Mombasa, a city on the coast of Kenya, is a vibrant and bustling port city that is rich in history and culture. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and lively nightlife.
The city is home to a mix of architectural styles, from the ancient Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, to modern hotels and resorts. Mombasa is also a gateway to several national parks and reserves, making it a perfect base for safari adventures.
In addition to its natural and historical attractions, Mombasa offers a variety of activities for visitors, from water sports such as snorkeling and diving, to shopping for local crafts and sampling delicious Swahili cuisine. Whether you are looking for relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, Mombasa has something to offer.
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Attractions & Things to do in Mombasa
1. Fort Jesus
Fort Jesus is a 16th-century Portuguese fort located in Mombasa, Kenya. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most outstanding and well-preserved examples of 16th-century Portuguese military fortification and a significant historical landmark in East Africa.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to hire a guide to explain the historical significance of various sections of the fort.
2. Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
The Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve is a marine park and national reserve situated in Mombasa, Kenya. It is home to a variety of marine life including crabs, starfish, stone fish, cucumbers sea, corals, turtles, and various species of colorful fish.
Travel Tip: Consider taking a glass-bottom boat ride to have a closer look at the underwater life without getting wet.
3. Haller Park
Haller Park, formerly known as Bamburi Nature Trail, is an ecological haven located in Bamburi, Mombasa. It is home to various species of wildlife including hippos, giraffes, buffaloes, and various species of birds.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the feeding time of the animals, especially the giraffes.
4. Old Town
Mombasa Old Town is a historical and cultural part of Mombasa, Kenya. The area features narrow streets, ancient buildings, intricately carved doors, and balconies hanging over the streets.
Travel Tip: Spend time walking around the old town to get a sense of the history and culture of Mombasa.
5. Diani Beach
Diani Beach is a stunning white-sand beach located 30 kilometers south of Mombasa. It is a popular spot for both locals and tourists looking to enjoy the sun, sand, and crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean.
Travel Tip: Try out water sports like snorkeling, jet-skiing, or kite surfing.
6. Mamba Village Centre
Mamba Village Centre in Nyali is East Africa’s largest crocodile farm. Visitors can see the crocodiles at close range, as well as take a horseback ride and enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Travel Tip: The highlight of your visit will be to see the crocodiles being fed, so plan your visit accordingly.
7. Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre
Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre is a project run by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK). It features several workshops where physically challenged craftsmen and women produce high-quality leather, jewelry, and textile products.
Travel Tip: Consider purchasing some hand-made souvenirs to support the artisans.
8. Nyali Beach
Nyali Beach is another beautiful beach located in the city of Mombasa. It is less crowded than Diani Beach and offers a more relaxed atmosphere.
Travel Tip: This is a great spot for water sports such as windsurfing and scuba diving.
9. Gedi Ruins
The Gedi Ruins are the remains of a Swahili town located in Gedi, a village near the coastal town of Malindi. The ruins date back to the 12th century and are surrounded by a dense forest that is home to monkeys and beautiful birds.
Travel Tip: Hire a guide to learn more about the history and mystery of the place.
10. Shimba Hills National Reserve
The Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small National Reserve in the Coast Province of Kenya, 33 km from Mombasa and 15 km from the coast. The reserve is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland, and grassland.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to bring your binoculars for bird watching.
Unique Activities in Mombasa
1. Guided Nature Walk Amongst Giraffes
Join a guided nature walk and get up close with the majestic giraffes. Experience the thrill of walking amongst these gentle giants and learn about their habits, diet, and conservation efforts. This unique activity offers a chance to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of wildlife.
2. Kisite Park Private Boat Tour with Diving and Lunch
Embark on a private boat tour to Kisite Park. Dive deep into the clear waters and explore the rich marine biodiversity. After your underwater adventure, enjoy a sumptuous lunch and relax as you take in the breathtaking views of the ocean.
3. Tamarind Dinner Dhow Cruise
Indulge in a luxurious dinner aboard the Tamarind Dhow Cruise. Sail along the Mombasa coastline, enjoying the scenic views and the gentle ocean breeze. Relish a gourmet meal as you watch the sunset, creating a magical and romantic ambiance.
Day Trips from Mombasa
Malindi is a town located approximately 120 kilometers north of Mombasa. It is known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and historical landmarks such as the Vasco da Gama Pillar.
Travel Tip: Visit the Malindi Marine National Park to see colorful fish and coral gardens.
2. Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya, located near the village of Voi in the Taita-Taveta County of the former Coast Province. The park is known for its stunning landscapes, vast herds of elephants, and other wildlife such as lions, leopards, and zebras.
Travel Tip: Take an early morning game drive to spot the animals when they are most active.
Watamu is a small coastal town located approximately 105 kilometers north of Mombasa. It is known for its white-sand beaches, coral gardens, and the Watamu Marine National Park.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Bio-Ken Snake Farm, a research centre home to the largest collection of snakes in East Africa.
