After spending one week in Zanzibar, I compiled a list of my top 10 recommendations. I've split it up by the top 7 things to not miss, 2 that I recommend but with slight hesitation and 1 activity I could have gone without but still include on the top 10 things. There are more restaurants and markets I would also recommend but I'll include that in another post. All 10 of these are budget friendly recommendations!
1. Traveling around the island and seeing other beaches
This is the best part of Zanzibar. Each beach is unique and depending where you are, the color of the water is different, the people you meet, and the overall vibe is different. The north is known to be full of tourists, especially honeymooners. They do have the full moon festival up there! Paje is famous for the water activities. The southern part of the island is less touristy and has some reportedly unique and budget friendly options. Stonetown - west side of the island is the port of entry and full of tourists but has it's own style that is worth experiencing.
2. Wandering around the small back streets of Stonetown
There's a reason one of the well known hostels is called lost and found, its a theme of Stonetown, a mantra if you will. Wandering the streets has an eastern european/middle eastern feel. The people are friendly and helpful, English is widely spoken, its full of artistry, food and drink.
3. Emerson’s Tea House
This is such a treat. One of the best rooftop restaurants views I've seen in the world. We went on a rainy day and still loved it. Its classy and comfortable. The hospitality was on pointe. The food can be affordable (especially considering it's location) plus, it's delicious! We shared the vegetarian platter and the picture says it all.
4. Meeting local Zanzibarians
This is my top recommendation for traveling anywhere in the world. There's nothing like leaving a place and feeling like you didn't even get to know it. Zanzibarians are very friendly. Start with the staff in the hostel or try striking up conversations with people at the market and in town. We were fortunate enough to go to the local market (not the night market) for dinner one night with locals and also do a home cooked meal (delicious traditional zanzibarian curry and coconut rice) with friends we made. Many people we met spoke English well.
5. Swimming at sunset
Enough said. Stonetown has better sunsets compared to Paje so that's where we went and loved it, but I'm sure any part of the island this would be a magical experience.
6. Slave museum
The tour guide was informative. It cost $5 and whether or not you're very much into history, I think this is a spot not to miss if in stonetown!
7. Spice Tour
Zanzibar is known for it's spices and vanilla. You won't be disappointed with this one! I'd say go for the one the hostel or online offers, it is about $15 and includes transportation as well as a full meal.
If you're looking to hike and experience the jungle side of Zanzibar, don't miss this! It's affordable, not too difficult to access and they have cute monkeys that are only found in Zanzibar. With that said, it not on my top list of recommendations and I think that's partly due to the tour guide experience we had. We did not learn much from the walk and they expect you to have your own vehicle to drive to the second location of the tour. We did this the local way using a public minibus instead of a private car. It was very affordable that way and felt worth it, but I wouldn't say its worth the high expense of going with a tour agency.
9. The Rock Restaurant
This has been featured in countless magazines and I'm sure you've seen the photos. Theres a lot of hype around it, and understandably so. It's a rock in the ocean (right off the shore) with a swanky restaurant. The water and views are gorgeous. The prices I found much too high for what it was and especially compared to anything around it. It's very difficult to get there without your own transportation/private driver and it makes the overall Rock Restaurant experience on the pricey side of things. I'm really glad we did it, but it is definitely on the hyped up side.
I could have skipped but I’m not mad I went:
10. Prison Island
Sorry not sorry, this is my last recommendation of all. It's the thing everyone does. Like did you really go to Zanzibar if you didn't go to Prison Island? Well guess what, the giant tortoises are from Seychelles and apart from that there's not much. Snorkelling is normally included in this tour although our tour guide forgot the snorkels…It’s still a cool experience and very affordable so I won't knock it completely.
Bonus one: Full moon Yoga on the beach! If something like this is available the time you go, definitely try it! It was stormy and wasn't as much my style of yoga but it was still a fun experience. There was also a full moon festival that happened the day after we left...If we could have adjusted our dates, we would have loved to stay!
What else would you add on?