Zanzibar Honeymoon Guide

Discover some of Tanzania’s best beaches on a honeymoon or romantic getaway to Zanzibar – a unique honeymoon destination and the perfect respite after a hot and dusty game safari on mainland Africa.

Encircled by snow-white beaches, gin-clear turquoise waters and lush coral gardens, the exotic and welcoming ‘Spice Islands’ of the Zanzibar Archipelago are just a hop, skip and jump from the Tanzanian mainland.

Once ruled by sultans and slave traders, Zanzibar was an important base for European missionaries and explorers planning expeditions into the African interior.

It was from here that David Livingstone planned his last foray into Africa, describing Zanzibar as: “ ... the finest place I have known in all of Africa”.

It is also the location where journalist Henry Morton Stanley began his search for Livingstone and from where Sir Richard Burton began his search for the source of the Nile River.

What to do and see in Zanzibar

Unwind on a choice of palm-fringed, powder-soft beaches, go diving above offshore coral reefs, hike through pristine rainforest and soak up the island's heady mix of Arab, Persian, Indian, European and African traditions.

Explore narrow labyrinthine alleyways crammed with Arab-influenced architecture in the atmospheric old capital of Stone Town – the cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover bustling bazaars, mosques, palaces and grand Arab mansions decorated with ornately carved brass-studded doors and enclosed wooden verandas that closely resemble the medinas of the Arabian Peninsula.

Check out the castellated battlements of the 16th century Arab Fort, the marble-floored rooms of the Beit-el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), the sultan’s personal artefacts at the Beit al-Sahel (the Sultan's Palace) and the wooden balconies at the sumptuous four-storey Ithna’asheri Dispensary.

Elsewhere, tour famous spice plantations dotted with the remains of Omani palaces, hike the Jozani Forest, home to the indigenous red colobus monkey and take a fast-ferry to some of the offshore islands such as Mnemba Atoll and its world-class diving reef.

The best sightseeing opportunities in Zanzibar, include…

Stone Town

Discover the cultural and historical heart of Zanzibar and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili meaning ‘ancient town’), the atmospheric old capital of Stone Town is one of the most unique cities in the world – an exciting blend of Arab, Middle Eastern, Indian and African cultures.

Get pleasantly lost in the city’s maze of narrow winding alleyways crammed with Arab and Indian-influenced architecture.

Along the way discover bustling oriental bazaars, mosques, palaces and grand Arab mansions decorated with ornately carved brass-studded doors and enclosed wooden verandas that closely resemble the medinas of the Arabian Peninsula.

Check out the castellated battlements of the 16th century Arab Fort, the marble-floored rooms of the Beit-el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), personal artefacts of the sultan at the Beit al-Sahel (the Sultan's Palace) and the wooden balconies at the sumptuous four-storey Ithna’asheri Dispensary.

Read more about Stone Town

Livingstone's House

Visit the house where the great explorer lived before commencing his last journey in 1886 into the African interior.

Many missionaries and explorers also used this house as a starting point for the mainland. It’s located just a short walk from town and can also be reached by taking a dalla-dalla.

Maruhubi Palace Ruins

Built by Sultan Barghash in 1882 to house his large harem, the once-imposing Maruhubi Palace Ruins was almost totally destroyed by fire was in 1899.

Today you can wander around the the remaining ruins that include columns, an overhead aqueduct and some small reservoirs covered with water lilies. The ruins are located north of Zanzibar Town just west of the Bububu Road.

Mtoni Palace Ruins

Stroll around the ruined walls of the once magnificent Mtoni Palace, which was built by Sultan Seyyid Said as his residence in the early 19th century.

By the mid-1880s the palace, with its balconied exterior, large garden courtyard complete with peacocks and gazelles and a mosque was abandoned.

To get an idea of how the palace once looked read Emily Said-Reute's Memoirs of an Arabian Princess. The ruins are located just northeast of Maruhubi Palace.

Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park

Follow the Pete-Jozani Mangrove Boardwalk above the mangrove forest and salt marsh, spotting crabs and colourful tropical fish feeding in the shallow waters.

Or choose from three hiking trails – Paddock Forest, Monkey and Mangrove – that wind through dry coral rag forest; each takes around 30 minutes. Look out for the rare and endemic Kirk’s red colobus monkey (photo), with its spiky white whiskers, black face and rusty brown coat.

