Discover wow-factor beaches in the African tropics, dive and snorkel the deep blue and explore vibrant Arab towns on Mombasa holidays
Wooden cabanas with plumped up cushions dot white sands, the weather beaten cloths of a traditional Arabic dhow set sail across the waters and that salty Indian Ocean breeze is sheer delight under a burning sun. Holidays to Mombasa are tropical beaches and coconut water, fresh catch of the day delivered straight onto your plate and hammocks strung from palm trees. Expect laid-back beachfront hotels where it’s all about swimwear, flip-flops and ripples left behind from those eager to try kite surfing and stand up paddle boarding. In Swahili, Mombasa is known as Pwani, which means ‘people of the coast’ and with warm waters, easy-going vibes and sparkling beaches it’s easy to see why this is a favourite barefoot destination.
There are tuk tuks on every corner of Mombasa Old Town waiting to take you to cardamom and saffron scented spice markets and stalls selling African kikoys and khangas. While the town’s the façade may be worn and crumbling, its fretted balconies, ornate doors and African, Arabian and Indian imprints only add to the character. Among north coast primeval forest filled with butterflies and monkeys lay the mysterious Gede Ruins, an intriguing abandoned Swahili town of palaces, mosques and houses. Back on the beach, where it all begins and ends, are glass-bottomed boat tours, sunset catamaran cruises and dining under the stars in open-roofed atmospheric caves. The crown jewel on Mombasa holidays remains that incredible Kenyan coastline, and in exotic hideaway hotels on stretches of white sand life slows down to a wonderfully unhurried pace.
If you fancy lying back in luxury, call one of our Kenya Travel Experts and we can craft your dream Mombasa holiday
Best time to visit Mombasa
From January to March and July to September.
Mombasa holiday highlights
The beaches here are the stars of the show. Palm tree-lined Diani is the most popular with its white sands, colourful reefs, sandbars and watersports. On the north coast, Nyali beach is another standout option, quieter than Diani and great for surfing. The warm, clear waters are excellent for snorkelling and diving and during February and March you might be lucky enough to spot migratory whale sharks. If you’re looking for deserted hideaways try Takaungu and Mtwapa.
Tear yourself away from the beach and visit the 16th-Century Fort Jesus and Old Town where you’ll find Swahili houses, mosques and colourful markets. Travel further to the north coast and see the Gede Ruins, take a traditional dhow boat over to Wasini Island and a sunset cruise along the coast.
For wildlife viewing on safari, the closest national park to Mombasa is Tsavo East at approximately three hours’ drive away, although all national parks and reserves can be easily reached via a short flight or two and road transfer.
Where is Mombasa
On Kenya’s tropical east coast, bordering the Indian Ocean, Mombasa is a bustling city with a rich culture dating back to the 12th Century. The city itself is located on an island connected to the mainland by a bridge, causeway and ferry.
Getting around Mombasa
Car hire, matatus (mini buses) and tuks tuks are the most convenient and common ways to get around Mombasa. Taxis aren’t easy to come by and are relatively expensive.
Food and drink
Swahili cuisine features lots of fresh fish, fragrant rice and seafood curries as well as Arabic and Indian influences. Specialities include barbecued meat, a spicy tomato relish known as kachumbari, mandazi savoury dough balls and cooked banana. Dishes are flavoured with coconut, tamarind and lots of spices but there are also plenty of international options too. Nyma choma (roast meat, usually goat or beef) is a favourite in Kenya, with ugali (porridge) on the side and if you fancy trying a new drink, the coast is renowned for its palm wine.