Zanzibar is a hidden gem for tourists looking for the perfect island getaway. Being the largest island in Tanzania’s archipelago, it offers visitors many attractions, including idyllic beaches, rich history, vibrant culture, and great nightlife.
Let’s learn more about this island and help you decide where to stay in Zanzibar based on your needs and preferences.
The 5 Best Parts of Zanzibar
- Kiwengwa: Perfect for first-time visitors as this shoreline has it all, from entertainment, dining, developed touristic amenities, and a fabulous white-sand beach.
- Stone Town: Best pick for tourists who want to experience history and entertainment.
- Nungwi: A great option for luxury seekers, as it’s home to a plethora of five-star resorts.
- Jambiani: Ideal for budget travelers, with an array of many cheaper beachfront lodging options.
- Paje: Best for travelers interested in wind sports, with its pristine beaches and consistent wind.
Where to Stay in Zanzibar: Best Areas & Hotels
People often compare Zanzibar to the popular summer destination, Maldives, due to its idyllic beaches, water and wind sports availability, and untamed nature.
The marine ecosystem is also a major driving force in the island’s economy, as many locals work in the fishing industry or the coastal tourism sector, providing travelers with opportunities to partake in wind sports and activities such as scuba diving and dolphin watching.
If Zanzibar just got on your radar, but you’re not exactly sure what to do and where to stay, we’ve got you covered.
Kiwengwa is the best spot for first-time travelers or tourists looking for a more convenient area to stay in. It has everything you need, from all-inclusive resorts and many facilities where you can participate in water or wind sports to great seafood restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Stone Town, being the old town and historical trade center of Zanzibar, has many tourist attractions to explore. Nungwi is an excellent option if you’re looking for a more quiet and relaxing atmosphere, and you’ll find various luxury resorts around its shoreline.
However, these areas can be pricey, especially during high season. But fear not because you can also explore Zanzibar on a budget. For example, Jambiani mirrors the quiet and serene experience of staying in Nungwi but for a much lower price.
It’s a small village where most residents work on seaweed farms and is relatively less developed than other areas.
It’s a beautiful spot for enjoying the natural riches of Zanzibar. Another option is Paje, which is also much cheaper than some of the other areas we’ll go into, and if you’re into wind or water sports, it’s the best place to be.
For readers who need help deciding, let’s break down the five hottest areas in Zanzibar in more detail.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive and convenient touristic experience, or it’s your first time in Zanzibar, you can’t go wrong with Kiwengwa. But just because we said it’s touristy, don’t assume it’s overcrowded and chaotic.
Kiwengwa is a relatively quiet and secluded area, but it gets its reputation from offering vacationers modern and well-equipped accommodations.
If you’re someone who wants to settle in one area and just spend your days relaxing on a sandy beach, Kiwengwa’s got you covered.
Being located near the pristine northeastern shoreline, Kiwengwa is home to many all-inclusive hotels and resorts, as well as bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and upscale lodges. But it doesn’t stop there.
Kiwengwa is also an excellent location for kitesurfing, as you’ll see from the many kite schools along the shoreline.
Sounds like a tourist’s dream, right? Well, with all its comforts, staying in Kiwengwa may be just that. But for travelers looking for a more budget-friendly and authentic experience, Kiwengwa may not be the right choice.
It’s an area more heavily frequented by tourists than locals, which drives prices up and could make it challenging to experience the authentic Zanzibari culture. So if you’re looking for something more “local” and easier on the wallet, we suggest checking out other areas on our list.
What to Do
- Embark on a half-day ATV tour, starting from the Kiwengwa shoreline and traveling through many major locations, including Stone Town.
- Go on a Blue Safari snorkeling trip and get acquainted with Zanzibar’s colorful marine life.
- Explore the majestic Kiwengwa Caves, just a short drive from Kiwengwa Beach.
- Take a tour of Bwa Mzee Spice Farm to learn about one of Zanzibar’s foremost local trades.
Where to Eat
- La Base JungleKite is a restaurant that offers Italian seafood dishes in large portions and delicious cocktails.
- Moyo Zanzibella is another seafood restaurant that combines Mediterranean, African and European flavors in a cozy and colorful atmosphere.
