Dhow Inn

Paje, Jambiani & Southeast, Tanzania Book from

Reviewed by Megan Wyche & Andrew Morgan
A well-priced, laid-back and contemporary hideaway, a minute’s walk from a white-sand beach
The somewhat dusty village of Paje on Zanzibar’s tropical southeast coast gives no suggestion of the sleek retreat that lies on its edge. Hidden behind a whitewashed wall and a coral rock, flanked by vivid green vegetation and colourful tropical flowers, rests a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, created out of the remains of an old beach house by owners Marc and Josephina.

Less is definitely more at Dhow Inn. It’s minimalist but far from stark, with a friendly, casual and unpretentious vibe. The 28 rooms - all airy and spotlessly clean, with private terraces and daybeds - are clustered around 3 iridescent swimming pools, in lush gardens that provide plenty of privacy. Food and smashing cocktails are served in the lounge-bar and 2 restaurant areas, one of which is a candlelit alfresco setting where you can dine with powdery white sand between your toes. The Indian Ocean is only 75m away, with a private patch of the vast beach reserved for hotel guests, and all sorts of water-based activities are available, including snorkelling, scuba diving, kitesurfing and dolphin-watching.

Highs

  • Beautiful gardens and 3 chic pools with sun loungers and umbrellas
  • A low-key ambiance that makes couples, families and friends all feel welcome
  • Considering how stylish the place is, prices (half- or full-board) are very reasonable
  • Thoughtful touches, including free beers and soda in your minibar on arrival, and a bedtime note with tomorrow’s weather and tide table
  • Lots of activities to try - and Paje is a world-class kitesurfing destination, with areas for experts and beginners

Lows

  • No direct ocean views, other than from the first-floor restaurant
  • A somewhat obtrusive row of beach huts between the hotel and the sea
  • We found some of the food a little disappointing, though we've been assured the menu has improved since our visit
  • No in-room TVs (though you won't miss them!)
  • The sea can retreat a long way during low tide - fine for kitesurfing, but it can make swimming tricky

Best time to go

The main seasons in southeast Zanzibar are mid-June to mid-October (a spectacular time, with warm but comfortable temperatures) and mid-December to mid-April (hot but often stiflingly humid). These are also the best times for kitesurfing. Diving is best in March. The island experiences 2 rainy seasons, with heavy showers from mid-April to mid-May, and lighter ‘short rains’ during November.

Our top tips

You might want to check the dates of Ramadan, when food and alcohol aren’t served outdoors in view of passers-by, and some bars/restaurants close altogether (most notable in Stone Town).

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 28
  • Restaurant and bar (half- or full-board rates)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Pool Table
  • Games room
  • Volleyball net
Room:

Rooms

Spread across thatched, single-storey buildings, the rooms steer away from the traditional Zanzibari-Arabic style that's commonplace on the island, towards fresh whites and soft blues that reflect the beach and ocean. Crisp linens, fantastically comfortable mattresses, ceiling fans and air conditioning make for satisfying sleeps, though the beds (kingsize or twin) could do with an extra row of pillows to aid lounging and reading. Each room has an enclosed shower and WC set either side of an open-plan basin area, and there’s compact though sufficient cupboard space. Sliding patio doors open onto a private terrace, with a table, chairs and a daybed screened by foliage.

The 4 Superior Rooms are 10sq.m bigger than the Standard Rooms and feature a good-sized sofa which can be transformed into an extra bed on request. Other than that all rooms are largely equal, sharing the same layout and design, though it's worth noting that numbers 25-28 overlook a walkway rather than one of the sparkling blue pools.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served in the breezy upstairs restaurant, with views towards the ocean. Basic but scrummy cooked dishes are available alongside a buffet of fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt, tropical juices and homemade bread and pastries.

Lunch is generally taken in the lounge-bar, on casual sofas arranged around low tables. There’s an informal menu of sandwiches, salads and burgers, all very tasty and well presented. Dinner can also be eaten here, and there’s an array of mouth-watering cocktails, together with robust espressos. Slightly more formal dinners are served under the stars on a section of sand overlooking the main pool - a serene setting. The varied menu has an emphasis on fresh seafood (flame-grilled prawns with mango salad, various fish in spicy sauces), though we found it somewhat lacking in flavour; much more satisfying are the themed dinners which take place 4 times a week (pizzas, BBQs) - particularly the Swahili evening, which is accompanied by Masai dancing.

If you fancy a change, there are other restaurants in Paje, including a surprisingly authentic sushi place.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Recline on the beach (there’s a private area for guests, complete with loungers and parasols), then stroll along the sand and watch the local fishing community going about daily life
  • Paje is a world-class kitesurfing destination, with waves for experts and 2 safe lagoons for beginners. Plenty of other watersports are available too, including snorkelling, scuba diving (there are numerous coral reefs to explore) and game fishing. Dhow Inn staff can recommend local outfits for lessons and equipment hire
  • Head out on a boat trip to observe bottlenose and humpback dolphins
  • Combine a visit to Jozani Forest, where you’re guaranteed to see the endemic red colobus monkey, with a ‘Spice Tour’ to learn about the island’s heady tropical spices (both bookable through the hotel)
  • Visit Zanzibar's capital, Stone Town (an hour away), and take in its Indian/Arabic architecture, skillfully carved doors and atmospheric alleyways. While there, take a peep back in time at the Old Slave Market, the Anglican Cathedral, the Old Fort and St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Dolphin-watching
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Kitesurfing
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Pool table
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Dhow Inn is certainly child-friendly, with pools and the beach nearby. Older children will enjoy the various watersports on offer, though it would be worth bringing additional entertainment (books, a laptop with DVDs) for younger kids.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

There are no two-bedroom suites so families can either take two adjacent rooms (twins are available) or the 4 Superior Rooms have sofas that can be made up as extra beds for an additional charge. All rooms can accommodate baby cots (free). Note that all bathrooms have showers only (no baths)

Babysitting:

The hotel offers a babysitting service

Children's meals:

Food is served all day, and the burgers and sandwiches in the lounge-bar are ideal for kids. Adapted dinner menus are available, too

Kids Activities on site:

  • Three pools on site
  • Games room
  • Volleyball net
  • Beach

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Kitesurfing
  • Snorkelling and scuba diving (older kids only)
  • Dolphin watching boat trips
  • Wildlife spotting in Jozani Forest

Families Should Know:

Shield kids from the tropical sun

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour's drive (Stone Town)
  • Doctor: local clinic within 2 minutes' walk; hospitals within 20 minutes' drive
  • Shop: 5 minutes' walk
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Dhow Inn