Would you like a beautiful beach holiday which allows for safari while being comfortable and convenient? If so, Mombasa on the beautiful Indian Ocean coast of Kenya is just for you! This is where I can connect with African culture and heritage, decompress on endless beaches that fringe the azure waters, and indulge in delicious food.
Located on the eastern coastline of Kenya, Mombasa is the second-largest city in the country, after Nairobi. Originally inhabited by the African Bantu people, Mombasa attracted the attention of explorers and other nationalities from the 6th Century onwards.
You’ll definitely resort to relaxation in Mombassa!
The Central Business District (CBD) and Old Town neighbourhoods are located on Mombasa Island, which is separated from the mainland by two creeks; Tudor Creek to the west and Kilindini Harbour to the south. Mombasa Island connects to the mainland via the Nyali Bridge, the Likoni Ferry and the Makupa Causeway. Back in 2018, in an effort to grow tourism, the Mombasa County Governor, Hassan Joho, decreed that buildings in the Old Town and CBD should be painted white and blue. His rationale was to enhance the aesthetics of the city and inspire visitors to take as many photos as possible. Today, Mombasa is a unique and comfortable place for enjoying the jewels of East Africa.
Here‘s a Pro-tip: The currency used in Mombasa is the Kenyan Shilling (KSH). 1 British Pound equates to around 150 shillings but the rate does fluctuate on a regular basis.
Mombasa is accessible via the Moi International Airport. Direct flights operate between Mombasa and such African cities as Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg and Entebbe. You can also fly direct from a limited number of Middle Eastern and European destinations. The airport is located 15 km (9.3 miles) from Mombasa Old Town and a taxi will take 30 minutes, although the beach resorts require a slightly longer transfer. Alternatively, if you are travelling from Nairobi, you can travel through the Kenyan bush in the sleeper train that departs nightly at 10 pm and arrives at Mombasa Train Station around 4 am.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Situated a stone’s throw from the equator on roughly the same latitude as the Seychelles, the Maldives, and Bali, Mombasa enjoys the same climate as these wonderful destinations!
Now over to my favourite part, sharing all the exciting activities that are waiting for you in this fascinating destination:
- Beaches – Mombasa’s shoreline is lined with sandy beaches that beg for days of sunbathing, and I always punctuate my holidays with frequent relaxing beach days.
You can’t be blue surrounded by all this blue!
- Old Town – located in the southeast of Mombasa Island, the Old Town comprises a blend of African, Islamic, and Portuguese architecture. Wander on foot to see the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral and an array of mosques.
- Fort Jesus Museum– constructed by the Portuguese during the late 16th Century, the remains of the fort overlook the creek from the Old Town. The complex contains a museum that showcases archaeological objects including crockery, weaponry, and nautical artefacts.
- Nguuni Nature Sanctuary– situated in the Nguu Tatu Hills, this open air wildlife park is home to native fauna including giraffes, oryx, waterbuck, ostrich, and birdlife. Choose to explore on foot, by bicycle, or via game drive. Bring your own food and you can set up a picnic at one of the specified areas.
- Shimba Hills National Reserve– take a day trip south to this protected rainforest and grassland which is home to endangered species including African elephants and Sable antelope. The waterfalls are spectacular!
Dhow unto others…!
- Dhow Cruise– these traditional Swahili sailing vessels have since been repurposed as cruise boats for tourists and you will find a number of excursion options. Full day dhow tours take you to the nearby sanctuaries such as Kisite Marine Park or to the unspoilt Funzi Island.
- Scuba Diving Trip – the Indian Ocean is a paradise for scuba divers and there are multiple dive shops scattered across the northern beaches where you can book a day excursion, sample a discovery dive, or gain Open Water qualifications.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Mombasa Old Town is teeming with souvenir shops. However, for higher quality and more affordable prices, head to the Kongowea neighbourhood. You’ll find bargain clothes as well as fresh fruits and groceries that you can take down to the beach later.
Mombasa has an eclectic food scene, with Kenyan and international recipes coming together to create a unique taste sensation. Choose to experiment with street food or splash out on a lavish meal. These are my recommended places to eat in Mombasa:
- Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant – choose from a menu rich in fresh seafood and international favourites and dine beneath the stars in this cavern with an ocean view. This is definitely a place where you can impress your date!
- Tamarind Mombasa Dhow – feast on grilled meats and catch of the day in a picturesque setting watching over the harbour at the Dawa Terrace or book yourself on the lunchtime dhow cruise and tuck into a floating feast.
- Forodhani Restaurant– a short walk from Fort Jesus, this restaurant specialises in Mombasa delicacies, seafood, and South Asian cuisine.
Nightlife in Mombasa is defined by casual beach bars and a handful of late night clubs where you can enjoy dancing until late. Here are three places that I recommend you add to your itinerary:
- Moonshine Beach Bar – sited right on Mombasa Beach, this is the perfect place to grab a sundowner while you kick back and enjoy chatting with fellow drinkers as the music hums. Visit on Sunday when live bands perform.
- Mingles Pub – this friendly venue is handily located next to an amusement park which makes it an excellent choice for the whole family to unwind.
- Belle Vista Sports Bar – catch a game, enjoy a cold beer, and make new friends at this lively hang out in the Old Town.
Here’s another Pro-tip: If you aren’t one for bars and pubs, then I suggest an evening stargazing on the beach. The sky is alive with stars so close you feel that you can touch them!
If you want to make your trip a truly memorable and relaxing beach vacation, you’ll be happy to hear that accommodation in Mombasa makes this easy. Here are three of my favourites:
- Hotel English Point – this gorgeous resort watches over the harbour and features an infinity pool, spa, and three restuarants. There are rooms, suites and penthouses to meet the requirements of any traveller.
I suggest you spend a day monkeying about the pool!
- Alfariri Villas – situated on what many consider the best beach in Kenya, this luxury resort grants you access to pristine snorkelling, diving and kite surfing. Choose from a Cliff, Garden or Beach Villa.
- Kenya Bay– this exclusive yet affordable hotel on Bamburi Beach blends African tradition with modern architecture to offer an unparalleled ambience. Besides its beachfront location, the property also offers a pool for guests.
Mombasa is a beautiful jewel that is often overlooked as a beach destination. Every time I visit this seaside heaven, I discover more secret streets, restaurants and activities that inspire me to return again and again. I’m sure you’ll love Mombasa as much as I do!