Look out also for blue monkeys, tiny duiker and suni antelopes, more than 50 species of butterfly and around 40 species of birds, including brightly coloured sunbirds, kingfishers and blue-cheeked bee eaters.

The nature reserve contains around 100 tree species within its 1000-hectare area and is the largest conservation area in Zanzibar. Jozani forest lies about 38km southeast of Stone Town. You can visit on your own or take a guided tour. The park is open daily 7:30am to 5pm.

Mangapwani Caves

Take a stroll around this large natural cave with a freshwater pool and then enter the man-made cavern once used to hold slaves after the abolition of slavery in 1897.

The slaves were held here in grim conditions until they were secretly transported to ships and onward to the slave markets of Europe and the Indian subcontinent. The caves are located 20km north of Stone Town.

Misali Island Marine Conservation Area

This one-time reputed hideout of notorious pirate Captain Kidd is now an uninhabited marine sanctuary, which was created in 1998 with the goal of maintaining the island’s ecosystem in harmony with the local fishermen.

Relax on a choice of gorgeous soft white-sand beaches, hike nature trails as you look out for flying foxes and vervet monkeys, and go snorkelling or diving above lush coral gardens inhabited by more than 40 types of coral and teeming with 300 species of colourful tropical fish.

The island is also a nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles and home to a large colony of nocturnal coconut crabs.

Misali Island lies just 9km off the coast west of Pemba, an easy day trip. Guide tours can be arranged at the visitors centre.

Vumawimbi Forest Reserve

Take a guided tour along a short nature trail that winds through the protected forest canopy of the Ngezi Vumawimbi Forest Reserve.

To see Scops owls (photo) and other nocturnal birds, simple call in advance to arrange an evening tour with the caretaker.

Best beaches in Zanzibar

With a choice of more than 25 gorgeous white-sand beaches on Zanzibar, it’s easy to find a secluded spot to play out Robinson Crusoe fantasies or to relax on a sun lounger just a short stroll from the comforts of a 5-star resort – just perfect for couples enjoying a romantic honeymoon holiday.

Most of Zanzibar's best beaches lie along the east coast, the exceptions being Nungwi on the northern tip of the island and Mangapwani Beach on the west coast.

The best beaches in Zanzibar, include…

Nungwi Beach

Pick your own spot to sunbathe on this 1.5km-long, palm-fringed white-sand beach that stretches around the northern tip of the island. While narrow on the western side, the beach gets wider as you round the cape to the east.

Go swimming, snorkelling and diving in the warm reef-protected waters of the lagoon, looking out for turtles, dolphins and numerous species of rainbow-hued reef fish.

In the early morning see local woman dragging nets through the shallows to catch the day’s meal. Watch craftsmen building traditional wooden sailing boats (dhows) of centuries-old design.

Facilities including sun loungers, shade huts, toilets, bars, restaurants, beach volleyball and soccer courts are found only around the resorts.

Water sports include kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, sailing, dhow cruises, waterskiing, windsurfing and kite surfing.

Visit for a day or stay longer in the eco-sensitive, palm-thatched, whitewashed cottages of the luxurious Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, which sits surrounded by lush tropical gardens facing the beach. The resort hosts a fully equipped water sports centre with a world-class PADI facility.

Nungwi Beach is located at the northern tip of the island, around 55km from Stone Town.

Kendwa Beach

Unwind on the shimmering white sands of this long, pristine and uncrowded beach that shelves into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Sunbathe on the soft sand and go swimming or kayaking in the crystalline waters.

Facilities include thatched shade huts and sun loungers provided by the various beachside resorts and a choice of bars and restaurants that line the beach.

Kendwa is known for its monthly Full Moon Party, arranged for a Saturday night just before or after a full moon.

Stay for a day or be pampered with a range of creature comforts at the La Gemma Dell'Est, a luxurious 5-star eco-friendly resort that overlooks the beach.

Kendwa Beach lies to the south of Nungwi Beach on the northwest coast, around 40km from Stone Town.

Matemwe Beach

Dip your toes into the soft white sand of this idyllic stretch of palm-fringed beach that stretches on either side of Matemwe fishing village.

The long beach is indented by jagged rock formations that jut into the calm turquoise waters of the reef-protected lagoon. While swimming is impossible at low tide, the long hike across the lagoon to the barrier reef is worth it.

Sunbathe on the uncrowded beach, go swimming and snorkelling in the crystalline waters at high tide or head over to nearby Mnemba Atoll for excellent diving and snorkelling.

