Kendwa Rocks

Kendwa, Matemwe & North, Tanzania Book from

Funky laidback guesthouse on one of Zanzibar’s best beaches, with a choice of stone bungalows or wooden beach huts
This guesthouse is named after some coral rocks rising behind the long sandy beach of Kendwa village, near Nungwi on the northern tip of Zanzibar. But it could also be a statement in itself: Kendwa rocks. Because, more than any other part of the island, this stretch of beach comes alive every evening to the sounds of reggae and rock, with young travellers from around the globe mixing and chatting and dancing in simple seaside bars.

So what rhythm does it rock to? It’s a soothingly repetitive cycle. Mornings on the beach with its oh-so-bright white sand. Afternoons diving or snorkelling in the clear, warm, fish-filled waters. Sunsets at the friendly bar or on the makeshift beach-volley court. Evenings at the bars of Nungwi down the coast, or lying in your hammock staring up through palm fronds at the myriad stars. With accommodation in small stone bungalows or wooden beach huts, it’s ideal for independent young travellers visiting the sea-, sun- and spice-islands on a budget.

Highs

  • We loved the very friendly, laid-back atmosphere and sociable beach bar
  • You're right on the best bit of beach in Zanzibar; even at low tide, you can swim in clear, azure water
  • There's snorkelling, diving, sailing and beach-volleyball for active types; or plenty of hammocks for the less energetic (and those recovering from the previous night)
  • We liked the fact that most rooms are detached, and set amidst flowery gardens

Lows

  • Service - especially at meals - can be extremely slow and laid back, and sometimes plain bad: check out our latest guest feedback
  • Not for those seeking peace and quiet - there are loud parties every Saturday in season, plus at full moon
  • There are "beach boys" in the area who hassle female travellers, and we've heard reports of pick-pocketing as well
  • The cheap rooms are very simple indeed
  • During the rainy season we gather that the Stone Bungalows can be damp

Best time to go

It’s open all year, but try and avoid the heavy rains from April to mid-June. August and Christmas are the busiest, and also the most expensive. January to March are the hottest months, when the stone bungalows can become rather oppressive. November and early December can also be a bit wet, but you benefit from low season prices.

Our top tips

Fashion is not really an issue here: most people go around in sandals and kikoys, with simple, long-sleeved, cotton clothes for the evenings (to protect against mosquitoes). You are advised to bring anti-malarial (and any other necessary) medication. If you’re short-sighted and into diving / snorkelling, consider getting a corrective mask before you leave. Some games are provided but cards, books and an iPod won’t go amiss.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Eco
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 35
  • Restaurant and bar
  • Best for older kids
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Volleyball court
Room: Coral Stone Bungalow

Rooms

There are various roomtypes on offer, we recommend the Coral Stone Bungalows, Coconut Wood Bungalows and the rooms in the North & South Wings - all of which have fans, mosquito nets and verandas.

We feel that the nicest rooms on offer are the Bungalows: made with either coral stone or coconut wood (as their names suggest), all are small, freestanding buildings set within the leafy gardens. (The Forest Bungalows have been added since our visit so we can't vouch for the personally.) Inside there’s a decent-sized room with 1 or 2 double beds, shelves and a small fan (they can get hot in high summer, but some have air-conditioning too), plus a little ensuite bathroom with a sun-warmed shower. Outside, under the thatched roof, is a lovely terrace with easy chairs, looking out to sea.

Most recently, 3 Beach Houses were added. We haven't seen them yet, but they're large rooms stacked on top of each other by the beach, and all have air-conditioning, so they also sound like a good option.

The North & South Wings (N&S Wings) have been built since our last visit, and are set on the higher coral rock formations, with spacious verandas and nice views of the island or the gardens. These too are built of coral stone or coconut wood. They are divided into Suites, Upstairs Rooms and Africa Rooms. Each has a different combination of beds - doubles, twins, triples - and the Upstairs Rooms have stone baths, while the Suites have a mixture of baths and showers. Africa Rooms work well for couples or solo travellers, while the others are spacious and ideal for honeymooners and families - some sleep up to 6. Some rooms also have air-conditioning and hot water (request when booking).

There are also a few shared Bandas, but they don't have proper doors so you can't leave your stuff around), which is why we don't recommend these rooms. There's no furniture besides a bed and foam mattress and the washrooms are communal. Mosquito nets and a fan are provided though.

Features include:

  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Mosquito net

Eating

There’s a simple bar-restaurant on the beach serving lunch and dinner. When we visited, the food ranged from disappointing to delicious (the filled chapatis and spinach soup at lunchtime were firmly in the former category, but by evening time the pumpkin curry and fish BBQ with roast potatoes and chutneys had graduated to the latter. Perhaps it was the sunset cocktails which helped!). However, recent reports on the food are more positive: the kingfish in coconut sauce with lemongrass is highly praised, and the local specialities are said to be good.

Breakfast is served in a large thatched space near reception - usually bread, jam, fresh fruit, juice and hot drinks, plus various items to order.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Sunbathe on the endless, white-sand beach in front of the guesthouse

  • Walk up the beach to Nungwi (30 minutes), where it’s all happening

  • Cruise on a dhow to the nearby island of Tumbatu

  • Sail on a yacht for a short sunset cruise, or overnight to outlying islands (read our review of catamaran trips)

  • Swim or snorkel in the warm shallow waters, which teem with tropical fish

  • Dive Zanzibar’s most magical reefs and walls, including Mnemba atoll - there is a diving school just along the beach, with English-speaking instructor and fast speedboat

  • Go fishing from a dhow, with lines and baits provided - and you’re almost guaranteed a catch!

  • Hang out in a hammock with a good book

  • Socialise with other young travellers while lazing on the beach, playing bao or sipping a beer (or all three)

  • Drink and dance during the monthly full moon party - sometimes with live music

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming

Kids

Kendwa Rocks welcomes families, but the laid-back party vibe is far more suited to young couples and groups of friends.

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Families Should Know:

Bear in mind that there are lots of parties on this stretch of beach, including a monthly full moon party.

Kid Friendly: Coconut Wood Bungalow

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
6/
Food
6/
Service
6/
Value
6/
Overall

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