Best Beaches in Zanzibar for Swimming, Snorkeling and Water Sports

Have you ever caught yourself mindlessly scrolling through photos on Instagram (guilty) and stumbled upon some beach photos where the sand was so white and the water was fifty shades of blue? Chances are, some of those photos may have been taken on Zanzibar island in Tanzania, home to some of the best beaches!

I spent a bit of time in Zanzibar where everything is hakuna matata (“no worries” in Swahili), and I can honestly tell you that the photos of Zanzibar you’ve seen on social media are real. I have been to my fair share of beaches and Zanzibar definitely ranks high on my list!

Boats transformed into furniture line the beach at a Nungwi Beach restaurant - Zanzibar

What makes Zanzibar unique is its ability to attract all types of water lovers.

You’ve got the relaxed beach-goers. This tends to be people who enjoy beautiful, soft sand to lay on to soak in the sun, and calm waters to dip in when the sun becomes too strong.

There are the water sports enthusiasts. These beach fans tend to seek out a bit of adventure when interacting with the sea. This can be anything from paddle boarding to kite surfing to kayaking.

Then you’ve got the nature explorers, who enjoy snorkeling and deep sea diving to see what lays underneath the ocean’s surface.

A rocky cliff provides a backdrop against Kizimkazi's sandy beach

If you fit any (or all) of the different types of beach-goers I just mentioned, then Zanzibar has definitely got something for you.

In this article, I highlight the best beaches in Zanzibar for swimming, snorkeling and diving, and water sports.

Best Beaches in Zanzibar for Swimming

You will find that the best beaches in Zanzibar for swimming are located in the Northwest and Southeast parts of the island. This is because of a couple factors.

One point to keep in mind when visiting Zanzibar is the tide. Daily, the sea alternates between high and low tides. In Northwest and Southeast Zanzibar, swimming is possible during both tides. On the contrary, you’ll discover (later in this article) that it’s difficult to swim in low tide on other parts of the island.

Another reason (and a major one, if you ask me!) why these two regions are the best for swimming is because the ocean bottom is pure sand. You can walk and swim in the ocean with your bare feet without worrying about stepping on anything. Yep, swimming shoes are not necessary! Other regions have an ocean bottom which are rocky, covered in seaweed, or are home to reefs and sea urchins.

Best Beaches in North Zanzibar

Nungwi Beach

Nungwi Beach oozes tropical paradise vibes. You step onto the beach and you are literally at a loss for words!

Turquoise waters splash against the white sand on Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Nungwi is home to one of the most pristine beaches in all of Zanzibar. I doubt any other beach on the island has sand as white and soft as it is in northwest Zanzibar. The ocean also displays a drastic shift in colors the further down the horizon you look.

To top it all off, you can swim in Nungwi Beach in both high and low tides. This is because Nungwi has one of the shortest low tides on the island. What does that even mean?!

Once low tide is in effect, you’d only need to walk about 5 minutes to reach the ocean to swim, unlike some other beaches where you will need to walk much further. 

Nungwi is also one of the largest villages in Zanzibar. This means there are some parts of the beach where tourists and locals blend. It’s beautiful to experience this blend because it offers you a glimpse into their island life. Many of the youth spend their time playing volleyball in the sand, and having athletic competitions such as who can do the most push-ups!

At high tide, many of the beaches in Nungwi disappear as water levels rise. Fortunately, there are a few spots where laying on the sand during high tide is possible.

The areas of Nungwi Beach accessible during high tide are located: 

  • in front of the Z Hotel Nungwi,
  • between the Mama Mia and Coco Cabana restaurants, 
  • and the strip of beach leading up to the Nungwi Mnarani Aquarium.

Kendwa Beach

You will find that Kendwa Beach is just next door to Nungwi Beach. If you enjoy long walks on the beach, then a walk from Nungwi to Kendwa via seaside is a match made in heaven. Like Nungwi, Kendwa’s beaches are full of powdery white sand that fit perfectly between your toes! 

The town of Kendwa is smaller than Nungwi, but more hotels and resorts sit on its beaches. This means you won’t find as many locals on the beach, except for those offering you goods and services like tours, coconut water, and artwork and carvings.

Oh, and let me not forget this one detail. Kendwa Beach is home to Zanzibar’s full moon party! That’s right. This festive event is not just limited to Southeast Asia. Check out Kendwa Rocks Beach Hotel for the full moon party.

Two dogs play with their owner on the white sand and blue ocean in Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Best Beaches in South Zanzibar

Jambiani Beach

Jambiani Beach boasts a white sandy coastline stretching for kilometers on end. As this town is smaller and less developed than Nungwi, it may be the right beach for you if you’re looking for some quiet time. 

Jambiani Beach provides some of the best sand and swimming conditions at high tide. However, when it becomes low tide, the walk to the ocean is much longer than the 5 minutes you have in Nungwi. But really, there’s no need to complain about a longer walk when the beach is just that beautiful!

There is one thing to keep in mind if visiting Jambiani Beach. Jambiani is home to Zanzibar’s seaweed center. This is where seaweed is gathered from the sea and essentially farmed.

