in Africa, Food, My Travels, Travel

Zanzibar: Spices, Culture and Beautiful Beaches

I finally made it to Zanzibar!  I’ve been wanting to go since forever, and this month the stars finally aligned and I got my chance!  I split my time between Stonetown, which is the main city of Zanzibar, and Nungwi, which is on the northern end of the island and home to some gorgeous beaches!  I loved everything about this trip, and I’m already planning my return.  Check out my recap below!


I spent the first 3 days for my trip in Stonetown.  I’m generally a beach person so I didn’t expect to love it so much, but I definitely will have to spend 4 or more days in Stonetown when I make it back.


Amazing grilled seafood at the Forodhani Gardens

Forodhani Gardens

The Forodhani Gardens is a seaside park in the historical town of Stone Town.  Every night around 6pm, it turns into a popular street market where you can get all the delicious Zanzibari food you can stand.  There is tons of grilled seafood, Zanzibar Pizza, fresh fruit and juices.  It gets a bit crowded after dark, so if you can get a good spot to sit, there is plenty of people watching to do as well.




Tea House Restaurant

Speaking of food, if you’re looking for somewhere to have a fabulous lunch or even a nice sunset dinner, head over to the Emerson on Hurumzi hotel for their amazing Tea House Restaurant.  The hotel itself is in a historic building, and Tea House is located on the roof, which lends to amazing views.  The food was delicious, and the staff was very attentive as well.


Stonetown is full of narrow, windy roads with tons of small shops where you can bargain for a good price.  You can get anything from spices, ceramics, clothes, and art.  Special shout out to Hellen, of Hellen Art Gallery, who has amazing art in her shop!

Slave Market

The Slave Market in Stone Town was host to one of the world’s last open slave markets, presided over by Arab traders until it was shut down in 1873.  A guided tour here is about 3500 Tanzanian Schillings, which is about $1.55.

The tour guides will give you a tour and explanation of the Angelican Church, which was built on top of the original slave auction area, the slave chambers, and the monument that was built by Clara Sörnäs in 1998.

After the tour, the guides leave you to wander alone, until you have any questions.


Where I Stayed

I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Stonetown.  The property was very centrally located.  I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go.  The rooms were very clean and modern, although I would say to try to avoid being on the 4th floor under the restaurant — they get up to open the restaurant pretty early every day, and you can hear pretty much everything through the ceiling.  Otherwise, the staff was very helpful, and the restaurant on the top floor had a great sunset view, good drinks and good food.


Since my primary reason for visiting Zanzibar was clearly the beach, I spent the rest of my time in Zanzibar in Nungwi, which is known for its powdery white sand beaches and turquoise waters.  There is also a pretty lively nightlife scene in the area as well.

Kendwa Rocks

Kendra Rocks is a popular place with both tourists and locals, as they are regularly having parties, to include the very popular Full Moon party (I unfortunately wasn’t in Nungwi for the full moon so I didn’t get a chance to go).

Mabwe Roots

Mabwe Roots is a bungalow in Nungwi, but I went there several times for the food.  The restaurant is super cute, and the food was AMAZING.  I ate there at least 3 times while I was there.

Dhow Cruise/Snorkeling

A trip to Zanzibar is not complete without a Dhow cruise!  There is no shortage of tour companies offering them, so you will have no problems finding one if you decide to do so.  Most of the day time trips include snorkeling and a delicious lunch prepared onboard.  There are also sunset cruises (I didn’t get around to doing one of those, but heard they are amazing).

Where I Stayed

For my time in Nungwi, I stayed at a fairly new hotel called Nungwi Dreams.  The property itself is nice and modern, and the staff were all amazing.  However, they’re trying to market themselves as a 5 star property, and while I’m no hotel expert, I’d say this hotel was a solid 4 at best.

The food is pretty mediocre and kind of overpriced (hence why I ate at Mabwe Roots so often; it was right across the street).  The staff were all very nice, but it was clear that they were still ironing out the kinks with everything.  Housekeeping kept coming to my room before 8am in the morning, so I eventually just started hanging my do not disturb sign as soon as I got into my room every evening.  The hotel is also located in a pretty secluded area, so while it is a good place to relax, you will end up walking or taking a taxi to some other part of the island for any kind of entertainment.

Some of the appliances and electronics were new and hadn’t been set up properly by the time I checked in, and the rooms were just missing the kinds of touches that most 5 star properties have. I’m sure they will get there eventually, but they’re definitely not there yet.