Hello there! As I sit here trying to put our Watamu trip into words I cannot stop the feeling of nostalgia. I am already counting down the days till our next visit to Watamu. This is the best Kenyan getaway for a beach holiday! If you are doubtful, try it out yourself. Here are some tips and guides for your trip to Watamu.
Watamu is a coastal town located 108km north of Mombasa and 23km south of Malindi. For me and Es this tiny town was the highlight of 2021. We visited Watamu between December 7th and December 12th 2021. Knowing how busy the Kenyan coast gets over the holidays we decided to beat the rush. This was probably the best decision we made as it made all the difference in how we experienced the coast.
If you are looking for the perfect beach holiday in Kenya, this is the one place you should go to. Use this guide to get the best out of your trip.
How to get Watamu
It is said the hardest step of any journey is the first step. This was very true in our case. Figuring out which means of travel we were going to take took us a while.
There are four ways to get to Watamu:
1. Flying into Malindi then catching a taxi or matatu(bus) to Watamu.
This takes about 2 hours of travel time and $120 to $300 per person. Though this is the fastest means it is also the most expensive. This means did not work for us as it would force us to have a shorter experience.
2. Using the train to Mombasa then driving to Watamu.
Taking the express SGR train takes about 4 to 5 hours to Mombasa. Thereafter, one would have to take a taxi or a matatu to Watamu taking an additional 2 hours. Bringing it to 7 hours travelling. However, it is cheaper ranging from $50 to $90.
3. Catching a bus from Nairobi to Watamu.
We tried to research on this but the only options we found were buses to Malindi or Mombasa. There were no direct buses to Watamu. This means would take anywhere from 10 hours to 12 hours. The cost ranges from $30 to $70.
4. Driving yourself there.
Finally, after a lot of research and debate, we decided on driving our trusty and economical Swift. In hindsight, this decision made the trip so much more enjoyable.
For those thinking of doing the drive there, it is definitely worthwhile. We left at 6 am and arrived in Watamu at 4.30 pm. For those who are still not sure, here are a few reasons why driving to Watamu is a good idea:
- Saves money- you save money both in getting to Watamu as well as in moving around Watamu.
- Adventure- the option to stop by Tsavo as well as the challenge of driving 10 hours.
- Freedom to move around Watamu.
- THE PRICELESS COMFORT OF AC IN YOUR OWN CAR.
These benefits alone made the long drive worth it. Just to be safe keep the speed limit, follow the road rules and you will arrive safely. The police on Mombasa road will be sure to remind you of the rules… they reminded us a few times haha.
Places to stay at in Watamu.
So we have made it to Watamu. Now we have to find a place to stay. A quick search online will show you just how spoilt for choice we are on places to stay at Watamu.
On our first night we stayed at Arica Palm Villa. As we had not anticipated getting to Watamu in one day, Africa Palm Villa was a lucky find on Airbnb. I am glad we got to stay here. It was a beautiful, simple and cheap stay. For only $24 we had a room for two, a pool, beautiful architecture for our pictures and finally a hearty breakfast to start our Watamu adventure. The only thing this place was missing was a cool room. Watamu is warm and humid and without a good breeze through the room or AC, it was quite the challenge to fall asleep.
The rest of the nights we stayed at Zawadi Residence. Zawadi means present in Swahili and this was definitely a present to ourselves. For an affordable price of $46 a night, Zawadi Residence offered a comfortable and safe home away from home. With the cool breezy room and cooling pool, it was exactly what we needed to relax from our adventures around Watamu. In Es’ words, Zawadi Residence was a slice of heaven.
While we were lucky to find these two places for our stay, in case you need to find another place here are a few things to consider in your search.
Find a place:
- That is cool. A cool spacious room will allow you to have the rest you need after the long days full of adventure. AC is not absolutely necessary if you have an airy room. The rooms at Zawadi had nice cooling breeze going through it.
- With a kitchen. The cost of eating out every meal can really limit the ability to experience more adventures. Zawadi Residence offered breakfast included in the price and that saved us a lot of money.
- close to the beach. Being close to the beach allows you to have more relaxing beach time while also providing a cool breeze from the ocean.
For our next stay, we hope to experience Kobe Resort.
Where to eat
Of course, I had to put our favourite first. We spent a considerable amount of time at Papa Remo. This was the first place we visited when we got to Watamu. After a fun but long drive all the way from Nairobi, Papa Remo was exactly what we needed. We got there in the evening just as the sun was setting. Walking down into the ocean hand in hand on a white-sand beach with a beautiful sunset in the background, I think that was when we fell in love with Watamu. That first swim at Papa Remo’s was truly magical. That was the first of many trips to Papa Remo’s.
