Watamu Beach | Your Essential Guide to Paradise

After an intensive week of safari exploring the plains of Masai Mara, the shores of Lake Naivasha, and Amboseli National Park, some rest was much-needed. And nothing beats a week in Watamu, a little piece of paradise on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

Dreaming of a trip to Kenya that combines dreamy beaches and wild animals?

Let us create your tailor-made journey, with an itinerary and accommodations tailored to your desires and budget.

Contact us now at hello@nanoo.travel to receive your personalised quote.

Garoda Beach, Kenya
Garoda Beach, Kenya

Watamu in a few words

Located 105 kilometers north of Mombasa and 15 kilometers south of Malindi, Watamu is a small Swahili fishing village with less than 2000 inhabitants.

Watamu is a popular coastal resort for tourists, yet it manages to maintain a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Traditional houses nestled in the palm grove and a pristine coastline that remains unspoiled. It’s a far cry from the busy resorts of Mombasa or Diani Beach…

Traditional houses in Watamu
Traditional houses in Watamu (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

Due to tidal movements, the ocean recedes more than a kilometer from the coastline during low tide. This reveals numerous rocky and coral formations that separate Watamu’s coast into three picturesque bays: Watamu Bay, Turtle Bay, and Blue Lagoon Bay. All these bays are integral parts of Watamu Marine Park, renowned for its diverse marine species and commitment to environmental conservation. In fact, Watamu is recognized as one of Kenya’s top three turtle nesting sites.

How to get to Watamu?

When from abroad, the nearest entry point is Moi International Airport in Mombasa. From there, it is possible to transfer to Watamu either by bus (approximately a 3-hour journey via Malindi) or by taxi (around a 2-hour drive).

From Nairobi, you can travel to Mombasa by airplane, train, or car.

  • By plane, the flight takes approximately 1 hour and 8 minutes, with prices ranging from 40€ to over 200€ per person. Kenya Airways, Jambojet, and KLM offer over 400 direct flights per week.
  • By car, it takes around 8 hours to cover the 500 kilometers between Nairobi and Mombasa. Unless you plan to include this travel time in an itinerary through Amboseli or Tsavo parks, it is a long journey that is better to be avoided.
  • The new railway line connecting Nairobi to Mombasa (Madaraka Express) provides two interesting options:
    • The express train takes you from Nairobi SGR to Mombasa in just 5 hours and 30 minutes. Departures are available at 3:00pm and 10:00pm. The fare is 6€ per adult, 19€ for first class.
    • The Inter-County train departs from Nairobi SGR at 8:00am and arrives in Mombasa at 2:00pm. The ticket prices are the same as the express train.
Nairobi - Mombasa SGR Train
Train travels from Nairobi to Mombasa.

➜ After our safari in Amboseli National Park, we asked our drivers to drop us off at Emali train station. From there, we caught the 9:31am train from Nairobi. We got off the train at Mariakani at 1:27pm. The fare was €4.30 per adult and €2.20 for children under 11. It was an unbeatable price for a comfortably enjoyable journey.

Mariakani SGR Railway Station
Mariakani SGR Railway Station (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

Having that traffic in Mombasa can be extremely congested, we got off at the stop just before, not realizing that the Mariakani SGR station is really in the middle of nowhere! Here, there are no buses or taxis waiting outside. So when we realized that the mini bus we had booked had clearly forgotten about us, we just had to be patient and wait it out 😓

On the road to Watamu

It is also possible to reach Watamu from Malindi. Kenya Airways, Jambojet, and Skyward Express offer nearly 60 direct flights between Nairobi and Malindi, with costs ranging from €50 to over €200. The journey from Malindi to Watamu by car takes approximately 30 minutes.

When is the best time to visit Watamu?

With an average of 12 hours of sunshine per day and temperatures ranging from 27°C in August – right in the heart of the southern hemisphere’s winter – to 31°C in March, the East coast of Kenya is a pleasant place all year round. It’s not uncommon, however, to experience heavy showers, especially during the rainy season from March to April and October to November.

For enthusiasts of scuba diving and water activities, the water temperatures are also very comfortable throughout the year, ranging from 26°C in August to 30°C in February.

How to get around in Watamu?

For those without their own car, there are various transportation options available for getting around Watamu.

