Zanzibar is quickly becoming a popular honeymoon destination for couples who seek an idyllic mix of cultural exploration, water sports and white sand beaches. This picturesque archipelago in the Indian Ocean is located about 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It consists of four main islands, including Unguja, also known as Zanzibar Island, and Pemba Island, in addition to several smaller ones surrounding the coast.
Nicknamed the “Spice Islands,” Zanzibar has been one of the world’s prime sources for cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper for hundreds of years. The islands are also known for their pristine beaches, clear, warm waters and rare wildlife, such as the red colobus monkey. Exploring the waters encircling Zanzibar is a real treat, as you’ll discover a wonderland of colorful coral reefs and marine life.
It’s a unique honeymoon destination great for newlyweds who want to skip the more cookie-cutter beach destinations. To help kick off your union with a truly memorable journey, we’ve put together a guide with everything you need to know about planning a Zanzibar honeymoon.
Why Zanzibar is a Great Honeymoon Destination
A major draw of these islands is that they offer a little something for everyone. On the north coast of Zanzibar Island, there’s world-class scuba diving, calm water and fewer crowds. The east coast is where you’ll find spectacular beaches and windier conditions ideal for kitesurfing. The popular Stone Town is on the west coast, in addition to an impressive culinary scene and sightings of sea life like green sea turtles, dolphins and jellyfish. The southern coast will immerse couples in the area’s captivating culture and offers several spice tours to choose from.
Zanzibar has been host to various civilizations over the last 20,000 years, creating a diverse population and landscape influenced by ancient Persian traders, the Portuguese and British, among other cultures. Navigating the historic, cobbled streets of Stone Town’s old quarter is especially appealing, as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features a fascinating mix of mosques and houses in varying architectural styles.
For honeymooners who want a relaxing retreat, the assortment of boutique resorts scattered around the coast of Zanzibar Island adds an additional appeal
When to Go to Zanzibar
This honeymoon destination has two high seasons and two rainy seasons, and there are pros and cons to each.
The first high season is from June to October and offers pleasant temperatures in the 80s. There’s almost no rainfall during this time, which draws larger crowds as many travelers visiting Serengeti National Park for the Great Migration pop over to Zanzibar for some beach time. This is a great time for honeymooners to visit the less crowded northern coast of the island of Zanzibar and try an activity like scuba diving.
The second high season is December to February, which offers warmer temperatures often in the 90s, as well as more wind. This makes it ideal for kite surfers, but not so much for those wanting to rest on the beach with a good book.
During the “long rains” season, from March to May, many resorts close since it can rain for weeks at a time. However, if you aren’t bothered by wet weather and want to enjoy practically zero crowds and low rates on the few resorts that remain open, this may be a good time for you to honeymoon in Zanzibar.
The “short rains” season runs from November to December and is a nice mix between the main rainy season and high season. You may experience some scattered showers throughout the day, but it’s not as common to have a full 24 hours of rain. This time of year offers more moderately priced rates for accommodations, pleasant temperatures and conditions ideal for mixing beach time with cultural tours.
How to Get There
For ultimate convenience, hop on one of the many direct flights to Zanzibar’s Abeid Amani Karume International Airport from cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels or Milan. Some honeymooners choose to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, on the coast of mainland Tanzania, then take a ferry or domestic flight to Zanzibar Island. If you’re looking to save money, book a spot on one of the four ferries that make a daily trip to Zanzibar from the main port in Dar es Salaam. The ferry ride is about an hour and 45 minutes each way.
It’s also important to note that you’ll need a visa to enter Tanzania, ranging from $50 to $100. The visa can be purchased in advance online or when you arrive at the international airport in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. (For U.S. citizens, the cost is $100.)
Once you arrive, you should rent a car if you want to take day trips from your resort. If you don’t plan on venturing out, many resorts can help you arrange transportation from the airport.
