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Kenya is well-known across the world as a one of Africa’s best safari destinations, but this varied East African nation also has a shimmering 536km coastline along the Indian Ocean. Kenya’s Indian Ocean Coast is scattered with palm-fringed beaches, untouched coral reefs and old Swahili ports. The main gateway to the coast is Mombasa, an island-based city bordered by lovely beaches, including Diani, Bamburi and Nyali.

There are also many other beach-holiday options elsewhere along the coast, around Lamu, Watamu, and Malindi. Whether you are looking for relaxation, family-friendly spots with calm waters, or aquatic adventures in the form of scuba diving, kayaking or whale watching, Kenya has a beach for it. Here’s our pick of the best beaches in Kenya.

Best Beaches in Kenya For A Tropical Holiday

Beaches in Kenya

1. Diani Beach

Beautiful Diani Beach is located approximately 30km (19 miles) south of Mombasa. Framed by swaying coconut palms, it is the most popular beach resort near Mombasa and anywhere in Kenya. The beach features a long stretch of soft, powder-white sand. It is home some of the Kenya’s top beach hotels. 

At Diani, you can enjoy all popular beach activities such as kitesurfing, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, and deep-sea fishing. You can also go skydiving for views from above. Diani Beach is also a dream for snorkelers and scuba divers, with many dive sites less than an hour away by boat. Reef sharks are a great attraction, as is spotting endangered hawksbill and green turtles. 

You might even spot whale sharks from November to February. For families with kids, there are glass-bottomed boat tours that offer an easy glimpse of the underwater world. If you are interested in some safari activities, Shimba Hills National Reserve is 16km (10 miles) inland is home to elephants, monkeys, mongooses, bird species and the endangered sable antelope. Inside the reserve, you will find Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, created for African elephants to freely roam around this area.

Where to stay

Accommodation at Diani Beach ranges from luxury beach resorts to funky backpackers. Popular options include:

  • Baobab Beach Resort 
  • Elewana AfroChic Diani Beach
  • Alfajiri Villas. 
Beaches in Kenya

2. Nyali Beach

When people talk about Kenya beaches in Mombasa, they often mean the long stretches that lie north and south of the city, such as Watamu and Diani. But Nyali Beach, which is part of a larger residential area just north of central Mombasa, has plenty, going on to suit all ages.

Located only 3 km (2 miles) north of central Mombasa, it is the closest beach to Mombasa city and an attractive goal for a day trip from the city center. It is also Kenya’s longest-serving beach resort. It first gained popularity when a hotel opened there in the 1940s. Despite its nearness to the city, it is a lovely swimming beach with many prestigious hotels, as well as the country’s only 18-hole course

Where to stay

Accommodation includes;

  • Severin Sea Lodge
  • Voyager Beach Resort
  • Muthu Nyali Beach Hotel and Spa
  • Bahari Beach Hotel

3. Gazi Beach & Chale Island

Beaches in Kenya

Gazi Beach is located about 45km (27 miles) south of Mombasa. It is a secluded sandy stretch that runs down to a beautiful bay. Sheltered by Chale Island, the waters here are calm and the sand backed by old coconut groves which offer shade for those who find the equatorial sun too strong.

The northern side of the bay supports one of the biggest mangrove swamps in southern Kenya. Gazi’s eastern shore is studded by a beautiful and relatively undeveloped swimming beach. Even more spectacular is the small beach on Chale, although this is reserved for guests at the only lodge on the Chale Island.

Besides the usual beach activities, Gazi Beach is home to a mangrove boardwalk run by a local community women’s group. Here you can see 6 species of mangrove tree, the amphibious mudskipper fish and the dazzling mangrove kingfisher.

Where to stay

  • The Sands at Chale Island; this is one of the most exclusive, beautiful and ecofriendly beach resorts in East Africa.

4. Bamburi and Shanzu Beaches

Shanzu and Bamburi are adjoining beaches that run for more than 5km (3miles) south of Mtwapa Creek. They are among the most popular beaches in Kenya.

