13 reasons to book a Zanzibar Holiday | Tropical Beach Destination Africa
Dreaming of a Zanzibar Holiday? Zanzibar Island is a tropical beach destination in Africa renowned for its breathtaking beauty, white-sandy beaches, slave history, and vibrant culture, nestled in the Indian Ocean, about 35 kilometers off the coast of Tanzania.
Zanzibar is an archipelago consisting of several islands, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. Zanzibar Island is 85 kilometers at its greatest length and 39 kilometers wide. With plenty of activities and different places to visit, there are enough things to do in Zanzibar to keep you occupied for several weeks. I did most of my tours in Zanzibar with Zanzibar Nature Trails, a reliable local Zanzibar tour operator. I met Shauri, the CEO, in person. The tour company has knowledgeable friendly guides and good clean air-conditioned cars to show you the best of Zanzibar.
Here are 13 reasons to book a Zanzibar Holiday explaining why Tanzania's tropical island Zanzibar is worth visiting:
1 Zanzibar is an all-year beach holiday destination
Zanzibar is an all-year travel destination because of its tropical climate. It is hot all year round, with an average temperature around 30 degrees Celsius. The temperature remains relatively consistent throughout the year due to its location near the equator.
However, the island experiences two rainy seasons: one more intense, known as the ‘long rains’ season from March to May, and another less intense, known as the ‘short rains’ season, from October to December. April and May are the wettest months. Although people say May is the worst time to visit Zanzibar, I had a great time with good weather.
Best time to visit Zanzibar for a beach holiday
The best time to travel to Zanzibar is during the dry season, which typically runs from June to October. During this period, you can expect warm and sunny weather with minimal rainfall. The sea conditions are also favorable for water activities, such as snorkeling and diving, with excellent visibility. Early October is known as the cheapest time to visit Zanzibar.
Another good time to travel to Zanzibar is during the short dry season in January and February. The Zanzibar weather is similar to the June-October period, with pleasant temperatures and low chances of rainfall. This period is ideal for beach relaxation and exploring the island's attractions.
Zanzibar's Humid Climate
Because of Zanzibar’s tropic climate, it tends to have high humidity throughout the year. The humidity levels are influenced by the island's proximity to the equator and its location in the Indian Ocean. The months June to October, January and February generally brings slightly lower humidity levels. This is also a reason why these months are the best time to visit Zanzibar for the perfect beach vacation.
To stay comfortable in the Unguja weather and Zanzibar's humid climate, it's recommended to wear light and breathable clothing made of natural fabrics such as cotton or linen. Additionally, drinking plenty of water is essential to cope with the humidity and avoid dehydration. While the humidity can be noticeable, it should not deter you from visiting Zanzibar Spice Island.
2 Zanzibar's tropical beaches with azure-blue waters
Zanzibar boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the world. With powdery white sands and azure waters teeming with vibrant marine life, you'll feel like you've stepped into a postcard. From the popular Nungwi and Kendwa beaches to the secluded gems of Paje, Jambiani and Matemwe, there's a tropical beach to suit every taste. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and unwind and soak up the serenity. In my opinion, the best beaches in Zanzibar are Nungwi Beach, Kendwa Beach and Paje Beach.
Nungwi Beach and Kendwa Beach
Nungwi Beach and Kendwa Beach are two popular beaches located in the far North with fewer amounts of seaweed and sea urchins like other beaches. If you consider a beach holiday in Zanzibar, both beaches offer a range of water sports and activities, including snorkeling, diving, jet skiing, and boat trips. During low tide, you can witness local fishermen heading out to sea in their traditional dhows and see the marine life exposed along the shoreline.
I also wrote about the best things to do in Nungwi.
Laidback Paje Beach Holiday Zanzibar
Paje Beach is located on the southeast coast of Zanzibar and popular for water sports and renowned as one of the best kiteboarding and windsurfing spots in Zanzibar, attracting enthusiasts from around the world. Paje has a laidback atmosphere. Backpackers also love Paje for their Zanzibar holiday.
