Top 10 things to do in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a perfect getaway for those looking to relax, sip on a cocktail while staring at the breathtaking blue waters, enjoy a massage by the beach, sail into the ocean and catch the sunset or simply dance away the night. The African culture beautifully seeps into the buzzing tourist destination that has more visitors than locals and the resorts by the beach are usually full, owing to the gorgeous tropical weather all year round.

Although the island is now a part of Tanzania, you will experience a mixed presence of the African (Swahili) and Omani (Islamic) culture, which is because Zanzibar was once a colony of Oman. Apart from the tourists, and once outside the resort area, the locals are quite conservative and down to earth. The economic development is limited to the areas of Stone Town, Nungwi and Kendwa which is where the maximum tourist activity can be found.

If you are visiting Zanzibar, here are 10 things I would recommend you to definitely experience:

#1 Nungwi's beaches & nightlife

This is the no.1 place to visit on this island. The beaches in Nungwi are incomparable to any other on the island, with gorgeously sparkling turquoise waters and white sands. Bursting with hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants all along the coast, the beaches are public and can be accessed even if you're not living in any of the resorts in Nungwi. Beware of the hawkers selling accessories and souvenirs, they will hound you till you agree to buy something from them. Just ignore or politely tell them you're not interested. The locals are very friendly and love to chat up with tourists.

Nungwi is also where the nightclubs are and all night parties take place. One of the nicer hotels to stay in, with an all-inclusive package that includes meals as well as selected alcoholic beverages, is Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort. It has a few amazing infinity pools, the rooms are spacious with gorgeous views of the sea and the spa on the cliff overlooking the beach is absolutely wonderful!

I would recommend staying in this area not only for the best sea views and beaches but also for the most lively vibe.

Nungwi beach from Royal Zanzibar Resort's restaurant

Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort

Nungwi Beach

#2 Walking the narrow streets of Stonetown

A predominantly Arab culture can be seen existing in this part of the island. Stonetown gets its name from the old buildings here which were built in the 19th century. The winding alleyways are full of handicraft shops, mosques, cafes, restaurants and houses. If you have enough time and an interest in knowing more about the history and culture of Zanzibar and particularly Stone Town, through its architecture, you can take a walking tour of the area. However, we preferred to just take a walk around on our own, walk in the narrow lanes and explore the bustling town all by ourselves before settling for a few cocktails, while enjoying the sunset, at The Terrace Restaurant.

Stone Town

#3 Cocktails & lunch at The Rock Restaurant

Although this restaurant is a bit far from both Stone Town and Nungwi (45-min and 1.5-hour drive respectively), it is one of the most iconic places to visit in Zanzibar. The restaurant is built on a huge rock which, during high tide, can only be reached by boat. The terrace of the restaurant has superb sea views. A bit pricey, the food is actually quite good and the views are totally worth the price.

Make your reservations in advance. If you're driving to it, keep a buffer of 30 minutes as the road approaching the area where the restaurant is a bit unpaved and requires some time to get there. If you're not driving, you can ask the restaurant management to arrange for a pick and drop taxi for you.

Click here to book your car.

The Rock Restaurant

View from the terrace of The Rock

#4 Dance away at Kendwa's full moon parties

This party takes place during the full moon (Saturday after the full moon) at the Kendwa Rocks Hotel, which is only a 10-minute drive from Nungwi. For those staying at the hotel, the party is free of charge else there is a minimal entry cost. If you choose to stay at Nungwi, you can get taxis easily to Kendwa. Alternatively, you can also walk along the beach from Nungwi to Kendwa. However, this is only possible if the tide is low else the beach in Kendwa gets cut off from Nungwi. Check the calendar for the next full moon party when you plan your travel.

Kendwa Beach

#5 Buy a souvenir from Nungwi Masaai Village Market

This adorable street market in the Nungwi village is so vibrant with the clothes, accessories, paintings and lovely little trinkets which make perfect souvenirs. Hardly a 10-minute walk from Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort, off the beach, the locals here are very friendly and happy to strike a good bargain.

