Where to Stay in Zanzibar: A Guide to Zanzibar Areas


So, you’ve fallen in love with Zanzibar and want to spend your beach vacation there? However, there is one issue: you can’t figure out which part of Zanzibar to stay. It can be a daunting task to determine which area is best for you when there are so many beaches and different areas to choose from, especially if it’s your first trip. If you’re looking for a place to base yourself during your holiday in Zanzibar, this guide will help you in choosing the region of Zanzibar that best suits your needs. We will break down on the best areas to stay in Zanzibar for all types of visitors- couples, beach enthusiasts, singles, families, and divers to those seeking nightlife. In addition, we’ll also look at different areas of Zanzibar where you can stay, the best beaches in that region, as well as an overview of the key attractions and top things you can do in the area. But first, let’s discuss one more important topic: Tips on how to pick the ideal place to stay during your holiday.

How to Choose Where to Stay in Zanzibar?

When planning a trip to Zanzibar, it is important to find an area to stay that will provide you with the best experience possible. But, you may be wondering how you decide on the best location. There are several factors you need to consider when choosing the best place to stay during your Zanzibar holiday. To help you to determine the area that best suits your needs, you need to ask yourself these seven simple questions:

1. Why are you visiting?

You need to ask yourself what attracts you to go to Zanzibar? What do you prefer? Are you interested in a luxurious beach vacation? Cultural experience? Historic sites? or Romantic getaway?

2. What kind of experience are you looking for?

Are you seeking a quiet experience? A rustic and laid-back atmosphere? Or are you looking for a vibrant nightlife experience?

3. Who is your travel companion?

Are you travelling with your family, friends or solo?

4. What is your budget?

How much money have you set aside for accommodation? Are you looking for high-end, all-inclusive resorts, budget accommodations, or a backpacker experience? Generally, the most expensive area to stay is in the North Coast, then the East Coast, Stone Town, and finally the South Coast. But you can find your ideal type of accommodation in almost every area, whether you’re looking for luxurious resorts, boutique hotels, or backpacker hostels.

5. What interests you in terms of activities and attractions?

What things are you hoping to see and do in Zanzibar? Kite surfing, visit to spice farms, village tours on a quad bike?  Or Beach activities? Depending on your interest, make sure the region you want to stay in has or is close to the activities you want to explore.

6. Which location would you prefer to stay?

Do you prefer to stay close to the beach or town, or are you looking for somewhere more quiet and tranquil?

7. How does falling and rising of tides affect the area you plan to stay in?

Are beaches in that area suitable for swimming, surfing, and other water activities all day? If you’re a water sport enthusiast, it’s important to take the local tidal phenomenon into account because in some places the sea retreats for miles during low tides and you have to walk on the reef to swim. In general, the East Coast of Zanzibar is most affected by the tidal waves while North Coast is the least affected.

Zanzibar Areas

There are five main areas/regions in Zanzibar where you can stay during your visit. They are; East Coast, North Coast, South Coast, Zanzibar private islands and Stone Town. While you can find beaches and plenty of accommodation options in all the areas, each Zanzibar region is unique in its own way. Additionally, the vibe varies from coast to coast. Some areas are quiet, others are busy; some are more developed while others are rustic. Also, the tidal effects vary according to the region.

Which Coast is Best in Zanzibar?

East Coast of Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s East Coast is renowned for its tranquil, peaceful, less crowded picturesque beaches lined with palm trees, turquoise waters, and laid-back vibes. The best of Zanzibar’s high end resorts are found in northeastern coastline. However, you can still find many midrange accommodations. On Zanzibar’s northeast coast, you will find beaches such as Matemwe, Kiwengwa and Pongwe, while in the southeast you’ll get Paje, Jambiani and Bwejuu. Michamvi Beach, Uroa Beach and Pingwe Beach are found in central east coast of Zanzibar. Beaches in this area are popular for kite surfing (Paje and Jambiani). At high tide, beaches here are great for diving, snorkeling and swimming. However, you may need to walk to swim during the low tides. If you’re looking for a place to escape from bustle and hustle, the East Coast is the perfect area to stay for families and couples. It is also ideal for visitors looking for relaxation and an all-inclusive resort experience with top-notch amenities.

