Kenya is known for its beach and bush destinations, and as such, five of its shorelines have found themselves ranked among the top 50 beaches in Africa by travel publication Fligtnetwork.com.
This is a timely ranking as offices and schools close for the holidays and one must decide where in the relatively vast Kenyan coast they can relax, unwind and enjoy the experience.
The pristine beaches of Kenya are best known for the white sand that leads into the Indian Ocean in the various shades of blue and green.
The quiet beach in Kenya’s South Coast is probably the most awarded locally. It was selected as the second best beach on the continent through insight from over 1,200 journalists, editors, bloggers, and agencies, who live and breathe travel. It was ranked 11th internationally.
“A 10km stretch of talcum powder sand, Diani Beach in Kwale County is becoming known as the softest beach on the planet,” said Flight Network.
Palm-fringed Diani is one of Kenya's most popular beaches. Coral reefs keep the sands clear of sea weed and protect the beach from heavy surf, creating perfect conditions to swim, float or snorkel.
CNN also recently described the beach as more like a tropical island escape than a slice of the African mainland. Despite the powder-soft sand and seawater that runs a dozen shades of blue, Diani Beach on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast always has you looking skyward.
It is also home to the whale shark.
Whether you are a serious angler or just interested in trying your hand at deep sea fishin, join the Indian Ocean excursion.
You can also sail through the tranquil waters and participate in kite surfing, beach volleyball at the Nomads beach bar and restaurant and jump from the sky at the Skydive Diani.
Other activities include: snorkelling, bodyboarding, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.
Guided walks are available using a knowledgeable local guide who will take you through a traditional Msambweni village or to see the beauty of the coral reef. Quad bikes and bicycles can be hired locally and are a fantastic way of exploring the surrounding area.
Where to stay
In Diani, there are world class facilities that have been visited by deep pocketed individuals, business moguls, international celebrities and politicians looking for an exclusive getaway.
These include Almanara Luxury Resort, Alfajiri Villas, Lantana Galu , The Maji Beach Boutique Hotel, Swahili Beach Resort among others.
Daily flights carry passengers from Wilson Airport in Nairobi into Ukunda Airport, which is roughly a five-minute drive on a murram road to the main Diani beach road. Alternatively, you could fly to Mombasa from Nairobi then get a transfer to Diani via the Likoni Ferry.
Swaying palms, barefoot luxury, sheltered creeks, and the endless mangrove jungle are just a few of the Chale Island delights. Chale beach is located on the island, a preferred secluded location away from the shore crowds of Diani Beach and is also used a fine diving and snorkelling base. The small romantic island is situated 600 metres off the mainland and 10 kilometres south of Diani in Kwale County.
According to FlightNetwork, be sure to bring your sunglasses to Chale Beach as the sand is so white it can stun you with its beauty and purity.
The island is divided into two parts; resort (The Sands at Chale) and sacred forest (Kaya).
Chale Island is home to an ancient mangrove forest that surrounds the resort, with a long white sand bay that is protected by coral reef.
Access to the island is either by boat during high tide or when the tide is low, one can wade through very shallow water or be driven on a tractor-pulled trolley.
From snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking in the nearby mangroves to deep sea fishing, visitors can also lounge around and have a good time on the beach.
Much can be said about Mombasa, it is the most visited and popular beach in Kenya, and during Christmas, the whole country seems to floc to k its sandy shores.
The beach offers an array of pastimes ranging from a ride in a glass-bottom boat that allows you to see the rich marine life to diving, water skiing, windsurfing and snorkelling
There are a variety of accommodations on the North Coast, ranging from beachfront resorts, furnished and serviced apartments to villas.
Hotels, guesthouses, city amenities and shopping malls are also nearby. It is easily accessible and one can also take a walk to get to the equally pristine, calm and quiet Nyali beach.
Where to stay
Mombasa, being a hub for the coast, can be accessed from Nairobi via road, train or flights. Charter flights and direct international flights from Doha and Ethiopia are also an option.
Being the most metropolitan of the coastal towns, there are a large number of hotel chains with properties there. Some of the facilities include Voyager Beach Resort, Sarova
Whitesands, Travellers Beach Resort, the English Point Marina, Pride Inn among others.
Watamu’s sheer beauty is mind blowing. You have to experience it to understand it.
“Two of the best beaches in Kenya, if not the whole of Africa, Watamu and Malindi, are what people hope for when they make a pilgrimage to an iconic tropical location,” says FlightNetwork.
Whether you are searching for sands, turquoise waters or the best surf, Watamu beach has something for everyone. Mida Creek dhows offer the best dining experience as you sit on a boat as the crew ply you with salubrious beverages, unlimited food and desserts from the local gelaterias.
Watamu boasts of both a gorgeous, pristine, primal beach and tropical rainforest. When you arrive, it is simply or not so simply a choice on whether to make your way to the beach or explore the vast forest to watch butterflies and birds.
Watamu Marine Park is also a major attraction here for those who are fascinated by marine life and is also considered one of the best snorkelling and diving areas on the East African coast.
There are several options to indulge in while not beach bumming, which include the Mida Creek adventure, learning how to kite surf, yoga and meditation session on the beach, dhow sundowner among others.
In Watamu, hiking through the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, visiting the Sita Snake Park and touring Bio-Ken Snake Farm are a must do.
Not far from Watamu, near the junction with the main Mombasa-Malindi road, lies the Gede Ruins, a historic and archaeological site.
If you are lucky enough to visit between July and September you will be treated to the spectacle of hump-back whales and babies that swim close to the shore and can even be seen from land.
Where to stay
From Nairobi, one can drive there, take the Standard Gauge Railway train or fly to Mombasa or Malindi and then drive to Watamu.
Watamu offers luxurious accommodation for your stay including private villas with beach access such as Amani Villas, or beach hotels and resorts including Hemingways Watamu that has apartments and a hotel wing. Medina Palms which offers private villas, Garoda Beach Resort, Temple Point resort, Watamu treehouse, Ocean Sports Resort and Turtle Bay Beach Club.