- Zan View Restaurant also mainly serves fresh, locally sourced seafood. However, they’ve got some great vegetarian and vegan options on their menu.
Kiwengwa Budget Hotels
- Sweet Home is a three-star bed & breakfast located a stone’s throw away from Kiwengwa Beach. It consists of two individual lodges, a restaurant, and an outdoor pool for guests to enjoy. The accommodation offers Italian and continental breakfast options, and both lodges come with balconies and free Wi-Fi.
- Khadija Kiwengwa Apartment is a three-star aparthotel in the middle of the Kiwengwa shoreline. Each of its rooms comes with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and wardrobes. The accommodation also offers paid airport shuttle services to guests.
Kiwengwa Mid-Range Hotels
- Stone Resort is a three-star resort located a few steps north of the famous Zanzibella Hotel and Spa on the Kiwengwa shoreline. It offers family-sized rooms, a paid airport shuttle service, and an outdoor pool. All rooms come with free Wi-Fi. There is also a game room for guests to mingle and play games like billiards.
- Zan View Hotel is a three-star hotel north of the Kiwengwa shoreline. It features bright, airy rooms with shared terraces, free Wi-Fi, and mosquito nets. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool and paid airport shuttle services. It’s close to many facilities that offer tourist experiences, such as kite surfing, snorkeling, and horseback riding.
Kiwengwa Luxury Hotels
- Zanzibella Hotel and Spa is a five-star hotel on the central south shoreline of Kiwengwa. It provides rooms with wardrobes, air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and balconies. As the area is popular among cyclists, Zanzibella Hotel also has a bicycle rental office.
- Kiwengwa Beach Resort is another beachfront five-star resort, a short walking distance from Obama Beach Club, the hottest place in the area for a night out. All rooms come with wardrobes, air conditioning, and flat-screen TVs. The resort also has an outdoor swimming pool and a restaurant. Wi-Fi is available for a charge.
2. Stone Town
Stone Town, the capital and part of the old town, is the cultural heart of Zanzibar. If your main purpose for traveling to Zanzibar is to learn its history and experience local culture, this is the right neighborhood for you.
Stone Town has its roots as a Swahili trading town and has maintained its position as a commercial hot spot throughout history. Like many coastal towns in East Africa, Stone Town has become a cultural hub.
While it has retained most of its indigenous culture throughout history due to the influence of European, Indian, Persian, Moorish, and Arab merchants, it has adopted a more multicultural identity.
You’ll see evidence of this in the many different styles of architecture or historical landmarks in the area. Interestingly, Stone Town was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000 due to its rich history.
Today, Stone Town has become the best area for experiencing local culture. Every corner here hides an exciting attraction, from mesmerizing 18th-century architecture and monuments to bustling bazaars, great street food, and wild nightlife.
If you’re an urban traveler, the streets will have you running around trying to absorb it all. However, being the busiest area of Zanzibar, Stone Town is the most expensive area in the city and lacks the beachside resort vibe the rest of the island can offer.
What to Do
- Try local street food delicacies at the Forodhani Gardens food market.
- Take a tour of Prison Island to learn about a darker time in Zanzibar’s history.
- Explore some of the historical sites of the old town, such as the Old Fort or House of Wonders, for free!
- Visit the Beit-El-Sahel museum, which was the home of many sultans until the revolution of 1964.
Where to Eat
- Sharazad The Door has been described as “a hidden gem” and an “oasis in Stone Town” by customers. This fine-dining restaurant combines Mediterranean and African cuisine in a cozy atmosphere, perfect for couples and families.
- The Beach House Restaurant would be our recommendation for you if you’re looking to enjoy fabulous cocktails, seafood, and grill dishes, looking over a breathtaking sea view,
- Taarab Restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Stone Town, providing guests with a fantastic view of Stone Town and some of the best seafood dishes in town.
Stone Town Budget Hotels
- Three Corners Hotel Zanzibar is a three-star hotel within a short walk from Stone Town Beach, Peace Memorial Museum, and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. All rooms come with free Wi-Fi and toiletries, and the hotel also offers a bicycle and car rental service.
- Zanzi House is another three-star hotel close to Stone Town Beach. The rooms open up to a shared terrace, and all of them have free Wi-Fi and air conditioning.
