If you’re searching for things to do in Zanzibar, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I provide you with a list of my 20 recommendations of things to do and places to see on Zanzibar island. I’ve included activities and sights in various regions of Zanzibar including Stone Town, Nungwi, Jambiani, Paje, and Kizimkazi. Whether you’re a backpacker, a budget traveler, or if you enjoy a luxury vacation, Zanzibar has got activities to meet your needs.
1. Admire the coral reefs in Mnemba Atoll
Mnemba Atoll is a protected area in Zanzibar. Home to coral reefs, a variety of plants and fish, including starfish, Mnemba Atoll easily becomes the best place in Zanzibar to dive in. While you’re there, you could experience high and low tide. At low tide, some of the reefs become exposed above water. It’s really a sight to see!
If diving is not your thing, you can also go snorkeling in the Mnemba Atoll. I went snorkeling with One Ocean Dive Centre, and I definitely recommend them.
2. Feed turtles at the Nungwi Mnarani Turtle Conservation Pond
Northern Zanzibar has been a natural breeding habitat for turtles for years. Laying eggs on Zanzibar’s beaches, unfortunately, exposes turtles and their eggs to predators, some of whom are humans. The turtles in Zanzibar have been known to be hunted for their shell and meat.
In order to protect and revive the native turtle population, the Nungwi Mnarani Turtle Conservation Project, or Nungwi Aquarium was created. One aim of this project is to collect turtle eggs from the beaches, bring them to the conservation center for hatching and care, and then release them into the sea. The release happens annually in February.
You may have seen social media photos where tourists get into a swimming hole to swim with the turtles. This practice is not recognized at the Nungwi Mnarani Conservation Center as they don’t believe it is an ethical practice.
If you’re looking for an ethical and affordable activity in Zanzibar, visit the Nungwi Aquarium. Click here to read more about the conservation project.
3. Party during the full moon at Kendwa Rocks
Thailand isn’t the only place you can experience a full moon party. If you find yourself in Zanzibar when there’s a full moon, head over to Kendwa Rocks Beach Hotel to have a bit of fun. Each month, locals and tourists make their way to Kendwa Rocks to celebrate the full moon with music, drinks and all night partying!
You can keep up with the events on their Facebook page.
4. Enjoy a beach day at Nungwi or Kendwa Beach
If you’re looking for an affordable activity in Zanzibar, then I recommend that you treat yourself to a beach day (or 2!) at Nungwi and Kendwa beaches. Nungwi and Kendwa are located in northwest Zanzibar, and are at a walking distance from one another.
The beaches in Nungwi and Kendwa are some of the most pristine in all of Zanzibar. Like Nungwi, Kendwa’s beaches are full of powdery white sand and the most exquisite blue sea. Can you think of a better atmosphere to relax?
Nungwi is one of the largest villages in Zanzibar. This means there are some parts of the beach where tourists and locals blend. If you’re looking for less crowds, consider spending your beach day at Kendwa Beach.
Click here to find out more about Nungwi Beach and Kendwa Beach.
5. Go on a canoe ride through the mangrove forests of Pete Inlet Bay
If you’re looking for an off the beaten track activity in Zanzibar, go on a canoe ride through the mangrove forests of Pete Inlet Bay. During my experience canoeing in Pete Inlet Bay, I was with a local guide, and we were just 1 of 2 canoes out on the whole bay!
You’ll learn about the different mangrove tree types that exist in the inlet, how new trees are planted, and understand what is threatening the mangrove population.
6. Spot red colobus monkeys in Jozani National Park
The red colobus monkey is native to Zanzibar, and so they can only be found on the island. Throughout history, the red colobus monkeys have had to search for food amongst the trees. As the Zanzibar human population grew and expanded, the red colobus monkeys’ food source were threatened. To enforce and protect a peaceful relationship between the monkeys and people, the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park was created.
I explored the mangroves and Jozani Forest with Amo Zanzibar Tours!
7. Visit Tumbatu Island on a day trip
Tumbatu Island is part of Zanzibar. At only just 8km long and 2km wide, Tumbatu makes a great destination for those who want to explore the underwater world. Like Mnemba Atoll, Tumbatu is surrounded by reefs making it an ideal destination for snorkeling and diving. Fortunately, many tourists don’t visit the island, so if you’re looking to escape the crowds on Zanzibar, consider a day trip to Tumbatu Island.
8. Stroll through Stone Town
The historic city of Stone Town is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The old town is small enough to explore in a day, so take pleasure in walking through the narrow streets made of cobbled stones with no destination in mind. You can take a stroll to Freddie Mercury’s House in Zanzibar, marvel at the town’s massive and infamous doors, and take a lunch break at Ma Shaa Allah Cafe.
9. Have dinner on the rooftop of Emerson on Hurumzi
Emerson on Hurumzi just might be the most sought after hotel in Stone Town, Zanzibar! The interior is decorated in traditional Arabian style, making your night’s stay feel like a step back in time. While the interior is awe inspiring, it is really the rooftop of Emerson on Hurumzi that steals the show.