Other Beaches in Zanzibar
In addition to the main island of Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar Island), there are some other popular islands with beautiful beaches and clear-blue water to visit in the Zanzibar archipelago like Pemba Island (for diving and snorkeling), Mnemba Island (known for its exclusivity) and Chumbe Island (a protected marine park).
3 Zanzibar’s rich Historical Heritage
Zanzibar is more than just a tropical beach destination in Africa. Zanzibar Island is known for its rich history, with the capital Stone Town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stone Town is an exceptional example of an East African trading port that flourished from the 18th century to the early 20th century. The town served as a major hub for trade, particularly in spices, ivory, and slaves.
Slave History of Zanzibar
In addition to the opulence found within Stone Town's trading hub, Stone Town’s trading in slaves carries the weight of a dark chapter in history. Between 1830 and 1863, an estimated 600,000 enslaved individuals were sold through Zanzibar, making it one of the largest slave trading ports in East Africa. Sites like the slave chambers, where slaves were once held, painfully reflect the dark era of the slave trade.
It’s quite impressive and interesting to learn about Zanzibar’s history, and it’s also a reminder of the importance of promoting unity and human rights.
Historical Buildings & Architecture
Apart from the slave history, Stone town’s historic buildings, narrow winding streets, and distinct architecture reflect the town's rich cultural heritage, blending African, Arab, Persian, Indian, and European influences.
The architecture of Stone Town is a fusion of various styles, predominantly Swahili and Arab, with beautiful carvings, balconies and wooden doors.
A few highlights in Stone Town that are worth visiting are the Freddy Mercury House (where the Queen frontman was born), the Old Fort, and Forodhani Park. I also crafted a list of best things to do in Zanzibar which includes many places and activities in Stone Town.
4 Learn about spices on your Zanzibar holiday
Known as the "Spice Island", Zanzibar attracts visitors with its aromatic plantations. A guided spice tour is one of the most popular things to do on Zanzibar Island.
As you wander around the lush plantation, a local guide will point out different spice trees and plants and tells you about the origins of spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and many more spices. You will also learn about cultivation methods, and traditional uses of the spices, fruits and different plants like medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The image below shows us on the spice farm, together with our guide Abdul from Zanzibar Nature Trails.
If you don’t want to do a spice tour in Zanzibar or have little time, you can visit the vibrant marketplace, located in Stone Town. This market gives you a firsthand experience of the lively trade and vibrant atmosphere surrounding the spice industry.
Throughout Stone Town, there are also numerous spice shops to purchase high-quality spices, blends, and teas to take home as souvenirs.
The local shop owners are also usually happy to explain about the different spices, their flavors, and their culinary uses, and on top of that, buying spices is a great way to support locals.
5 Zanzibar has fascinating wildlife and rich biodiversity
Zanzibar is not just about stunning landscapes; it's also a rich in biodiversity. While the island may not have the Big Five and game reserves of mainland Tanzania, a Zanzibar safari offers a different kind of nature and wildlife experiences. For example, seeing the unique red colobus monkey, dolphins, sea turtles, and lots of birds in Zanzibar's mangrove forests.
Zanzibar's Red Colobus Monkey
When it comes to wildlife, I highly recommend visiting Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. It’s Zanzibar's only national park, located in the middle of the island, home to the rare and endangered red colobus monkey - a species found only in the Zanzibar archipelago.
Marinelife in Zanzibar
For marine enthusiasts, Zanzibar Tanzania offers plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and diving trips that can be organized to explore the coral gardens, encounter tropical fish, and perhaps even spot dolphins or sea turtles.
Zanzibar is home to several turtle conservation centers where you can learn more about these magnificent creatures and their conservation efforts. When encountering turtles and other animals in Zanzibar, it's essential to prioritize their well-being and practice responsible interactions.
Birdwatching in the Mangrove Forests of Zanzibar
The mangrove forests which you can find in several areas also play a crucial role in the island's ecosystem. These unique coastal habitats are home to a diverse range of bird species, including mangrove kingfishers, herons, and flamingos. Guided kayak- or boat tours through the mangroves offer opportunities to observe these birds, as well as other wildlife that depend on this environment, such as crabs, fish, and mollusks.