Attractions and Activities

  • Quad bike/ bike tours to the local villages such as Jambiani
  • Rock Restaurant
  • Kite Surfing
  • Cave Tours- Kuza Caves, Mangapwani Slave Chamber and Caves, Kiwenga Caves, Swahili Caves and Maalum Caves
  • Day trip to Mneba Atoll
  • Spice Farm Tours- some of the best spice plantations in the area include Mussa Abasi Village Spice Farm in Kisongoni Village, Village Green Spice Farm and Bwamzee Spice Farm in Mitakawan Village.

North Coast of Zanzibar

North Coast is the hub of tourism in Zanzibar. This area has the most stunning and liveliest beaches in Zanzibar, but they also tend to be busy. Compared to the East Coast, the north is least affected by tides, making it a great place to enjoy diving, snorkeling and swimming all day. The beaches in this area include Kendwa and Nugwi. Another thing that makes this area popular with tourists is, it has plenty of attractions besides the beaches including wildlife centers. The area is more appealing for families, singles and couples geared towards more active lifestyle and nightlife, although the further you go from the beaches, the more relaxed the atmosphere becomes. Being the most developed region of the island, there are accommodations to cater for all budgets and there are many luxurious resorts, boutique hotels, guest houses and backpackers’ hostels.

Attractions/ Activities

  • Sunset Dhow cruises
  • Tazari Caves
  • Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond
  • Baraka Natural Aquarium
  • ZanzibarKilosas Conservation
  • NungwiNatural Aquarium
  • Day trip to Mneba Atoll

South Coast of Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s South Coast is more remote and rustic. It is not as developed as the East Coast and North Coast so there are fewer resorts in this area. For the South Coast of Zanzibar, the best place to stay for tourists is in Paje or Jambiani which are located on the south-east portion. South Coast is the ideal choice for visitors seeking seclusion and privacy, those on budget and visitors who desire to get experience authentic Zanzibar experience and appreciate the Swahili culture by interacting with locals. South Coast is more popular as a day-trip destination with most visitors coming here to see red colobus monkeys of Jozani Forest.

Attraction Activities

  • Jozani Forest
  • Zanzibar Butterfly Center
  • Jozani Sea Turtle Sanctuary
  • Visit Menai Bay Conservation Area in southwest region
  • Visit the nearby Kizimkazi Beach for dolphin watching

Stone Town

Stone Town is the main town and the largest city in Zanzibar. This bustling city is well- known for its many historic sights, vibrant culture, lively night markets, street food, and a wide selection of eateries and bars. It is a nice place to spend a few days for visitors who want to enjoy city tours, experience the local culture and learn about Zanzibar’s history and night life. Even though it is busier than the other regions, it is a nice option for those on a tight budget. There is a lot to do and see here.

Attractions/ Activities

  • Spice farms
  • Forodhani Garden food market
  • Old Slave Market
  • Old Dispensary
  • Darajani Market
  • Fred Mercury House
  • Old Fort

Private Islands

If you prefer a unique stay in Zanzibar, there are numerous private islands which offer accommodation. Chumbe Island and Mafia Island offer some of the best diving locations in Zanzibar if you’d like to spend your beach vacation exploring the breathtaking coral reefs and marine life. If you are seeking relaxation and a remote paradise to stay, you can never go wrong with Pemba Island and Fanjove, whereas Mneba Island is great for a high-end luxurious experience.


In a nutshell, personal preferences, budget, and the kind of activities you are interested in, largely determine the most ideal area to stay in Zanzibar during your vacation. But regardless of the side you choose to stay on, you will enjoy your holiday in Zanzibar. If you are looking for a beach holiday, the East Coast offers the best luxury resorts and secluded beaches, the North Coast offers a vibrant nightlife and more touristy activities while South Coast offers a rustic and remote experience. If you are looking for a cultural experience, the Stone Town area is the best place to stay. The private islands of Zanzibar are great options for visitors seeking a more luxurious and private experience away from the crowds.
More about Zanzibar