The Ultimate Guide to Diani Beach, Kenya

I have been promising to put up this post for so long, I am relieved that it’s finally up. I have been to most of the places I have indicated and would 100% recommend them, so without further ado, here’s the guide.

WHERE TO VISIT

  • Pool of Africa

This is spectacular natural feature that is found along Tiwi beach. It is literally a natural pool that is inside a cave that is in the shape of the map of Africa. Yep. The best time to visit is when the tide is low, when the water is blue and warm and the shape of the pool can clearly be seen. It’s a pretty great spot to snorkel too, but be weary of sea urchins. I stepped on a couple of those bad boys the last time I was there and it was no laughing matter.

Pool of Africa from above taken by @theartofwanderlusting

Swimming in the pool (Pic taken by @artofwanderlusting)

Fee: There really is no fee, perhaps the only fee one would pay is for a local to take you to the pool which is really at their discretion.

  • Shimba Hills National Reserve

The only thing better than a beach holiday is being able to squeeze in a safari without breaking a sweat. Shimba Hills National Reserve is about 30km from Diani/Ukunda. I believe most hotels at Diani have shuttle services to the reserve. Being a reserve, you can expect to see most of the Big Five animals. Even more spectacular is Sheldrick Waterfall where you can take a dip after the hike. The fall is only accessible after an hour or so hike through the reserve. You can even spot the ocean from one of the reserve’s watch towers.

Fee: KWS entry fee is Kshs. 300 for citizens.

  • Wasini Island

Ah Wasini Island. I love this place. The Island is a protected marine reserve with the clearest of waters with hues of blues that are simply amazing. Accessing Wasini will require you to drive for about an hour to Shimoni and then take a boat to the Island. The boat ride should be another 45 min. Once at Wasini, you can snorkel and explore the beautiful corals and sea life. When you are done, prop up a towel and sunbathe while enjoying a book and a cold beer.

Price: Ksh. 1500- Ksh.3500. Wasini Island being a marine reserve is run/protected by the KWS and Kenyan Citizens will need to pay an extra Kshs. 350 as entrance fee.

Tip: Most companies at Diani beach offer trips to Wasini Island. Your bargaining power will have to kick in to get the best price, but generally Kenyan Citizens can pay as little as Ksh. 2000 for the trip. It includes the car trip, boat ride, a hearty sea food lunch and snorkelling gear. Pretty decent if you ask me.

  • Wasini Island Village

The Vumba people call this 7 by 3 km island home, so you can guess just how small the island is. Because of its size, the houses are really small, there are no roads- just foot paths enough to fit bicycles and motorcycles and the island has no electricity or tap water. Despite these challenges, you will meet some lovely people should you chose to take the Island tour. The tour includes a trip to the coral garden which was created by the Vumba women in an area of the island which floods when the tide is high.

  • Shimoni Caves

If you are a lover of all things history and you are particularly keen on slave trade history in the country, then you should visit Shimoni caves. During the 19th Century slave trade, Kenyan slaves were kept in the caves before being transported by dhow to Zanzibar. The last time I visited the caves I was probably in primary school, I just haven’t had an opportunity to do so recently. The Caves are right next to the KWS office where you pay to access Wasini Island.

Tip: Seeing as the trip is a bit far from Diani, you can kill two birds with one stone by combining the trip to Wasini to the Shimoni caves one by visiting the caves in the evening after completing the Wasini trip.

  • Kongo River and the Mosque

Have you ever been where the river meets the ocean? It’s a pretty spectacular sight, atleast from above where you can see the colours of the river and the ocean. On the ground it is pretty much water flowing into the ocean. The Mosque is a couple of metres from the river. I really don’t remember much about its history but it was built in the 18th Century by the Sherazi.

Kongo River flowing into the Indian Ocean

Fee: There is no entrance fee, however you will be expected to give the guides a ‘little something’ that apparently goes towards the maintenance of the Mosque.

  • Diani Art Gallery

This addition is for the art lovers. I don’t know much about art, but I can appreciate a good piece when I see it. Diani Art Gallery is located at Diani Shopping Centre along Diani Beach road and has some pretty unique and stunning African art pieces that are all created by African Artists.

Price: Entry is free

  • Boat rides to the Reef

If you don’t fancy taking a day trip to snorkel in the waters of Wasini Island (I really don’t see why you wouldn’t) then a short glass boat trip to the reef might calm the itch. The waters are clear and teaming with all kinds of fish. You can read about my experience snorkeling at the reef here.

Fees: Kshs. 1500 (This is the reasonable price that you can settle on).

  • Day trip to the Sands at Chale

Chale Island is a stunning exclusive private island off the shores of Diani Beach. Built on the Island is The Sands, a luxury boutique hotel, sister to the Sands at Nomad on Diani Beach Road. Now I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve seen enough photos of this stunning little paradise to know that I have to make my way there soon. I had actually planned on taking a trip to the Island earlier this year when I was in Diani, but its exclusivity means that only guests of the hotel are allowed on the Island. After making a couple of calls, I however received the good news that for a fee, you can take a day trip to the Island and pretend to live like the other 1% for a day.