  • Taxis are commonly used for specific journeys or organized tourist visits.
  • Moto-taxis, also known as boda-bodas, are commonly used for quick and affordable rides.
  • Tuk-tuks, the three-wheeled small taxis, are highly popular for local transportation and short trips. They can accommodate 2 or 3 people and have space at the back for a few bags. The average cost per trip and per tuk-tuk ranges from 1 to 3€ for most journeys in Watamu.
Tuk-tuks in Watamu
Tuk-tuks in Watamu (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

➜ If you are happy with your first ride, take note of your driver’s number and contact them directly for future rides. This way, you can get better prices and a higher quality of service. Just make sure to agree on the price before getting into a tuk-tuk to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

Where to stay in Watamu?

Watamu offers various accommodation options based on your budget and preferences.

Kobe Suite Resort, Watamu
Kobe Suite Resort, Watamu (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

➜ For 3 families, it was simpler and more enjoyable to stay together in a house, especially since most vacation rentals offer staff for cooking and cleaning. So, we chose a 6-bedroom house with a pool, located about a hundred meters from the beach and close to some restaurants and a supermarket. An excellent choice for easy access to services and activities…

Where to eat in Watamu?

Watamu has plenty of cafes and restaurants that serve both local and international cuisine.

For lunch with a view, Kobe Beach Restaurant is the perfect place! Beautiful white tables are set up under large shade sails, with the stunning Garoda Beach and translucent waters as the backdrop. On the menu, you’ll find homemade pasta, risottos, burgers, meats, as well as fresh seafood and fish. There’s something for everyone… And at just €12 for the grilled fish of the day, prices are quite reasonable. Reservation is essential!

View from Kobe Beach Restaurant
View from Kobe Beach Restaurant

At Padel House, you can play paddle, preferably in the evening, or have a drink on the beautiful deck chairs right in front of the courts. You can also reserve a table at the clubhouse restaurant, which serves excellent Italian cuisine. Whether it’s pasta or pizza, it’s absolutely delicious!

Watamu's Padel House
It’s time for an apéro at Watamu’s Padel House.

The Coconut Beach Cafe is a typical beach restaurant: unassuming ambiance, stunning ocean view, and a diverse menu at reasonable prices.

We went there at noon without a reservation, and luckily we had the afternoon free because the service was really slow 😅 But when you’re on vacation and enjoying such a view…

Coconut Beach Cafe, Watamu

Also located on Watamu Beach, Willy Beach Restaurant offers a great variety of dishes in a beautifully decorated setting at reasonable prices. The service is friendly and efficient, highly recommended!

Willy Beach Restaurant
Willy Beach Restaurant (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

Located in Mida Creek, The Crab Shack is tucked away in the heart of the mangrove. Hidden from the parking area, you can reach it by traversing a series of wooden walkways. At the end, you’ll be treated to a privileged view of Mida Creek and the stunning sunset.

The Crab Shack
The Crab Shack (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)
The Crab Shack, Watamu

As its name suggests, the place is known for its mangrove crab, seafood, and fresh fish. For those who can’t decide, the “mixed seafood grill” at 30€ is an excellent choice – hearty and delicious.

The Crab Shack, Watamu
Mixed seafood grill au Crab Shack, Watamu

A few notable addresses we spotted but couldn’t try due to lack of time:

  • The panoramic restaurant at Rock and Sea (requires a boat to reach!)
  • Lichthaus, the Instagram hotspot in Watamu 🤩 Go there for the food and cocktails, but most importantly, for a sunset selfie in one of the nets overlooking Mida Creek…
  • Papa Remo Beach offers high-quality local and international cuisine. Additionally, the place is well-known for its Saturday night beach parties. 🪩
  • Pilipan offers a selection of light refreshments and excellent cocktails.

What to see, what to do in Watamu?

Enjoy beautiful beaches

Among the most beautiful beaches in the world, Watamu’s beaches are perfect for swimming and long walks by the water.

➜ The utilization of diving masks might incur an entrance fee at the Watamu Marine National Park 🤿

Garoda Beach, Watamu
Garoda Beach, Watamu

➜ During low tide, the ocean recedes more than a kilometer, making it the perfect time to take a walk all the way to Love Island without the water reaching waist-high.

Watamu Beach
Watamu Beach (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)
Watamu Beach
Watamu Beach (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)
Watamu Beach
Watamu Beach
Watamu Beach

Watamu Marine National Park

Founded 1968, Watamu Marine National Park is one of Kenya’s first protected marine parks. It is home to over 150 coral species, nearly 500 fish species, as well as countless crustaceans, mollusks, and invertebrates. It is renowned as one of the most stunning dive spots along the entire East African coast.

