Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Little Vid Goes to the Beach

Little Vid enjoyed our 10-day beach holiday almost as much as Kenny and I did, especially because we got to celebrate her namesake’s birthday in Kenya.

Little Vid at Kenyaways
Little Vid enjoying the beach at Kenyaways

Camel transport
A little French girl on the beach tried to steal Little Vid when she saw her perched on the camel’s head

House red
Enjoying a glass of the house red for Vidya’s birthday

Stone Town
Lounging on our rooftop deck in Stone Town

Thali
Enjoying a vegetarian lunch thali in Stone Town

Rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow is Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Matemwe
Checking out the strange environs at Matemwe Beach, Zanzibar

As always, you can follow Little Vid’s adventures here.

Nungwi

For the final segment of our East African beach vacation, we’re camped out at Langi Langi Beach Resort, at Nungwi, on the northern tip of Zanzibar. Langi Langi came highly recommended by our good friends Brian and Kara, who spent a few days here during honeymoon #2.

There isn’t much “beach” to speak of around our hotel, except for a small stretch that disappears after low tide. However, at high tide, the ocean is like a vast swimming pool, accessible from our hotel’s deck. If only we had a diving board. And the views from our hotel, especially the balcony of our sea-view room – apparently the best room in the house – are absolutely stunning.

For more traditional beach lounging, we’ve been taking walks to nearby beaches, like Kendwa to the south, and East Nungwi, around the island’s northernmost point from here. Kendwa is a long, beautiful stretch of sand (Kenny wrote a few thoughts about it here). East Nungwi is a bit easier to reach, although the beach itself all but disappears at high tide. We had a nice walk there yesterday, a wonderful swim in the jewel blue water, and a delicious lunch at the Tanzanite Beach Resort.

Dining options here at Nungwi are a bit limited and service seems to be universally slow. However, the food at our hotel’s restaurant is good, and we had one good meal at the Armaan Bungalows restaurant next door (although our repeat visit was a disappointment). The village of Nungwi is a stark contrast to the posh resorts on the beach, with a small school house, and a cluster of tiny shops and residences along a muddy road. We’ve taken a few strolls through the village to purchase water and bread, and use the internet cafe, and we enjoyed watching the local kids play football at dusk.

Tomorrow is our last day on Zanzibar, and we are hoping to check out Matemwe Beach in the morning before we begin our journey back to Kampala.

Rainbow
Morning rainbow, viewed from the breakfast area at our hotel

View from our room
The view from our balcony

Sunset
Sunset from our balcony

Fish trap
Catching fish in a trap

Low tide
Nungwi Beach at low tide, before it disappeared completely