Zanzibar is a stunning destination full of white sandy beaches, turquoise water, fresh, delicious cuisines, and possibly the most beautiful deep orange sunsets we’ve ever seen! Known for its snorkeling and picturesque beaches, Zanzibar is located 28 miles off the coast of Tanzania. If you’ve heard the hype about this place, we can assure you; it lives up to its reputation! Here is everything you need to know when traveling to Zanzibar.
Next Paradise Boutique Resort is one of the most beautiful resorts in Zanzibar, and we absolutely fell in love with this property! It’s a boutique hotel with only twenty rooms that feels incredibly luxurious – the location is great, the décor is stunning, and the customer service is truly fantastic. The property is located on the Northeast coast of Zanzibar, and you can enjoy the gorgeous white sandy beach while you’re there! The hotel has beach beds facing the Indian Ocean, but if the pool is more your vibe, you can still see the water from the pool deck.
Snorkeling at Nakupenda Sandbank
This gorgeous beach is one of the most pristine in all of Zanzibar. We went snorkeling here, and it was even better than we imagined. It takes about one-hour by boat to get here from Stone Town, and the journey there is totally worth it. You will probably see sea urchins (always bring water shoes), corals, sponges, starfish, and the most beautiful tropical fish!
Observe the Wildlife at Chapwani Island
This small private island is located North West of Zanzibar town and is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef and tons of starfish! At night, you will see fruit bats and giant coconut crabs crawling around the beach – if you enjoy wildlife, you won’t be disappointed here!
See the Monkeys at Jozani Forest
This forest is the home of the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkeys, which are actually an endangered species. However, the Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, and they have been successful in doing so. You can visit this attraction and learn all about the conversation initiatives and see the monkeys that live there.
Watch Dolphins Mnemba Island
If you love dolphins, you can’t miss Mnemba Island! Located off the coast of Zanzibar, this is a snorkeling hotspot and a great place to visit if you’re looking to spot some dolphins playing around in the ocean. The beaches are simply magical, and it’s a great place to watch the sunrise.
Sip a Cocktail at Nungwi Beach
It’s really hard to choose the most “beautiful beach” in Zanzibar (because there are many), but this was chosen by CNN as one of the best beaches in the world! The sand is so unbelievably soft that it almost feels man-made. The beach has plenty of great bars to check out for a cocktail, or you can take a sunset ride on a dhow boat while you’re there.
Swim with Turtles at Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond
This is a fun yet informative activity that we highly recommend checking out while visiting Zanzibar. This conservation pond strives to rehabilitate injured sea turtles before releasing them into the ocean. As part of the initiative, tourists can learn about sea turtles and the effect of plastic pollution amongst the wildlife. Before you go swimming with the turtles, ensure to remove all sunscreen and avoid touching them.
Diving at Jambiani Beach
This s 7 KM beach is a great way to spend the day. The powdery white sand and tall palm trees make this look like a photo straight from a magazine. This is a great location for snorkeling and diving, and you will see some beautiful tropical marine life here. Many people also visit this beach to go windsurfing or kitesurfing.
Explore Kuza Cave
If you are visiting Jambiani, you should definitely check out Kuza Cave. This cave is made of limestone, and you can see century-old artifacts within the cave. Once you’re there, you can cross a small bridge and find a large naturally-formed pool and tons of wildlife – monkeys, birds, bushbabies, and loads of butterflies.
Enjoy the Views at The Rock Restaurant
This is definitely more than a place to eat – it’s a gorgeous restaurant located right on the Indian Ocean. The restaurant is built upon a tiny island right in the water, so you will enjoy fantastic views of the crystal clear ocean while enjoying their amazing seafood dishes filled with local flavors.
Experience the Culture in Stone Town
Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Zanzibar City. Historically, it was known to be a trading hub, and the history behind the stone town is astonishing. Many describe this place as a melting pot for African, Arab, Indian, and European cultures, incorporating traditions from all. It’s a buzzing place to visit and a great way to experience the culture.
While visiting Zanzibar, we ate most of our meals at Next Paradise Boutique Resort, where we were staying. The food was fantastic. While on the road, we often stopped for fresh tropical fruits and coconuts throughout the day to stay hydrated.
The best way to see Zanzibar is to rent a car. However, the road conditions and traffic around Stone Town can be intense, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind! Hiring a driver is also a possibility, but it is much more costly. The cost for us to rent a car was $200 USD for 10 days – definitely affordable, and significantly cheaper than hiring someone.
How to get there
The best way to get here is to fly in directly to Zanzibar airport. However, another option is flying into Tanzania (inland) and taking the ferry from Dar es Salaam when you want to visit the islands.
When to go
We went November-December, and the weather was great – it only rained one out of the 10 days we were there! We enjoyed gorgeous sunny days and saw some amazing sunsets. The high season is considered June to October, where there is the least amount of rain, and the temperatures are a little cooler. However, December to February is also a very popular season as the weather is hot, dry, and perfect for enjoying the pristine white sandy beaches.
We spent 10 days in Zanzibar and felt it was the perfect amount of time! We had enough time to explore, travel around, and enjoy new experiences while also having sufficient downtime just to relax and unwind. We would suggest at least 7 days to really explore Zanzibar and see all that it has to offer.
Zanzibar is very affordable. You can splurge and enjoy more luxurious accommodations if you want to, but if you’re on a more conservative budget, there are plenty of accommodations and activities to fit your needs. Hotels can range from $30USD/night up to $200+. A meal will cost, on average, $20USD per couple, or less. Local restaurants offer amazing fresh meals at around $7-$10USD each.
What to Bring
Packing appropriately when traveling to Zanzibar is key. There are certain items that must be on your list to pack, such as mosquito repellent, sun hat, medication and prescriptions, swim shoes (due to the sea urchins), and snorkeling gear. If you want to do something nice for the local community, we suggest bringing gently used trainers, shoes, or clothes for donations – they truly appreciate it, and this small gesture can make such a difference!
Good to Know
When traveling to a new place, there’s a lot to consider, and sometimes you wish you had a friend to give you the inside scoop. Well – that’s what we are here for! Here are some good to know items that will help you plan your trip:
- In general, the east coast of Zanzibar has better weather than the west coast.
- In Northwest and Southeast Zanzibar, swimming is possible during both high and low tides. On the contrary, you’ll discover that it’s difficult to swim in low tide on other parts of the island. However, low tide is great for walks along the beach.
- The majority of ATMs are located in Stone Town. Beware as ATMs frequently run out of money – plan accordingly as there are very few ATMs outside of Stone Town.
- Sim Card: You can buy a sim card at the airport or in the villages, which is cheaper. A Zantel sim card with 12 GB costs $20USD at the airport. Zantel has the best coverage on the island, and we suggest choosing this carrier while visiting.
- It is strictly prohibited to export shells, regardless of the size! All luggage items are scanned at the airport before you even get to the check-in counter. You will pay heavy fines if you are caught with shells in your luggage.
- You will be greeted often with “Jambo” (hello) while walking through the village. Always reply “Jambo,” as it would be rude not to.
Traveling Zanzibar is the ideal travel adventure. For us, the wildlife and beaches make the trip, add great food and sunny weather and it gets even better!