immersion.
For those keen on underwater adventures, the southern dive sites, especially around Mafia’s Chole Bay, are at their best, though the deeper sites may be rough. Despite the heat, February’s weather conditions, coupled with cultural festivities, make it a popular and exciting time to visit Zanzibar. Visitors seeking a blend of relaxation and cultural experience will find February an ideal month, though those sensitive to heat may prefer the cooler months from May to September.
March in Zanzibar
March in Zanzibar heralds the onset of the main rainy season, with the island experiencing its hottest and most humid conditions before the monsoon showers begin, usually around mid-month. Daytime temperatures often soar over 35°C (95°F), creating a sultry atmosphere. Despite the heat, early March still offers prime beach holiday opportunities, although the increasing thunderheads mark the transition to the low season, leading some hotels and resorts to close.
The weather in March can be quite unpredictable, alternating between hot, sunny days and heavy downpours. This variability extends across the archipelago, resulting in days that are either brilliantly clear or intensely rainy. The lack of wind in March makes for excellent diving and snorkeling conditions on the calmer days, with the glassy seas providing exceptional visibility and fewer tourists on the reefs. The west-facing resorts offer spectacular sunsets, with the sky turning vivid shades of pink and purple over the sea.
March also marks the beginning of the pineapple season, offering visitors the chance to savor some of the sweetest pineapples they might ever taste. While some accommodations close, others offer discounts, making it an attractive time for budget-conscious travelers. The afternoons may bring heavy storms, but mornings are often clear, offering serene moments of solitude.
From 2023 to 2025, Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, begins in March. During this period, the daily rhythm in predominantly Muslim Zanzibar changes, with shorter working hours and a focus on spiritual activities. Visitors may find some restaurants and shops closed during the day, but the evenings come alive after the fast is broken. Travelers should be mindful of local customs, such as dressing modestly and not eating, drinking, or smoking in public during the day. Despite these changes, Zanzibar remains welcoming, offering a unique cultural experience intertwined with its natural beauty.
April in Zanzibar
April in Zanzibar, the island’s wettest month of the year, is characterized by its lush, rain-drenched landscapes. The island is enveloped in a mix of intense rainfalls and warm temperatures, with daily highs often above 30°C (86°F). This month witnesses the gradual shift from the north-eastern ‘kaskazi’ to the southern ‘kusi’ winds, bringing a change in weather patterns.
The warm seas (around 28°C or 82°F) and the mornings often clear and fresh, provide ideal conditions for early beach walks and tranquil moments by the sea. The afternoon storms, though fierce, are typically short, offering dramatic skies and spectacular sunsets, especially from the west-facing resorts. The east coast, in contrast, greets early risers with breathtaking sunrises.
April’s unpredictable weather offers a unique charm, with the possibility of sunny intervals between showers. This month is quieter in terms of tourist traffic, resulting in near-empty beaches and discounted hotel rates, making it an appealing time for budget-conscious travelers seeking solitude. However, planning activities can be challenging due to the unpredictable weather, and some resorts and dive operators might be closed.
In essence, April in Zanzibar is a time for those who appreciate the beauty of nature in its most vibrant form.
May in Zanzibar
As May unfolds in Zanzibar, the archipelago experiences a significant shift in weather patterns. The month begins with the tail end of the rainy season, characterized by heavy showers and a lush, rejuvenated landscape. However, as the month progresses, the frequency of rain diminishes, leading to more extended periods of sunshine and clearer skies. The average daytime temperatures hover around a pleasant 30°C (86°F), creating ideal conditions for leisurely beach days and exploration.
The ‘kusi’ wind, a steady breeze from the south, becomes more pronounced in May, providing a refreshing respite from the warmth. This wind is particularly significant along the northern and western coasts, where it creates a calm and serene environment, perfect for relaxation and water activities like swimming and snorkeling. The eastern and southern coasts, while still beautiful, may experience slightly stronger winds, offering a different kind of charm.
Despite the improving weather, May remains part of the wet season, with an average of 15 rainy days. The showers, often concentrated in the afternoons, are usually short-lived and followed by bright, sunny intervals. This transitional weather offers visitors the chance to enjoy Zanzibar’s beaches and attractions without the crowds typical of the high season.
For those interested in cultural experiences, May’s quieter atmosphere allows for more intimate interactions with local communities and a deeper exploration of Zanzibar’s rich history and traditions. The island’s markets, filled with seasonal fruits and local crafts, provide a colorful and vibrant backdrop for those looking to immerse themselves in the local way of life.