The people of Zanzibar make make essential oils from the seaweed, and export large quantities to Asia where it is normally eaten. For this reason, you will commonly find seaweed in Jambiani. If walking in seaweed is not your thing, be sure to bring swimming shoes.

Best Beaches in Zanzibar for Snorkeling

As I mentioned above, some beaches in Zanzibar have an ocean bottom full of reefs and sea urchins. In this kind of environment, imagine what else lays below the water surface!

The best beaches in Zanzibar for snorkeling can be found in the Northeast near Mnemba Atoll and on the Southwest coast of Zanzibar.

Purple corals, and black sea urchins line the ocean bottom - Zanzibar

Northeast Zanzibar

Mnemba Atoll

Mnemba Atoll is home to the most famous conservation site on Zanzibar. It is home to kilometers of beautiful and colorful coral reefs, so you can imagine how protected it is!

Mnemba Atoll is located off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, near Muyuni Beach. Since Mnemba Atoll is considered to be the best dive spot on the island, many tour operators run daily snorkeling and diving trips to this area!

During your snorkeling or diving adventure, you will find endless varieties of fish and plants, including multicolored starfish! If you have a waterproof camera, such as a GoPro, be sure to bring it with you so you could capture the beautiful world under the sea.

Here’s an interesting fact about Mnemba Atoll. Within Mnemba Atoll is a small patch of island called Mnemba Island. It’s privately owned by the 5-star hotel, andBeyond Mnemba Island.

Unfortunately, you can only set foot on this beach if you are a hotel guest. You can see the island from your boat when snorkeling through the coral reefs, but don’t expect to make a stop on the island.

Southwest Zanzibar

Kizimkazi

If you’re looking to snorkel at your convenience, then Kizimkazi in southern Zanzibar is the perfect place for you.

The beaches in Kizimkazi experience one of the most drastic tide changes in Zanzibar. At low tide, you have stretches of shallow waters and sand patches before you reach the ocean for swimming and snorkeling. During this walk, you will have clear visibility of reefs, crabs, fishes, and sea urchins.

Low tide in Kizimkazi, Zanzibar reveals green seaweed and sand. A staircase on the left side of the photo allows guests of the resort to access the ocean.

At high tide, there are almost no sandy beaches for you to lay on in Kizimkazi. Instead, you have the pleasure of stepping out of your hotel room directly into the sea to begin your snorkeling or swimming experience.

If, by chance, you are looking for a sandy beach in Kizimkazi, then no look further than Aya Beach Bungalows. This hotel sits on sand so fine, you just might actually believe you’re walking on flour. This sand gives Nungwi Beach a run for the title of “softest sand in Zanzibar”!

Mermaid Crossing sign hangs above a sandy beach with boats anchored in the distance - Kizimkazi, Zanzibar

Planning a trip to Zanzibar? Here are some articles I wrote for you!

Zanzibar packing list for any time of the year

Top things to see and do in Zanzibar

Best Beaches in Zanzibar for Water Sports

Thanks to its placement in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar has access to winds and waves ideal for the lover of water sports. The best beaches for water sports are found on the East and North coasts of Zanzibar.

Keep reading to discover the best beaches for water sports.

East Zanzibar

Paje Beach

I don’t think there is any place more perfect for water sports than Paje Beach. In fact, it’s so perfect that part of the beach is closed off to swimmers. This allows sports enthusiasts to enjoy themselves without worrying about having to swerve to avoid swimmers.

At Paje Beach, you will find many options to rent or take lessons in kite surfing, such as with Zanzibar Kite Paradise. Rentals and lessons are available to both newbies and the advanced. If you’re an inexperienced kite surfer, don’t let the thought of waves scare you! Paje is also home to a flat water lagoon.

A lone kite surfer is riding the waves in the ocean with boats in the distance - Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Northwest Zanzibar

Nungwi Beach

If you read the earlier part of this article, you’ll recall that Nungwi has one of the best beaches for swimming in all of Zanzibar thanks to their soft white sand. Fortunately for those who also enjoy water sports, Nungwi has something to offer you too!

On Nungwi Beach, you have the opportunity to go kite surfing, parasailing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet ski! 

No matter what kind of beach you like or what you enjoy doing at the beach, Zanzibar has something for everyone.

With powdery white sand, warm blue waters, and colorful reefs, I encourage you to consider a trip to the beautiful, tropical paradise that is Zanzibar!

Bisous.

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8 thoughts on “Best Beaches in Zanzibar for Swimming, Snorkeling and Water Sports”

  1. That water looks stunning! I can’t believe I missed Zanzibar when I visited Tanzania! (face palm)
    I’ll be sure to hit these beaches on my next trip!

  2. Wow the beaches here look amazing! I almost visited Zanzibar a few years ago and your post is making me want to try and visit again! Stepping out of my hotel and into the ocean is a dream!

    1. Thank you, Meghan. If it’s somewhere you want to go, manifest it! 🙂 I stayed right on the beach in Nungwi and Kizimkazi, and it was just as you described – a dream!

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