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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Kenya Coast

Castle Free Author

Want to soak up the sun from the white sands of the Kenya coast? Here are tips from travel blogger, Natalie Mulvaney, on how to make the most of a trip to Diani Beach. 

It’s just after 6 AM and I’m floating in bathwater-warm turquoise water, waiting for the sun to hit the horizon and turn the waves around me to liquid gold. I’m in Diani Beach, on the Kenya coast, just south of Mombasa. This 25KM stretch of coastline could very easily be described as 'untouched', but that term would omit the fun nightlife scene, delicious restaurant culture and developed infrastructure, which includes fully-stocked grocery stores, an excellent hospital and a bustling tourism economy.

 

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If coconut-palm-lined white sand beaches, warm ocean water, welcoming locals and just enough activity to keep you from getting bored sounds like your idea of a dream holiday, allow me to share everything you need to know about visiting Diani Beach on the Kenya Coast.

 

How to Get There

The best way to get to Diani Beach from South Africa is to fly direct to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on board Kenya Airways and connect to Diani’s Ukunda airstrip onboard domestic airline Jambojet. You could also fly to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport and take a taxi to Diani Beach, which could take anywhere from two to four hours depending on the roads.

 

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If you’re planning on spending a night or two in Nairobi on the way, you can fly to Ukunda airstrip from Wilson Domestic Airport, located in Nairobi. Flights onboard domestic airlines depart frequently and are relatively affordable (around R1 500 return).

 

Where to Stay

Diani’s accommodation options range from cheap and cheerful beachfront rooms to five-star resorts and luxurious holiday homes that come complete with your own private chef.

 

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The coast stretching from Tiwi Beach all the way down to Chale Island is considered Diani Beach but the main hotspots, where you’ll find the best beachfront restaurants, resorts and activities, are around the Galu area. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, look north towards Tiwi or south towards Kinondo.

 

Diani Beach Road stretches all along the coast and getting around is affordable and convenient, with tuk-tuks driving up and down all day. So, no matter where you’re based, you can easily explore the rest of the coast.

 

What to Do

The sun rises in Diani at 6:30 AM and sets at 6:30 PM every day of the year, giving you 12 hours to fill with activities (this is where drinking in moderation comes in handy!). And you’ll make good use of that time, with options ranging from deep-sea fishing trips and scuba diving to kite surfing and ocean safaris. Whether you’re a professional or it’s your first time at the beach, activity operators in Diani are equipped to teach, train or support you in any activity.

 

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A day trip out to Wasini Island is a must, as you’re almost *guaranteed* to see dolphins along the way. Snorkelling offers opportunities to see some of these tropical waters’ most colourful inhabitants.

 

Lunch at Nomad Beach Bar should also have top priority on your list! It’s set on the most beautiful stretch of the beach and offers some of the best food and drinks in the area. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to kitesurf, or to become scuba certified, you’ll be in the right place, as all these activities are offered.

 

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Travel Tips

1. Mpesa, the local mobile money network, is widely accepted and often preferred throughout Kenya. Visitors can register for Mpesa using their passport when they buy a Safaricom SIM card, and cash money can be loaded onto a Mpesa account at Mpesa agents, who can be found across the country. Paying for accommodation, transport, meals and everything else is super simple using the Safaricom app.

 

2. In the high season, you’ll need to reserve a table at any of the restaurants in Diani. It’s best to book a couple of days ahead.

 

3. For flights from Wilson Domestic Airport, check Skyward Express. This is my preferred domestic airline, operating from Nairobi Wilson and offering the most affordable flights. Be sure to include a contactable telephone number in your booking details, as any flight changes are typically made via phone call.

 

4. Your accommodation is the best place to ask for advice on booking activities and tour operators. They all have preferred suppliers who they know and trust. Remember the phrase 'pole pole', which means 'slowly slowly' and applies to everything from your restaurant order to your dhow safari.

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