Beaches of Zanzibar. What’s the difference?

Close your eyes and imagine… You feel the warm, white sand between your toes and a salty sea breeze playing with your hair. You can hear the soft noise of the palm leaves. A coloured crab nibbles on your toe, you take a sip of fresh pineapple juice and wooden fishing boats float peacefully past over crystal clear sea water… A dream? No, this is Zanzibar! This island on the Tanzanian coast has a lot in store. An interesting mix of Arab, Portuguese and Swahili culture, religion, architecture and art. But it really excels in paradise beaches. And there are quite a few! Which beach suits you best?

The beautiful Tanzanian island of Zanzibar has a lot to offer: impressive culture, fascinating history and interesting religion.

On Zanzibar there is plenty to discover!
You don’t have to get bored in this little paradise, and our Charlie’s Angel Claudy can tell you that. She has been living on this tropical island since 2017 and is still well baked. The island is 1666 km2, and if you want to drive from the northernmost to the southernmost point, you’ll spend at least a couple of hours with sticky armpits in a hot car or dala-dala (local van). The advantage? There is plenty to discover on this island! Disadvantage? The choice is huge when it comes to beaches, and when your time is limited, sometimes it’s a matter of iene-miene-mutte. Because no, stripping off all the beaches in one weekend really isn’t easy, but you can’t choose for yourself either. Insider Claudy will be happy to give you a hand, and tell you the difference between the beaches in north, east, south or west. Which one is best?

Palm trees

1. North coast: Nungwi beach & Kendwa beach
The very northernmost point of Zanzibar: this is the place on Zanzibar where tourism has started and that is noticeable from everything. The amount of hotels, tourists, beachboys and restaurants is clearly larger than in other places on the island. And for a reason! The beach here is beautiful, and the seawater is so blue that it looks like chemical. The big advantage of this beach is that the sea retreats less at low tide, so you can splash around all day long. Do you want to go to this beach, but do you want to avoid tanning tourists as much as possible? Then go in low season!

3 women on the beach

2. South coast: Kizimkazi beach
At the southernmost point you’ll find Kizimkazi. Kizimkazi is known as a fishing village and is the best place to spot dolphins! Through these two activities you can already imagine what the coast looks like. Lots of fishing boats sailing back and forth, crowds around the pier and a lot of fishing nets – combined with a good smell of fish. But don’t worry, this place is also great for the less seasoned sailors. Most of the hotels here have a perfectly maintained private beach, making you feel like you’re alone on a paradise uninhabited island.

Swimming with dolphins

Kizimkazi is known as a fishing village and is the best place to spot dolphins!

Boats on the beach

3. West Coast: Stone Town beach
Stone Town, my hometown, is a fairytale town where you can endlessly get lost in the maze of historic alleys and coral houses. But of course I’m talking about beaches here! This beach does Zanzibar no credit… Because of all the activities in the water and the nearby harbor, the water is not clear, and it looks dirty. Not my favorite place for a swim. But what is nice about Stone Town beach, is that in the afternoon many local people give each other swimming lessons, while others walk out by jumping into the ocean with somersaults from Forodhani market. The beach is also the perfect place for a good workout for many. Enough to see, but don’t go here for the beautiful stand.

Woman jumps on the beach

4. East Coast: Matamwe, Kiwengwa, Pongwe, Paje & Jambiani
Jambiani, my former home, is the icing on my cake: my favorite! But Jambiani is just one of the many dreamy beaches on the east coast. The advantage is that they are all close to each other, so you can take turns. Something they all have in common is that there is high and low tide twice a day. During low tide you have to walk far to get to a depth where you can swim. In some places this is more than 1 kilometer! That does not alter the fact that it is a beautiful picture. The ebb and flow times can be checked on the internet, so you know when it is better to go swimming in the pool and when you can take a dip in the sea. If you want to do a lot during your beach holiday and like a bit of diversity, the east coast is recommended. The beaches are strategically located in the middle of the east coast, and are easily accessible by road from the rest of the island.

Curious about all the highlights and experiences in Tanzania?

View from on top of a boat

Jambiani: Now go before it’s too late!
If you’re interested in Charlie’s Travels, it’s probably because of your desire for the unknown; your love of off-the-beaten-track! Jambiani is the least touristy and thus least affected by mega hotels. Many palm trees are still standing on the beach and you won’t be bothered by beachboys. The other villages, on the other hand, offer more restaurants and a greater variety of hotels. Zanzibar is developing rapidly and hotels are jumping out of the ground like mushrooms. Our prediction is that in about five years Jambiani could be one of the major tourist hotspots. That’s why I say: check Jambiani now in all its raw glory!

Woman at sunset

5. Hidden gem: Michamvi sunset beach
In the southeast corner is the Michamvi peninsula. Because it is located in the inlet, it offers a beautiful sunset every evening! The sea here is very shallow and during high tide it feels like a lovely warm bath where you can immerse yourself. This beach is different from the rest of the island, the sand is so white, fine and soft, you won’t find this anywhere else! The sand is only so fine that it is difficult to wash it out of your towel. The relaxed vibe, a nice beach, the beach and a romantic sunset makes Michamvi by far my favorite beach! Even worth it for one night!

The sea of Michamvi beach is very shallow and during high tide it feels like a nice warm bath where you can float in!

Reflect your respect
The vast majority (98%) of Zanzibar believes strongly in Islam. This makes the local people quite conservative. Of course, there have been tourists on the island for decades and you won’t find many local people on the beaches. But when you decide to go into a village or do a village tour, it is much appreciated if you dress respectfully. This doesn’t mean that women have to wear long dresses, but you will find that local people really appreciate it when men and women cover their shoulders and knees.

Also to the beaches of Zanzibar?
Are you tempted to test these tropical beaches for yourself, and do you want to know what else to do in Tanzania? Read here what you can discover in this beautiful country. Don’t skip Charlie’s new Tanzania adventures and check out Africa Inside Out’s third chapter Northern Tanzania! Even more enthusiastic? Then contact one of our Charlie’s Angels here or via the chat below!

Board zanzibar

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