For diving enthusiasts, the park also provides the opportunity to encounter turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and whale sharks.

Helpful information

  • Access to Watamu Marine National Park requires an entrance fee of $17 for adults and $13 for children. The entrance fee is valid for a 24-hour period.
  • There is no entry fee required to swim in Watamu. However, using a diving mask requires paying an access fee.

Stand up paddle with dolphins

Watamu is home to several groups of resident dolphins: Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, and spotted dolphins. On paper, a stand-up paddle encounter with dolphins promised a unique and truly magical experience. However, our captain was nowhere to be found on the morning of the expedition. Without a boat, there were no dolphins to be seen 😭

Helpful information

  • Tribe Watersports offers various water activities, including stand-up paddle dolphin expeditions. Their facilities are located on-site at the hotel Garoda Beach.
  • The best time to go meet the dolphins is early in the morning. Meet at Garoda Resort around 7am 😴
  • The dolphin expedition costs $80 per adult and $50 per child, excluding the marine park entrance fees.
Garoda Resort, Watamu
Garoda Beach
Garoda Beach (Copyright @Virginie Lévèque)

Fishing trip in Watamu

With over 500 kilometers of coastline and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Kenya offers perfect conditions for deep-sea fishing. While places like Malindi, Kilifi, and Shimoni are known for their abundance of fish, Watamu stands out for its strong current that attracts various Marlin species. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can achieve a record “slam” by catching three different Marlin species in just 24 hours.

Fishing in Watamu
Setting at dawn for a deep-sea fishing trip. (Copyright @Stéphane Janssens)

➜ The price of a fishing trip depends on its duration – usually a full day or a half-day – and the size of the boat. We paid $300 for a half-day on a boat that can accommodate 5 people.

Fishing in Watamu

Blue safari

With crystal clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, Watamu is an ideal destination for organizing a blue safari – an opportunity to explore marine ecosystems via boat and/or snorkeling.

➜ Most blue safaris organized by hotels and local companies cost between $30 and $40 per person for a day on a glass-bottom boat. The trip includes dolphin watching, snorkeling, and lunch on a small island.

Blue safari in Watamu
Blue safari in Watamu

We left Garoda Beach early in the morning to go meet the dolphins.

After shortened snorkeling break due to the perilous nature of swimming amidst boats – few captains seem to care about nearby swimmers when carrying out their maneuvers – we headed towards Sudi Island, a small uninhabited island surrounded by mangroves.

Sudi Island, Watamu

Once we landed, we enjoyed a delicious lunch consisting of fresh fish and grilled lobsters.

Dhow Cruise

A dhow is a traditional type of sailboat used for fishing and trading in various regions of the Indian Ocean, particularly along the East African coast. Their designs differ based on the specific regions, but most are characterized by triangular sails and wooden construction.

Dhow Cruise in Mida Creek

A dhow cruise is a must-do activity in Watamu. It usually takes place in the Mida Creek bay, typically in the evenings.

Covering over 30 km², Mida Creek Reserve consists of expansive mangrove forests, shallow waters, and vast mudflats during low tide. It is home to numerous bird species and serves as a vital resource for local subsistence fishing.

Dhow Cruise in Mida Creek
Dhow Cruise in Mida Creek
Dhow Cruise in Mida Creek
Sunset at Mida Creek

➜ Depending on the chosen package, an appetizer or a meal is served on board during the cruise. The cost is $50 per person for a 3-hour cruise, including unlimited meals and drinks.

Among the activities we didn’t have a chance to do:

  • Watamu Turtle Watch is an important turtle conservation center. It includes a refuge for rehabilitating injured and sick turtles before releasing them, as well as an education and anti-poaching center to combat turtle trafficking.
  • Bio-Ken Snake Farm allows visitors to observe a wide variety of African reptiles and amphibians, while also learning about the importance of these animals, the production of anti-venom, and the conservation of endangered species.
  • Located just a few tens of kilometers from Watamu, the ruins of Gede are the remains of a Swahili city dating back to the 12th century. Visitors can explore the remains of palaces, mosques, as well as tombs and artifacts that offer a glimpse into the time when the area was a bustling hub of international trade. Discover artifacts like Ming era vases, Indian metal lamps, and Venetian glass beads.
Dreaming of a trip to Kenya that combines dreamy beaches and wild animals?

Let us create your tailor-made journey, with an itinerary and accommodations tailored to your desires and budget.

Contact us now at hello@nanoo.travel to receive your personalised quote.

You May Also Like