Nungwi Village Street Market

#6 Meet the locals

So friendly, so colourful and happy to get a picture with you, the Masaai people are a pleasure to talk to! You will bump into many of them selling small souvenirs and trinkets while walking on the Nungwi beach. Do not hesitate to say hi and get a picture clicked with them!

#7 Catch the beautiful sunset

Nungwi has some of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. You may choose to enjoy it from the beach, the infinity pool of your hotel or take a sunset cruise but you must catch one while you're there!

#8 Rent a jeep

Some people like to relax in their resorts while others like to explore the island. Just about 3 hours from the northmost to the southmost tip of the island, it is worth taking out a day and checking out what life is like outside of the luxurious resort area. As the roads are not all well-developed, it is best to hire a jeep to be able to traverse some rough terrain. Beaches on the east of the island such as Kiwengwa and Pongwe are worth a visit if time allows.

Kiwengwa Beach

#9 Romantic dine at a pier restaurant

I absolutely loved the stunning seafood restaurant and bar, Sea Breeze at Diamonds La Gemma dell' Est. Situated in the middle of the stunning blue waters, this place is best for a romantic evening out in Nungwi. If you're staying at the hotel (which is all-inclusive), this restaurant is not included in the package but is à la carte. As an outsider, if you're not staying at the hotel, you would have to make a special request for a reservation.

The Pier, Diamonds La Gemma dell' Est

#10 Try the fresh catch-of-the-day

Needless to say, the island has some great seafood! You must try the crabmeat soup in a coconut - absolutely delish! I tried the one from Beyt Al Salaam restaurant in Stone Town and it was so yum.

Crab soup in coconut

85 thoughts on “Top 10 things to do in Zanzibar”

  1. We have one day in Zanzibar and we left wanting more. And we did not even get to enjoy those amazing beaches! Or have a meal out on The Rock. The sad part about a cruise port stop was that we missed the sunset over the beach. But luckily we did not miss the seafood.

  2. My favorite thing in Zanzibar was Stone town and Prison island. The history was heart breaking but the city was really interesting.

  3. I’ve visited Zanzibar as well, and I must say you did a really great job describing the place in this post. I totally loved walking along the streets of Stonetown and seeing the amazing architecture. It was also great meeting the friendly locals and watching the beautiful sunset. Oh.. and the nightlife interesting!

  4. Zanzibar has been on my bucket list for ages. I love that your itinerary uncovered the hidden gems and quirks of the area. The Hole restaurant would definitely be a place where I would enjoy the catch of the day. I’m hoping to travel to Africa this year and this might have to be a stop that I make.

  5. You sure have some amazing suggestion in this article! I’m so glad I came across it as I’m currently planning my trip to Zanzibar and this article seems like a great starting point. I’m definitely bookmarking it for future use. Thank you for all these awesome suggestions, I’m even more excited about the trip now 🙂

  6. I am sorta obsessed with Zanzibar and am not sure how it started. The water is gorgeous and I would love to wander around Stonetown. I hadn’t heard of The Rock Restaurant until now

  7. Zanzibar is a beautiful place! The beaches look like paradise. I’m intrigued about the Rock Restaurant, looks like a must-do whilst there. I’m a big fan of seafood so I think I would be in heaven here and it’s nice to know that the locals are friendly to tourists.

  8. All I can say is WOW! Tanzania has been very high on my list of places to travel to and this post just makes me want to go more. Zanzibar looks like an absolutely dream. The rock restaurant looks really cute, I’d love to eat there and the soup served in the coconut looks amazing. I will refer back to this post when I finally make it to Tanzania.

  9. Just looking at the aquamarine ocean and white sand in Zanzibar makes me want to pack up and go! Zanzibar is high on my list of places in Africa to visit.

  10. Wow Zanzibar looks pretty similar to Mombasa or I must say diani beach in Kenya. I believe they share the same Waters. I was there last month and had a lot of fun and I can see from your pictures on this blog post that you had a lot of fun as well. Zanzibar is definitely in my bucket list so next time when I go to Tanzania I will make sure I pay a visit to Zanzibar and along with it of course Dar es Salaam. Have you been there as well?

