Best beaches in Mombasa

Discover a choice of friendly beach resorts including Diani Beach to the south and Bamburi Beach to the north, all situated just a short drive from Mombasa, which is Kenya’s second largest city after Nairobi.

Besides sunbathing and swimming, most of Mombasa's beach resorts are perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving and game fishing as well as spotting marine life such as sea turtles and dolphins.

Directly north of Mombasa, a coastal highway links all the major coastal resorts and several unnamed beaches. To the south, a ferry links to a highway that continues to the border with Tanzania. Most upmarket resorts offer a choice of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The southern beaches are less crowded than those in the north, typically nestling between lush green coastal forest and the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

The best beaches in and around Mombasa, include the following…

Diani Beach

(South Coast) – Pick your own spot to sunbathe and swim on this 8km-long stretch of shimmering white sand that sits just 35km south of Mombasa.

With its swaying palm trees, pristine soft sand, glittering clear waters and a range of upmarket, family friendly resorts dotted along its length, Diani Beach has cemented its reputation as one of Kenya’s premier beach resorts.

A full range of facilities is provided by each of the several beachside resorts. Water sports include snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing and game fishing.

The beach lies at the centre of an uninterrupted, 20km-long section of beachfront, with easy access to several offshore islands and coral reefs. Go swimming in the sheltered waters and snorkelling above a reef that teems with colourful fish.

The Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park lies just a short cruise away and offers excellent snorkelling and diving above colourful coral gardens, with several wrecks nearby.

Look out for turtles, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks between January and March. Or view the underwater world from the deck of a glass-bottom boat.

Inland, take a guided tour on foot to the beachside Jadini Forest to spot endangered Angolan black-and-white colobus monkeys, troops of baboons, bush babies, butterflies and various species of birds.

Further west are the Shimba Hills National Reserve and the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, where you can watch elephants, zebra, bushbuck, warthog, monkeys and (if you’re really lucky) leopard – just perfect for a day trip.

Diani Beach offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, including the luxurious Diani Reef Beach Resort, set in a lush tropical garden with a spa and casino and plenty of water sports activities on offer.

Or head to the Funzi Keys, an exclusive romantic hideaway with spacious stone-and-thatched cottage accommodation on Funzi Island, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel that is walkable at low tide.

Diani Beach is around 35km south of Mombasa.

Tiwi Beach

(South Coast) – Less crowded than Diani Beach, palm-fringed Tiwi Beach offers affordable accommodation on a beautiful white-sand beach that shelves into warm waters.

Excellent snorkelling can be done over a reef that sits just a short swim away from the shoreline, and at low tide, hundreds of rock pools are exposed – perfect for children to explore.

Try the rustic Sand Island Beach Cottages or the more luxurious Amani Tiwi Beach Resort, with its good range of facilities and water sports.

Tiwi Beach is around 21km south of Mombasa’s Likoni ferry station.

Nyali Beach

(Mombasa) – Pick your own spot to relax on the pale golden sands of Mombasa’s best suburban beach, a 4km-long palm-fringed beach that lies just north of Mombasa Island facing the Mombasa Marine National Park.

Swim in the reef-protected waters, go windsurfing, kite surfing and catamaran sailing or snorkel the offshore reef. Resort facilities, offered to both hotel and day guests, include sun loungers, umbrellas, toilets, restaurants and bars.

Water sports equipment is easily hired from the hotels or beachside water sports kiosks.

Go just for the day or stay longer at a choice of beachfront hotels, including the Voyager Beach Resort or the Nyali Beach Holiday Resort, both resorts offer a range of creature comforts.

Should the kids tire of the beach, take them to the Baobab Adventure at Baobab Farm, just 8km from Nyali Bridge, where they can wander nature trails through a wildlife sanctuary and get close to giraffes, hippos, ostriches and crocodiles.

Bamburi Beach

(Mombasa) – Unwind on the unspoiled, pale golden sands of this 4km-long beach that shelves into the warm waters of the reef-protected Mombasa Marine National Park.