6 Zanzibar's cultural diversity
Zanzibar is known for its rich cultural diversity, shaped by a blend of African, Arab, Indian, and European influences. Zanzibar's cultural diversity can be noticed through its architecture, the different spoken languages, variety in food and arts and crafts.
One of the first things you may notice is the diverse architectural styles in Zanzibar, particularly in Stone Town. Stone Town is known for its white buildings, wooden detailed doors, and a mix of languages including Swahili, Arabic, English, and local dialects.
Observing the different styles of clothes can give you a glimpse into the diverse cultural identities of the local population. You may notice women wearing brightly colored kangas or hijabs, showcasing their Swahili, Arab, or Indian heritage. Men may wear kanzus or kofias.
7 Taste traditional Zanzibar dishes
Zanzibar’s cuisine reflects its multicultural heritage. Exploring the local food scene is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Zanzibar’s culture and indulge in the island's culinary delights.
Zanzibar has a diverse range of restaurants for different tastes and budgets. You'll find everything from traditional Zanzibar eateries serving local specialties to international cuisine and fusion restaurants.
During my travels in Zanzibar, I ate a lot of curries, seafood and fresh exotic fruits. Famous restaurants in Zanzibar are:
- Cape Town Fish Market (Stone Town)
- The Rock Restaurant (Michanwi Pingwe beach)
- Boho Social (Michanwi Pingwe beach)
- Oxygen (Paje)
- Emerson Spice (Stone Town)
- Secret Garden (Stone Town)
8 Water & adventure activities on your Zanzibar holiday
Zanzibar offers various water activities for the adventure seeker. Dive into the vibrant underwater world of Zanzibar and explore the coral reefs while scuba diving or snorkeling in Zanzibar's turquoise waters. Go to places like Paje and Nungwi to find the ideal conditions for kiteboarding, windsurfing and parasailing.
If you are looking for a real adrenaline rush, you can go skydiving. Skydiving in Zanzibar is one of the unique and incredible ways to experience the beauty of Zanzibar. I wasn’t able to do it myself, but the view of the white sandy beaches from up high must be mind-blowing.
9 Charming Zanzibar Beach Resorts & Hotels
Zanzibar is home to a wide range of luxurious beach resorts and intimate lodges. Whether you prefer the opulence of a five-star resort or the charm of a boutique lodge, Zanzibar Island offers accommodation for every taste and budget.
Experience ultimate relaxation as you unwind in spacious villas with stunning ocean views, or enjoy the personalized service of a boutique hotel tucked away in a peaceful corner of the island. Wake up to the sound of waves crashing and bask in the warm hospitality that Zanzibar is known for.
If you’re looking for the city life, there are also various hotels in Stone Town ranging from budget to luxury accommodation. Find some of the best Zanzibar hotels below.
Budget recommended Zanzibar hotels (below 75 dollar)
Mid-range recommended Zanzibar hotels (between 75- 150 dollar)
- Mizingani Seafront Hotel (Stone Town)
- Kahawa lodge (Stone Town)
- Emerson on Hurumzi (Stone Town)
- Promised Land Lodge (Kizimkazi Beach)
Luxury recommended Zanzibar hotels (over 150 dollar)
- Ocean Paradise Resort & Spa (Pwani)
- Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa - Deluxe All Inclusive (Matemwe)
- Tembo House Hotel (Stone Town)
- Melia (Kiwengwa)
- The Residence Zanzibar (Kizimkazi)
I also wrote about my top 3 Zanzibar Beach Resorts.
10 Mind-blowing Zanzibar sunsets
Africa is known for the most beautiful sunsets, so is the African sunset in Zanzibar! With vibrant orange colors, stunning golden reflections on the calm waters of the Indian Ocean and silhouettes of palm trees and traditional boats, you will appreciate the natural beauty of Zanzibar.
Some of the best places to witness these magical golden sunsets include the pristine beaches of Nungwi, Kendwa, and Paje, where you can take leisurely walks or enjoy beachfront dining.
