Top 10 Best Zanzibar Luxury Beach Resorts & Hotels
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Zanzibar ranks among the world's most evocative place names. This sultry Indian Ocean island is also a tremendous place to unwind on a tropical beach, whether you visit it on a stand-alone seaside holiday, or in combination with a safari on mainland Tanzania. For many, the idyllic beaches are the main draw. Other attractions include multicolored coral reefs that offer superb snorkeling and diving, and coastal forests alive with birds and monkeys.
Then there is the historic Stone Town, an ancient Swahili trade emporium whose narrow alleys are lined with buildings reflecting a mixed African, Arabian, Indian and British architectural heritage. No safari to Tanzania would be complete without a visit to Zanzibar. Here, in alphabetical order, we visit 10 of the very finest Zanzibar beach resorts and hotels.
Bluebay Beach Resort & Spa
Close your eyes, chant the words ‘Indian Ocean beach resort’, and your mind will probably conjure up an image not too far removed from the actuality of Bluebay. With its wide sandy beach, luxurious thatched villas and grounds planted with a thousand palms, Bluebay really is the ultimate seaside chill-out venue. We think it's even more impressive when you learn that it is a certified Green Globe 21 organization, dedicated to efficient energy and water usage, recycling and other sustainable practices.
Double Tree Resort by Hilton Hotel
This property at the north end of Nungwi’s sensational main beach has all the amenities you'd expect of a luxury Zanzibar beach resort that’s associated with the international Hilton chain. All the same, the resort doesn't lack local character. Rooms are decorated in traditional Zanzibari style with Swahili four-poster beds and flowing walk-in mosquito nets. The outdoor Fisherman’s Grill serves excellent seafood right above the beach. If you're feeling decadent, head to the (truly fabulous) swimming pool and indulge in a drink from the pool bar while you paddle around.
Flame Tree Cottages
I love the home-away-from-home feel of this small beachfront resort. Owned and managed by a charming live-in Zanzibari Scottish couple, Flame Tree feels like an oasis of old-world calm in the bustling resort village of Nungwi. Individually decorated cottages adorn a manicured garden that also incorporates a swimming pool and a scattering of tempting hammocks. Don’t miss the sand-between-your-toes seaside restaurant, which serves great seafood and will gladly accommodate vegans and other dietary requirements.
Maru Maru Hotel
Insert yourself in the heart of Zanzibar’s old Stone Town at Maru Maru. This modern multistory hotel has a historic location in a lively alley behind the 17th-century Arab Fort and 19th-century House of Wonders. Our favorite thing about Maru Maru is the rooftop Terrace Restaurant. Here you can relax with a cocktail next to the swimming pool or sample fine Indian food while enjoying a splendid view over the old town.
Among the most luxurious of Zanzibar beach resorts, Meliá Zanzibar is the sort of place where you could relax for a week without ever feeling the need to leave the property. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining, with five different restaurants to keep you interested. Other amenities include a world-class spa, a fitness center, and indoor and outdoor pools. Best of all is the luxuriant 50-hectare garden, which runs down to the private Gabi Beach.
Michamvi Sunset Bay
As its name suggests, this 20-room resort hotel on Chwaka Bay is one of the few anywhere on the island with a westerly orientation allowing it to catch the sunset. Also notable for its family-friendly, hands-on management, it stands in strong contrast to the larger resorts that dominate upmarket accommodation options on Zanzibar. This is a great choice if you're looking for a seafront escape with a non-institutional feel and a strong commitment to local community projects.
Mwezi Boutique Resort
The moment you enter Mwezi’s reception building, set below twin makuti (coconut-palm thatching) roofs, and hung with contemporary local art and old photographs of Zanzibar, you know you’re somewhere special. A similar African aesthetic can be found in the bungalows, which are staggered in such a way that they all offer an idyllic view across palm-shaded grounds to Jambiani Beach. Mwezi is another resort with an ecofriendly ethic: the infinity pool is fed by salt water from a local well, and restaurant ingredients are all sourced from local suppliers. Easily one of the best places to stay in Zanzibar.
Tembo House Hotel & Apartments
Steeped in history, Tembo House started life as the American Consulate back in 1834 and it is where Mahatma Gandhi broke his voyage from South Africa to India in 1930. A seafront location and swimming pool make this characterful hotel ideal for sunseekers. But Tembo House is also convenient for exploring the labyrinthine alleys of Zanzibar’s old Stone Town. Decorated in period style, guest rooms feature traditional Swahili four-poster beds and hammam baths, but also have air-conditioning, satellite television and other modern conveniences. One of the very best places to stay in Zanzibar town.
The trendiest of Zanzibar hotels occupies a prime position on Nungwi Beach. Everything about this boutique hotel feels arty and modern. The minimalist architecture, which draws its inspiration from contemporary London, is enhanced by Philippe Starck furniture and lighting. Yet the palm-shaded gardens, which run down to a natural stone pool and gorgeous tropical beach, place you firmly in Zanzibar. The Afro-European fusion cuisine at the Z’s aptly named Sexy Fish Restaurant is a must for foodies.
A great place to get away from the crowds, Zuri Zanzibar is a smallish luxury resort set along the magnificent swathe of beach that connects the resort villages of Nungwi and Kendwa. The villas and bungalows at Zuri feel contemporary in a very organic way, thanks to the extensive use of wood, canvas, thatch and bright African artworks. The lush tropical grounds include a lovely swimming pool and run down to a private beach.
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