Where to stay in Mombasa
Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya, boasts a plethora of hotels catering to a diverse range of travelers. From luxurious beachfront resorts to budget-friendly lodgings, the city offers accommodations that suit every preference and budget. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning beaches, Mombasa attracts tourists from all over the world. Here’s a curated list of six hotels in Mombasa, each catering to a specific type of traveler:
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Severin Sea Lodge (★★★★)
- Description: Located in Bamburi Beach, Mombasa, Severin Sea Lodge offers an outdoor pool and free WiFi access. The lodge provides air-conditioned rooms with a balcony. Guests have praised the buffet meals and the friendly service, though some found it a bit slow.
- Price: €98.33 per night
- Rating: 8.4 (Very Good)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa (★★★★★)
- Description: Situated in Bamburi Beach, Mombasa, this resort is set on one of the longest beachfronts protected by the Mombasa Marine Park. Guests have highlighted the friendly and helpful staff, delicious food, and the ocean-front rooms.
- Price: €260 per night
- Rating: 8.4 (Very Good)
3. Budget Hotel
THE IVORY SUITES by ARMAAN
- Description: Located in Mombasa, close to the Tusks Monument and Fort Jesus, this hotel offers clean and spacious rooms. It’s particularly praised for its air conditioning, given Mombasa’s heat, and its proximity to transportation options.
- Price: €40 per night
- Rating: 8.2 (Very Good)
4. Hotel for Families
Sheratton Beach Villagio (★★★)
- Description: Situated 400 meters from Bamburi Beach, this hotel offers a restaurant, free private parking, a bar, and a private beach area. Guests have lauded the beautiful pool, beachfront property, delicious meals, and the friendly staff.
- Price: €54 per night
- Rating: 8.1 (Very Good)
5. Hotel for Couples
- Description: Located 300 meters from Nyali Beach, this hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden, and a shared lounge. Guests have appreciated the safety, exceptional service, and courteous staff.
- Price: €170 per night
- Rating: 8.3 (Very Good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
Kahama Hotel Mombasa
- Description: Situated close to Bamburi Beach, this hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. Guests have praised the friendly staff and the variety of breakfast options.
- Price: €60.30 per night
- Rating: 8.2 (Very Good)
Did you know? Facts about Mombasa
- Mombasa is a coastal city in southeastern Kenya along the Indian Ocean. It was the first capital of British East Africa before Nairobi was elevated to capital city status in 1907.
- The town is known as “the white and blue city” in Kenya and is the country’s oldest (c. 900 A.D.) and second-largest city after Nairobi.
- Mombasa’s location on the Indian Ocean made it a historical trading center and it has been controlled by many countries because of its strategic location.
- The oldest stone mosque in Mombasa, Mnara, was built around 1300. The Mandhry Mosque, built in 1570, has a minaret that contains a regionally specific ogee arch.
- In the late pre-colonial period, Mombasa was the metropolis of a plantation society, which became dependent on slave labor based around the ivory trade.
- Today, Mombasa is a tourism-based town, home to one of the state houses, with an extra-large port and an international airport.
- The founding of Mombasa is associated with two rulers: Mwana Mkisi and Shehe Mvita. According to legend, Mwana Mkisi is the original ancestor of Mombasa’s oldest lineages within Thenashara Taifa (or Twelve Nations).
- The famous Moroccan scholar and traveler Ibn Battuta visited the area during his travels to the Swahili Coast in the 14th century.
- Mombasa was under Portuguese rule from 1593 to 1698 and again from 1728 to 1729. It was then ruled by the Imamate of Oman, the British Empire, and finally became part of independent Kenya in 1963.
- In 2018, Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho issued a directive requiring that all buildings in the Old Town and the Central Business District be painted white with Egyptian blue trim and banned all signs from their walls or canopies.
FAQ about Mombasa
What is the best time to visit Mombasa?
The best time to visit Mombasa is during the dry seasons, from June to October and January to February.
Is it safe to travel to Mombasa?
Mombasa is generally safe for travelers, but it is always advisable to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
What are the must-visit places in Mombasa?
Some must-visit places in Mombasa include Fort Jesus, the Old Town, Haller Park, and the Mombasa Marine National Park.
What is the main language spoken in Mombasa?
The main language spoken in Mombasa is Swahili, but English is also widely spoken and understood.
What is the currency used in Mombasa?
The currency used in Mombasa is the Kenyan Shilling (KES).
What is the local cuisine like in Mombasa?
The local cuisine in Mombasa is a mix of traditional Kenyan, Indian, and Arabian influences. Seafood is a staple, and coconut, spices, and rice are commonly used ingredients.
What is the most popular mode of transportation in Mombasa?
The most popular mode of transportation in Mombasa is by matatu, which is a shared minibus. Tuk-tuks and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) are also common.
Do I need a visa to travel to Mombasa?
Visa requirements vary by country, so it is advisable to check with the Kenyan embassy or consulate in your home country before traveling to Mombasa.