May 13

When is the Best Time to Visit Zanzibar?

By Ian Rowett on
May 13, 2022

You’re seeking turquoise waters, white beaches and a vibrant island life? As the forerunner in African travel, we know all about the best time to travel to Zanzibar. An archipelago of tropical islands off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is about 600km south of the equator. With a fascinating multi-cultural history, Stone Town is a delight to explore at any time of year. On the other hand, if it’s a classic, barefoot beach holiday you want, then there are better times than others. Our guide for the best time to visit Zanzibar in 2022 takes you through the seasons to help you decide – for your specific preferences.

Aerial view of Zanzibar

The best time to visit Zanzibar is whenever you want to! 

Best Time to Visit Zanzibar: Different Seasons

Let’s plan your luxury island escape! We break down the different seasons and what you can expect while travelling.

January to March: Sneaky Peak Season

You’ll hear a lot about the short and long rains in East Africa. These monsoon seasons dump barrel-loads of rain in the wet season. However, these showers are usually short-lived and occur twice a year for two to three months at a time.

In January, however, it's the beginning of a short hiatus between rainy seasons, therefore making February the driest month of the year. This is also the hottest time of year in Zanzibar until the long rains arrive to cool things down towards mid-March.

Highlights

  • Watersports and the best diving and snorkelling conditions
  • Exploring Stone Town's markets, street food, museums, galleries and architecture
  • Dhow sailing cruises and Jozani Forest walks

Ideal for

Travellers who want to explore Zanzibar’s coral reefs and underwater wildlife on a diving or snorkelling tour.

A romantic Dhow cruise in Zanzibar

A romantic dhow cruise in Zanzibar, Image Credit: Zanzibar Mnemba Island Lodge

Mid-March to May: Rain Stops Play (for Most)

The long summer rains arrive on Zanzibar's shores around mid-March and continue into April and May. Therefore, heavy downpours might spoil your beach plans during this time. However, there's always plenty to see and do in Stone Town.

And a significant bonus is the almost complete absence of other visitors. Therefore, it's the best time to visit Zanzibar to experience authentic Zanzibari life and explore the wonders of this ancient, thriving archipelago.

Highlights

  • Experiencing Stone Town's historical and cultural highlights
  • Spice island tours and beach days in between downpours
  • Wellness and spa retreats

Ideal for

Visitors interested in the history and inner workings of fascinating places. Also, food-lovers who enjoy exotic, authentic food production and preparation.

Art market in the streets of Stone Town in Zanzibar

The famous and culturally-rich Stone Town is great to explore in Zanzibar's rainier seasons

June to September: The Golden Months

June sees a dramatic drop in rainfall and the start of Zanzibar's glorious winter – two words you don't often see juxtaposed. The days are still hot by anybody's standards. However, the water is warm, nights are cool, humidity is lower, and rain showers are few and brief. 

This dry winter season is widely considered the best time to visit Zanzibar, with a full range of activities on fine display. Conveniently, winter is also the best time for a safari in East Africa, giving you the best of both. Bush and beach holiday, anyone?

Highlights

  • Relaxing beach days in the sun
  • Watersports, ocean cruises and island hopping
  • Spice tours and Jozani Forest walks

Ideal for

Pretty much anyone and everyone! Romantic occasions, family holidays, safari and beach combinations, and cultural excursions. 

The best time to visit Zanzibar is in the dry season

The best time to visit Zanzibar is generally during the dry winter months from June to September

October: The Little Month That Could

October sees the first hints of the short rains returning. As a result, this is generally a quieter time to visit Zanzibar. It is, however, hotter, more humid and with more chance of rain than in the preceding four months. But the weather is still perfect for some days by or in the sea. And on rainy days, there's always Stone Town to explore or long, lazy siestas to enjoy.

Highlights

  • Hot, sunny beach days mixed with cooler rainy days in between
  • Still decent weather but a little bit quieter than the peak season
  • Watersports and outdoor activities on land

Ideal for

All those who prefer fewer crowds and don't mind a little gamble with the weather.

Sunsets are great year-round in Zanzibar

Sunsets are sensational in Zanzibar, regardless of when you visit, Image Credit: Fundu Lagoon Lodge

November and December: Short Rains for Slow Activities

November arrives with a splash of immense downpours that taper off in December, giving this rainy season its diminutive title. Just like the long rainy season, Zanzibar all but closes down to tourists giving you that exciting pioneering feeling. 

Between the usually short, powerful downpours, the weather and water is warm, and you'll pretty much have the island to yourself. 

Highlights

  • Stone Town has many all-weather attractions to enjoy
  • Quieter, slower pace to enjoy the authentic Zanzibari lifestyle 
  • Spice island tours and spa treatments

Ideal for

Visitors who enjoy whole-destination experiences and authentic cultures. It's also the best time to visit Zanzibar for romantic celebrations where beach days are not essential every day, and for those who enjoy fresh produce.

Man walking into ocean alone in Zanzibar

The rainy season is the best time to visit Zanzibar if you like feeling like you have the island to yourself

So, When is the Best Time to Visit Zanzibar in 2022?

