Before visiting Zanzibar, I read countless rants on TripAdvisor about the aggressive beach sellers. “The touts ruined my vacation,” users griped. “It was hard to relax when everyone was bothering me.”
And it's true – in popular towns like Kendwa or Nungwi, the beach touts are relentless. After a while, you start to feel like a sun-bathing ATM.
But in chilled-out Jambiani Beach, you can escape that.
Jambiani is a sleepy fishing village on the southeast coast of Zanzibar. As you walk the beach, kids say ‘Jambo!', but no one tries to sell you anything. There's not much to do besides swim and sun-bath, so I felt zero guilt drinking a coconut and reading for hours.
All in all, it's the perfect place to spend three or four days.
Here are all of the best things to do while vacationing in Jambiani.
My schedule in Jambiani was wonderfully relaxing; wake up, drink a coconut, read, swim in the ocean, watch the sunset, feast on seafood, repeat.
I couldn't even muster up the effort to take a Zanzibari cooking class. Normally I LOVE cooking classes and take them in every country I can. But in Jambiani I was such a lazy bum that even cooking, one of my favorite activities, sounded like too much work.
Learn how to play bao
The tables at Coral Beach, where you can play bao
While in Jambiani, you can learn how to play bao, a Zanzibari game that is similar to mancala.
I learned to play at Coral Beach, where bao boards are built into the the tables. I simply asked one of the servers how to play, and he gave us a three-hour lesson. Easy enough.
Be warned – bao is not a short game; we played for three hours and didn't even finish. But luckily in Jambiani, you've got all the time in the world to do nothing.
Swim in the crazy blue water
The water in Zanzibar is the lightest, most transparent turquoise blue water I've ever seen. I spent many happy hours swimming and snorkeling in the ocean – it was seriously bliss.
Eat all the seafood
Okay, okay – I know I've mentioned this ad infinitum, but the seafood in Zanzibar is delicious and so freaking cheap. For less than $20, you can buy an epic seafood platter of rock lobster, fish, and oodles of shellfish.
My favorite restaurants in Jambiani were Coral Beach Hotel & Resort and Red Monkey Lodge. Both served up an impressive array of seafood at low prices.
Observe beach life
In Jambiani, life is lived on the beach. On the sand, you will see women in colorful hijab, little kids building drip sandcastles, groups of boys playing soccer. And locals significantly outnumber tourists.
I especially loved how safe I felt walking the beach in Jambiani, even at night. No one bothered us, regardless of the time of day.
Have lunch at The Rock Restaurant
As I waxed poetic last week, The Rock Restaurant is truly a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. The Rock is a restaurant perched on a tiny rock in of the Indian Ocean, where the views are stunning and the food is pricey but delicious.
Important info: The Rock Restaurant is located in Paje, about 30 minutes away from Jambiani. You can easily hire a taxi to take you there for lunch or dinner. The Rock books up quickly so make a reservation in advance. You can make reservations online and the restaurant accepts credit cards.
Where we stayed: Red Monkey Lodge
Red Monkey Lodge is an inexpensive beach lodge in Jambiani Beach with just 12 rooms. It costs $90 for a room with AC and a sea view. It was cute, unpretentious, and directly on the beach – I walked about 20 feet every morning to take a dip in the ocean.
Jambiani Beach is not the most beautiful beach in Zanzibar (that award goes to Nungwi or Kendwa). But I loved it because it offers something different – a chance to see what life on Zanzibar is actually like.
Important info about Jambiani Beach and Zanzibar in general:
Jambiani Beach is around an hour and a half away from Stone Town. The easiest way to get there is to a take a private taxi – it cost around $50 for two people.
Citizens from most western countries can get their visas on arrival for $50 on Zanzibar, payable by cash for credit – it costs $100 for US citzens. Learn more about visa information here.
Travelers to Tanzania must present proof of the yellow fever vaccination at the airport if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever – see countries with risk of yellow fever virus (YFV) transmission here.
The malaria risk on Zanzibar is low, so I didn't take medication. However, some travelers decide to. See the recommended vaccines for Tanzania here.
Make sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Zanzibar. I've used World Nomads for years and highly recommend it.