How to choose where to go for a Tanzania beach holiday

3rd December 2018

So when most people think of a beach spot in Tanzania, the main Zanzibar Island springs straight to mind. However, for the intrepid beach lover, there are other islands in the archipelago which may suit you even more, or as a combination with the Indian Ocean paradise that is Zanzibar.

Let’s break each Tanzania beach destination down so you can see which suits you the most…

Zanzibar Island

Beaches: Zanzibar is tidal, so you have to be careful about where you choose to stay to ensure you have the sweeping white sands forever feeling throughout the day… See our Zanzibar beaches page for in depth information on the best beaches. As a rule of thumb though, the best beaches are in the north at Nungwi (see Zuri Zanzibar – see this video taken earlier this year of it’s beautiful beach), but also there are little pockets of beachy paradise peppered along the east coast (see Pongwe)

Privacy: If you want a completely secluded private island experience, Zanzibar is not for you! Some beaches bustle with local life whilst others are relatively private (not officially private, but as private as non-official private can get!).

Accommodation and cost: This is where Zanzibar comes into it’s own – there is such a huge array of accommodation from stylish boutique hotels, to 5 star big builds and even to an almost private villa experience at seriously reasonable prices.

Snorkelling and diving: The snorkelling and diving of Zanzibar is very good. Many head to the Mnemba Atoll for some spectacular diving.

Best for: Pretty much everyone!

Beach, ocean and boat on Zanzibar

Zuri Zanzibar’s beach… It is phenomenal.

Pemba Island

Beaches: The beaches on Pemba are not as good as Zanzibar, and are all very tidal. However, there is the little Misali Island just off the west coast and near our favourite honeymoon spot, Fundu Lagoon, which offers white sands forever for that slice of Indian Ocean paradise which is missing from the mainland island.

Privacy: Pemba is very off the beaten track though and offers an authentic slice of Tanzanian island life. It is not only a beach destination but a fascinating place to visit in itself. On your activities you really do get a sense you have the Indian Ocean all to yourself, which you just can’t get in Zanzibar.

Accommodation and cost: There are only 3 main lodges we like to recommend on Pemba. They are not for budget travellers but suit mid to high end travellers.

Snorkelling and diving: The diving from Pemba island is among the best in the world. For divers, there is nowhere better than here and Mafia Island.

Best for: Divers and honeymooners looking to get off the beaten track.

Dinner at Fundu Lagoon

Mafia Island

Beaches: Similarly to Pemba, the beaches on Mafia tend to be quite mangrovey and tidal, so as such we would recommend looking at Zanziabr for your Indian Ocean white sands forever experience.

Privacy: Mafia is only home to 2 lodges which we like to recommend, and as such if you are looking for uninterrupted Indian Ocean adventures, it is fantastic.

Accommodation and cost: The accommodation on Mafia is reasonably priced and you get a certain amount of luxury, however, it is pretty rustic when compared to options on both Pemba and Zanzibar.

Snorkelling and diving: Where Mafia shines above the rest is in it’s excellent whale shark populations. You can enjoy a snorkelling excursion to go see these huge and fascinating creatures. The diving is also tremendous. Most visit Mafia simply to get a glimpse of the whale sharks.

Best for: Very keen divers and for those who want to see Whale Sharks.

Mnemba Private Island

Sunset beach at Mnemba

@&Beyond Mnemba Island Lodge

Beaches: Pristine, white, sweeping – everything you could wish for from an Indian Ocean hideaway.

Privacy: Mnemba is completely exclusive as it is owned by &Beyond and is the only lodge on the island. You have the whole place to yourselves with the other guests staying at the lodge. In our eyes, it is probably one of the best and more sought after honeymoon destinations in the world.

Accommodation and cost: But… This comes at a price! The bandas at nMnemba are luxurious yet still rustic and wooden without a glossy 5* type finish. We absolutely love them. Staying in such exclusivity though does come at a cost as staying here can cost you up to a staggering $1,500 per person per night.

Snorkelling and diving: The diving and snorkelling (and deep sea fishing) from Mnemba is absolutely magnificent. It seems to have it all…

Best for: Honeymooners, a holiday of a life time and those seeking absolute Indian Ocean perfection.

Fanjove Private Island

Beaches: Fanjove Island, alike with Mnemba, has absolutely beautiful beaches. It is set apart from the other islands and is situated in the southern waters off the mainland coast near Songo Songo.

Privacy: Alike with Mnemba again, Fanjove is owned by a safari company who have the whole island and so this is a completely exclusive experience.

Accommodation and cost: Unlike Mnemba, Fanjove is extremely reasonably priced. However, if you are looking for luxury, this is not for you. It’s bandas are very basic and are the epitome of what we like to call “beach shack chic”. The perk here is that if you are not bothered about luxury, you can have one of the more pristine Indian Ocean locations all to yourself for an extremely reasonable cost.

Snorkelling and diving: Snorkelling and diving off Fanjove is also excellent.

Best for: Honeymooners, families or those just seeking seclusion and authenticity on their African adventure.

Mainland Tanzania

Beaches: So the lodge we think reigns absolute supreme on the mainland coast is Ras Kutani. This is in our view probably the best beach lodge in East Africa. With a spectacular beach which is also absolutely secluded, you can’t get much better.

Privacy: Unlike some of the busier beaches in Zanzibar, Ras Kutani is on the mainland coast and as such is well away from tourism and any kind of bustle whatsoever. It is a hidden gem, and we hope it stays this way for a long time to come.

Accommodation and cost: What’s more, Ras Kutani is exceptional value for money. The style of the lodge is the ultimate “barefoot luxury” experience, meaning it is extremely comfortable with very attentive staff, excellent food, comfortable beds, a glorious setting but without glitzy frills.

Snorkelling and diving: Ras Kutani does not have good snorkelling and diving and is a place for relaxation.

Best for: Any kind of traveller/group/couple or honeymooner who is looking for a place away from it all to relax in absolute Indian ocean paradise.