Watamu Beach, at a glance
Located on Kenya’s coastline, Watamu is a small town with a population of around 30,000 (2020). Watamu is situated around 105km north of Kenya’s oldest city, Mombasa, and 15km south of Malindi.
Watamu Beach’s crystal-clear waters make it an excellent location for snorkelling and diving, and the surrounding area is home to an abundance of wildlife.
The Watamu Marine National Park is located around 1km off the coast of Watamu Beach, and it contains 600 fish species, 110 species of stony coral, and countless invertebrates, crustaceans and molluscs.
Watamu has a strong population of Italian expats who have left their mark on the local cuisine via authentic Italian pizza and ice cream. Watamu is a cosmopolitan town which blends Kenyan, Arab, and Italian influences.
Where does Watamu Beach fit into your Kenyan adventure?
Watamu Beach is a popular post-safari getaway for travellers who want to unwind. If you have a strict itinerary and want to see everything that Kenya has to offer, then we recommend that you spend a few days in Watamu.
However, travellers who want a beach holiday can enjoy a week of Watamu’s cool ocean breeze and gentle waves.
Similarly, snorkelling and diving enthusiasts can make Watamu the focal point of their Kenyan adventure.
Things to do at Watamu Beach
Snorkelling is a popular activity off the coast of Watamu, but you must have a permit. You can buy a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service Hut which is adjacent to Turtle Bay Beach Resort.
Watamu Marine National Park is a great location for snorkelling and a boat operator will charge you around KSH 2,500 for the 1km journey to the park. You can expect to see lionfish, damselfish, and moray eels.
During high season, dozens of boats moor next to Watamu’s popular hotels. Snorkelling conditions are best at low tide, and you can still see an abundance of fish just off the coast if you decide not to travel to the park.
Watamu’s crystal waters are warm throughout the year and they vary between 25-30°C and your visibility will range from 5-25m.
Watamu offers 20 great diving locations which are all located on the fringing reefs that surround the Kenyan shoreline. Each site is within a half hour boat trip from the town, and they are all part of Watamu Marine National Park.
Diving is a year-round activity, but you can be limited to the nearby lagoon during the rainy season.
The Gedi Ruins are an ancient town which is just 8.4km from Watamu along the Gede Watamu Rd. The ruins include a mosque, a palace, tombs, and dozens of houses, and the site was believed to be an important trade centre several hundred years ago.
Archaeologists estimate that the site was built in the early c.13th. The site has perplexed archaeologists for decades and we do not know why the Gedi Ruins were hastily abandoned or the fate of their former inhabitants.
The Gedi Ruins are a fascinating day trip from Watamu, and they are regarded as one of Kenya’s greatest mysteries.
Located near Dabaso Village, this tidal creek is the perfect destination for thrill-seekers. The 32km² creek is a popular site for paddle boarding and kayaking, and you can even go wakeboarding and water skiing in the central broadwater.
The creek is home to a plethora of wildlife. Its beds of seagrass and coral contain dozens of fish species and sea turtles and the small streams within its mangroves are home to birds and crabs.
The Mida Creek Conservation Community has a shack which serves crab dishes. We recommend that you try their delicious crab samosas.
The Local Ocean Trust is at the heart of conservation work in Watamu, and they have undertaken vital projects to protect sea turtles.
This non-profit organisation is committed to protecting endangered species, and you can take a tour of their Marine Information Centre at Watamu.
You can learn about local marine life and visit patients at the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. A minimum donation of KSH 500 is required at the door.
Getting to Watamu Beach
Watamu Beach is easily accessible from Malindi and Mombasa, and you can fly to both destinations from Nairobi. Watamu is a 30-minute drive from Malindi Airport, and a taxi will cost up to KSH 3,000. Most hotels will offer an airport transfer service.
The road journey from Mombasa is slightly longer and the drive will take around 90 minutes. The taxi journey will cost up to KSH 8,000.
Although it is possible to drive from Nairobi, the long road journey takes around 8 hours, so we recommend that you fly to Malindi or Mombasa to shorten the journey time.
Accommodation at Watamu Beach
Ocean Sports Resort
A popular family-owned resort which offers a broad range of accommodation. You can choose between a veranda room, a family ‘nest’ of 4 interconnected rooms, a two-story cabana room, and a beach house which contains 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
Ocean’s beach front restaurant serves a delicious menu which merges Kenyan flavours with traditional pub favourites.
The beach bar has panoramic views of Watamu Beach and it is the perfect place for a sundowner. Ocean’s bar is known for its nightlife and it has a lively atmosphere in the evening.
Turtle Bay Beach Club
This eco-hotel is a travellers’ favourite and a great choice for environmentally conscious adventurers.
Turtle Bay Beach Club is the first hotel in Kenya to receive a ‘Gold Eco-rating’ from Eco-Tourism Kenya in recognition of its efforts to care for the environment and local community.
The hotel spans across 200m of beach and the accommodation is nestled within 10 acres of tropical gardens. With over 145 rooms, Turtle Bay offers the widest range of rooms of any hotel in the area.
The white brick, spiral-shaped Watamu Treehouse has a unique aesthetic. The cliff-top hotel offers sweeping views across the Indian Ocean and the verdant coastal forest below.
The hotel was built without the destruction of any trees on an existing clearing within the forest.
Watamu Treehouse offers a range of relaxing activities, from massages to yoga on the top floor to cooking demonstrations.
Its restaurant offers a delicious menu of Swahili, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes which are prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
Boutique Hotel Nyumbani Tembo
Located only 400 yards from Watamu Beach, Nyumbani Tembo is one of the best-situated hotels along the beach.
The hotel’s traditionally decorated rooms encircle a central courtyard area which contains a large swimming pool. Other facilities include a currency exchange desk, a bar, a restaurant, and a shared lounge.
Despite having first-class facilities and an excellent location, Nyumbani Tembo offers great value for money.
Watamu Beach is perfectly safe for visitors. Most travel advice for Kenya will suggest that you stay away from the Somalian border and nearby coast, but Watamu is a considerable distance away from this area.
It takes around 4 hours to drive from Diani to Watamu, but you can reduce the journey time to 1.5 hours by taking a 15-minute flight from Ukunda to Vipingo and then finishing your journey with a 1 hour 20 minute taxi journey from Vipingo from Watamu.
Watamu is on the North Coast of Kenya, a stretch of coastline which spans from Nyali to Malindi.
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