Diani has taken the best Kenya has to offer, and sprinkled a little soft sand and a little ocean breeze to create itself.
If you want to spend the morning exploring an ancient forest, the afternoon on an elephant game drive, and have dinner by the beach watching the sunset, Diani is for you.
Diani is immensely popular. It could be the most visited beach destination in Kenya. But, if you explore a bit, you could find a few places to kick off your shoes and soak in soft sand.
We want you to make the most of your time in Diani. The locations and activities in this guide are the most memorable Diani offers. So let’s dive in, shall we? [toc]
8 Things to Do in Diani
Kaya Kinondo Forest
There is an immediate sense of mystery when you step into Kaya Kinondo. The sacred forest of the Digo is canopied by interlocking branches. Light rays piercing through look like an anointment from heaven.
Kaya Kinondo is magnificent to walk and explore through and only costs Ksh 1,000 to enter.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
If you venture out beyond the shallow waters near Diani beach, you’ll find a bustling world of life and colour beneath the surface. The Kenya Diving Center’s, The Crab, and Scuba Duka are great places to book scuba diving lessons or get gear. You can also negotiate with boat vendors at the beach who often have the gear.
And if you have it on your bucket list, kite surfing is available all across Diani. There is even a Kite surfing school to get you started if you’ve never done it before. There’s nothing quite like skipping across the surface of the ocean at full speed purely on the power of the wind and a kite.
Back on the beach, you will often find draped camels being led around, looking for you to take for a ride. Camel rides look bumpy and slow from afar. Don’t be deceived. The experience once you’re bobbing around, three meters above the ground, is both thrilling and relaxing. The cost of a camel ride ranges from $1 to $20.
Try Swahili Food
After a day of ocean activity and exploration, stop by various Swahili restaurants in Diani to try authentic Swahili food as it was meant to be prepared and consumed. Meat and vegetarian dishes are equally spicy, delicious, and tastefully natural.
Shimba Hills is an ideal after-lunch walk. It’s not so challenging, and it is incredibly beautiful. The Shimba Hills reserve has a large herd of elephants. It’s also the only place in Kenya where you can see Sable Antelopes (find out more about Kenya’s national parks). Carry a packed lunch and a camera. There are plenty of scenic locations and picnic spots.
The Kongo Estuary is the final section of the Kongo River, where it meets the Indian Ocean. The lilac water has a calming effect. Canoe rides up the river are incredibly tranquil, where you can lay back and let your hand run against the flow. The area is peaceful and has very few tourists. When you’re there, make sure you catch a few sunrises and sunsets spiritually uplifting start or end to your day.
Chale is a perfect escape private island off the Diani coastline. This slice of floating paradise is just what a romantic getaway needs. There are mangrove forests to explore, soft beaches to stroll along, and unblemished ocean water to wade in. Chale Island is just a short boat ride away from Diani.
Diani’s beaches are consistently top-ranked among Africa’s best beaches. The coral reefs filter out the seaweed and “dirt,” keeping the shoreline clean and the water crystal. The soft, white sand is a pleasure to walk barefoot on. And they have most of the activities you would look for on a beach anywhere in the world. So let’s talk about each one.
Diani beach is the main beach, which makes it the busiest. With the best hotels in Diani located near this beach, the beach hosts a lot of events. All activities, from sky-diving to deep-diving, are present here. Unfortunately, also present are the more persistent beach boys.
Bordered by an exquisite line of palms, Galu beach is an adventurer’s playground. There’s so much to see and do: kitesurfing, skydiving, sea-horse tracking, and eco-tours to colobus monkey reserves. This beach is watersports central, and the resorts here embody that theme deeply.
Kinondo beach is a part of Galu, but it offers the almost opposite experience: less activity and more tranquillity. It plays as a private beach in some ways. This is your beach for intimate, family fun.
Located about 9km from Diani Beach, Tiwi is where you reside on extended stays, or buy a home in Diani. It’s a quiet beach, where you wave hello, not shout it. The well-known activities here include diving, nature and wildlife tours, and snorkelling.Diani RestaurantsDiani restaurants specialise in, surprise, surprise, seafood. However, it’s the style of preparing the seafood that gives them a bit of an edge. Diani has multiple nationalities living there. The restaurants represent this diversity in their food. Asha Bistro, for example, prepares its food in Arabic, Asian, Belgian, and Swahili styles.
And if you’re not into seafood, there are a lot of other types of food to pick from. What’s absolutely great is that the restaurants are walking distances away from each other. You could sort of menu shop from one to the next until you find the best fit for your party.
These are some of the best, most scenic restaurants in Diani.
- Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant (International)Asha Bistro (International)Colobus Shade (African)Mwaepe Fishermen Beach Restaurant (African)Nomad Restaurant (International)Sails Beach Bar and Restaurant (European)Sea Breeze at Galu BeachShashin-Ka (Japanese)The Salty Squid Beach Bar & Restaurant (European)William’s Grill Seafood Cafe (African)
Diani Hotels for Every Budget
Same as the Nairobi CBD guide, but this time we break them up into price ranges.
So, go to booking.com and pick 8-10 hotels, guesthouses, and resorts under the following:
Budget (Prices up to $35)
Stilts provides an experience way above their asking price. You can book into normal cottages, but it’s the treehouses you want to try out here. Waking up high up in the trees has a different sort of refreshing feeling. And in the evening, a few bush babies come along to say goodnight and get a little snack.
