The 21 Best Things to Do in Zanzibar (In a Week)

Tristan Balme Relaxing on the beach in Zanzibar

If you’re looking for an exotic destination with stunning beaches, rich history, and unique culture, Zanzibar is definitely worth considering.

I spent almost 2 weeks here after my Kilimanjaro trip and completely fell in love with the beautiful island. The people are lovely, the food is divine, the beaches are PERFECT and there is absolutely no shortage of things to do.

Here are my picks on the 21 best things to do in Zanzibar (at least, in my opinion!)

A Brief History of Zanzibar

Zanzibar has a rich history that dates back to the 1st century AD, when it was a trading center for spices, ivory, and slaves. Over the years, it has been ruled by various empires, including the Portuguese, Omani, and British. The island’s history is evident in the diverse culture and architecture found throughout Zanzibar.

What are the Best Things to Do in Zanzibar?

1. Ride a Dala Dala

This isn’t number 1 because it’s the best thing to do (it’s a taxi after all!) but it’s number 1 because you’ve got to experience it while on the island!

Dala Dalas are local buses that are a popular mode of transportation in Zanzibar. They are cheap, crowded, and provide an authentic experience of local life on the island. Riding a Dala Dala is an adventure in itself, and you’ll get to interact with locals and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

DestinationPrice (TZS)
Paje Beach2000
Matemwe Beach3000
Nungwi Beach3500
Kendwa Rocks4000
Jambiani2500
Kizimkazi2500
Mangapwani1500

Keep in mind that these prices are subject to change and may vary depending on the time of day or the driver. It’s always a good idea to confirm the fare with the driver before getting on the Dala Dala.

Tristan Balme Riding a dala dala on zanzibar to paje beach

2. Visit Paje Beach

Paje Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Zanzibar. It’s known for its crystal-clear waters, white sand, and stunning sunsets. You can relax on the beach, swim, kite surf, or take a stroll along the shore. Paje Beach is also home to various restaurants and bars where you can enjoy delicious food and drinks while taking in the beautiful views.

To get to Paje Beach, you can take a taxi or a Dala Dala from Stone Town. The journey takes about an hour and a half, and you’ll pass through various villages and scenic landscapes along the way. Alternatively, you can arrange for a transfer with your hotel or tour operator. Once you arrive at Paje Beach, you can rent a sunbed and umbrella and spend the day relaxing on the beach or take part in various water sports activities.

Tristan Balme Relaxing on the beach in Zanzibar

3. Do a Spice Tour

Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island, and a spice tour is a great way to learn about the island’s history and culture. The tour takes you through spice plantations where you can see and smell various spices, including cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. You’ll also learn about the uses of the spices in local cuisine and traditional medicine.

Tristan Balme doing a spice tour in zanzibar

4. Catch Park Hyatt Zanzibar Happy Hour

The Park Hyatt Zanzibar is a luxury hotel located in Stone Town, and it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind. The hotel’s terrace bar offers a happy hour with discounted drinks and beautiful views of the ocean. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset and enjoy a drink with friends.

Tristan Balme happy hour at the rooftop bar in zanzibar

5. Go to the Full Moon Party at Kendwa Rocks

Kendwa Rocks is a beautiful beach located on the northern tip of Zanzibar. It’s known for its full moon parties, which are held every month. The parties feature live music, fire dancers, and plenty of food and drinks. It’s a great way to experience the local nightlife and meet new people.

Full Moon Party at Kendwa Rocks

Disclosure: I didn’t actually get to go to the full moon party on my trip due to the timing of when I was there. But, I’ll definitely make sure to go when I return.

6. Get Lost Wandering through Stone Town

Stone Town is the historic center of Zanzibar, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is known for its narrow streets, colorful buildings, and unique architecture. Walking around Stone Town is like stepping back in time, and you’ll discover hidden gems around every corner.

Tristan Balme Stone Town Zanzibar

7. Coffee at the Zanzibar Coffee House

The Zanzibar Coffee House is a cozy cafe located in Stone Town. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. The cafe serves a variety of drinks and snacks, and it’s a great place to meet other travelers and exchange stories.

Zanzibar Coffee House

8. Go Shopping at Darajani Market

Darajani Market is the largest market in Zanzibar, and it’s a great place to shop for souvenirs and local products. The market is a bustling hub of activity, and you’ll find everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. It’s also a great place to interact with locals and learn about the local culture.

Darajani Market

9. Learn How to Kitesurf

Zanzibar is known for its kite surfing, and it’s a great activity for adrenaline junkies. There are various kite surfing schools on the island that offer lessons for beginners and advanced riders. You’ll get to experience the thrill of riding the waves while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Kitesurf Zanzibar

10. Explore Matemwe Beach

Matemwe Beach is a hidden gem located on the northeast coast of Zanzibar. It’s known for its pristine white sand and turquoise waters. You can relax on the beach, swim, snorkel, or take a boat trip to nearby islands.

To get to Matemwe Beach, you can take a taxi or a Dala Dala from Stone Town. The journey takes about an hour and a half, and you’ll pass through various villages and scenic landscapes along the way. Alternatively, you can arrange for a transfer with your hotel or tour operator. Once you arrive at Matemwe Beach, you can either walk or take a tuk-tuk to explore the area.