You're keen for long, lazy days by the beach? Then the best time to visit Zanzibar is from June to September. Luckily, these are also the best months to combine a classic safari on the main land with a beach escape. This way, you'll have the absolute best of both worlds.

October can be hit-and-miss, as can January and February. And those shoulder months favour the more opportunistic holiday style. The rainy seasons are by no means a washout. In fact, it's almost preferable if you like the prospect of exploring Stone Town to idling on a tropical beach all day, every day. 

Inspired and Ready to Go?

Our Travel Experts know Zanzibar and East Africa inside out and are ready to help you book your dream holiday. Contact them today, and let's start planning your trip to Zanzibar!

Zanzibar White Sands Villas & Spa

Zanzibar White Sands Villa & Spa, Image Credit: Relais & Chateaux

Frequently Asked Questions About Zanzibar

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get from guests who want to visit Zanzibar.

Why is Zanzibar Good for a Holiday?

What makes Zanzibar such an amazing holiday destination? In a word: beaches. In a few more words: picture-perfect tropical beaches, luxury beach lodges, wellness retreats, ocean activities, nature activities, cultural activities and the ancient, still-bustling, multi-cultural city of Stone Town.

Pair this with a classic safari in East Africa, and Zanzibar starts to make a lot of sense for your beach holiday.

How Much Does a Holiday in Zanzibar Cost?

Ranging from exclusive villas on private islands to family-friendly beachside resorts, Zanzibar caters to all travel styles. When visiting Zanzibar, your per-day costs start at $100 per person. And this goes up to $1,500 for the ultimate all-inclusive luxury beach escape.

What is Zanzibar Famous for?

  • Tropical island beaches with powder-white sand, turquoise waters, palm trees, cocktails…the lot
  • Luxury, all-inclusive barefoot beach lodges on private islands
  • First-class wellness retreats with a blend of traditional and modern treatments
  • Watersports adventure including deep-sea diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing, kiting, fishing and dhow sailing
  • Stone Town is famous for its labyrinth of alleys and streets lined with Indo-Arabian-Swahili architecture, fresh produce markets and street food, ancient heritage and fascinating trading history, museums, galleries and craft markets
  • Traditional fishing villages beyond the main tourist route where life continues unhurried as it has done for centuries
  • Jozani Forest walks to find the rare red colobus monkey as well as endemic bird and butterfly species
  • Island hopping to any one of 50 islands, including the unspoilt Pemba Island

Is it Safe to Travel to Zanzibar?

Absolutely! Crime in Zanzibar, especially in the main tourist areas, is almost non-existent. This is down to the friendly, peace-loving, law-abiding inhabitants. Furthermore, there's a strong desire by the island's semi-autonomous government to keep Zanzibar's backbone tourist industry prospering. 

Drinking the tap water is not advised and, since Zanzibar is south of the equator, malaria is present all year round so you will need to take preventative measures. Zanzibar has multiple primary care providers and two private hospitals for any medical emergencies.

Driving yourself around the island can be a bit overwhelming. Therefore, we always suggest guests use official guides and vehicles to ensure a safe journey.

What Part of Zanzibar is Best to Stay at?

Running 80km from top to bottom, Zanzibar's main island – Unguja, but most just calls it Zanzibar for simplicity – offers diverse regions to suit your style.

  • Michamvi Peninsula

Jutting into the east coast, the peninsula features perfect beaches, excellent snorkelling and diving and luxury beach resorts, easy access to Jozani Forest and Stone Town for rainy days.

  • East Coast

Cooled by the monsoon winds, the east coast of Zanzibar is an endless expanse of sandy beaches fringed with tropical vegetation and warm, turquoise water. You can look forward to excellent reef-based snorkelling, diving and watersports along the coast, exclusive luxury beach hotels, wellness retreats and oodles of tranquility.

  • North-East Coast

Somewhat more populated than the central east coast, here you'll find traditional villages, exceptional diving, dhow sailing and watersports. You're never far from a postcard-ready beach with your luxury hotel and spa retreat right on the sand.

  • Western Zanzibar

The business-end of this island lives along the west coast, with Stone Town the obvious focal point. Steeped in history, this ancient trading town is a bustling, multi-cultural African city brimming with sensory overload.

  • South-West Coast

A protected inlet dotted with smaller islands and inlets makes the south-western region perfect for that peaceful, romantic beach escape. It's also great for snorkelling, dolphin cruises and island hopping in a traditional dhow will provide plenty of excitement, whereas spa retreats, stunning scenery and sublime dinner settings provide the R&R and romance.

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About the author 

Ian Rowett

Born in Zimbabwe and, having bluffed his way through a Journalism Degree at Rhodes, Ian turned his reluctantly nomadic life into a successful career as a travel writer. With stints in Harare, Joburg, Cape Town, Swakopmund, Port Shepstone and Greyton, he has travelled the length and breadth of southern Africa. Now living in Knysna, Ian combines his innate tendency to write for a living with a deep-rooted love of Africa’s wilderness and a keen interest in the hospitality trade.

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