The southern coast of Kenya is notable for its rich history and former Swahili settlements, its isolated islands, and of course, its beautiful beaches. Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city and coastal entrepot, has a lively atmosphere and charming Swahili architecture, though we recommend a stay in one of the quieter beach retreats or private island lodges outside the city.
Mombasa and South Coast in a few words...
Mombasa and South Coast (Kenya)
The south coast of Kenya is a superb and varied attraction. Miles of wonderful beaches, palm fringes, and offshore islands are occasionally land marked with ancient Swahili settlements, which still today remind us vividly of the great Arab and Swahili sailors and their rich cultural heritage.
This part of the East African coast along with the Tanzanian seaboard was the main focus for the Arab traders who sailed from Arabia to East Africa and across to India on the monsoon winds. Of course there are modern towns and hotels too and Malindi and Mombasa boast numerous hotels to suit all pockets.
Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, is situated by the Indian Ocean. The port city is always busy and, like most, split into a business district, main port, old town, and suburban areas.
In and around Mombasa & the South Coast
There are a number of sights to see around Mombasa and some of the architecture is quite beautiful. With a rich past as an important trading port, Mombasa certainly has its charm.
Close to the city you will find safari reserves such as Shimba Hills National Reserve, suitable for short day trips and full-day game drives.
The hotels located along the coast are perfect for relaxing after a safari - you generally want to travel a little way from Mombasa to find the quieter, more exclusive spots, such as Tijara Beach. Diving is generally good along the coast, with some beautiful reefs.
Accommodation in Mombasa and South Coast (Kenya)
This most unique of beach properties boasts a fabulous location on the edge of the Tana Delta, where the Tana River meets the Indian Ocean.
Funzi Keys is one of Kenya's most remote and exclusive beach retreats, offering stylish beach bungalow accommodation and an idyllic setting.
Kinondo Kwetu is a secluded luxury retreat on Kenya's southern coastline, not far from Mombasa, with room for no more than 38 guests.
Lantana Galu Beach Hotel occupies a beautiful stretch of beach just south of Mombasa, on Kenya's mainland coastline. It's a small all-suite beach hotel offering the privacy of a boutique hotel with all the facilities of a resort.
Newly opened in 2015, Saruni Ocean is situated on a deserted beachfront just south of Diani - a quiet section of the Kenyan coast far removed from the busy beaches around Mombasa.
Serena Beach Resort is an impressive 150+ room resort that has been styled to resemble a traditional Swahili village. It is located on Kenya's mainland coast, just outside of Mombasa.
Tijara Beach is a small, owner-run retreat set on a seaside bluff overlooking its own private beach, just north of Mombasa. With just four guest rooms, it's a highly intimate beach retreat.
Voyager Beach Resort is an all-inclusive beach hotel situated just north of Mombasa on Nyali Beach. Well suited to families with young children, it has a novel nautical theme and good facilities, including three pools.
Other regions in Kenya
Amboseli National Park is one of the most popular safari parks in Kenya, due in large part to its stunning views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, as well as its excellent game viewing. Amboseli consists primarily of grassland and bush, with only limited woodland, allowing for easy game viewing. The game is rich and varied, with lion, leopard, and huge elephant herds among the regular sightings.
Chyulu Hills & Tsavo National Parks are located in south eastern Kenya between Kilimanjaro and the coast. They are among Kenya's oldest and largest parks, and home to an incredible array of wildlife. Classic game-safari territory, Tsavo East and West are defined by their open plains and savannah bushland, just what East Africa is famous for.
The Laikipia Plateau sits atop the equator line at the very heart of Kenya. Developed in the 19th-century as ranch land by colonialists, Laikipia is today famous as a vast wilderness the size of Wales. Wildlife in the region is superb, with large populations of rhino, wild dog and elephant. Activities range from Masai-led walking safaris and 4x4 game drives, to horse and even camel riding safaris.
The largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria is shared between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is home to thousands of individual islands and archipelagos, a number of which offer private island resorts where you can spend a few nights relaxing at the end of a busy safari.
The Lamu Archipelago incorporates the beautiful islands of Manda, Lamu, Kiwayu and Pate. A quieter alternative to the busy beach resorts of Zanzibar and Kenya's mainland coast, Lamu is the perfect spot to end a Kenyan safari. It offers beautiful beaches and a vibrant Swahili culture.
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a private reserve in north-eastern Kenya, on the eastern edge of the Laikipia Plateau. One of Kenya's best known private conservancies, it is home to a number of endangered species including rhino. It accommodates only a very small number of visitors at a time.
The Masai Mara is perhaps the most famous safari park in the world, and with good reason. Part of the same eco-system as the Serengeti, the Masai Mara hosts with it that great natural spectacle, the annual wildebeest migration.
Among the smallest and least-visited of Kenya's safari parks, Meru has a great deal to offer. It encompasses a huge variety of terrain, including acacia woodland, low-land swamp and dry savannah plains. The game has in the past been poor, but it is rapidly improving.
Nairobi is a lively capital with good hotels and a number of attractions, including its own National Park, where you can view rhino, lion and giraffe.
The Kenyan Rift Valley is a section of the 6,000km Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Dead Sea in the Middle East all the way to Mozambique. It is one of Africa’s defining geographical features. The Lakes allow for excellent game-viewing, either by vehicle in guided game drives, or by boat.
The Samburu National Reserve is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, central Kenya. One of Kenya's least known and least visited game reserves, Samburu is home to a number of species rarely seen elsewhere, including Grevy's zebra, the reticulated giraffe and the Beisa oryx.