We loved the beach, the food and last but not least the Saturday party. At Papa Remo’s, they host a beach party every Saturday. The great music and drinks had us dancing late on our last night in Watamu.
Kobe(The best Kenyan getaway resort)
Kobe Resort is the only other place that could rival Papa Remo’s sunset views. We had our engagement dinner here and between the exquisite resort and the delicious food, it was perfect! This is the one resort that we would like to stay at in the future.
The exquisite accommodation and views at Kobe would have made Watamu even more of a perfect Kenyan getaway.
Crab Shack Dabaso
This restaurant is run by the Mida Creek conservation group. We arrived at sunset and strolled over stroll over a 200-metre boardwalk high up among the mangrove trees to reach this rustic wooden stilt hut, which boasts panoramic views over Mida Creek. It was Es’s first time trying seafood and I had only ever had crabs before. The seafood platter was the perfect meal to try it all. While the food was delicious, three hours later we found out that Es was allergic to seafood.
We were hesitant on visiting this place but in the end, I was glad we did. This is the place to go to experience authentic Italian food. Apart from the great food, we also enjoyed the great view as we ate on the top floor of the restaurant. Our wait for the food turned into a fun photoshoot.
To get the most of the Watamu experience, we had to save on the amount we spent on food. Blue Marmalade was the supermarket that helped us cut costs significantly. It had everything we needed and more. It even had some things that we were not able to find in Carrefour in Nairobi.
This was the perfect simple restaurant with a diverse menu. While most restaurants in Watamu focus on pizza, Makuti also had Kenyan dishes that were affordable and delicious. This was our go-to choice when we were not in the mood of cooking our own food. It was close to where we were staying and the staff there were extra nice.
What to do in Watamu
Like most tourists, we were stumped on what to do in Watamu. After a lot of research and a bit of luck we found some activities that we loved. Here are five activities that are sure to make your trip a blast!
It is truly amazing how exhilarating being pulled behind a boat. Even when you are just lying on a tube and holding on with all your strength. I am proud to say that neither of us let go. Through Tribe Watersports we were able to discover this fun activity. It cost us $70 for half an hour and that was the perfect amount of time for us. Any longer and we would have been unable to hold on.
A vacation has to have time where you can relax and do nothing. The beach was the perfect place to just that. The white sand beaches in Watamu were a reminder to just relax and let all the stress go. Our favourite beach location was at Papa Remo’s. They offer a subbed for the day at $5 and sometimes a free refreshing tropical drink that is now my favourite juice.
SUP(Stand Up Paddleboarding )
This was the ultimate test of our balance. While we were not able to stand up most of the time, we learnt a lot that we will apply on our next visit. Our first mistake was our overconfidence in our abilities. Since we had done a lot of stand-up paddleboarding in Canada we thought all we needed was to rent the paddleboards.
Next time we will be sure to go for the package with an instructor. This is offered by Tribe Watersports. For one and a half hours of renting the paddleboards, it cost us $25 each. I am looking forward to experiencing their excursions on paddleboards. The paddle-boarding with dolphins especially.
Being almost blind without my glasses, I have never been able to completely appreciate the beauty others see in snorkelling. The highlight for me in this activity was spotting the elusive dolphins. After mistaking a kayaker in the distance for a dolphin a couple of times(my eyes fail me sometimes haha), we were lucky enough to see the dolphins!
If you wear glasses and you want to go snorkelling, I would advise you to use your contact lenses on that day. Lastly, a tip on finding a reliable snorkelling company, source the company from a reliable source like Ocean sports and do not pay until after the activity.
Part of the reason Papa Remo’s was our favourite place was weekly Saturday beach parties. This was our first beach party and our favourite party! The music was perfect and the experience of dancing barefoot in the sand is priceless!
Here we got a chance to travel back in time. Walking among the ruins of a civilisation that so little is known about really gives you another perspective on life. It is very easy to forget stuff from the past. With that perspective in mind, we took quite a lot of amazing photos!
We had an amazing time at Watamu! So much so that we are already planning our next visit. For next time we would like to learn kite surfing and windsurfing. The dream now is to become a Watamu beach resident in the future!
If you are looking for the perfect Kenyan getaway for your vacation, Watamu is definitely the place to go!