The Zanzibar archipelago consists of a number of islands but the main island, and the most popular, is known as Unguja. This island is known for the historical Stone Town, its beautiful beaches, and the vivid underwater world around it. 

As an island in the Zanzibar archipelago, Unguja is governed by separate political, religious, social and historical laws to the rest of Tanzania. For more information on the permits, visas and vaccinations needed to travel to any island in Zanzibar, check out our dedicated page.

Unguja can be divided into five main sections that are all easily accessible between each other; Zanzibar city; the Northernmost tip;  the North east; the East coast; and the South coast.

Zanzibar city

Zanzibar city is Zanzibar’s capital, and the largest city in Unguja. It consists of two main parts; Stone Town and  Ng’ambo (literally translated as ‘the other side’). The city is the main entrance point to the entirety of Zanzibar, the starting point for most tours. The rest of Unguja’s sites and towns are accessible from this city. 

The city is most well-known for its historical centre, although it does have a modern side with shops and international offices. We recommend spending most of your time in Stone Town, the historical centre, but there are some beach resorts in Zanzibar city. More information on Stone Town can be found in our dedicated page. From Stone Town, the following tours operate; Chumbe island, prison island, Jozani forest and to the spice farms. 

The spice tour operators take you on a walk through the spice farm to see cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, lemon grass, vanilla and nutmeg, helping you appreciate the island’s rich history in the spice trade. Most tours include the entrance fee price, tour guides, transport, and sometimes a traditional lunch. Or, you can organise your own tour, which will probably work out cheaper. Most farms are only 15km outside of Stone Town and can be reached  by taxi or rental car, with an entrance fee of $10. Remember to tip your tour guide and the assistants that climb up the palm trees to get coconuts for you to try.

Northernmost tip

The North of Unguja islands can be reached by car; taxis cost $50 and can be found at the hotel or through your hotel (although some hotels charge a commission so it may be cheaper to self-organise). Dala dalas, informal buses packed full, also travel to this region, but this is not the best option for those with plenty of luggage.

Nungwi, located on the northernmost tip, is a 2-3 hour drive from Stone Town. The area is popular for swimming, kite surfing and diving thanks to the tide, which remains high throughout the day to allow for water activities. This is in contrast to the South and East coast, where the tide ebbs and flows, making swimming only possible at certain times. More information on Nungwi’s activities and lively atmosphere can be found here.

Kendwa also offers diving and snorkelling options, and is one of the more active tourist areas of Unguja. If you are keen to enjoy some bright, bubbly atmosphere and an active nightlife, head out to Kendwe on Saturday, where there is a party at the Rock Hotel. Similar to the renowned parties in Thailand, should the full moon fall on a Saturday, the Rock Hotel’s part is even grander. Other options include Bubgwi, a lively village offering good diving and the chance to view turtles. 

North East

Taxis from Stone Town to the North eastern side should cost $50-$60, and this area can be considered the quieter cousin of the northern towns like Nungwi and Kendwa. Locals and expats prefer to spend their time at Matemwe thanks to the comparative tranquillity. This is also a remarkable 20 km stretch of beach, where you can walk between the villages of Kiwenga and Pwanimchangani. Matemwe is also the jumping off point to Mnemba island, one of the best snorkelling and diving destinations in Zanzibar. The island is 30 minutes from Matemwe, and you can ask your hotel to book you a tour.

East Coast

The East coast begins at Uroa village, and includes the popular towns of Bwejuu, Paje and Jambiani. For more information on Jambiani, be sure to check out our dedicated page.

Again, this region can be reached by taxi from Stone Town within an hour. Taxis often cost $50, but as always dala dalas do travel here too.

In comparison to the North, this area is far more relaxed, with vibrant vistas of local life. The area is still popular with kite surfers even though the beaches are tidal and can only be accessed at certain times  of the day.

Paje is a kite surfer’s paradise with wind almost every day of the year, great beach bars and live music much of the week. This is a popular destination for low budget travellers in general, regardless of whether or not they kite surf. For those that don’t, you can enjoy the beaches, or take a bike ride to the East coast’s other towns.

Bwejuu, a peaceful village, lies 5km from Paje and can be reached quickly by taxi, or slowly by bike. 5km from Bwejuu is the Blue lagoon in Dongwe, which offers excellent snorkelling at low tide.


The tourist sites and activities in the South of Unguja can be reached from Stone Town within a 1hr to 1.5hr drive. 

As you leave Zanzibar city, you will drive through an impressive alley of Mango trees. The first stop is Uzi island, which can be reached by car at low tide but careful, it floods at high tide! Here, the locals have maintained their traditional way of life; most residents are fishermen and farmers. The island is home to Menai Bay conservation area, where you can see dolphins, turtles, and mangrove forests, as well as Sea Turtle Lagoon, which offers guided tours. 

Other activities in the South of Unguja include the Zanzibar Butterfly centre, and Zala park. The Butterfly centre is a community and environmental project that aims to alleviate poverty and conserve the local forests. The Zala park houses snakes, lizards, chameleons and more. Both are excellent activities for families travelling with children. 

