There are a host of more affordable places in the region that will give you a taste of the coast without breaking the bank. Tamara Britten recommends these five:
1. Kilifi Maghreb, Kilifi
This recently-established hotel is in verdant gardens near Kilifi Creek. The almost private Sea Horse Beach is less than a five-minute walk away, while the shops, bars and restaurants of Kilifi town are within easy reach. The accommodation options are many and varied. The thatched Garden Rooms are constructed of ecofriendly materials and cooled by fans. The hostel rooms have bunk beds and shared bathrooms. The tents are furnished with two mattresses, and have access to shared bathrooms. The suites have an en-suite bedroom, living room and kitchenette. The villa has three bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and dining room, and would make an ideal space for a family or group of friends. There are also a couple of conference rooms and a swimming pool surrounded by a spacious deck that just cries out to be basked upon.
Rates: From 2,100 Ksh per tent (2 pax) B&B, From 4,500 Ksh per garden room (2 pax) B&B, From 5,900 Ksh per suite (2 pax) B&B, From 35,000 Ksh per villa (8 pax) B&B.
2. The Driftwood, Malindi
Possibly Malindi’s favourite beach club, The Driftwood has wound its way into the hearts of locals and visitors alike. A family-owned and managed hotel, the place offers a collection of cottages and villas in traditional coastal style – albeit with the addition of air conditioning and other modern amenities. The restaurant has a tasty bar menu and a more eclectic a la carte menu with an appealing selection of fresh seafood as well as such treats such as Swahili beef and traditional coastal curry. There are plenty of water sports to try, or just hang out at the open-air bar and sip your beer while looking across the glistening swimming pool at the white sand beach.
Rates: From 10,000 Ksh for a single room B&B, From 14,600 Ksh for a double room B&B.
3. Mawimbi Lodge, Watamu
Centring on its courtyard restaurant, this lodge offers some of the finest Italian food on the coast – and that’s saying something! With a selection of melt-in-your-mouth handmade pastas, fresh seafood, Italian specialities, inventive salads, fresh breads, authentic pizzas and desserts that have to be tasted to be believed, this is one not to miss. Chef Maurizio Marino – born in Sicily and trained in Rome – experiments with local and Italian flavours to create his own distinctive dishes. The lodge has standard, superior and deluxe rooms that are set around the garden or overlook the inviting swimming pool, and the staff are friendly and welcoming.
Available on enquiry
4. Distant Relatives Backpackers, Kilifi
This eco-friendly and hospitable backpackers took the Kenyan coast by storm when it opened in 2012. With an extraordinary range of accommodation including camping, dormitories, safari tents, private rooms and standalone bandas, the lodge promotes socially conscious living, environmentally friendly practices – and parties! The gardens are dotted with little treats like outdoor bamboo showers, shaded hammocks, cushioned hideaways and poolside sunbeds. The restaurant serves tasty local treats, seafood specials, vegetarian delights and pizzas straight from the wood-fired oven. With water sports, dhow cruises, beach volleyball and more, there’s plenty to do here. Don’t miss their epic, three-day New Years’ Eve parties.
Rates: From 1,000 Ksh per person for a dorm, From 1,500 Ksh per person for a safari tent. From 2,500 Ksh per person for a private room, From 3,500 Ksh per person for a private banda
5. Barefoot Beach Camp, Che Shale Beach
Half an hour north of Malindi on an almost private beach is Barefoot Beach Camp. As its name suggests, bare feet are recommended here as sand floors stretch out beneath towering makuti roofs, and the makuti walls are open to the breeze. The five tented cottages are shaded by palms and surrounded by tropical flowers; fans and lights are powered by solar and at night, gas lanterns are strung along the paths. The seafood here, cooked by owner Eddie Aniere, is delectable: prawns, squid and crab fresh from the ocean blessed by Eddie’s special touch. Hang out at the little tables on the beach, relax in one of the many secluded spots or – if you can bring yourself to get out of your hammock and stroll down the beach – try your hand at one of the many water sports available here.
Rates: From 7500 Ksh per person half board, From 8600 Ksh per person full board.
6. Mida Eco Camp, Watamu
This eco-friendly community camp offers three traditional huts and two campsites. On the rustic platform-restaurant, visitors can look out over the Arabuko Sokoke Forest and the tangle of mangroves and watch a multitude of birds ducking and diving, while the friendly staff cook Giriama food over a fire for them or serve cold beers and coconut wine. A hanging bridge leads from the restaurant to a simple bird hide with panoramic views of the creek and its birdlife. This community project was built from private donations and all profit goes to community projects in Mida Creek including health, education and agriculture. Be sure to ask the staff to take you to their secret spot on Kirepwe Island and grill seafood for you as you wallow in the warm water.
Rates: From 900 Ksh for a single room B&B.