June in Zanzibar
June in Zanzibar is synonymous with the beginning of the long dry season, often celebrated as the sunniest and driest month of the year. Daytime temperatures are comfortably warm, averaging around 28°C (82°F), with nights cooling down to around 20°C (68°F). This period is characterized by low humidity, making it an ideal time for a range of outdoor activities.
The ‘kusi’ wind, a fresh and steady breeze from the south, is in full swing by mid-June, especially along the eastern coasts where wind speeds can reach around 35 km/h (about 18 knots). This makes it an exceptional time for kite surfing enthusiasts, with Zanzibar Island’s eastern shores, particularly Paje, becoming a hub for wind-based water sports. However, for those looking for more relaxed beach time, the northern resorts provide calmer seas and are more sheltered from the wind, making them better suited for activities like diving and snorkeling.
While the northern seas are generally calmer, it’s worth noting that if the wind picks up significantly, even these areas can experience choppy waters. The best diving conditions in Zanzibar are usually found later in the year, but the northern waters remain a good choice for snorkeling and swimming in June.
Beyond the water sports, June also marks the start of the turtle hatching season around Mafia Island, a significant highlight in the southern archipelago. One of nature’s great spectacles, the sight of thousands of tiny turtles making their dash for the sea, can be witnessed, with Juani Island off Chole Bay being an ideal spot for this experience.
From a weather perspective, the average air temperature in Zanzibar during June ranges from a pleasant 29°C (85°F) during the day to a cooler 22°C (71°F) at night. Rainfall is minimal, with an average of only 7 days of rain throughout the month, amounting to a total rainfall of 79 mm (3.12 in). The sea temperature remains warm and inviting at 27°C (80°F), perfect for extended periods of swimming and water-based activities.
July in Zanzibar
July in Zanzibar is all about dry and warm weather, making it one of the best months to visit the island. Daytime temperatures average around 28°C (82°F), and nights are cooler but rarely dip below 18°C (64°F). The humidity is generally low, contributing to the comfortable weather conditions.
The surrounding seas are at their coldest during July and August, but with sea temperatures around 25°C (77°F), they are still welcoming for swimmers. The shallow lagoons often feel even warmer, making them perfect for leisurely swims and snorkeling. The southern ‘kusi’ wind is at its peak in July, with a constant, stiff breeze blowing from the south. This wind can reach up to 35 km/h (18 knots), especially along the eastern coasts, creating ideal conditions for kite surfers and other wind-based water sports. Paje, in particular, becomes a hotspot for kite surfing during this time.
For those seeking more relaxed beach time, the north-facing resorts like Nungwi and Kendwa offer the calmest conditions for diving and beach activities. However, it’s important to note that the wind can affect diving conditions, and the best diving is usually found later in the year.
Culturally, July is a vibrant month in Zanzibar. The Festival of the Dhow Countries, organized by the Zanzibar International Film Festival, takes over Stone Town’s Old Fort district for the first two weeks of July. This festival, one of the largest cultural events in East Africa, incorporates music, film, and dance from across Africa and Asia. Additionally, the Mwaka Kogwa festival, an originally Persian new year celebration, takes place at the end of July in the southern village of Makunduchi, featuring dancing, singing, and mock fights. July is also the start of the clove harvest season on Pemba Island, with the scent of cloves filling the air as they dry in the sun. This adds another layer of sensory experience to a visit during this month.
In terms of weather specifics, the average air temperature in Zanzibar during July ranges from 29°C (83°F) during the day to 21°C (70°F) at night. Rainfall is minimal, with an average of only 5 days of rain throughout the month, amounting to a total rainfall of 49 mm (1.93 in). The sea temperature remains warm at 26°C (78°F), and there are around 8 hours of sunshine per day.
August in Zanzibar
August marks the end of the cooler months in Zanzibar, with daytime temperatures typically around 28°C (82°F), occasionally reaching over 30°C (86°F). The sea temperatures are also at their lowest for the year but remain quite warm at around 25°C (77°F), offering comfortable swimming conditions.
The southern ‘kusi’ wind, while beginning to fade, remains strong enough for kite surfers, especially in areas like Paje and nearby Jambiani. This period is seen as a transition in Zanzibar, mixing perfect beach and diving days with some windy, choppy days. The northern coasts, such as Nungwi and Kendwa, offer the calmest and most tranquil beach experiences during this time.
In terms of cultural activities, August is prime time for sport fishing off Zanzibar, with opportunities to catch sailfish and marlin. The clove harvest on Pemba is in full swing, adding a unique aroma to the air, and it’s still a great time to witness turtle hatchings on Mafia’s Juani Island.