Like Nyali Beach, the setting is somewhat sub-urban, but the beaches are thoroughly idyllic, and great for swimming at high tide. These beaches are located around 10km (6 miles) north of central Mombasa.

Things to do here include scuba diving, windsurfing; and snorkeling trips into Mombasa Marine National Park; wining and dining at a scattering of classy seaside restaurants.

Where to stay

  • Places to stay include several upmarket resort hotels, notably the popular and very attractive Serena Beach Resort & Spa

5. Kenyatta Beach

Kenyatta Beach is named after Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta.

It is a family friendly swimming beach that is a very famous retreat with Mombasa residents, which makes it a good place to enjoy an untouristy beach experience in the company of local Kenyans.

Kenyatta Beach can get crowded over weekends, but is more peaceful during the week. The beach is located about 9 kilometers (5miles) north of central Mombasa.

It has family friendly amenities including a water-slide park and glass-bottomed boat excursions lead to the coral gardens of Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve.

Where to stay

  • When it comes to where to stay, Kenyatta is the only recognized beach resort in Kenya with no hotels. It is easily accessed from central Mombasa.
Beaches in Kenya

6. Galu Beach

Sometimes called Galu Kinondo, Galu beach is often seen as an extension of Diani Beach. However, it is another endless stretch of coastline south of Mombasa city. This patch of sand is a little more private and less developed than Diani Beach, and features more coastal scrub.

Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest is the last remaining jungle on the Kenyan coast, home to Vervet and colobus monkeys, and it is a sacred site for local communities.

Although white sands are the big ticket, the eco-tours here which are run by Colobus Conservation are worth exploring. The organization was established to protect these threatened primates and conserve their habit after locals voiced concerns over the increasing deaths of colobus monkeys on busy Diani Beach Road.

The money you spend here will go some way to support research, education, animal welfare and habitat protection. Galu Beach is also popular with paddle boarders and kitesurfers, and the Polish-run KiteMotion Kitesurfing School is a good first port of call if you want to join in. Divers and Snorkelers can swim among moray eels and scorpion fish, as well as rarer fish such as ghost pipe fish and sea horses.

Where to stay

  • Pinewood Beach Resort & Spa
  • Neptune Paradise Beach Resort & Spa
  • Lantana Galu Beach
  • Neptune Village Beach Resort & Spa

7. Kikambala Beach

Kikambala beach is located about 33km (21 miles) north of Mombasa.

The beach is not the most accessible spot – the road ends a few hundred meters away from the shore – but if you like quiet sands and snorkeling, it is worth the effort. The sand is blinding white and at low tide, you can take a leisurely walk out to the coral reef.

It is a popular beach with the local community, which makes it particularly atmospheric at the end of the day, with children kicking soccer balls around.

Beaches in Kenya

8. Kilifi

Kilifi is located about 70km (42 miles) north of Mombasa and 35km (22 miles) south of Watamu.

Recently, Kilifi has come into its own as young professionals have made a base here, leading to an explosion of cool bars and cafes, coworking spaces and concept venues such as The Food Movement and FoMo, where artist studios, an organic farm and market days come together in one creative space.

Kilifi Beach is also the setting for the annual 3-day Beneath the Baobabs Festival – the first carbon-neutral festival in Africa– mixing East African music and culture with a focus on sustainability. Palm-fringed Bofa Beach is an attractive spot and home to the lively beach bar and kitesurfing center, Salty’s Kitesurf Village. The south side of Kilifi is home to the smaller Shauri Moyo Beach with more white sand. The creek itself, an estuary of the Goshi River, is home to a variety of birds.

Take a boat cruise to the bird island in the middle of Kilifi creek to see fish eagles and southern carmine bee-eaters. Kilifi is also a great base for a trip to the Watamu Marine National Park, one of Kenya’s oldest marine parks. Take a boat tour to dive and snorkel among lionfish, groupers, and large rays and whale sharks in season. On land, Kilifi features Mnarani Ruins, the archeological remains of a centuries-old Swahili settlement on a bluff overlooking the creek. The site has two 15th-century Mnarani mosques and a 900-year-old baobab tree.