Watch local village women harvest seaweed at low tide and then hang it on racks to dry (before it’s exported to Japan).

Facilities including shade huts and sun loungers are found at several beach resorts, including the Zanzibar Retreat Hotel, a charming whitewashed and thatched-roof boutique hotel. Water sports equipment includes kayaks and sailing catamarans.

Matemwe Beach is located on the northeast coast less than an hour’s drive from Stone Town, around 45km.

Pongwe Beach

Unwind on this pristine and uncrowded powder-white sand beach that shelves into the palm-fringed waters of a sheltered cove.

Visit for a day or stay longer at the Pongwe Beach Hotel, a small and intimate hotel with just 16 traditional thatched cottages set in private gardens backing on to the white-sand beach.

Pongwe Beach sits in the centre of the northeast coast, around 35km from Stone Town.

Jambiani Beach

Bring to life Robinson Crusoe fantasies on the soft white sand of this long, seemingly endless and unspoiled beach that stretches along the southeast coast of Zanzibar.

Go swimming, snorkelling and diving in the warm reef-protected waters of the lagoon.

Try beachcombing or biking along the pristine and uncrowded shoreline, stopping to visit some of the small fishing villages that lie scattered along the beach.

There are no facilities except for those at the occasional guesthouse and hotel.

Visit for a day or stay longer at the charming Blue Oyster Hotel. Jambiani Beach is on the east coast, around 50km from Stone Town.

Island Hopping in Zanzibar

Zanzibar also boasts several small offshore islands — Chumbe, Pemba (photo), Misali, Mnemba Atoll — that are perfect for day trips, including several islets just a short boat ride from Stone Town. These include Bawe and Prison islands, both featuring excellent snorkelling.

More about Zanzibar islands

Where to stay in Zanzibar

Zanzibar Island offers a good range of honeymoon accommodation options, from luxurious 5-star resorts to charming beachfront guesthouses.

Live like a sultan among antiques and Persian rugs at the Zanzibar Serena Inn, located on the waterfront in Stone Town. Alternatively, head to Pongwe Beach and the luxurious Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort or try the Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, set on the shimmering white sands of Nungwi Beach.

Park Hyatt Zanzibar
Location: Stone Town, Zanzibar City
Rating: 5-star
Prices: from AUD465 per room
Description: Featuring a seafront location in Zanzibar City, Park Hyatt Zanzibar offers an outdoor pool and a restaurant. This air-conditioned hotel comes with free WiFi access and has a spa and wellness centre. All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen cable TV, a minibar and tea and coffee making facilities. Private bathrooms comprise a bathtub, free toiletries, a hairdryer and a bidet. Views are provided from all rooms. Guest staying at Park Hyatt Zanzibar are also offered a fitness centre, a tour desk and a luggage storage. Activites like snorkeling, diving, golf and various other can be enjoyed on site or in the surrounding area. The Hotel is 43 km away from Jozani Chwaka National Park and 11 km from Masingini Forest. Abeid Amani Karume International Airport is 8Km from Park Hyatt Zanzibar. Zanzibar Ferry Terminal is 1 km away.

Zanzibar Serena Inn
Location: Kelele Square, Stone Town
Rating: 5-star
Prices: from AUD398 per room
Description: Located in Stone Town, this beachfront hotel is in the city center and within a 10-minute walk of Shangani Beach, Forodhani Gardens, and Old Fort. House of Wonders and Anglican Cathedral are also within 15 minutes. All 51 individually furnished rooms feature free WiFi and 24-hour room service. For a bit of entertainment, LCD TVs come with satellite channels, and guests will also appreciate thoughtful touches like bathrobes and slippers. Catch some rays on Zanzibar Serena Hotel's private beach or spend the day relaxing at the full-service spa. Then enjoy a meal at one of the hotel's 2 restaurants.

Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort
Location: Pongwe Beach, Pongwe
Rating: 5-star
Prices: from AUD842 per room
Description: Offering an outdoor pool with waterslides, Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort is located in Pongwe, 27 km from Zanzibar City. The resort has a private beach area with beach service. The modern and elegantly decorated rooms are fitted with a private terrace, minibar and Nespresso machine. Some units feature a seating area where you can relax. Certain units include views of the sea or garden. Every room is equipped with a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower. Extras include bath robes and slippers. The resort boasts an a la carte all inclusive concept with respect to individual taste and wishes. Guests can choose an extra free service or activity per day, ranging from a one-way airport transfer to a private picnic. A range of free activities can also be enjoyed on the island, including snorkelling, and use of the bicycles, kayaks and water slides. Car hire is available. Nungwi is 36 km from Tulia Zanzibar Unique Beach Resort while Kendwa is 34 km from the property. Kisauni Airport is 29 km away.

