Kenya’s Maasai Mara is one of the planet’s greatest safari destinations, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Yet it’s easy to neglect the country’s thriving beach scene. Sitting at the same latitude as the Maldives and the Seychelles, Kenya is home to many fabulous tropical beaches, with hotels to suit everyone from quiet honeymooning couples to families craving adventure. Here, we take a look at the top beach hotels in Kenya for every type of holiday.
Peponi Hotel Lamu
The ultimate beachside hangout, Peponi has carved a reputation for itself as one of Africa’s most iconic hotels. Wonderfully old school, it’s been in the same family since it first opened in the sixties and little has changed. Whitewashed guestrooms eschew air conditioning and televisions in favour of whirring ceiling fans and huge windows to let the salty sea breeze in, while handmade local wood furnishings add a Swahili touch. Outside, baobab trees shade the freshwater swimming pool, and there’s a lovely white sand beach for swimming, paddle boarding or just enjoying a good book. At sundown, cool locals and a smattering of the island’s high-profile visitors (Mick Jagger and Kate Moss have both been spotted) hang out in the beachside bar sipping the hotel’s signature Old Pal cocktail (a moreish blend of vodka, lime juice, Angostura bitters and soda water), while the seafood restaurant is renowned island wide for its superb sushi. For a change of scene, UNESCO-protected Lamu Town is a few miles along the coast. Thanks to its extraordinary melting pot of cultures, it feels totally untouched by modern life.
Owned by a gorgeous Swedish couple with three young children, Kinondo Kwetu is a fantastic family beach escape. Set on the popular Diani Beach, the hotel is cleverly cut off from the main tourist drag by a stretch of rocky cliffs, keeping the sands semi-private and pristine. After all the early starts on safari, many guests come here for some downtime; there are yoga classes on the beach, beauty treatments in the small spa and hammocks strung up between palm trees for snoozing in the sun. Play tennis, go riding along the beach, or take advantage of the Indian Ocean lapping at the doorstep – the hotel can arrange water sports, boat trips and snorkelling on a nearby coral reef. Pitched at families, there are plenty of interconnecting guestrooms and villas with extra space for teenagers; but the hotel works just as well for couples too, who stay in thatched-roof cottages tucked away in private, peaceful areas of the gardens. A quirky blend of Scandi-chic and Swahili cool, it’s is the ultimate home from home.
Alfajiri Villas Diani Beach
For anyone seeking peace, privacy and uninterrupted quality time on holiday, Alfajiri is the answer. Brilliantly designed and run by its Italian owners (she’s an interior designer), this collection of three exceptional villas overlooks a wild stretch of Diani Beach. Each villa (Cliff, Garden and Beach) has a private swimming pool and direct beach access, plus a small army of staff on hand including a chef, butler, nanny and driver. Our favourite is Cliff Villa; elevated high above the beach, it offers maximum privacy and boasts spectacular views over the rolling waves. If there are just two of you, Beach Villa makes the perfect honeymoon stay. Families and friends can relax with complete independence; delicious Mediterranean food is cooked to order, while guests have use of a traditional ngalawa sailing boat for trips out to a nearby coral reef. Excursions can be arranged to visit community projects in local villages, to the nearby Shimba Hills for quad biking and mini safaris, or to the 18-hole championship golf course just a few minutes’ drive away. For a real post-safari splash out, this is about as good as it gets.
Manda Bay Lamu
Renowned for its clusters of little-visited white sand islands lapped by gin-clear waters, the Lamu archipelago is a popular beachy bolt-on at the end of a safari. Set on a quiet, secluded bay sheltered by mangroves and a tropical reef, Manda Bay is one of the best examples of the region’s Robinson Crusoe luxury. Anyone who takes a ‘no shoes, no news’ attitude to their holiday will feel right at home. Thatch-roofed bandas with simple matted floors and pale driftwood furnishings spill out onto the soft golden sands, while days are spent out on the water, snorkelling, sailing, deep sea fishing and paddle boarding. In the evenings, everyone gathers at the big open bar for lively sundowners, before suppers on the beach of freshly caught seafood. Guests craving culture can wander along the bay to reach the extraordinary 9th century ruins of Manda Town, an ancient Swahili port, or hop in a motorboat and potter across to Lamu for a day exploring the ancient city.
Ocean Spa Lodge Msambweni
Much of Kenya’s beach scene is centered around bustling Diani Beach, but Ocean Spa Lodge has helped put a pocket of the lesser-visited southern coastline on the luxury travel map. This boutique wellness-focussed retreat is popular with those looking for post-safari R&R and the spa is very much the star of the show. Indulge with an impressive treatment menu of massages, body scrubs and facials – or, if you’re feeling brave, sign up for one of the hotel’s boot camps and fitness retreats. Facilities here are very much ahead of their game; there’s a hydro-massage pool, multi-sensory showers and a highly specialised Kneipp Circuit, which uses a mixture of hot and cold-water treatments to stimulate blood circulation. The food served in the poolside restaurant follows the same healthy ethos, with lots of fresh fish and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Gorgeous guest suites are spread across a string of whitewashed cottages, decorated with hand-carved pale wood and local art, while all have ocean views. We can guarantee you’ll leave feeling refreshed and recharged.
For more ideas and advice on luxury holidays to Kenya, contact our Africa travel specialist Samantha Gee on +44 (0)1242 787 800.