Tristan Balme mwete beach in zanzibar

11. Snorkel Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island is a small private island located off the coast of Zanzibar. It’s known for its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life. You can take a snorkeling tour to explore the coral reefs and see colorful fish, sea turtles, and dolphins.

Mnemba Island

12. Seaweed Center

The Seaweed Center is a community-based project that aims to promote sustainable seaweed farming in Zanzibar. The center offers tours where you can learn about the process of seaweed farming and its importance to the local economy.

Seaweed Center Zanzibar

13. Dine at Forodhani Gardens

Forodhani Gardens is a popular food market located in Stone Town. It’s known for its street food, including grilled seafood, Zanzibari pizza, and sugar cane juice. It’s a great place to try local cuisine and experience the vibrant atmosphere of the market.

Forodhani Gardens

14. Flutter by the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre

The Zanzibar Butterfly Centre is a conservation project that aims to protect and educate about the local butterfly species. The center offers tours where you can see the butterflies up close and learn about their life cycle and importance to the ecosystem.

Zanzibar Butterfly Centre

15. Visit Prison Island

Prison Island is a small island located off the coast of Zanzibar. It’s known for its giant tortoises and historic prison ruins. You can take a boat tour to the island and explore the island’s natural beauty and history.

Tristan Balme Getting off the boat at prison island zanzibar

16. Have Dinner at The Tea House Restaurant

The Tea House Restaurant is a beautiful restaurant located in Stone Town. It’s known for its rooftop terrace, which offers stunning views of the ocean and the town. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes, including local cuisine and international favorites.

The Tea House Restaurant Zanzibar

17. Watch Locals Do Acrobats and Capoeira at Sunset

Watching the locals perform acrobats and capoeira at sunset is a unique and unforgettable experience. You can find performers on the beach or in public squares throughout Zanzibar. It’s a great way to experience the local culture and connect with the locals.

Acrobats and Capoeira Zanzibar

18. Explore Kuza Cave

If you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path during your stay in Zanzibar, I highly recommend checking out the Kuza Cave near Paje Beach. This hidden gem is a bit tricky to find, but the effort is well worth it.

To get there, start at Paje Beach and head south towards the Bwejuu-Paje road. Keep walking until you reach the Kuza Cave signpost, then take a left turn and follow the path until you see the cave entrance.

Once inside, you’ll be greeted by an otherworldly sight. The cave is full of winding tunnels and crystal-clear pools of water, which make for a refreshing swim. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp, as the cave can be quite dark in some areas.

Tristan Balme kuza cave near paje beach

19. Check Out The Freddie Mercury Museum

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, was born in Zanzibar. The Freddie Mercury Museum is a tribute to his life and career, and it’s a must-visit for music lovers. The museum features personal belongings, photographs, and memorabilia from Freddie’s life.

The Freddie Mercury Museum

20. Pay a Visit to the Old Slave Market and Learn About the Slave Trade

Zanzibar played a significant role in the East African slave trade, with an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 slaves passing through the island each year during the 19th century. The Old Slave Market, now a museum, is a reminder of this dark past. Visitors can learn about the history of the slave trade in Zanzibar and the impact it had on the island’s culture and economy.

Old Slave Market Zanzibar

21. Learn to Cook Zanzibari Style

Zanzibari cuisine is a unique blend of African, Indian, and Arabian flavors. Taking a cooking class is a great way to learn about the local cuisine and culture. There are various cooking classes available on the island that cater to different skill levels.

One highly-rated cooking school in Zanzibar is the Swahili Kitchen. They offer hands-on cooking classes that teach you how to prepare traditional Zanzibari dishes using fresh, local ingredients. You can choose from a variety of classes, including seafood, vegetarian, and meat dishes. You can find more information and book a class on their website: https://www.swahilikitchen.com/

Tristan Balme swahili food in zanzibar

22. Go on a Yoga Retreat

Zanzibar is the perfect place to relax and unwind, and a yoga retreat is a great way to do just that. There are various yoga retreats available on the island that cater to different skill levels and interests. You’ll get to practice yoga while taking in the beautiful scenery and connecting with like-minded individuals.

One highly-rated yoga retreat in Zanzibar is the Zanzibar Yoga Retreats. They offer a variety of yoga retreats that cater to different skill levels and interests, including beach yoga, sunrise yoga, and yoga and meditation retreats. The retreats are led by experienced instructors and take place in beautiful locations throughout the island. You can find more information and book a retreat on their website: https://www.zanzibaryogaretreats.com/

Zanzibar Yoga Retreats

Where to Stay in Zanzibar

Zanzibar offers a wide range of accommodation options that cater to different budgets. Here are some of the best places to stay on the island:

  • Best Budget Hostel: Zanzibar Coffee House If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on comfort, the Zanzibar Coffee House is a great choice. Located in Stone Town, this cozy hostel offers clean and comfortable rooms at an affordable price. It’s also a great place to meet other travelers and exchange stories. Book on Booking.com.
  • Best Mid-Range Option: Tembo House Hotel For travelers looking for a mid-range option, the Tembo House Hotel is a great choice. Located in the heart of Stone Town, this hotel offers spacious and comfortable rooms with beautiful ocean views. It also features an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a spa. Book on Booking.com.
  • Best Luxury Option: Park Hyatt Zanzibar If you’re looking for a luxurious and indulgent experience, the Park Hyatt Zanzibar is the place to go. This beautiful hotel is located in a historic building in Stone Town and features elegant and spacious rooms with ocean views. It also features a rooftop terrace bar, a spa, and a restaurant that serves delicious local and international cuisine. Book on Booking.com.

