Welcome to Watamu Kenya a perfect short break destination from Dubai
We’ve been holidaying in Watamu Kenya off and on for 20 years now, even staying at the same hotel. Despite travelling to more luxurious places the world over since moving to Dubai, I’d still go back to Watamu on the Kenyan coast and choose to stay at the same hotel! Around 5 hours away and SO MUCH cheaper than the Seychelles or the Maldives.
We stayed there most recently for 5 days over the Christmas break in 2015 and loved it. Find out why I think you would too.
Where exactly is Watamu Kenya
Watamu is located on Kenya’s coast about 100 km north of Mombasa and the nearest airport is Malindi. The signs now say Malindi is an International Airport, but I don’t think international flights have started just yet (January 2016) We flew from Nairobi airport direct to Malindi and it’s about a 50 minute flight.
There are a number of internal airlines that fly to Malindi, we flew on Kenya Airways from the domestic terminal at the International airport Jomo Kenyatta.
Where to stay in Watamu Kenya
We’ve always stayed and still recommend you stay at Hemingways in Watamu and opt for rooms in the North Wing right in front of the sea (and next to the bar!) They have also just launched a scheme of apartments you can buy or rent, but won’t be ready for at least a year. Hemingways isn’t a posh resort but is perfect for a family holiday and the standard of food is good.
The staff are very professional and it’s a real treat to have any fresh fish that you’ve caught made into sashimi for your lunch – at no extra charge.
There is another hotel almost next door called Medina Palms, well worth having a look at and a completely different style to Hemingways. I prefer the wide ocean front set up of Hemingways despite it being an older hotel. You could also investigate renting a house in Watamu in the 7 Islands area (30 mins walk from Hemingways through 2 sandy bays)
We visited friends who were on a long diving holiday staying at a rented house in this area. A very upmarket house (we didn’t visit this time) called Bahari House.
What is Watamu known for
Watamu Kenya is known for it’s wide, powder soft, white sandy beaches which are great to take long walks on. But it’s also well known the world over for it’s incredible Deep Sea Fishing opportunities. It’s easy to hire a boat from Hemingways, I suggest a half day session to begin with, 4 people in our party went and it cost around USD 500. That included everything even our freshly caught fish being made into lunch! The boat leaves around 7 am (from the gantry which is 2 minutes walk from your door) and returns around 12pm. A series of flags indicates which fish have been caught and there is a standard protocol of which have to be tagged and released.
More and more people are also kite surfing in Watamu and it’s easy to book lessons either from the hotel or a school very nearby. Watamu also has a turtle conservation program, a yoga scene and some very good Italian food!
Eating and drinking in Watamu
Watamu village (5 minutes by taxi from Hemingways) is a simple couple of roads filled with interesting cafes, restaurants as well as arts and crafts shops. We loved Hosteria Romana that serves authentic pizzas and Italian dishes, perfectly washed down with a glass of cold Tusker beer. Try the Malindi sailfish carpaccio too. This is a basic cafe run by an Italian couple who moved to Watamu in 2006 from Rome.
The gelato shop next door – Bahati – run by Andrea, is good too but so is the one run by his now ex partner Anna, called Non Solo round the corner! They were delivering proper Italian gelato and desserts all over the Christmas holidays to regulars in Watamu!
We had lunch at Kobe one day about 15 minutes drive from the hotel, I suggest you have drinks and take in the view here. Affogatos were nice but overpriced at USD 5.00! It has a gorgeous setting.
Worth leaving the hotel for
Obviously try the local eateries in Watamu village as mentioned above but do a half day trip to Malindi as well. The hotel can organise for you, take in Malindi town, buy some kikois for souvenirs and eat wherever you like the look of.
Check out Flavio Briattore’s Lion and the Sea – once a favourite haunt of Naomi Campbell. Apparently there is a branch of this establishment opening soon in Dubai under the name of The Billionaires Club!
You could also take a cruise on the Mida Creek on a dhow and enjoy sundowners and deliciously grilled seafood on the boat. You must take a ride on the snorkelling boat even if you don’t snorkel! It’s a 2 hour trip into the Marine Park and crew on the glass bottomed boat have all the equipment you need. The sea is glorious to swim in and the fish are spectacular to watch. The trip is free if you’re staying at the hotel but you do have to pay the USD 10 for Marine park fees
When is the best time to go to Watamu
Between November and April is what we’ve been told. Else you’ll get lots of seaweed washed up on the beach.
Combine with a trip to Nairobi
If you’re in Kenya and you have time, try and combine your trip to Watamu with a look around Nairobi, plenty of information on that trip in these earlier posts on Visiting Nairobi and a Nairobi Safari. The deal for the safari still applies. This December we went for the first time to a restaurant called Taisman in Karen (of Out of Africa fame) and highly recommend it for lunch with a visit to Karen Blixen’s house.
Want to organise a trip to Kenya and take in Watamu Kenya
Then contact Rahul at Merlin Safaris, he can help you organise your whole trip. Mention you came from DoinDubai for a 10% discount. Link to Rahul via his Facebook page or email him on:
Thanks and enjoy the beach! Lots more on Watamu on DoinDubai’s Instagram and DoinDubai’s twitter list Kenya Confidential.
P.S Local sims with companies like AirTel are FANTASTIC value!