Honeymoon Accommodations in Zanzibar
Zanzibar offers a variety of resorts that all offer privacy, luxury and stellar views. However, each resort has certain features that make it stand out from the rest. Here are our top choices for honeymoon resorts in Zanzibar.
Resting on 80 acres of tropical gardens that fade into a mile-long beach on the southwest coast, The Residence Zanzibar is a prime honeymoon destination for those wanting ultimate privacy on their romantic getaway. The 66 brown-tiled brick bungalows that make up The Residence Zanzibar feature understated elegance with decor inspired by the island’s African, Omani and European heritage. Luxurious details include natural coconut body products in the bathroom and fresh truffles found nightly on pillows during turndown service. If you book the honeymoon package, it includes a kitenge, an East African, West African and Central African fabric similar to a sarong.
Each bungalow also has a wide wooden deck and plunge pool that open up to gardens where you might luck out and spot the rare red colobus monkey. And whether you choose to book a table at The Dining Room or The Pavilion, or reserve a private dining experience for two, you’ll be able to savor some of the finest dishes from African, Omani, Indian and Middle Eastern cultures.
The sleek architecture of this five-star beach resort, combined with a neutral color palette, makes it seamlessly blend in with the powder-soft sand that surrounds the villas and common areas. Speaking of villas, this is the type of accommodation you’ll want to splurge on for your honeymoon. Each villa faces the ocean and has two units connected by a garden featuring a terrace and private pool. One unit contains a high-ceiling lounge and dining area, while the other houses the bedroom with a king-size bed and bathroom with rain shower and outdoor tub.
When you’re not soaking in your private tub with your partner, you can nap in a hammock on the beach, grab a bite at the outdoor lounge or restaurant, sip some bubbly at the rooftop Champagne bar, or make some friends by the resort pool. However, don’t expect to see too many people, as the resort keeps privacy top of mind with only 11 villas and three guest rooms.
The resort is situated on Paje Beach, a stunning stretch of sand on the east coast of Zanzibar that provides ideal weather conditions for kite surfers. Zanzibar White Sand’s other unique offerings include floating breakfast in the pool, safaris with rare animal sightings, and a spa with unique treatments such as the Zanzibar spice massage, Indian head massage and a cellulite treatment that utilizes coffee, cinnamon and orange.
One of the most coveted resorts in Zanzibar, this five-star, all-inclusive hotel on the east coast was designed with Arabic, Swahili and Indian influences in mind. The result is a regal oasis that dazzles with marble and rich woods, Swahili arches, hand-carved cement decor, one-of-a-kind antiques, handmade furniture and intricate brass lanterns. The ambiance is so exquisite, the resort won a spot on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the 60 best new hotels in the world. This is where you’ll want to stay if cost is of little concern, and you’re looking for the best Zanzibar has to offer.
Baraza Resort & Spa helps guests fully immerse in the Zanzibari culture by offering lessons for the game bao, which is a traditional mancala board game, in addition to palm weaving, coconut harvesting and Swahili cultural cooking. This is also the place to stay if scuba diving is on your list of honeymoon to-dos. The on-site Rising Sun Dive Centre is the only PADI five-star Gold Palm and RAID diving certified dive center in Zanzibar.
On the west coast of Zanzibar is the boutique Zanzi Resort, which is ideal for eco-conscious travelers. The resort grows its own food and has gardens that are home to adorable bush babies, two families of monkeys, elephant shrews and various birds. Zanzi Resort is also incredibly convenient, located only 9 miles from Stone Town and 30 minutes from the airport.
If you’re looking for a more affordable honeymoon destination, consider utilizing this resort’s low-season package. Available from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20, when scattered showers are common, you can score reduced nightly rates, complimentary daily breakfast and dinner, and a one-hour Japanese hot stone treatment called ganbanyoku. This treatment consists of lying on large heated stones that detoxify the body and improve circulation.