Stone Town Mid-Range Hotels
- Al Minar Hotel is a three-star hotel within spitting distance of the Peace Memorial Museum and the Old Fort. The hotel features rooms with free Wi-Fi, complimentary toiletries, a wardrobe, and shared terraces.
- Al Johari Hotel is a three-star accommodation within walking distance of Forodhani Gardens. Its elegantly decorated rooms have free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, mosquito nets, and flat-screen TVs.
Stone Town Luxury Hotels
- Park Hyatt Zanzibar is a five-star beachfront accommodation, one of the more expensive ones on our list. It’s within close range of the Zanzibar Ferry Terminal, and its rooms come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, a minibar, and bathtubs. The hotel also features an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant.
- Hotel Verde Zanzibar-Azam Luxury Resort and Spa is a five-star hotel within walking distance of the Maruhubi Historical Sites. This resort features an outdoor swimming pool, spa, fitness center, and free private parking. Each of its rooms is equipped with air conditioning, a balcony with a garden view, free Wi-Fi, and a flat-screen TV.
Imagine this; an endless, white sand beach with palm trees lining the shoreline, looking over the pristine, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. A quiet, peaceful getaway in a luxury resort, immersed in this ethereal atmosphere.
This is precisely what Nungwi offers to visitors. Nungwi used to be a quiet fishing village and was closed off to tourism until the 90s by request of the locals.
After slowly opening up its borders to visitors, the area experienced an economic boom. It is currently the second-largest settlement in Zanzibar and is considered one of the more high-class areas of the city, making it the perfect fit for guests looking for something more luxurious.
Despite being relatively laid-back, Nungwi has quite a few entertainment options.
Its proximity to coral reefs makes it the perfect place to go scuba diving. There are also horse-riding and kite surfing facilities, as well as an aquarium and turtle conservation pond.
There are plenty of five-star resorts to choose from in the area, and while these have their own amenities, you can also take a stroll around the neighborhood, wining and dining at one of the restaurants around, and enjoying the lively nightlife.
Nungwi, one of the more expensive areas in Zanzibar, may not be a good fit for you if you’re on a budget. If you’d like to learn about other locations that won’t break the bank, check out Jambiani and Paje.
What to Do
- Make friends with local sea turtles at the Nungwi Aquarium.
- Watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean at the idyllic Nungwi beach.
- Enjoy a variety of water or wind sport, such as snorkeling or kite surfing.
- Go on a sailing trip on a traditional dhow.
Where to Eat
- Zee-Bar serves pub food with a luxurious twist, but it’s most well known for its delicious cocktails, which you can enjoy while watching the sunset on a bar in the middle of a white sand beach.
- Fisherman’s Seafood and Grill serves what its name suggests — seafood. It features a menu perfect for more health-conscious customers and is known to be one of the best restaurants in the area.
Nungwi Budget Hotels
- Hotel Tropical Zanzibar, despite being in Nungwi, is one of the more affordable options on our list. It’s a two-star hotel just a hop away from Royal Beach. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and a bicycle rental service. Its air-conditioned rooms have free Wi-Fi, patios with a pool view, and safety deposit boxes.
- Kingwedeni Villas is a two-star accommodation with a private garden and terrace and free parking for guests. All rooms come with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
Nungwi Mid-Range Hotels
- Zenobia Beach Resort is a three-star resort just a few steps away from Nungwi Beach. It features rooms with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. There’s a currency exchange for guests to use, as well as a bar, a terrace, and a restaurant.
- Amaan Beach Bungalows is a three-star accommodation located near Nungwi Beach. The bungalows come with free Wi-Fi and private bathrooms. The interior decoration is cozy and romantic — perfect for honeymooners.
Nungwi Luxury Hotels
- Nungwi Dreams by Mantis is a five-star resort situated at the heart of Nungwi. It provides guests with an outdoor swimming pool, private parking, a fitness center, a garden, and a sun terrace. Its rooms have air conditioning, living rooms, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms with complimentary toiletries.