September in Zanzibar
September is one of the sunniest and driest months in Zanzibar, with average daytime temperatures gradually climbing over 30°C (86°F). The southern ‘kusi’ wind, which has been blowing steadily since May, eases back into a cooling breeze. This makes conditions ideal for kitesurfing in Paje until October, though the season is slowly drawing to a close.
The seas of Zanzibar calm down, and by mid-September, the more challenging deep-water dive sites usually become accessible. Sea temperatures start to warm up, around 26°C (79°F), making September and October some of the best months for diving.
In the Mafia archipelago, September offers special attractions. Not only are the turtles of Juani Island still hatching, but the calmer seas allow for incredible diving in deeper channels, including the chance to see colossal 3-meter groupers and the beginning of the annual whale shark season.
Conditions are ideal across all of Zanzibar’s beaches in September, with popular resorts like Nungwi and Kiwengwa getting busy, while quieter areas like Matemwe and Pingwe offer more tranquility. Overall, September in Zanzibar strikes a balance between pleasant weather, excellent conditions for water sports, and unique opportunities for wildlife encounters, making it a popular month for a wide range of travelers.
October in Zanzibar
October in Zanzibar is generally idyllic, marked by light southerly breezes, clear skies, and calm seas. As the month progresses, the heat gradually builds, with daytime highs regularly topping 30°C (86°F). Nights are warmer, exceeding 20°C (68°F), and become increasingly humid as the brief November monsoon approaches. The monsoon’s arrival varies unpredictably each year, and some regions may experience heavy rainfall before the month ends. This period is one of Zanzibar’s least windy times, with excellent ocean visibility often exceeding 25 meters (82 feet). Sea temperatures also start to climb, reaching about 27°C (81°F) by early November. Sunny days and calm seas are typical, making it an excellent time for beach activities across the island.
October’s pleasant weather makes it a bustling month for tourism. Popular areas like Nungwi, Kiwengwa, and Paje are often full, with major resort areas getting busy. For a more exclusive experience, smaller villas and boutiques around Matemwe and Pingwe are recommended. Ras Kizimkazi offers a quieter option with cool and refreshing breezes.
Both Pemba and Mafia Islands are quieter alternatives to Zanzibar Island, boasting some of their best diving and snorkeling conditions in October. Additionally, calmer seas off Kizimkazi mark the start of the dolphin spotting season, with opportunities to swim with whale sharks off Mafia Island. The month is excellent for diving across the archipelago, offering superb visibility and accessible dive sites.
November in Zanzibar
November in Zanzibar offers a unique blend of warm weather and a tranquil tourist environment, making it an ideal time for visitors seeking a peaceful getaway. The average daytime temperatures range from 28°C to 30°C (82°F to 86°F), while nights are cooler at around 22°C to 24°C (72°F to 75°F). This month marks the start of the ‘short rains’ season, but these showers are typically brief and do not significantly disrupt tourism activities. The sea temperatures also warm up to around 29°C (84°F), creating perfect conditions for water activities under the light winds and glassy seas.
Tourist numbers decrease in November as the busy summer crowds from Europe and North America start to thin out, offering a more relaxed atmosphere for those visiting the island. There are no major festivals or public holidays in Zanzibar during this month, which contributes to the quieter ambiance. Visitors are advised to stay updated with local weather forecasts to plan their activities accordingly, especially considering the occasional unpredictable showers. Overall, November in Zanzibar is a great time to enjoy its natural beauty and cultural richness without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist seasons.
December in Zanzibar
Visiting Zanzibar in December provides an exciting mix of tropical climate and vibrant festivities. The weather is hot, with temperatures often reaching between 80°F and 86°F (27°C to 30°C), occasionally peaking at around 35°C (95°F). Rainfall is significant in December, averaging 108mm (4.2 inches), with frequent showers in early December that become more sporadic towards the end of the month.
The island’s lush landscape flourishes during this time, painting it in vibrant hues and enhancing its natural beauty. December is a shoulder season in Zanzibar, with a noticeable increase in tourist activity around the Christmas and New Year holidays. Despite the rains, it remains an excellent time for beach activities and exploring the local culture and wildlife.
New Year’s Eve in Zanzibar is particularly special. The island comes alive with gala celebrations, glittering parties, and spectacular fireworks. Visitors can choose from a variety of experiences, from luxurious dinner cruises that offer views of the midnight fireworks to lively hotel galas with champagne and live music. For those seeking a more relaxed celebration, many rooftop restaurants in Zanzibar provide a fantastic vantage point for the fireworks and to welcome in the new year.