The ancient trading city of Mombasa – gateway to the sparkling Indian Ocean – offers an exciting travel option for adventurous couples who may also have taken in an African safari as part of their honeymoon adventure.
There is a lot more to a honeymoon or romantic getaway holiday in Kenya than tracking down red-robed Masai tribesmen and the ‘big five’ on a game safari.
Just a short distance from Kenya's legendary national parks and game reserves lies an almost uninterrupted stretch of beachfront that stretches north and south of the ancient trading city of Mombasa – gateway to the sparkling Indian Ocean.
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…
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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).
Away from the great beaches, take a day trip to explore Mombasa’s Old Town, a maze of fascinating narrow alleyways dating back to the 12th century.
Climb the ramparts of Fort Jesus (photo), a chunky fortress originally built in the 16th century by Portuguese colonists to guard the harbour entrance, then improved by subsequent Omani rulers.
Enjoy panoramic harbour views from the thick walls then visit the museum to see interesting artefacts and archaeological excavations.
Visit some of the nearby reserves such as Shimba Hills National Reserve, one of East Africa's last remaining coastal rainforests.
Or head to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the largest remaining patch of indigenous coastal forest in East Africa and Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks, which together form Kenya’s largest national park, home to magnificent scenery and numerous wildlife.
More information on sightseeing in Mombasa…
Mombasa offers a wide range of accommodation options, and the nearby beach resorts offer a range of hotels to suit most honeymoon budgets, from charming cottages to exclusive boutique-style hideaways and family friendly resorts, including the following 5-star hotels and resorts…
The Maji Beach Boutique Hotel
Location: Diani Beach, Mombasa
Ave nightly price: AUD1,017 per room
Description: Situated along the sandy Diani Beach, The Maji Beach Boutique Hotel features an outdoor and indoor pool, a restaurant and poolside bar. It also offers a fitness centre and massage services. The spacious, air-conditioned rooms come with elegant décor, a balcony with Indian Ocean views, and a seating area with satellite TV. Some rooms also feature a private pool. The bathrooms include a bathrobe, slipper and free toiletries. Guests can relax by the beach, pool or with a massage. There is also a shared lounge area, library and souvenir shop. The restaurant serves a range of Swahili, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine. The Maji Beach Boutique Hotel is located just 5 km from Ukundu Airstrip and 35 km from Mombasa. Moi International Airport is 50 km away.
Waterlovers Beach Resort
Location: Diani Beach, Mombasa
Ave nightly price: AUD377 per room
Description: Located on Diani Beach with panoramic ocean views, Waterlovers Beach Resort offers an outdoor pool, a restaurant and free WiFi. The accommodation combines Swahili design with a touch of Mediterranean atmosphere. All suites have a private verandah with ocean view. The spacious villa also offers a fully equipped kitchen. Set by the pool and overlooking the ocean, Tides Restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine with local ingredients. Cocktails and drinks can be enjoyed at Ocean Spirit, the resort's beach bar. Activities at the resort or in the surrounding area include snorkeling, kayaking, diving, kite and windsurfing. Waterlovers Beach Resort has a 24-hour front desk, a garden and a children's playground. Airport shuttles and bicycle rental can be arranged. The Shimba Hills National Reserve can be reached within 30 minutes by car. The resort is 35 km away from Mombasa.
Serena Beach Resort & Spa
Location: Shanzu, Mombasa
Ave nightly price: AUD362 per room
Description: Situated directly on the white sandy beach of Shanzu, Serena Beach Hotel & Spa offers panoramic views over the Indian Ocean. Guests can dine beside the outdoor pool in the extensive tropical gardens. All of the spacious, air-conditioned rooms feature Swahili-style décor with beds surrounded by a mosquito net. Each room is equipped with a TV, minibar and private bathroom. Serena Hotel contains a variety of indoor and outdoor restaurants and bars, many of which play lively music. Room service is available and guests can enjoy a cocktail on their private balcony. Breakfast is served in the garden terrace. A variety of outdoor activities are available including volley ball, pedalos, windsurfing and yachting. After an active day guests can relax with a massage in the Maisha Spa and Health Club. Free private parking is available on site and there is free Wi-Fi throughout. The 24-hour front desk can organise an airport shuttle to Moi Airport 18 km away.
The Sands at Nomad
Location: Diani Beach, Mombasa
Ave nightly price: AUD305 per room
Description: Nestled in an indigenous coastal forest with a garden and a palm-fringed beach, The Sands at Nomad is located in Ukunda. It features an outdoor pool, a spa area and restaurants. The spacious accommodations are individually designed and combine mahagony furniture with Swhaili design. Each room is fitted with a minibar and air conditioning. Featuring a shower, private bathrooms also come with a hairdryer and towels. Some of the rooms have a spa bath. A tropical breakfast is served at the main restaurant, which is also open for lunch and dinner. There is a sushi bar and a pizzeria. Cocktails, refreshments and snacks can be enjoyed at the pool bar. Other facilities at The Sands include a watersport centre, a fitness centre, a 24-hour front desk, a gift shop and a tour desk. An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or in the surroundings, including windsurfing, kitesurfing, diving and snorkelling. An 18-hole golf course is located 2 km from the hotel. Moi Airport is 42 km away and airport shuttles can be arranged for a surcharge.
Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa
Location: Bamburi Beach, Mombasa
Ave nightly price: AUD351 per room
Description: Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa is situated in Mombasa on one of the longest beachfronts protected by the Mombasa Marine Park. It features 4 outdoor swimming pools, 3 restaurants and a beachside nightclub. Each air-conditioned room at Whitesands offers ocean, pool and garden views. It comes equipped with a satellite TV a minibar and tea-and-coffee-making facilities. The bed is draped in mosquito nets. Minazi Café serves a snack and kids menu while Lido Seafood Grill is a fine dining restaurant serving seafood and steak. Tulia Health Bar serves health meals and Cocos Beach Bar has an open-air disco. Guests can enjoy a beauty treatment in the spa or have a good work out in the gym. A PADI diving centre and a host of water sports are also available. Free Wi-Fi is available and there is a floodlit tennis court for the more active guests. Excursions to Forte Jesus, Old Town, Elephant Tusks and Haller Park Bamburi can be arranged.
The best time to visit Mombasa is from January to March when the chance of rain is minimal and temperatures average 28°C (82°F) with a high of 33°C (91°F).
For more climate info: Mombasa Weather Guide…
Mombasa is located 85km (52mi) north of the Tanzanian border and around 487km (302mi) southeast of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The most convenient route to Mombasa is by air to Moi International Airport (MBA), Mombasa. From international destinations, this usually necessitates first flying into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), Nairobi, followed by a connecting flight.
Alternatively, take the overnight sleeper from Nairobi and savour one of Africa’s classic travel experiences.
Latest update: About Mombasa: 31 December, 2019
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