For a full writeup, check out this article on the beast places to stay in Zanzibar.

When is the Best Time to Visit Zanzibar?

The best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to October, which is the dry season. During this time, the weather is mild and sunny, and the sea is calm. The high season is from December to February and July to August, so it’s important to book your accommodation in advance during these times.

How to Get to Zanzibar

The easiest way to get to Zanzibar is by flying into Zanzibar International Airport, which is located in Stone Town. There are direct flights available from various cities in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which takes about 2 hours.

Conclusion

Zanzibar is a unique and beautiful destination that is perfect for travelers who are looking for adventure, relaxation, and cultural immersion. With so many things to do and see, it’s no wonder that it’s become a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

Kilimanjaro Travel Planning Cheatsheet

 

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for Tanzania?

100% YES! — Tanzania has now introduceed “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens! Tourists need travel insurance in case anything happens on your visit. Also be aware many policies won't cover high altitude hiking as it's a high risk activity!

(that's right, check the t&c's on your complimentary credit card insurance

I highly recommend World Nomads as you can get specific add-ons for high altitude hiking UP TO 6000m (Which most travel insurance companies don't offer!)

🎫 Do I need a visa for Tanzania?

Probably not — Tanzania now provide a visa on arrival (VoA) for most western countires which allows you stay for up to 90 days. However, some other countries do need a pre-approved eVisa (check here!). VoAs cost $50 USD for a single entry - Note, US Citizens are required to get a Multi-Entry visa which costs $100 USD. (View visa prices here)

If transiting through Kenya (a lot of people fly via Nairobi), you'll need a Kenyan visa too. Visa's cost $20 for a 3 day transit visa and $50 for a toursit visa

(By the way, on both my interactions with the imigration officers in kenya they tried to scam me, so know what your obliged to pay and BRING THE EXACT CASH for the visa!)

💉Do I need any vaccinations for Tanzania?

YES! Make sure you are up-to-date with all your vaccines. Common travel vaccines include Hep A/B + Typhoid, and Diphtheria + Tetanus.

A yellow fever vaccination isn't a requirment to visit Kilimanjaro but is for neighbouring areas in East Africa. In reality, you will might not be allowed back into your home country on your return (I was asked for proof of vaccination upon returning to Australia) so getting this jab prior made for good peace of mind. 

Rabies is an issue in Tanzania but the vaccine is expensive and ineffective as a preventative measure (it only lasts a few years and you'll need to get them again if you require treatment). If bitten by a stray dog seek immediate medical attention!

As always, talk to your GP or specialised travel doctor a few weeks BEFORE you leave.

🏩 What’s the best Kilimanjaro Tour operators?

Your only realy two options here are Kumano Travel and Booking.com. Its a complicated process so I wrote this guide here on the best kumano kodo accomodation options

If you don't want to figure it all out (it's meant to be a holiday after all) you can book a package tour. Here are my recommendations for both guided and self-guided.

🚌 What's the public transport like in Tanzania?

There is a good basic network of local and inter-city busses in Tanzania and travel this way is very cheap. Domestic flight are also very affordable and a far more comfortable option. Checkout Busbora for booking bus tickets online.

📲 How do I get internet/data/wifi in Tanzania and on the mountain?

This one needs a whole nother article, but the short version is prepaid SIM cards are cheap and availible to tourists and locals alike (You don't need a pricey tourst SIM!)

Your cheapest option is buying a physical sim card on the street corner once landed and getting the shop assistant to help you set it up. I went with Vodacom and had generally good coverage, even up on Kili!

Another option if you're visiting other African countries is the Nomad eSIM. This is a little more expensive but gives you connectivity across 14 neighbouring African Countries!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Tanzania?

For finding cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner. Once you find the flight you're looking for, I'd then suggest booking directly with the carrier (even if it costs a few $$ more than with one of the agreggators/agencies).

💧Can you drink the water in Tanzania?

Safest not to — tap water in Tanzania may be OK (the locals drink it) but is generally untreated and not reccommended for tourists. Purchase bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing.

🏔️💧Can you drink the water on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes — Your tour company with ensure the water provided to you is safe to drink by either carrying in bottled water, or by treating stream water with purification tablets or by boiling it. If you want to drink water from the rivers and streams you generally can but should do so at your own risk. ALWAYS follow best practice and drink from fast flowing water as far up stream as possible. I'd also recommend a Brita Water Bottle for rehydrating on the trail safely. 

 

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