  11. The seafood looks amazing. I love places to eat fresh seafood.

    I really want to go shopping at Nungwi Masaai Village Market. I love buying local art on my travels.

  12. Oh wow. Zanzibar looks perfect! It’s surprising that it’s not hugely popular as a holiday or honeymoon destination compared to certain other islands when it looks this good!

    My girlfriend and I were invited to a wedding in Zanzibar last year, but we couldn’t go….. maybe we should have!!

    1. It is getting popular slowly. It sure is as gorgeous as many other popular honeymoon destinations.

  13. Africa is on our bucket list, as we’d like to see all seven continents. Zanzibar wasn’t necessarily on our radar, but after seeing this I think it will be on our list to consider! Beautiful pictures, and my husband would be totally game to rent a Jeep. He’s been a Jeep owner as long as I’ve known him. 🙂

    1. Zanzibar may not be as ‘African’ as you’d imagine Africa but it certainly is a great place to visit if you’re travelling through the continent 🙂

  14. Africa is one continent where I still haven’t set foot. The 10 things you wrote are probably the things I would love to do in Zanzibar, especially the amazing restaurants and beaches. Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort looks fab for an African trip.

    1. Zanzibar was my first ever African trip (and unfortunately, the only one till date). I’d love to go and explore other countries such as Kenya and SA.

  15. Ahh you have no idea how much I wish I could be there right now! Amazing beaches, wonderful sunsets, great food! It looks so beautiful over there! Ive never been in Africa so I really hope ill get to visit soon! This is a great list! Seems like the island is more for relaxation. I had no idea they have moon party there as well 🙂 good to know

    1. Zanzibar is a gorgeous place to just go and relax, enjoy the sun. Makes for a great honeymoon destination too 🙂

  16. Africa is a place high on my list to really get into. Morocco is as far as we’ve gotten at this point. Zanzibar is SO gorgeous! And that Rock Restaurant is a place we would have to eat just for the fun of it. Tanzania has been high on my list, so seeing Zanzibar just pushed it up even more. It looks like paradise on earth 🙂 And as usual, you have such beautiful photos which really show the place at it’s finest!!!

  17. Tanzania has wonderful beach line. I liked the Rock restaurant a lot! What a location for it. Znazibar too looks equally mesmerizing. In fact I want to do them all. Very helpful list.

  18. I want to do them aaallllll! But first I have to set my feet on the Island! Zanzibar sounds and look gorgeous! I would love to swim at the Nungwi beach and then take a walk at the interesting Stonetown and eating a crab soup. Then for the sunset having a dinner at the cool Rock restaurant! Tiny but sooo cosy! And perhaps the besr part is to chat my day away with the locals! Ahhh what a dream destination Zanzibar is! Hope to tick it off my wish list very soon!

  19. Your post is great. My sister has been wanting to visit Zanzibar for quite a while now, so I will definitely tell her about it. I, myself, would go there, if only for the food. I would very much enjoy eating at that restaurant, The Rock.. It looks so great!

    1. Its so cool to enjoy a drink on their terrace (of the Rock), in the middle of the ocean. It is best to go when the tide is high 🙂

  20. I’m so sad I didn’t get to visit Zanzibar when I went to Tanzania, it looks so beautiful. The beaches are so dreamy and I’ve seen so many great photos about the old town. Hopefully I’ll go one day soon.

  21. So all of a sudden I want to and have added Tanzania to my list – I need to go there. You know sometimes you just look at a place and you know you need to be there, well the rock restaurant and me need to experience each other haha, it has such a quirky and weird look to it 😀 Was Tanzania quite cheap ?

    1. It was quite cheap, yes. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort so it was slightly expensive but not as expensive as it would be in many other places. It also has a party scene at Nungwi (especially the full moon party) so I am sure you’ll love it!

    1. Yes, we went when the weather was amazing and it was the high season and it was not too crowded. Love that!

  22. Oh, this looks beautiful! Stone Town and the restaurant on the island would have to be the top choices for me. Its nothing how I imagined Zanzibar. It truly is gorgeous.

  23. Your post revived my visit to Zanzibar as well. Even though I was travelling alone, I met so many locals that the visit it etched beautifully. I think my favorite part was door-watching 🙂

  24. Oh, I guess I would have taken a tour of Stone Town of Zanzibar first – to learn some little details about its past. And then I would have explored further. The Nungwi Masaai Village Market looks amazing with all its vibrant colours. Africa is certainly on my (I hate the word) bucket list.

    1. I love how colourful these people are, that’s why walking through the Masaai market was such a lovely feast for the eyes!

  25. Zanzibar is one of the first destinations I ever dreamed about visiting, it always sounded so exotic and yet somehow, in the intervening decades, I’ve never made it there even though we have been to Tanzania twice for safari but I am drawn to both the beautiful coastlines and the wonderful spice and colour that this unique culture offers. Stonetown is probably the most on my radar, and I love your photos of narrow, colourful streets there.
    Although the beaches look gorgeous I think I’d prefer a quieter and less nightlife-heavy option, where would you suggest for a quiet alternative to Nungwi? We would definitely take your recommendation to explore by jeep.

    1. Kavita, the resort we stayed at in Nungwi was slightly away from the nightlife areas and thus, very quiet. It was beautiful, with all the pools, beachside dining, etc. (Royal Zanzibar). However, there are several other beach resorts along the east coast of Zanzibar such as in Kiwengwa or Pongwe which are away from the nightlife, yet gorgeous and along the beach.

  26. I’ve wanted to visit the Rock Restaurant (and the rest of Zanzibar!) for years. I only made it to the Southern African countries on my last visit to the continent. I really have to get back and explore more of East Africa.

    1. Yea, I have been wanting to explore more of Africa, East and South, for some time. Zanzibar is the only place I’ve been to!

  27. Wow, Medha, Zanzibar is stunning! The photo of the Rock House restaurant is like a postcard, and I imagine the unique blend of cultures there would make it someplace I’d love to explore. Add one more to my already growing bucket list!

  28. Zanzibar looks stunning! I can just imagine the variety of life between the streets of Stone Town in the morning and dining at the Rock Restaurant at sunset! Amazing!

  29. Zanzibar is not somewhere I’ve ever considered before – but what a place it looks!! I think the reason I’ve not considered it is because it’s pretty expensive to get there from the UK – how was it from Dubai? x

    1. Fortunately, Becca, we have a direct flight from Dubai via flydubai airlines. So we got it pretty cheap! And it is hardly 4.5 hours away.

  30. Oh man I’m so jealous! I’ve wanted to go to Zanzibar ever since I saw some show about it on Nat Geo Adventure a few years ago. I think I’m drawn to the exoticism of it, even of the name itself! I haven’t been to Africa since I went to Madagascar when I was 15 but this will be top of my list when I make it back to the continent.

  31. I’d love to go to Zanzibar, and your post has inspired me to add it to my list! The full moon party looks great, as too does Old Town!

    1. It’s a small island with lovely resorts, parties, beaches. Just the kind of place to relax during the day and party through the night 🙂

  32. Wow what a lovely place to visit. The beach looks amazing and looks like a great cultural experience too.

  33. Zanzibar is on my bucket list of places to go! It looks amazing. The beaches are stunning. You got some great photos.

  34. Zanzibar looks like such a relaxing place to enjoy the simple things in life. I would love to just sit at the beach and watch the sunset/sunrise. Or just enjoying the fresh catch of the day. Who doesn’t love fresh seafood?

  35. Zanzibar looks like a great place for a relaxing holiday but also a great place to go and explore too (a perfect combination for me)

  36. Your post is bringing back wonderful memories of my trip to TZ and Zanzibar in 2011. I had been living in Dubai at the time and frequent Oman often so I was surprised to see parts of the corniche in Stonetown look exactly like parts of Muscat, I had no idea it was a former colony until I saw the architecture!

    1. Also, the people dress a lot like they do in Oman. There are hints of similarities all over! 🙂

  37. Africa’s not a continent I’ve really travelled it, so Zanzibar in Tanzania looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It was my first trip to Africa as well and I absolutely loved it 🙂

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