- Safira Blu Luxury Resort & Villas is a five-star resort located in the southwest corner of Nungwi. We could say that this luxury resort truly has it all, from free parking and complimentary bicycles to a gym, outdoor swimming pool, and game room. All rooms feature a separate living room, flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and a kitchenette.
We promised our budget travelers that we’d mention some affordable areas and are here to deliver. In Zanzibar, Jambiani is as budget-friendly as it gets.
It’s also an excellent spot for those looking for peace and quiet or a vacation immersed in untamed nature. Much like Nungwi, Jambiani started as a small fishing town closed off to tourism, with the locals mainly working on seaweed farms for a living.
Unlike Nungwi, the tourism sector in this area developed a bit more slowly, and Jambiani still retains its identity as a fishing village.
It may not have the same luxurious, all-inclusive resorts found around the coastline of Zanzibar, but it welcomes guests with small, intimate beachfront lodges that are the most affordably priced ones on the island.
This part of the island is also relatively untouched by man, making it one of the best places to enjoy its nature.
If you’re an eco-tourist who’s fed up with seeing buildings and skyscrapers everywhere, being surrounded by the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean, diving in to see the vibrant coral reef that lines the coast, and relaxing on a white-sand beach surrounded by tropical trees will definitely soothe your soul.
But keep in mind that Jambiani is still a village and you may not be able to find all the facilities you want. If you’re looking for a location with better access to conveniences, consider some other areas on our list.
What to Do
- Swim into the mesmerizing depths of the Kuza Cave.
- Go whale watching or swimming with dolphins off the coast of Jambiani.
- Experience rural life in Jambiani, and learn more about the local trade by taking a Seaweed cultivation tour.
- Play Bao, a Zanzibari board game with the locals (you can ask for a board in many restaurants and cafes).
- Pull an all-nighter or wake up early to catch the first rays of the sun at Jambiani Beach, one of the best locations to watch the Zanzibari sunrise.
Where to Eat
- Fadhil Restaurant is the perfect place for getting a taste of authentic Swahili dishes.
- Peter Pan is the go-to diner for Italian food aficionados on a budget, serving some of the hottest Italian-Swahili fusion dishes in the city.
- Blue Oyster Restaurant is definitely worth a try if you have a hard time finding delicious vegetarian or vegan dishes in this city, where the cuisine is mainly focused on seafood.
Jambiani Budget Hotels
- Stonehouse Beach Zanzibar is a three-star accommodation between Jambiani Beach and Paje Beach. This beachfront hotel provides guests with bright rooms that come with free Wi-Fi.
- Bahari Beach Bungalows is a two-star accommodation located right at the center of the Jambiani shoreline. It features basic bungalows with mosquito nets and private bathrooms. The premises offer free Wi-Fi in public areas.
Jambiani Mid-Range Hotels
- Garden Beach Bungalows offers three-star accommodation facing Jambiani Beach. There is an outdoor swimming pool, garden, and terrace for guests to enjoy. Each of its bungalows comes with free Wi-Fi.
- Pili Pili Nautica is a three-star hotel a short drive from Kuza Cave. It features an outdoor swimming pool, terrace and restaurant. All rooms are fitted with wardrobes, and balconies with a pool view and offer free Wi-Fi to guests.
Jambiani Luxury Hotels
- Sea View Lodge Boutique Hotel is the closest four-star hotel on our list to Jambiani’s main tourist attraction, Kuza Cave. A terrace and free parking space are available to guests, and all rooms have a balcony, a private bathroom, and free Wi-Fi.
- Kupaga Villas Boutique Hotel is another four-star boutique hotel allowing guests to step out directly to Jambiani Beach. The hotel is equipped with a terrace, an outdoor swimming pool, and free parking space. Each room is air conditioned and comes with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom.
So far, we’ve mentioned our top picks where you can wind down and relax or experience Zanzibar’s rich history and culture. But we haven’t yet touched upon one of the main reasons people travel to Zanzibar.
Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about wind sports, and if you’re looking for a place to surf the wind, you can’t go wrong by staying in Paje.
A consistent side-onshore wind blows throughout the year on the beaches of Paje, and the reefs prevent the formation of waves, making this the perfect area for wind sports.
Kite surfing and windsurfing schools line the shore strip, and it’s a great place for seasoned surfers and newbies alike. The prices are a bit more expensive than Jambiani, but still relatively affordable.
