The Kenyan coast has many fine beaches bordering the Indian Ocean both to the north of Mombasa and to the south. Diani Beach is one of the best known to the south of Mombasa. The journey to Diani and other southern beaches from Mombasa Moi International airport goes through the heart of Kenya’s second city and East Africa’s largest port to Kalindini Creek, now the heart of bustling commercial Mombasa.
There is no bridge across Kalindini Creek, so all transport south uses the Likoni Ferry. This is all part of the Kenya beach holidays south of Mombasa experience. These venerable vessels make the crossing from where the Matatu (minibus) Terminal disgorges its passengers in a lemming-like rush down the slipway. If in a vehicle get out and hug the rails, because this is a fine opportunity for a panoramic view of modern Mombasa’s skyline and observing the city’s great mix of different ethnic groups and cultures.
The road south to the beaches is almost straight and flat, through the dappled sunlight of palms groves and patches of residual forest. Wayside villages and schools flit past among mango, banana, citrus and cashew nut trees, with new villa complexes marked by bright splashes of bougainvillea. At intervals to the left are the entrance gates to the many beach hotels large and small that have access to the long stretches of fine sands.
Diani Beach, Tiwi Beach Resort and Southern Palms
The name Diani Beach broadly covers almost 40 miles of the south Kenyan coast where the Indian Ocean coral reefs are near enough to be within sight, yet far enough to allow easy bathing from broad stretches of white sand beach even at low tide. Parts of it have local names such as Shelly Beach and the exclusive Tiwi Beach Resort (near Mombasa) which has its own private beach or Galu Beach further south.
To reach the heart of Diani Beach, turn left off the main road south at Ukundu-Diani for about a mile to the T-junction that meets the coastal strip road. Turn right here for the Diani Shopping Centre and Baharini Plaza with banks, tour offices and information.
- Hotels north along the coast road include the Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, Kaskazi Beach Hotel, Leisure Lodge Hotel and Club and the Southern Palms. (N.B. There is another Southern Palms Hotel north of Mombasa.)
- Hotels south include the Diani Sea Lodge, Diani Sea Resort, Baobab Sea Resort, some high-end luxury accommodation such as The Sands at Nomad, the coast’s first boutique hotel, and Chale Island Resort with a private beach.
- Beach chalets are dotted here and there, and the airstrip for safari flights is not far from Baharini Plaza.
Pinewood Village Beach Resort and Shimba Hills National Reserve
Continuing south, the multi-award-winning Pinewood Village Beach Resort is on Galu Beach, and is noted for its Swahili style suites where visitors have the services of their own cook and maid, the use of extensive gardens and a lovely beach front. Pinewood Village Resort will arrange one or two-night trips to Shimba Hills National Reserve. Advance booking is advised.
The main road goes on to Msambweni and yet more resorts before it runs out at Shimoni near the Tanzanian border.
Safari Beach Packages and Other Excursions
It goes almost without saying that in a country as famous for its wildlife as Kenya many hotels offer drive/safari or fly/safari packages for one or more nights.
- For a local forest safari experience, Shimba Hills National Reserve is a reasonable drive from the Diani Beach area.
- ‘Big five’ game safaris mainly use flights from Diani airstrip for Tsavo East or West, Masai Mara National Park, the wonderfully scenic Kilimanjaro-Kimana Game Sanctuary, world-famous Serengeti/Ngorongo and Lake Manyara. Try Kenya Adventures and Beyond Safaris for its website booking facilities.
- Bike hire is very popular as the coastal strip is so flat. Try Diani Bikes near the Baharini Plaza to see Swahili village life along the coast.
- Water based activities include deep-sea fishing, dawn dolphin spotting, snorkelling off the reef and dhow cruises to quiet coral islands.
Many hotels have evening beach barbeques (tip: wear long clothes against sand flies) and offer day trips to Mombasa Old Town with historic Fort Jesus by boat or road to catch up on African history and culture. For good sailors, boat trips (tip: bring a light waterproof and sunscreen) are the most interesting. They land at the Mombasa Old Harbour to avoid the Likoni Ferry and town traffic. Check the type of boat and how long the trip will take.