Flanked with palm trees and flowering convolvulus plants, Bamburi offers a choice of accommodation options ranging from budget chalets to 5-star resorts.

Hotel facilities include sun loungers, umbrellas and a range of water sports such as sailing, waterskiing, jet skiing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving.

Visit Bamburi for the day or enjoy a range of creature comforts at the Whitesands Hotel or the Severin Sea Lodge.

Away from the beach, dive among groupers, jacks, lobsters and lionfish at the offshore wreck of the MV Dania.

Take in the waterslides at Pirates on nearby Kenyatta Beach or ride a glass-bottomed boat into the Mombasa Marine National Park to spy on turtles, sea cucumbers and colourful butterfly fish. Between December and March, hook up a fishing charter for sailfish, marlin, kingfish and wahoo.

Bamburi Beach is located just 12km north of Mombasa and sits between two headlands separating it from Nyali Beach to the south and Shanzu Beach to the north.

Shanzu Beach

(Mombasa) – Unwind on the golden sands of this 1.2km-long beach that sits framed between two rocky headlands and shelves into calm waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling at the nearby coral gardens of the Mombasa Marine National Park.

Most beach facilities and water sports equipment are supplied by the various beach resorts, which nestle in manicured gardens just behind the palm-fringed beach.

Visit for the day or stay longer at the luxurious Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel, designed to resemble a 13th century Arab town, featuring hand-carved balconies overlooking narrow lanes and courtyards brimming with fountains and narrow lanes.

Watamu Beach

(North Coast) – Unwind on this gorgeous white-sand beach that curves around a palm-fringed cove framed by hilly cliffs facing tiny offshore isles.

This picture-perfect beach shelves into the crystalline waters of Watamu Bay and the Watamu Marine Park, which offer excellent swimming and snorkelling above the fringing coral reef that teems with several species of rainbow-hued reef fish.

Hiking trails lead to and from the nearby coves of Blue Lagoon and Turtle Bay, home to clear turquoise water and indented by tiny sculpted coral islets.

Facilities and water sports equipment are provided by a choice of beachside resorts, including the Hemingways Resort (photo) and the Turtle Bay Beach Club, luxury tropical retreats boasting a range of creature comforts.

Elsewhere, tour the submerged coral gardens of the marine park in a glass-bottom boat, go big game fishing and tour the ancient Swahili ruins at Gedi, just a short distance away.

To the south lies Mida Creek, a mangrove forest with good snorkelling and scuba diving at the mouth of the creek. It also provides excellent bird watching opportunities, with the spectacular malachite kingfisher, yellow-billed stork and African fish eagle residing here. Watamu Beach is roughly 100km north of Mombasa.

Shela Beach

(Lamu Island, North Coast) – Pick your own spot to sunbathe on Lamu Island’s pristine Shela Beach, a 13km-long stretch of pale golden sand backed by high vegetation-clad sand dunes.

Take a camel ride along the beach, go walking and beachcombing or hire a donkey and find your own secluded spot to relax for a picnic. Go swimming or boogie boarding in the fresh waves, swim in calmer waters at the mouth of the creek and explore the surrounding archipelago in a sailing dhow (traditional boat).

Relatively unspoiled Lamu is the perfect place to escape the mainstream tourist crowds and soak up a unique Swahili environment little changed over the centuries – Lamu is Kenya’s oldest living city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Explore narrow and winding alleyways lined with traditional Swahili houses adorned with lattice windows, carved doors and Moorish-styled arches. Check out the ramparts and panoramic views of the atmospheric Lama Fort and then examine the display of Swahili artefacts in the Lamu Museum.

A range of waterfront accommodation options are available, including the charming Peponi Hotel, a lovely terraced hotel set in Shela village overlooking the Lamu Channel. Or try the Lamu House Hotel located in Lamu town.

Both hotels are imbued with traditional Swahili architectural styles and offer a range of creature comforts to make your stay comfortable and memorable.

Lamu Island lies around 240km north of Mombasa and receives daily flights from Nairobi (1 hour).

More about Mombasa…

Latest update: Best Beaches in Mombasa: 20 April, 2022