Is Zanzibar a good honeymoon destination?
Drifting away from the mainland, Zanzibar is an idyllic island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, where crystal blue waters sink into endless stretches of white powdered sands and laid-back locals cook up an incredible variety of world famous seafood infused with spices, herbs and mouthwatering flavor.
Aside from getting married itself, choosing a honeymoon in Zanzibar could very well be the best decision you ever make and a vacation to the infamous Spice islands is always one that ticks all the boxes.
History of Zanzibar
Zanzibar is actually an archipelago rather than just a single landmass with the two main islands being Unguja (most commonly referred to as Zanzibar) and Pemba.
Infamous for being a pivotal trading port since ancient times, Persian traders first established contact with the Bantu people living on the islands in the 8th Century when they also discovered the produce for which the area would become synonymous, spices.
This centre of exchange would continue down the centuries but unfortunately the port of Stone Town would also be the location for one of the darkest periods and tragic events in human civilization, the slave trade.
Although the island still harbors some remnants of both a dark and captivating past, Zanzibar has a vibrant economy, a bright future and an allure that most places in the world can only dream about
Currency: Tanzania Shilling / US dollars can be exchanged easily in Stone Town and are widely accepted as payment for hotels/activities.
Climate in Zanzibar
Temperature on Zanzibar is usually consistent with the year round average staying above 20°C, but unfortunately this same consistent does not apply to the rains.
March until May will see the largest amount of rainfall on the island whereas the “Dry Season” months between June and October are when most tourists arrive to enjoy cloudless blue skies and slightly less humidity.
Finally, November and May are considered the shoulder months and these along with the months in between may consist of “short rains” which are little more than a brief distraction when they happen.
Tour Guide Advice: Avoid the peak of rainy season for a honeymoon in Zanzibar and try to afford either the shoulder months of October and May, or alternatively early June/late August when Zanzibar is less crowded.
As mentioned within the article, spending a night in Stone Town at the beginning and end of a honeymoon in Zanzibar is always ideal, especially if you arrive from the mainland by ferry.
5 nights in Zanzibar: Stay overnight in Stone Town before traveling to the beach resort the next day with a stop at the spice plantations enroute. Enjoy 3 nights on the beaches and two or maybe three of the above activities before returning to Stone Town for the final night.
4 nights or less in Zanzibar: Follow the above itinerary by spending the first night in Stone Town but return to the ferry/airport on the last day directly from the beach.
Stone Town, Food and Culture
It’s hard not to arrive for a honeymoon in Zanzibar expecting an exotic culture and food that is worthy of the awe inspiring location but thankfully, these are particular expectations that the island lives up to.
Ancient culture can be sensed within the streets of an atmospheric Stone Town, where day traders erect quaint stalls in the narrow streets and enthusiastic tailors hang outside the doorway of colorful fabric stores.
Art galleries, souvenirs and shining jewelry stores are around every corner, while the century old facades are enough to evoke vivid images of Persian sailors marching through the streets and local workers carrying bags of produce to nearby ships.
Taking a tour in the region north of Stone Town is also worthwhile and another insight into the local culture as what could be more traditional in the Spice islands than taking a tour of the infamous spice plantations.
Eucalyptus, nutmeg, vanilla; the locals will unearth many samples and afterward you can join them for some of the freshest fruit you will ever come across.
And naturally this is where Zanzibar also excels, food, taste and flavor. With so many different spices, fruit, vegetables, seafood an exotic influences in the locality, Zanzibar is overflowing with fresh juices and spectacular dishes of all kinds from Indian curry to barbecued tuna, sweet sugarcane shakes to Zanzibar pizza.
Another highlight in this regard, is the nightly market on the waterfront where hundreds of cooks take their place at candlelit tables where they proceed to rustle up the most delicious combinations. When it comes to food in Zanzibar, expect the unexpected.
Where to stay in Stone Town?
Why spare yourself any expense on a honeymoon in Zanzibar and stay at the luxurious Double Tree by Hilton. Nicely located and with a comfort of the highest quality, this hotel will not disappoint in any way.
That being said, if price is a factor and you still want to experience high quality for lesser cost, the Africa House Hotel is right next to the town centre and the go to place for sunset every evening.
Things to do in Stone Town?
- Visit the House of Wonders
- Take tour of the old slave quarter
- Explore the ancient streets on foot
- Enjoy coffee or a cocktail in the Africa House Hotel at sunset.
- Eat at the Night Market on Forodhani park
Tour Guide Advice: Stay in Stone Town for the first and last night of your stay on Zanzibar, this way you will enjoy a much more leisurely stay and can also take a tour of the spice plantations enroute to the beach.
Travel warning: Stone Town is a very safe town but as always, common sense is always worth having. In this sense, do not interact with any locals offering any illegal substances and stick to the most central parts of the town, especially after dark.
Beaches on Zanzibar
The North Beaches – Nungwi & Kendwa
Also known as the “North Beaches”, Nungwi and Kendwa are a short drive or water-taxi from each offer and offer relaxing resorts for a honeymoon in Zanzibar with many options in terms of restaurants and nightlife.
