Visiting the Kenyan coast (paradise)

3 min readSep 4, 2021

Even if you live off the beach in California or Abu Dhabi or the Mediterranean or Ipanema or Valparaiso, Kenya’s coast and beaches, white sands, marine life, perfect waters, and in many cases towns and villages with Swahili and coastal cultures, are exceptional.

All have beautiful tropical beaches and everything that comes with that, also nature reserves whether marine or land, of various different kinds… sanctuaries and reserves whether mangroves or monkeys or protected marine areas. Calm, warm, blue-green waters, soft white sand, delicious fresh simple food, and no jellyfish… only the occasional sea urchin. Wide range of other amazing marine creatures, from dolphins and marlins, to turtles fish and hundreds of Kenyan species of birds.

Accommodations and food costs range very widely. You could spend $15 or $100 or $1000 per day (and eat and sleep comfortably, if you’re strategic).

Seasons vary a bit, but generally it’s variations on paradise. Off-season is pleasantly cooler, slightly rougher seas, murkier waters. Even in rainy seasons, most of the time rain showers are short and sweet.

Three good destinations:

  • Diani beach town — chill but sizeable beach town, lots of different accommodations and restaurants along a very long white sandy beach with a protective reef, marine reserve to the south, great for long walks on the beach or kitesurfing (if you have $ or equipment) or snorkelling or lounging, also good nightlife, some nice restaurants, lots of different kinds of places to stay. Very easy to fly in and out of. An hour’s drive north (and ferry) is Mombasa. Amazing deep sea fishing if you’re into that (and don’t get motion sickness). Go farther south to access more remote beaches.
  • Watamu — Also a residential beach area, near the sizeable town of Malindi, various resorts and houses to rent out, more residential-seeming with more diverse activity than Diani, lots of local delicious Swahili food options, a few good local music spots, a notably beautiful little nook of beautiful beach and blue-green water and a small rock island that’s just perfect, with a tiny cafe overlooking it. Interesting jagged cliffs around, too. A bit more rugged than Diani or Lamu. Fly into Malindi nearby, or drive north an hour from Mombasa. Farther north, around Malindi, if it’s been raining recently, the water gets brown (“golden”) from the Galana River delta.
  • Lamu — town is on Lamu island, part of an archipelago, with narrow walking lanes and no cars (but many donkeys) and a few villages, and then an extensive long white beach with protected sand dunes on the other side. A more remote destination but an easy affordable direct plane, all commuting is by boat, small Swahili community living normal life that you get to step into, town is UNESCO World Heritage site, various indigenous and traditional communities (and infrastructure project workers), tourists around but normal life continues around them. Very cool though deteriorating architecture. Unique experience. Dhow sailboats for fishing and tourists. Just amazing nature. Mangroves everywhere, a few snorkelling spots, seasonal phosphorescent plankton, seasonal baby sea turtle hatchings, all sorts of fishing.

Here’s Lamu unfiltered on an old little iPhone, on a regular evening:

And Diani beaches: