The African archipelago of Zanzibar, cast adrift off the west coast of Tanzania, is known for its outstanding natural beauty. The island is famous for its white sand beaches and brilliant blue waters, as well as its rich and colourful history full of Swahili and Islamic influences. This, combined with the island’s past as a significant trade centre and key point on the Spice Route has made it a fascinating place to visit. Just a short direct flight from the GCC and benefitting from a tropical climate, Zanzibar is the perfect place for a long weekend break, Eid escape or relaxing, yet exciting holiday, here are the best hotels in Zanzibar to book now.
The Residence Zanzibar
On the southwest side of the island, around an hour’s drive from the capital, lies arguably the most all-encompassing luxury resort on the island – The Residence. One of Zanzibar’s best hotels for intimate privacy, the hotel offers 66 private villas generously spread amongst a 32-hectare estate of beachfront and tropical gardens home to monkeys and many species of birds. Each villa, of which there are garden and beachfront options, is equipped with a king-size bed with billowing white drapes, stand-alone tubs, a sitting room and a private pool on a wooden deck. A second, lake-like infinity swimming pool lies in the colonial-style main complex right on the white-sand beachfront. There are two main restaurants, one all-day with themed buffet nights offering a real resort vibe, and a pampering spa with its six treatment rooms. Jump on your dedicated villa bicycle to truly soak up the magical garden and ocean-front setting.
Doubles from about AED1,610; cenizaro.com
While Kilindi may now be part of the Elewana Collection, a boutique luxury lodge and safari company, group, it was once the home and island retreat of ABBA’s Benny Andersson. Now, the hotel, located in the northwest of the island, is known for being one of the most beautiful honeymoon spots in Zanzibar, and what was once Benny’s getaway pad is now a striking architectural masterpiece with 15 private curving cream villas perched amongst 35 acres of tropical gardens looking out onto the ocean. Benny’s Scandi minimalism and design touches are apparent, now woven with Middle Eastern accents in the pavilion suites. Villas have heavy rainfall showers, butler service and private plunge pools surrounded by nothing but vegetation while the hotel has a 25-metre infinity pool and restaurant with an ever-changing menu at the main pavilion.
Full board doubles from about AED2,390 per person; elewana.com
Park Hyatt Zanzibar
Park Hyatt Zanzibar offers what few luxury hotels do on the island – being right next to the UNESCO-protected historic Stone Town, yet having its own private beachfront and spacious private grounds. The grand white colonial-style building with a terracoztta roof was the first five-star resort in Stone Town, the core once the mid-19th-century manor of a wealthy Omani trader. The hotel has been lovingly resorted and brought up to Park Hyatt standards with a pleasing marriage of Omani and Tanzanian heritage and design – paying homage to the storied relationship between the two nations. Decorative bright and breezy rooms feature ornate ceiling fans, monsoon showers, canopied beds and Arabesque meets Indian accepts like elaborate lampshades and floral carvings. Other facilities include an infinity pool that looks across the Indian Ocean bay and a dining room serving Arabian, Portuguese and Swahili-influenced cuisine.
Doubles from about AED1,320; hyatt.com
On the northern tip of Unguja Island, around 60km from Stone Town, Zuri, which means “beautiful” in Swahili, is an apt description for this beautiful Zanzibar hotel. Traditional African-style roofing mixed with earthy but contemporary interiors are featured throughout the 56 villas, bungalows and suites, which are comfortably spread across the resort’s white-sand beachfront and tropical gardens, each only steps away from the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Bungalows come with terraces and outdoor showers, while villas and suites each offer the added luxury of a private jacuzzi. Guests frequently gather for sundowners served up on the beachfront to jaw-dropping sunsets and soothing DJ sets and can enjoy a range of cuisines from international dishes served up by live cooking stations at the main restaurant to light bites at the poolside and beachfront or bespoke and intimate private dinners and cooking lessons across the resort.
Doubles from about AED1,775; zurizanzibar.com
The east coast of Zanzibar has some of the best beaches on the island, and on a 300-metre stretch of sugar-soft, ivory sand is where the Spanish group Meliá opened the Melia Zanzibar. Surrounded by a natural coral reef, the all-inclusive 16-hectare estate is one of the best for staying put and enjoying snorkelling, lazy beach days and great drinking and dining, with an impressive six restaurants and four bars to choose from. The structure itself is made up of an original building and a newer complex called The Level, the latter with a more modern, Mediterranean feeling with its own restaurants and lounge. There are plenty of room categories to choose from – garden-view doubles and ocean-facing to adults-only pavilion rooms and one to three-bedroom villas with their own infinity pools.
Doubles from about AED 1,210; melia.com
As Zanzibar’s original eco-chic beach lodge, Matemwe Lodge is the perfect location for a rustic tropical getaway, just moments from the charming village of Matemwe in the peaceful northeast of the island. Small, charming and boho, the resort has just 12 guest villas and is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking a shallow, coral-friend lagoon. The 12 villas are clad in earthy neutral hues with touches like woven rugs, Zanzibari chests and antique furniture and are serviced by an all-day restaurant and two swimming pools almost flowing over the cliff into the ocean. The shallow lagoon is a marine conversation area and a diving hotspot where green turtles and 600 species of coral reef fish can be found. As part of Asilia Africa, one of Africa’s largest safari providers, guests can ensure the most modern, high-quality amenities and service.
Doubles from about AED 1,290; matemwe.asiliaafrica.com
Baraza Resort & Spa
All-inclusive Baraza Resort & Spa is one of the most exclusive resorts in the archipelago. Guests feel like they’ve stepped into the palace of an Omani sultan: the gleaming creamy white exterior is a fusion of Arabic, Indian and Swahili design with Swahili arches, hand-carved cement décor, handmade furniture and beautiful antiques. Located on the island’s southwest coast, Baraza Resort & Spa has a 240-metre stretch of private beach and overlooks Zanzibar’s only National Geographic-approved dive site. Inside, white walls are adorned with brass lamps and antique furniture is dotted throughout. Each of the 30 one- and two-bedroom villas have a private plunge pool, sun terrace, free-standing bathtub and outdoor lounges for lazy days in the sun. Much like its design, there’s an impressive fusion of cuisines on offer: Continental, Swahili, Indian and Persian cuisine served up as set dinners at night and casual, international buffets at lunch. The spa, too, is superb, resembling an Arabian oasis with canopied daybeds, golden mosaic floors and a menu of Thai, Balinese and Ayurveda treatments.
Doubles from AED2,300; baraza-zanzibar.com
&Beyond Mnemba Island
Embrace the archipelago’s beauty by bedding down on your own private island retreat, all while being just a 15-minute speedboat from the northeast coast at the romantic &Beyond Mnemba Island. This tiny private island is just a kilometre and a half in circumference and is home to 12 beachside ‘bandas’ hosting just 24 guests, emulating the feeling of a Maldives resort with its barefoot luxury policies and private dining experiences. Guests can unwind on the stretch of private beach, seek shade in the Casuarina pine forest and enjoy a host of watersport options in the lagoon. Inside the private villas are four-poster beds, Balinese-style shuttered bathrooms, open-sided thatched spaces with decorative china and Kitengela glasses – and a minibar stocked to order. Breakfast (and what a breakfast it is) is delivered on trays – piled with tropical fruits, juices and Tanzanian coffee – while dinner is served on the beach to candlelight and the lapping of waves. While there’s no spa area, yoga sessions and massages can take place directly at your banda.
All-inclusive doubles (including transfers) from about AED 4,665 per person; andbeyond.com