Nungwi is the more lively of these resorts which has two beaches, many souvenir stores, massage rooms, hotels and seafood restaurants. While it may not be for everyone, Nungwi is sometimes suitable for a honeymoon couple who like to meet other people when they travel and get involved with the local nightlife.
There are also endless options of things to do in Nungwi with Scuba Diving operators, snorkeling trips, village tours and many watersports.
Where to stay in Nungwi?
Luxury: The Z Hotel is a beautiful spa hotel right in the middle of the beaches in Nungwi. Surrounded by many restaurants and beach side bars, the hotel is akin to a small oasis in the middle of a lively beach paradise.
Midrange option: Amaan Bungalows is another resort in the middle of all the action, although this can sometimes feel less personal given that many other tourists will be passing through the resort on their way up and down the many restaurants in the area. That being said, Amaan has quality rooms and is a good place to meet fellow travelers.
Budget option: Baraka Aquarium Bungalows is certainly the budget hotel in Nungwi but offers decent value for the cost per night. Baraka has good facilities but is located a little further from the main strip of beach and restaurants/bars.
Kendwa on the other hand has a much larger beach and feels a lot more personal in terms of experience when compared with Nungwi.
Some nice restaurants, bars and relaxing seating areas line up along this stretch but ideally, Kendwa is suited to those who want a quiet stay, but then to also be within reach of Nungwi to sample some lively nightlife.
Aside from the monthly full moon party, Kendwa is a great place to sit back with a cocktail and watch the sunset in a sublime atmosphere.
Where to stay in Kendwa?
Budget option: Sunset Bungalows Kendwa is a large complex of bungalows which reach back toward the interior of the island, meaning the accommodation nearer to the waters edge is a little more expensive. Sunset Bungalows is a reasonably quiet property with high quality room interior.
Midrange option: Kendwa Rocks Hotel is slightly more busy than Sunset above and the scene for the monthly Full Moon party which is a huge contrast to what is usually a quiet area. Similar room quality to the above, Kendwa has a slightly younger and more social crowd.
Luxury option: Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa has great food, a high standard of service and a beautiful beach on the doorstep. If it can fit within beach, this hotel provides value to match the price tag.
The East Beaches – Matemwe
East Coast – Matemwe
On the eastern side of Zanzibar, you can find the small village of Matemwe which has a beautiful long stretch of beach and faces out onto the renowned Mnemba island.
Quieter than the above resorts and with a limited selection of places to eat/drink, Matemwe is still a popular resort and a truly serene place to relax when the afternoon tide comes in.
Trips out to Mnemba Atoll are easy to organize where you can snorkel open waters and sunbathe on the deck of a local Dhow sailing boat, but the real attraction of Matemwe is the secluded nature of the resort.
Where to stay in Matemwe?
Luxury option: Sunshine Hotel Zanzibar is a relaxing and secluded resort with a nice restaurant, excellent swimming pool and easy access to the beach.
Mid range option: Matemwe Bandas are another luxury option albeit for a lesser price. This boutique hotel has high quality decor on the interior and an outdoor pool next to the beachfront.
Budget option: While this will not necessarily meet a backpackers budget, the Zanzibar Retreat Hotel is ideal for a honeymoon and half the cost of the luxury accommodation on this list. Small and quaint, this stunning hotel is right next to the beach with all modern facilities available.
Travel Warning: Zanzibar is mostly an inviting and friendly place, but caution must be taken on beaches after dark or more isolated areas as petty thief’s are common in such areas for unsuspecting tourists.
Activities on Zanzibar
Arguably the best value for money trip in Zanzibar is a day trip to Mnemba Atoll for an afternoon of sunbathing on deck and snorkeling the colorful coral around the island. A delicious afternoon barbecue on a secluded beach is usually included in the low price.
While studying and preparing for a PADI course is not really the perfect way to spend time on Zanzibar, it is at least a great place to enjoy a practice dive, or if you are experienced, to spend a full day in the open water.
Aside from the above, paragliding, jetski and boat cruises are available in the above resorts and make for a fun way to take a break from relaxing or the beach or next to the pool.
For anyone interested in delving further into the local and cultural side of the island, taking a village tour is an excellent way to see how the real locals live while learning about Zanzibar cooking and history.
While there are many monkeys on the island, Giant turtles are the main attraction on Prison Island along with the only hotel which was also a prison throughout the centuries and then a hospital for sick sailors. Witnessing these mammoth tortoises in their natural habitat is a unique experience, while the day trip also involves a lot of beautiful scenery.
Travel warning: Always use a registered guide or trusted operator when taking tours or activities on Zanzibar.
Zanzibar is a beach paradise that delights visitors with a high quality and comfortable experience without blemishing the antique nature or the traditional culture on the island.
Pristine and entirely tropical, the beaches around the island are a joy to behold, while the capital of Stone Town brings even more variety to what is already an island of extreme contrasts.
A honeymoon in Zanzibar is not only idyllic, but entirely perfect and as soon as you arrive, you will feel yourself drifting away from the mainland of Tanzania and further into a truly fascinating paradise.