Surfing on the southeast coast is becoming more popular, with warm crystalline waters at waist height for beginners, and some areas with shoulder and head height for more advanced surfers. There are plenty of surf board rental options for around $50 for a half day, and the guides are happy to show you where to go.

The village of Kizimkazi is a 1.5hr drive from Stone Town best known as the location for dolphin excursions and the chance to swim with the dolphins. A number of tours and boats operate from this area and can be booked with our help. However, increased complaints from tourists regarding the welfare of the animals has led some hotels to stop recommending and booking trips. There have been more and more calls to make the experience more eco-friendly. If you still want to go, we recommend going in the afternoon when it is quieter; just ask a boat driver to take you out and to keep a decent distance from the dolphins. One particular company, Kizimkazi  Ethical Dolphin Tours, asserts that its tours are eco-conscious.

Where to stay

There is a huge diversity in accommodation options on Unguja, from simple boutique hotels, to all-inclusive resorts, honeymoon retreats, and backpackers hostels. For ease, these accommodations correspond to the five regions outlined above.

Zanzibar city

Most budget hotels can be found in Stone Town; our recommendations are Flamingo guest house, which is a ten minute walk from the centre, Chavda hotel, or Ten to Ten hostel. Luxury beach resorts can also be found in Zanzibar city, including the Zanzi Resort and Serena Lodge.

Northernmost tip

The North of Unguja is lined with luxury, exclusive, all-inclusive resorts, as well as some highly recommended boutique hotels, including the Dhow Palace hotel. For budget options, check out Nungwi House and Makofi Guest House. For our full recommendation on places to stay in the north of Unguja, read our article on Nungwi.

North East

Matemwe offers both luxury retreats and boutique villas like the all-inclusive Matemwe retreat. For a cheaper option, check out the Morningstar Bungalows.

East Coast

The Zanzibar Collection is a set of three hotels located near Bwejuu. These hotels offer a scheduled shuttle running you between the sister resorts so that you may use their numerous facilities.

o   The Breezes Beach Club and Spa is particularly popular with couples, and impressively supports a number of environmental and social projects in the community, including  funding schools and maternity units.

o   The Baraza resort and spa uses motifs from Zanzibar’s Arabic, Swahili, and Indian heritage. The Water Club Centre offers a number of amenities, including kitesurfing, sailing, paddle boarding and snorkelling equipment. 

o   Finally, as an adult-only hotel the Zwadi Hotel is perfect for honeymoons, and with only nine villas it can be considered the quieter option.

The Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas and Spa is also located on the East coast. It is considered one of Africa’s most renowned eco-friendly and luxury hotels.

 The Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas and Spa is also located on the East coast. It is considered one of Africa’s most renowned eco-friendly and luxury hotels.


The Residence is set among gardens that Shirazi princes once strolled around, and is designed with Swahili and Omani influences. It offers large villas ideal for families. The hotel is only an hour from Stone Town, making day trips here easy and recommended.

Getting to and from Unguja

There are some direct flights to Unguja’s international airport, called Abeid Amani Karume International Airport. Airport. These are  offered by Condor, Jetfly, Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways, Oman Air, Qatar Airlines, Arkia Israeli Airlines, KLM, FlyDubai, Meridian, Fasyjet, Mango and Turkish Airlines. Or, you can take a 20 minute flight from Dar es Salaam. Many also fly from Kilimanjaro Airport after completing this epic climb.

Alternatively, a ferry operates from the harbour in the centre of Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar City, the capital. It runs four times a day and prices are usually half that of plane tickets (around $35). The ferry takes around 2hrs. For those worried about sea sickness, the seas are often rather rough. For a real adventure, you can also cross in a traditional dhow, which takes half a day and is generally safe.

Again, although Zanzibar is part of the Union, it has its own immigration service and you need  a valid passport to enter. And if you are travelling from countries with Yellow fever epidemics, you will need proof of vaccination.

Please note that plastic bags are banned in Tanzania and Zanzibar, but you can still bring reusable zip-lock bags in your luggage. 

When to go and weather

Like Tanzania, Unguja has two rainy seasons, one short, the other long. The long season, from March to May, often sees monsoons, which means the beaches are crowd-free and hotels offer discount rates, but you might be sunbathing in torrential rain. The short season runs from October to December. This leaves the December to February period (average temperature is 30-35 degrees) and July to August (average temperature: 29-30 degrees), when beaches can be very busy. These seasons link up perfectly with Tanzania if you are looking to combine both sides of the country.

Unguja is hot and humid, but remember to bring modest clothing for trips around town given that most of the population is Muslim.

What and where to eat

100km from Bwejuu lies The Rock, a floating restaurant built on a rock, which features on most tourist websites and is certainly a must-see. Close to this is the Blue Dongwe Jetty and The Island (in Pongwe Lodge), which offer fantastic sea views to accompany your meal.

Given the importance of coffee and tea on the island, you can purchase such souvenirs at Memories in Africa, a shop in Stone Town with excellent local tea and coffee options.

 While Zanzibar is largely Muslim, alcohol can be purchased and drunk in most tourist destinations and some shops. Since Tanzania was once a German colony, beer fanatics are sure to be satisfied with Tanzania’s own local beer. Tap water in Zanzibar is fine for brushing your teeth, but it is best to buy bottled water otherwise.