Where to stay

  • There’s great budget accommodation at Distant Relatives Ecolodge and Backpackers.
  • More upmarket options include Kilifi Bay Beach Resort.

9. Watamu

Watamu is one of the most beautiful beach resorts in Kenya. It is located about 108km (66 miles) north of Mombasa and 23km (16 miles) south of Malindi. Watamu is made up of three bays – Watamu, Blue Lagoon and Turtle – and they are all white-sand, aquamarine, coconut palm-lined natural wonders.

What makes this area particularly special are the nearby wetlands and mangrove forests – the Arabuko Sokoke Coastal Forest is one of the largest tracts of coastal forest in Africa and a thriving habitat for wildlife, including elusive elephants, various reptiles and amphibians and the adorable-looking Sokoke scops owl.

The coral gardens of Watamu Marine National Park are home to angelfish, parrotfish, three species of turtles and many more marine species, making this an underwater paradise.

Where to stay:

  • Watamu is still a relatively sleepy beach town but a growing number of hotels have put it on the map, including the popular Hemingways, named in tribute to the US author who spent a vacation here deep-sea fishing.
  • Others, such as Ocean Sports & Turtle Bay have raised Watamu’s profile for watersports; the hotel’s activity center can arrange scuba dives, fishing trips, kayaking and windsurfing lessons.
Beaches in Kenya

10. Malindi

Malindi is Kenya’s second-largest coastal town, located about 120km (75 miles) north of Mombasa. Malindi airport is on the outskirts of town. It is one of the most intriguing beach towns in Kenya. 

Malindi is a medieval port that peaked in importance during a 16th-century alliance with Portugal against Mombasa. Historic landmarks include a 15th-century pillar tomb, a 16th-century Portuguese chapel, and a windswept limestone cross erected by Vasco da Gama in 1499. The swimming beach beautiful and a strong Italian presence inform a great selection of seafront restaurants, gelaterias and grocery stores selling pasta and Parmesan cheese. Activities here include snorkeling and diving outings that are easily arranged, as are safaris into Tsavo East National Park, 100km (60 miles) to the west.

Where to stay

  • There’s a big variety of accommodation. Driftwood Beach Club is great for families, while The Lawford Kenya is a historic hotel that once hosted Ernest Hemingway.

11. Mamburi

Mamburi beach is located about 25km (15 miles) north of Malindi. Extending north from the Galana River mouth, this wide sandy beach, hemmed in by tall golden dunes, is one of Kenya’s best. Very beautiful and totally unspoiled, it is a great choice for those who want to get off the beaten track. Things you can do here include swimming and kitesurfing.

Where to stay:

  • Che Shale Inn is a rustic but charming family run resort at the north end of the beach. Mamburi is easily visited as a day trip from Malindi.

12. Lamu Island, Lamu Archipelago

Beaches in Kenya

Lamu Island is located 215km (130 miles) north of Malindi. Most visitors fly to Lamu.

Here slow travel rules, and visiting the island’s dune-dusted archipelago can feel like a step back in time – traditional dress, donkeys for transport (cars for private use aren’t allowed) and traditional trades such as carpentry and boat-building are still commonplace.

Continuously inhabited for more than 700 years, the 13th-century port city of Lamu Town is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa, and you will see African, Asian and European influences on the islands’ architecture, particularly the ornate doors.

As well as exploring the beaches (Shela Beach is particularly stunning), a sunset dhow boat trip around Lamu Island and into the mangrove forests is a must. These beautifully carved traditional sailing vessels were once used to ferry spices and other goods between Africa, Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.

Today, they take people on sunset cruises, snorkeling day trips, and even overnight trips where you can swim in sparkling phosphorescence and sleep on deck under the stars.

In Lamu Town, make a trip to Ali’s boatyard to see the FlipFlopi Dhow, the world’s first recycled plastic sailing boat, part of a project to reduce waste in coastal communities.

Where to stay

  • Accommodation is plentiful in Lamu Town. Shela’s Peponi Hotel is a beachfront boutique property that’s been in the same family since it opened in 1967.
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