Chale Island (Picture from google)

Picture courtesy of google

Price: Kshs. 3500 (Includes the boat trip to the Island from the mainland, lunch, afternoon tea and using the facilities on the hotel for the day, i.e the pool, beach e.t.c)

  • Colobus Monkey Reserve

For the monkey lovers, Colobus Monkey Reserve is a great place where the Colobus monkey indeginious to the forests of Kwale are rescued and rehabilitated. The reserve has done an amazing job of rescuing these monkeys which would otherwise be on the road to extinction, as they are often targeted by locals for their meat and skin. Play with the monkeys and take a short trip through the reserve to learn about their amazing work.

Fees: Kshs. 200 for citizens, Kshs. 400 for non Citizens.

TREATING IN DIANI

Mid- Range Restaurants (Meals between 200- 600)

As a coastal town, Diani has quite a number of restaurants offering authentic mouth- watering Swahili cuisine. These are some of the restaurants I have eaten at, where my chicken biriani cravings have been more than satisfied. Most locals eat here as they offer everything from Pilau to sea food dishes at very reasonable prices.

  • Swahili Dishes
  • Coast Dishes
  • Colobus

Mid to High Range (Kshs. 500- Kshs. 1000)

  • Forty Thieves

Forty Thieves is a cool bar/ restaurant that serves hippie vibes and mostly serves Italian/ European meals. Best of all? It’s right by the beach. During the day you can enjoy a decent meal and a dip in the ocean. Forty Thieves truly transforms and comes alive at night, with themed nights, great djs and live bands.

  • Kokko’s Cafe

Let me just straight out declare my love Kokko’s Cafe. The vibe, the ambience, its quaint and rustic nature. Everything. From the title you can probably tell its a cafe, so if your tired of stuffing your face in maamri and everything coconut, head on over to this cafe and indulge on some well done guilty free fries and burgers.

Fine Dining (Meals over Ksh.1000)

  • The Beach Restaurant at the Sands at Nomad

This is another one of my favourites in Diani. The beach restaurant is open to persons who are not guests of the hotel and you guessed it, it is situated right at the beach. One of the things that make the Sands’ restaurant one of my favourites is the rustic/African canvas theme in the booth like areas facing the ocean where you can relax and unwind with a great book. The other of course, is the food. Their Pizzas are A1. Every month during the full moon, they set up a candle lit dinning area right at the beach, under the gaze of the full moon and the sounds of soft waves crashing. I’d try it if I were you, right after you make your reservation.

Leonardo’s

I only recently discovered Leonardo’s and I quite like it. It is elegant, charming and screams fine dining. Its a shame it is not by the beach, but you wouldn’t miss the tropical vibes of Diani. Like the name suggests, Leonardo’s is an Italian restaurant offering Italian cuisine, so think pizzas, pastas, more pastas and decadent steaks. Their service is spectacular. When you are there, try their Spaghetti Carbonara. It is simply sinful. If you have a sweet tooth then be sure to try out there Gelato shop, it would do you good in that Diani heat.

  • Ali Barbour Cave

Now I haven’t been here, but as far as fine dining in Diani goes, this is it. Ali Babour is right next to 40 Thieves (Ali baba and the 40 thieves anyone? haha) Imagine eating in a cave feeling sand in your feet as you stared into the ocean? That’s Ali Barbour for you. Just make sure you make dinner reservations first.

ACCOMODATION OPTIONS

There is a wide range of accommodation options from massive tourist hotels, to exclusive boutique hotels, rental apartments and villas for hire. Strangely though, I have tried out most of the accommodation options that Diani has to offer.

  • For the Budget Traveler- Beach Camping/ Beach bandas

Camping at the beach is an amazing idea for the budget traveller. These are really popular along Tiwi Beach Back in 2013, my friends and I spent a good number of days camping by the beach and it was nothing short of amazing.

Where: Tiwi Beach Campsite

Fancy camping by the beach? (Pic taken by @theartofwanderlusting)

(Pic by @theartofwanderlusting)

Price: Kshs. 500 per night, includes the tent.

  • For Groups/Families

Villas are are always an excellent idea for large groups and families. It easily accommodated these large groups without breaking the bank and at the same time affording you the privacy to conduct your affairs away from prying eyes.

Where: Villa Dora and Villa

Price: Ksh. 12,000 in low season and Ksh. 25000 in high season per villa.

  • Hotel Stay

If hotel stays are your thing then Diani Beach road is the place to be that is teaming with all sorts of hotels, from large touristy ones to quaint little boutique hotels. I have previously stayed at Leopard Beach Resort, only not in the hotel suites but in The Residences (villas) which are stunning. I’ll do a separate post on the villas and staying at Leopard Beach Resort.

SHOPPING

There are a number of supermarkets in Diani where you can get almost everything you need. Nakumatt Diani used to be the number 1 spot for shopping, but seeing as the shelves are empty, you might want to try the other two options. Vegetable shopping in Diani can be a bit expensive, however a short trip to the market in Ukunda will save you a few coins.

  • Nakumatt Diani
  • Chandarana at Diani Beach Shopping Centre
  • Naivas in Ukunda

TRANSPORT

I use tuktuks everywhere in Diani because most rides cost Kshs. 3o. The most I have paid for a tuktuk ride was Kshs. 100 and this is because of the distance of the ride. Its cheap, fun, breezy and makes for great conversation with tuktuk drivers who have great banter.

Is there anything I have left out/you would like to know? Let me know in the comments down below.

Love and Light,

Cess.

Leave a Reply