Paje is frequented by both tourists and locals and has a more urban vibe than some of the other areas we’ve mentioned.
It’s also a great location for evening entertainment, as there are many nightclubs and bars to visit and some great parties on the beach. But if you’d like a more quiet and less touristy location, we’d suggest booking accommodation in either Nungwi or Jambiani.
Things to Do
- Head on over to any of the kite schools around to get your surf on.
- Go snorkeling and see some starfish in the Blue Lagoon.
- Take a swim in Maalum Caves, known as Zanzibar’s natural swimming pool.
- If wind sports are too extreme, you could also enjoy a calmer sea activity by going paddle boarding or kayaking.
Where to Eat
- Ratatouille is your spot if you’re a fan of French cuisine. Be sure to stop by to try their…well, ratatouille!
- Mapacha street food court is a great place for sampling some international street food. There, you’ll surely find a wide range of delicacies from all around the world, from Chinese bao or Italian gelato to Turkish döner kebabs.
- Aluna Palms Resta and Sunset Bar is worth checking out if you’d enjoy fine dining in a tropical outdoor environment. This restaurant bar serves mostly Italian dishes for lunch and dinner, but its continental breakfast has also received a lot of praise from guests.
Paje Budget Hotels
- Deja Blue is a three-star hotel located a half-hour walk away from Maalum Caves. The hotel offers a bar, terrace, and garden area for guests to enjoy. Each of its rooms comes with free Wi-Fi and fitted wardrobes. There are also shared kitchens available for use.
- Jambo Beach Hotel Paje is a three-star hotel that provides great value for its price. It’s only a few steps away from Paje Beach and offers an outdoor pool, garden, bar, terrace, and free parking space. Its rooms are equipped with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and private bathrooms.
Paje Mid-Range Hotels
- Cezere The Palm Hotel is a three-star hotel that truly gives off a tropical feel. It features an outdoor pool surrounded by palm trees as well as a terrace and garden. It’s right in the middle of the Paje shoreline, and free Wi-Fi is available on the premises.
- Cristal Resort, Paje is a three-star hotel that offers guests an outdoor pool, a spa, and a wellness center. The rooms all include a terrace, a private bathroom, and free Wi-Fi.
Paje Luxury Hotels
- SBH Monica Zanzibar is a five-star accommodation situated between Maalum Caves and Paje Beach. This luxury hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, garden, and restaurant, and all rooms are fitted with air conditioners and private bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the premises.
- The Nest Boutique Resort, Paje, is one of the pricier five-star options on our list, but we can tell you that it delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Situated slightly to the south of Paje Beach, this resort will take your breath away with its interior and exterior decoration. The Nest Boutique provides guests with an outdoor swimming pool, gym, wellness center, and rooms with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
So, Where Should You Stay in Zanzibar?
|🏆 Best for First Timers||Kiwengwa|
|🏰 Most Historic Area||Stone Town|
|🥂 Most Luxurious||Nungwi|
|💲 Most Budget-Friendly Area||Jambiani|
|🪁 Best for Wind Sports||Paje|
Zanzibar is an enchanting island city that has breathtaking landmarks, natural sceneries, and beaches all around. So if a scenic beach is the only thing you need, anywhere on the island would do.
But if you’re looking for a more specific experience, here’s where to stay:
- Kiwengwa has the best facilities for first-time visitors or those who want a full-on touristic experience. The area is concentrated with resorts, restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s also a generally good pick for those who don’t plan on venturing out much from the area.
- Stone Town offers a more authentic local experience, where you can explore the many landmarks scattered around the area and experience the town’s diverse cuisine, culture, and history. But if the hustle and bustle of this urban hub is too much, and you’d be happier relaxing at a quiet luxury resort, Nungwi could be the best place for you.
- If you’d like to enjoy the beautiful nature of Zanzibar in an area as serene as Nungwi but you’re limiting your expenses, consider Jambiani, the go-to area for budget travelers and eco-tourists. And lastly, if you’re visiting Zanzibar to do some wind sports, Paje is the perfect location.
So, with so much to see and do, and several great areas in which to stay, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Zanzibar has to offer. Happy travels!