Diani Beach Resort Guide
With swaying palms and soft, white sand caressed by glittering, turquoise water, Diani Beach has many of the ingredients of the perfect tropical holiday destination. It is deservedly popular, and as one of Kenya's premier Indian Ocean resorts, it has a large and still-growing assortment of hotels and restaurants, some of them extremely luxurious by local and often international standards. Thanks to warm seas and beautiful coral reefs it is also one of the best places to get close to the richly diverse marine life of the southern Kenyan coast, by snorkelling, scuba-diving or joining a boat safari.
Who goes there?
The resort hotels strung out along this 8km (5-mile) stretch of coast are primarily aimed at package holidaymakers, who often combine their visit with an inland game park safari. Prices range from moderate to high, with very few options for budget travellers. It is perhaps no surprise that the European visitors who take holidays here tend to be well heeled.
Where in the world?
Diani Beach lies on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, 35km (22 miles) south of the nearest city, Mombasa, which is in turn 487km (303 miles) southwest of the capital, Nairobi. Its location along a stunning white sand beach, which skirts the shore for an impressive 25km (16 miles) has cemented its position as one of Kenya's premier resorts.
When to go?
The best months to visit Diani Beach are January to March when the chance of rain is low. Temperatures are fairly consistent fluctuating between 27-31°C (81-88°F) during the day and rarely dipping below 22°C (72°F) at night. April to June are the wettest months with frequent and often heavy rainfall.
The beach is the area's major attraction - long, soft, white and lovely, it comes close to the tropical ideal. The offshore reef offers rewarding snorkelling; it also keeps waves at bay, making paddling and swimming close to shore a pleasure, and providing perfect conditions for windsurfing lessons. The only drawbacks are the seaweed that gets washed up from time to time, the tides which, at their highest, cover much of the sand, and the hustlers (known locally as beach boys) who can be hard to shake off.
Beyond the beach
The romantically inclined can cruise the shoreline in a dhow (traditional boat): a favourite destination is Kisite Marine National Park near the Tanzanian border, which offers outstanding snorkelling. Elsewhere in the underwater landscape, there are rewarding wrecks for scuba-divers to explore; you're likely to see turtles, mantas and barracuda among many other marine species. Whale sharks patrol the coastline between January and March. To spot one, or even snorkel beside one, you can join a half-day whale shark safari organised by the East African Whale Shark Trust , a locally based conservation organisation. To learn about local village culture, take a guided walk with the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project.
Diani Beach has plenty of relaxed, family-friendly resort hotels that go out of their way to keep children amused with special menus, sports, games and other activities. The beach is safe for swimming but kids who want to snorkel will have to be strong swimmers to reach the reef - it is better to take a boat or canoe. The Colobus Trust (Diani Beach Road), set up to protect Diani's endangered black-and-white colobus, is great for monkey spotting.
Diani Beach's resort hotels have shops where you'll find souvenir T-shirts and local crafts such as soapstone sculptures, shell and bead necklaces and sisal baskets. Beach sellers also offer souvenirs, including wooden animals, brightly coloured kangas (sarongs printed with Swahili proverbs), kikois (stripy cotton wraps) and shukas (red Maasai-style blankets).
A night on the town
The after-dark entertainment scene in Diani Beach is thoroughly tourist-oriented, centred on the resort hotels: most of these have nightly music and dance shows featuring local talent, followed by discos ranging from the glitzy to the downright cheesy. The place to go for a more local scene is the inland village of Ukunda, which has a few rough-edged late-opening bars, you'll also find the Shakatak (Diania Beach nightclub here.
Although many tourists see no reason to venture beyond the restaurants of their resort hotels, Diani Beach's shopping centres and coastal strip offer a good selection of alternatives with broad international appeal, including pizzerias, curry houses and places offering English, Chinese and even Seychellois cuisine. To enjoy a good local meal pop into The African Pot -Coral Beach Cottages. For sheer romance the new seafood reastaurant a the Shaanti Holistic Health Retreat , Buddha on the Beach is hard to beat.
Most locals travel by bus or matatu (shared minibus), which are often extremely crowded. They run along the main coast road from the Likoni ferry, just south of Mombasa, towards the Tanzanian border, passing through Diani Beach. Hotel staff can book local taxis and airport transfers for their guests; you can also find taxis near Diani's main Ukunda junction. Diani has a couple of offices that hire cars and motorbikes.
Exploring further afield
Many visitors to Diani build a safari into their stay. With a few days to spare you could head inland to Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, which together form one of the largest game-viewing areas in the world. Far less crowded than Kenya's more popular parks, they are home to lions, hippos, elephants, zebras and a great many species of antelope and gazelle. Alternatively, to experience another side of coastal life, travel north through Mombasa to the beaches and marine parks of Malindi and Watamu, great for snorkelling and diving, or immerse yourself in Swahili culture on the island of Lamu.