As the property welcomes many newlyweds, Zanzi Resort is well-versed in crafting romantic experiences. A private beach trip, a paddle in a ngalawa (a traditional fisherman’s boat), and a candlelit dinner on the beach are just a few ways the resort can stoke the flames of your romance.
The culinary scene is really where this beach hotel shines, as it creates dishes that are a fusion of Arab, Portuguese, Indian, German, British and Chinese flavors. You’ll also be sipping on the finest drinks, as wines are imported from vineyards in Australia, France, Italy and South Africa, and served alongside local beers and innovative cocktails.
Those with a passion for distinctive architecture will adore the Zanzibar beach hotel Elewana Kilindi, as it features rounded, white structures that somewhat resemble seashells. These awe-inspiring structures also offer stunning views, as they’re scattered across a lush hillside looking out on the Indian Ocean. The resort is so eccentric because it was originally designed for Benny Andersson, a member of the musical group ABBA.
Each of the 15 Eastern-styled domed pavilion suites have wide-arched, glassless windows allowing unfettered views of the sea. When you’re ready for privacy, you can close the white wooden-slatted shutters. The pavilions also include a private garden, pool and even a butler.
And then there’s the main infinity pool: It’s over 80 feet long and seems to dissolve right into the ocean. This area also features a waterfall bar, alfresco dining and a spa.
What to Do in Zanzibar
Zanzibar offers a captivating blend of culturally stimulating and adventurous honeymoon activities. (Pro tip: Add a honeymoon fund to your wedding registry, which allows your guests to make cash gifts that you can use for all the outings on your wish list.)
- Visit the dolphins. If you’ll be in Zanzibar between January and February or June and October, take in the gentle grace of dolphins by going on a tour off the coast of Mnemba Island or Kizimkazi Beach.
- Explore the House of Wonders. Located in Stone Town, the House of Wonders was constructed in 1883 and is one of six palaces built by Barghash bin Said, the second Sultan of Zanzibar. The palace includes a museum that exhibits Zanzibari cultural items.
- Go scuba diving. Because few things are as romantic as gliding through warm waters hand in hand with your significant other, scuba diving is one of the most popular honeymoon activities in Zanzibar. This activity is all the more appealing around these islands, as the water is filled with colorful coral reefs and diverse sea life. The Menai Bay Conservation Area and Mnemba Atoll are go-to spots for both scuba diving and snorkeling.
- Sail on a dhow. Many tour companies provide romantic sunset cruises on a dhow, a handcrafted wooden sailing vessel. Some tours also offer cocktails and dinner on board.
- Hop on a spice tour. If you want to gain in-depth insight of Zanzibari culture, go on a tour that will take you through spice plantations harvesting clove, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, chili and black pepper.
- Walk through Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park. Taking a private, guided tour of this national park will allow you to learn more about the many medicinal plants in the park, walk amongst baobab and mangrove trees, and spot animals like the Zanzibar Sykes’ monkey, red colobus monkey, bush babies, 50 different species of butterflies and 40 species of birds.
- Say yes to kitesurfing in Paje. While kitesurfing is a tricky sport to learn, you’ll find it’s worth the effort when you and your partner find yourselves zooming across the clear waters of the Indian Ocean with the warm wind on your backs.
Additional Zanzibar Honeymoon Tips
To ensure your honeymoon in Zanzibar is everything you hope for, here are some additional tips to keep in mind as you plan.
- Respect the dress code. While it’s typically fine to wear whatever you like at your resort, it’s best to dress fairly conservatively in public areas. It’s also customary for women to cover their shoulders and legs in public.
- Shop smart. In Stone Town, you can score some truly special souvenirs, such as gold jewelry, handmade beads, antiques, textiles, spices and wooden carvings. However, don’t purchase anything made from endangered species, like ivory or tortoiseshell.
- Know what to expect when renting a car. If you plan to rent a car, you’ll need an international driving permit. It’s also wise to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. Note that you drive on the left side of the road in Zanzibar, which can be a bit confusing for those not used to it.