For a unique perspective, embark on a sunset boat cruise on a traditional Zanzibar dhow, gliding along the coastline as the sun dips below the horizon. Also, the rooftop bars and restaurants in Stone Town are a great way to enjoy sunset. They offer elevated views and a vibrant atmosphere to soak in the magical colors of the setting sun.
11 Experience the nightlife on your Zanzibar holiday
Zanzibar offers a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene, particularly in popular areas such as Stone Town and Nungwi.
Nightlife in Stone Town
In Stone Town, you can explore lively bars and clubs, visit the bustling Forodhani Night Market, and enjoy rooftop bars in Stone Town with stunning views over Zanzibar's old town.
Nightlife in Nungwi & Paje
Nungwi is known for its beachside party vibes, featuring beach bars, clubs, and lively beach parties, while Paje offers a more relaxed atmosphere with beach bars and live music events.
Nungwi Beach and Kendwa Beach occasionally have Full Moon Parties. These events, inspired by the famous Full Moon parties in Thailand, are known for their lively atmosphere, DJs playing music, and fire performances. Full Moon Parties in Zanzibar are popular among tourists and provide a memorable night of celebration.
When you explore the nightlife in Zanzibar, it is important to keep in mind that Zanzibar is predominantly a Muslim island, so local customs and sensitivities should be respected. Alcohol consumption is widely accepted in tourist areas, but it is advisable to dress modestly and avoid public displays of excessive drinking or inappropriate behavior.
12 It’s safe to travel to Zanzibar!
‘Is Zanzibar safe?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions, and the answer is YES. We felt safe in Zanzibar all the time, even when walking back to our hotel after dinner or night out.
When it comes to safety, it's important to use your common sense and take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety tips when traveling to Zanzibar Tanzania:
- Before your visit, research and familiarize yourself with the local customs, traditions, and laws
- Stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas, and keep an eye on your belongings
- Take necessary health precautions by staying hydrated, using sunscreen, and protecting yourself from mosquito bites
- Respect the local culture and dress modestly, particularly in religious sites or when interacting with local communities
- Choose Zanzibar hotels in safe and well-traveled areas.
By being informed and taking necessary precautions, you can have a safe and memorable experience in Zanzibar.
Apart from safety in Zanzibar, there are no Zanzibar travel restrictions, whether you travel to Zanzibar from USA, Europe or elsewhere in Africa. You only need to apply for a Zanzibar tourist visa that you can easily apply for online.
13 Zanzibar and Tanzania offer the perfect Bush & Beach Holiday
Before you book a trip to Zanzibar, consider combining a vacation in Zanzibar with safari in Tanzania, to experience the best of both worlds. What about a combination of the Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National park and the tropical paradise of Zanzibar? Check out the best selection of Bush & Beach Safari Tours in Tanzania, or read more about the best places to visit in Tanzania.
Zanzibar Holiday Packages
Looking for a local Zanzibar tour operator that offers day excursions or multiple-day tours? Have a look at Zanzibar Nature Trails. I worked with them before and they offer affordable Zanzibar Tours.
Summary of the Top Reasons for a Zanzibar Holiday
Here's a summary of the top 13 reasons to for a vacation in Zanzibar:
- All-year beach destination
- Paradise beaches with azure-blue waters
- Rich Historical Heritage
- Learn about spices
- Fascinating wildlife & rich biodiversity
- Vibrant cultural diversity
- Taste traditional Zanzibar cuisine
- Thrilling water & adventure activities
- Charming Beach Resorts & Hotels
- Mind-blowing sunsets
- Bustling island nightlife
- It’s safe to travel to Zanzibar
- Perfect Bush & Beach Holiday
I hope the above 13 reasons inspire you to travel to Zanzibar (Tanzania), one of the best beach destinations in Africa. From its white sandy paradise beaches and rich history to its vibrant culture and thrilling adventures like skydiving, Zanzibar offers many reasons to visit this tropical Island off the coast of Tanzania.