by Matthew Sterne on July 28, 2015
6 min read

Once the haunt of sultans, musicians, and artists Zanzibar now enthrals visitors with its vibrant capital, Stone Town, and woos them with its phenomenal beaches and resorts.

With sand like castor sugar and white-sailed dhows cruising in the turquoise sea while palms sway in the gentle breeze, Zanzibar offers visitors a fantastic way to wind down an African getaway. Each of these six resorts offers bespoke hospitality, glorious settings and world-class luxury. They are our favourites and, if you are lucky enough to stay at one of these places some day, we have no doubt that you’d agree.

1. The Residence

The Residence - Zanzibar

Image credit: The Residence

The Residence, Zanzibar lies on a mile-long white sand beach in the remote south west coast of Zanzibar, on 32 hectares of pristine land that was once home to the Shirazi Princes. There are 66 villas, all luxuriously appointed with contemporary, stylish furniture that reflect the island’s African and Omani heritage.

The villas each have their own private deck and swimming pool with day beds to relax on. Bicycles are provided with each villa to explore the gardens and local area. The village of Kizimkazi, famous for its dolphin safaris, is 20 minutes away. Visit the spa, the hotel’s star attraction, for pampering, with six pavilions and a rest area with a whirlpool.

You can choose to dine in the two restaurants or in the intimacy of your villa, savouring international dishes with a hint of Zanzibar “spice” as well as the best of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

2. Baraza Resort & Spa

Baraza Resort & Spa - Zanzibar

Image credit: Baraza Resort & Spa

Baraza Resort & Spa is located on a 240m stretch of Bwejuu Beach, which was named as one of the top 30 in the world by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. White sand and sparkling Indian Ocean stretch into the distance and there is a pristine coral reef for snorkeling and diving.

Accommodation consists of 14 one-bedroom villas and 15 two-bedroom villas as well as an ultra-luxurious two-bedroom presidential villa. The villas showcase a fusion of Arabic, Swahili and Indian design, with Swahili arches, intricate hand-carved cement décor, beautiful antiques, hand-made furniture and intricate brass lanterns. The villas offer refined luxury and privacy and each one comes complete with a private bathroom, terrace and crystal clear plunge pool.

Choose from a wide array of water activities. Hop aboard a boat trip and go snorkeling or diving at the incredible coral reefs, which provide a kaleidoscope of colours. All equipment is provided and the lodge has its own water sports and diving centre.

3. Mnemba Island Lodge

Mnemba Island Lodge - Zanzibar

Image credit: AndBeyond

Mnemba Island Lodge can be found on an exclusive island just 4.5 kilometres off the north-eastern coast of Zanzibar. Surrounded by an atoll of mesmerising coral reefs, it boasts some of Africa’s best dive sites.

Each of Mnemba’s 10 suites have a spacious veranda and are hidden in the shade of a tropical beach forest, fringed by the pristine beaches that ring the island. A palm-covered walkway leads to an en-suite bathroom with shower and basin. Zanzibar is famous for its intricate, detailed wood carvings and the scrolled headboards adorning the beds are created by some of the island’s most skilled artisans.

Baskets of fresh fruit, fish, lobsters, crabs and prawns are sailed into Mnemba daily on traditional ngalawa outriggers, and prepared as exotic delicacies. Lunch is usually served on large wooden carved Zanzibar platters heaped with delicious mezze. Romantic candle-lit dinners are enjoyed on the beach with the waves gently lapping at your feet.

4. Kilindi Zanzibar

Kilindi Zanzibar

Image credit: Elewana Collection

Kilindi Zanzibar comprises a series of white-domed pavilion guest rooms all set in 50 acres of lush tropical gardens. This luxury boutique hotel offers utter paradise on the north coast and was originally designed for Benny Andersson, one of the members of the world famous Abba pop music group. Mamma Mia!

It features Scandinavian minimalism mixed with dramatic architectural overtones of the island’s Middle Eastern heritage. White shutters embrace wide-arched glassless windows that open up to spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. The main pavilion enjoys similar views and consists of a falling water bar overlooking a large 25-metre infinity pool. Each of the 15 eastern-styled domed pavilions has their own private plunge pool and special radiance showers that give the feeling of being at one with nature.

Dining takes place either on the alfresco terrace or on the beach. Guests can enjoy meals in the privacy of their own pavilion, since each is set in a tropical garden and has its own dedicated butler to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and whatever else you require. The butler is also available to help, advise and arrange activities and excursions that Kilindi and the island offer.

5. Matemwe Retreat

Matemwe Lodge - Zanzibar

Image credit: Matemwe Lodge

One of Matemwe’s biggest attractions is its fantastic location. Adjacent to one of the best stretches of beach on the east coast, the retreat looks out over a shallow, coral-fringed lagoon. The lodge has plenty on offer, including superb diving and snorkeling off the renowned Mnembe Atoll.

A dedicated butler will ensure that your every whim is catered for. Select your menu with the chef each morning, sip a fresh cocktail in your plunge pool and enjoy a relaxing massage in the privacy of your villa. Matemwe consists of 12 bungalows built from local materials, surrounded by beautiful gardens. Each spacious suite has a private veranda with a hammock and sofa and expansive views of the Indian Ocean. The large bathrooms have a deep bathtub and walk-in shower and all beds are enclosed by mosquito nets.

Enjoy fresh seafood in the open-air restaurant, which sits just above the sea and has a tranquil lounge area with views of the palm fringed beach and dhows. All produce is bought daily from local markets. Matemwe has a multi-level swimming pool surrounded with lounge chairs overlooking the ocean. Freshly mixed cocktails are served at the poolside bar. Add massages and lazing in your hammock and you’ll never want to leave.

6. White Sand Luxury Villas & Spas

White-Sands---Zanzibar

Nestled in nature among baobabs and exotic gardens, White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa has five one-bedroom villas, five two-bedroom villas and one presidential villa spread over 10 acres of tropical gardens and 200 meters of beachfront on Paje beach.

The unique architecture of each villa has been specially designed to blend in with the natural beauty of the setting and strives to meet the highest standards of luxury. The beach resort offers amenities such as a fine-dining restaurant, a bar and a rooftop lounge, spa and a high-end watersports centre, which specializes in kitesurfing. All the villas have their own private pools, with a large swimming pool and smaller children’s pool available by the restaurant.

A relatively new kid on the block, White Sand Villas has impressed with its luxury and comfort while also paying special attention to the preservation of the island’s rich culture.