The rooftop is decorated with colorful carpets and pillows complete with a 360-degree panoramic view of Stone Town and the sea. Dinner is served at 19:00 on the rooftop complete with a fixed menu and a spectacle. If you’re not interested in dinner, feel free to visit during the day to enjoy lunch or tea.
10. Visit Zanzibar’s Slave Market
Zanzibar is home to one of the last slave markets on the continent. On the outskirts of Stone Town, you can visit the city’s former slave market where you can read all about its history at the East African Slave Trade exhibit, visit the slave monument, and walk into the Christ Church Cathedral.
The exhibit gives you insights into Zanzibar’s dark history as being the key point in the region where slaves were bought and traded – up until 1873, which is when Zanzibar’s slave market is said to be abolished. A few years later, the Christ Church Cathedral was built in its place.
11. Shop at Darajani Market
Darajani Market is one of the large outdoor markets of Stone Town. You can be sure to find fruits, vegetables, and spices such as coffee beans, cinnamon, and pepper – just to name a few. Local farmers also sell beauty products, like soap and perfume, made from local vegetation such as seaweed and aloe vera.
Be sure to stop by Darajani Market to buy spices to take back home with you.
12. Learn to cook local, traditional dishes
Zanzibar is known as the spice island, so what better way to immerse yourself in the culture by learning how to cook with the local ingredients! Cooking classes in Zanzibar are an off the beaten track activity, and so are a bit uncommon. Fortunately, there are a few options for you, like with Jafferfi House and Spa where you will learn about the ingredients, local techniques in cooking, and then enjoy your self-made dishes.
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13. Spend a day on a Safari Blue
Safaris are not just limited to mainland Tanzania. Zanzibar offers you the opportunity to go on a water safari, specifically the Safari Blue! On your Safari Blue experience, you will explore Menai Bay, Zanzibar’s largest marine protected area, go snorkeling, and dolphin watching.
14. Enjoy drinks and a meal at the Rock Restaurant
The Rock Restaurant is the most unique, and probably the most popular restaurant in Zanzibar. That’s because the restaurant actually sits on a massive rock in the sea. At low tide, you can access the restaurant by just walking up to it. At high tide, you will have to access the restaurant by boat.
You can’t just show up at the restaurant though. You will need to reserve your spot in advance, and you can do so by clicking here. Meals are split into pre-set times: lunch at 12:00 or 14:00, and dinner at 16:00 or 18:00.
15. Visit a seaweed farm in Jambiani
Seaweed is one of Zanzibar’s largest exports. It is mainly used in cuisine and beauty products. Traditionally, the seaweed farms are run by the local women, where they cultivate and harvest the seaweed.
16. Kite surf at Paje Beach
There may be no place in Zanzibar more perfect for kite surfing than Paje Beach. Paje sits in eastern Zanzibar so its access to the ocean provides the ideal environment for water sports. Water sports operators offer equipment rental for the experienced people and kite surfing lessons for beginners.
Find out more here.
17. Taste and smell the many spices of Zanzibar during a Spice Farm tour
Hands down, this was one of my favorite things to do in Zanzibar. I normally travel independently, but I knew that if I wanted to really understand what’s important to the locals, I needed to visit a spice farm with a knowledgeable guide.
Zanzibar island is full of spice farms. As a way to boost agriculture, the local economy, and tourism, the government worked with the local villages to provide land and farming training so they would be able to grow fruits and spices. On the tour, you’ll be able to smell and taste the many sweets and spices grown locally, such as cardamom, nutmeg, coffee beans, cinnamon and much more!
If you’re interested in going on a spice tour, I fully recommend going with Amo Zanzibar Tours! I did the spice farm tour with them, and was treated to a lovely Swahili lunch afterwards.
18. Taste Zanzibar on a food tour in Stone Town
Explore the many tastes of Zanzibar by going on a food tour. You’ll get to try local snacks, dishes, fresh fruit, spiced tea and coffee. The local dishes of Zanzibar are filled with so much flavor, many thanks to the spices grown on the island. You’re even likely to try a dish or two made with coconut milk thanks to the abundance of coconut trees on the island.
19. Drink fresh coconut water
It’s believed to be difficult to go thirsty or hungry on Zanzibar so long as coconut trees exist. That’s a testament a local shared with me, and it really highlights that there are a ton of coconut trees on the island. It’s no surprise, then, that many Zanzibarians learn how to climb coconut trees at a young age. They’re also able to know which coconuts have more water versus which have more meat prior to picking a coconut off of the tree.
20. Go on a dhow sunset cruise
Zanzibar has some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen! Take a dhow sunset cruise to relax out at sea with unobstructed views of the soleil. You’ll be out at sea for about two hours, so be prepared to watch the sunset with a pair of your favorite sunglasses.