You already know about Kenya’s wonderful wildlife and wide open plains – but what about its world-class beaches? More than 500 kilometres of beautiful, white-sand Indian Ocean beaches await here. Mombasa’s stretches of sand are perhaps the best-known, thanks to their ease of access for visitors flying into Moi International Airport from the UK and Europe, or entering Kenya on cruise ships and internal flights from Nairobi. Base yourselves around Nyali Beach, which offers plenty of stylish resort accommodation. Step back in time on Mombasa Island, whose Old Town dates back to the 13th century; visitors can still admire traces of its Arab and Portuguese periods of rule.
Beach-bunnies can expect pristine white sands, crystalline azure waters, balmy breezes and protected coral reefs. If you want to just lie back and feel the sun on your skin, you’re in the right place. If you prefer to be more active, take advantage of your hotel and resort facilities, and try watersports and diving. Oceanic activities on offer here include: deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, whale-watching, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, dhow boat expeditions and swimming with whale sharks. All that sea air and excitement will make you hungry: indulge in a beachside feast – coconut rice with fish curry and chapatis or bajias (moreish Kenyan chips), perhaps – and soak up the local culture and history, too.
Popular beaches along the south coast include photogenic Diani (easily accessed by a short domestic flight). Diani has been named Africa’s Leading Beach Resort for three years in a row, thanks to its powder-soft sands, honeymoon-worthy looks, vivid greenery and deliciously warm waters. Embark on a camel tour while you’re here, or hire bikes and explore Diani’s inland villages. Secluded Tiwi Beach, roughly 17 kilometres south of Mombasa, is also worth visiting. Protected by reefs, these beaches’ calm, inviting waters are rich in coral, tropical fish, sea turtles and dolphins. The outer and inner reef walls offer world-class diving: expect rainbow-hued coral gardens and dramatic drop offs.
To admire the marine life up close, visit Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve, AKA the ‘Home of the Dolphin’. The park lies in the coral gardens south of Wasini Island and encompasses three small coral rag forest islands. Kisite offers unrivalled snorkelling locations; look out for dolphins and more than 250 fish species. It’s also a great spot for sunbathing, birdwatching and diving.
Just a two-hour drive from Mombasa, the small town of Malindi lies at the heart of a strip of gorgeous tropical beaches on the north coast. Pick from world-class resorts and quiet, romantic hideaways – wherever you bed down, you’re bound to relax and unwind.
Further south, discover the sleepy village of Watamu, which is fronted by wide white beaches. Private guest-houses are clustered in the forest along the deserted shore, alongside several big-name resorts. While you’re here, visit the Marine National Park just outside Watamu. The coral gardens 300 metres from the shore are home to 600-plus species of sea-life. You could also go game-fishing or try watersports here.