The Residence Zanzibar
Location: Kizimkazi
Rating: 5-star
Prices: from AUD729 per room
Description: Surrounded by gardens and on its own stretch of white sand beach, this luxury spa resort is a 55-minute drive from Zanzibar City. Guests can enjoy 2 on-site restaurants as well as a butler service. Each of the spacious villas at The Residence Zanzibar has an elegant style with views out onto the gardens. Some of the villas have ocean views, and all include a small private pool, free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. The Residence Zanzibar has a glass-walled swimming pool and fitness center, and spa treatments can be booked on site. A Kid’s Club features children’s activities, and adults can enjoy a relaxing drink at the Jetty Lounge Bar. Area activities include snorkeling, visits to the Jozani Forest Reserve and dolphin safaris. The village of Kizimkazi is only a 20-minute drive from the property.

Melia Zanzibar
Location: Kiwengwa
Rating: 5-star
Prices: from AUD481 per room
Description: Located along the coast, Melia Zanzibar offers uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. The 5 restaurants and luxury accommodation are set amongst tropical palm trees, landscaped gardens and an infinity pool with bar. All accommodation features high quality bed linens on carved 4-poster beds and a seating area with cable TV and minibar. Some have partial ocean views and private pool. Sports facilities include tennis court, beach volleyball, kayaking, a dive centre and kite surfing lessons. The spa features a lap pool, massages and fitness centre with sauna. Free Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and the rooms have wired internet. On an all inclusive basis, Melia Zanzibar offers 5 restaurants and 4 bars to enjoy a great culinary experience. Zanzibar International Airport and Stone Town are less than a 50-minute drive away.

Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel
Location: Nungwi Peninsular
Rating: 4-star
Prices: from AUD313 per room
Description: Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel, situated on the northernmost peninsula of Zanzibar, overlooks a white sand beach and the shimmering Indian Ocean. It features a lush tropical garden, a spacious sun deck, pool and a spa. All rooms are furnished with handcrafted four-poster beds draped in mosquito nets. Each air-conditioned room has a balcony and comes equipped with tea-and-coffee-making facilities and a minibar. The private bathroom includes free toiletries. An English breakfast is served daily at Ras Nungwi. Ubora Restaurant serves an array of seafood dishes using local ingredients such as fresh coconut and spices, and refreshments are served at Jahazi Beach Bar. The wide and thriving coral reef fringing the beach offers guests an opportunity to explore with activities such as fishing and snorkeling. A tennis court is also available for a game of tennis. Free Wi-Fi is available in the public areas of the hotel. Zanzibar Airport is 65 km from the property and Stone Town is 58 km away.

Best time to visit Zanzibar

The best time to visit Zanzibar for a beach holiday is between June and September, when the island is bathed in clear sunny days and an average high temperature of 29°C (84°F).

Zanzibar has a hot, tropical climate characterised by two dry seasons and two wet seasons.

The long, dry season lasts from June to October, with clear sunny skies and an average temperature of 29°C (84°F); and a short, but very hot, dry season that lasts from January through February, when you can expect average highs of 32°C (89°F).

The 'long rains' last from March to May, with prolonged and heavy monsoonal rains that may last for days at a time. April is the wettest month. November to December sees the 'short rains', with sunny days interspersed with brief but heavy rain showers.

For more climate info: Zanzibar Weather Guide

How to get to Zanzibar

Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, is located in the Indian Ocean, around 25–50km (16–31mi) off the coast of Tanzania.

The archipelago comprises the main island of Zanzibar (known locally as Unguja and referred to informally as Zanzibar), as well as the smaller islands of Pemba and Mnemba and several surrounding islets.

The capital, Zanzibar City, is located on Unguja island. Its historic centre is Stone Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The most convenient route to Zanzibar is by air to Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ), previously known as Kisauni Airport or Zanzibar International Airport, located about 5km (3mi) south of Zanzibar City on Unguja Island.

By sea, Zanzibar is a 3-hour ferry ride from Dar Es Salaam, with the service operating four times daily.

Find out how to get to Zanzibar

Latest update: Where to honeymoon in Zanzibar : 3 January, 2023