While the cottages may not be Masai inside, the outside does look satisfyingly traditional. That’s all the mood you need to enjoy an afternoon on the patio with a good book. Masai Paradise is located close to shopping centres, the Colobus Conservation, and Kaya Kinondo.
Mid-Range ( $50-150)
Sonrisa has so much personality, it feels a bit like home – just a lot fancier. With a pool overlooking the ocean, snorkelling, and diving services available at the reception, there’s no place better to have a full beach vacation.
They may call it a bed and breakfast, but Flamboyant is more like an affordable, overnight studio apartment that has a pool outside. The breakfast includes dedicated vegetarian options. Flamboyant is the definition of value for money.
The Villa seems built to offer the most comfortable stay in Diani. The hotel largely stays out of your way, leaving you to your peace and quiet. The Villa has a personal vibe to it, making it perfect for a romantic getaway.
Diani Reef is a feature-packed resort. With wellness services as rare in Kenya as aromatherapy, and, on the flip side, three bars, you’ll almost certainly wonder where to start. There are also facilities for racket sports and water sports.
Highend (Prices up to $300)
The award-winning Maji is stunning and intimate. The hotel has 15 rooms, each unique, with some featuring private pools. They are placed right at the beach so you can have your meals and quiet moments while looking out into the ocean.
Another beach-front resort, Leisure Lodge features an 18-hole golf course. There’s also a wellness centre and an in-house shopping arcade for souvenirs. But you’re probably here for a few rounds of golf right next to the Indian Ocean, right?
Splurge (Prices above $300)
Kusini Beach Cottages offer 3 bedrooms and a total of 8 beds in the entire house. The houses are fully furnished, with air conditioning and a pool to keep you cool. You could even get a personal chef with your cottage.
Imagine yourself bar-hopping from Europe to Africa in a night. Diani’s multinational residents have made this an experience possible at the beach destination.
Diani nightlife goes on raging from sunset to sunrise. I cannot describe the quieting feeling of watching a sunrise by the beach with a cocktail in hand after a raving night. These bars are lined right next to the beach.If you’ve had enough of the ocean, there are also a few great bars inwards,
Getting to Diani
You can fly, drive or take a train to Diani.
The direct flight to Ukunda (Diani) is boarded at Wilson Airport and takes an hour. Alternatively, you can fly to Mombasa and drive down to Diani.
The SGR train to Mombasa takes about 5 hours. The train is boarded at Syokimau, on the outskirts of Nairobi. From Mombasa, you can drive down to Diani.
Driving from Nairobi will take you about 8 hours to get to Diani.
Getting Around Diani
The best way to get around Diani is by Tuk-Tuk. These three-wheeled covered motorbikes carry two passengers and can easily weave through traffic.
Alternatively, you could take a boda-boda from one location to another, or hire them out for a full day. Or you can rent a car, starting at $52 per day. Scooter rentals start at $12 per day if you rent from Diani Beach Vehicle Rental next to Bandarini Plaza.
Best Time(s) to Visit
The best time to visit Diani is wholly dependent on what you’re looking for. Being a darling destination for tourists, peak season really peaks! And low season can be comparatively quiet and very chill.
December to February is generally the hottest time of year. This is also when tourism is at its highest, both international and domestic. A lot of people like to ring in the new year in Diani.
March to August has the most comfortable weather and the lowest number of tourists. Most prices go back to normal, and there are bigger opportunities for great deals.
From September to November, the early bird tourists, looking to take advantage of the area before the high season, start to flock in. Naturally, prices start to rise, as does the warmth in the weather.
Living in Diani
Living in Diani is not the same as just dropping by for a visit once in a while. Though life in Diani is a bit quicker than in other places on the Kenyan coast, the pace is still laid back. It’s something you have to get used to.
The weather is often hot and humid and can be uncomfortable at night without a proper fan or air conditioner.
That said, Diani would be my preferred place to live on the Coast. Because the town is so compact, you have easy, quick access to everything you need, from shopping malls and open markets to schools and hospitals.
And the cost of everything is relatively cheap. You can rent an apartment from as low as $80 to whatever upper limit your wallet can afford you.
Healthcare in Diani
Check Google Maps for any hospitals, clinics, dentists, ambulance services, etc., available.
Call: +254 700 999 999; +254 722 569 261; +254 735/7 223 223; +254 40 3300150/1
Location: 1 Diani Complex, Diani Beach
Working hours: 24hrs
Call: +254 780 100 932
Location: Elephant Plaza Building, Next to Co-Op Bank, Diani Beach Road
Working hours: Mon-Sat: 9:00am – 6:00pm
Call: +254 786 633 052
Location: Diani Beach Road, Diani Beach
Working hours: Mon-Sat: 9:00am – 6.00pm; Sunday: 9.00am – 4:00pm
Call: +254 712 701 304
Location: Ukunda Beach Road, near Diani Montesory School
Working hours: Mon-Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pm
Call: +254 783 115 862
Location: 1st Floor, Asilia Complex Building, Diani Beach Road
Working hours: Mon-Fri: 8:00am – 5:30pm; Saturday: 9:00am – 2:00pm
Diani does not claim to be a unique experience, but rightfully claims its place at the very top of beach experiences in Africa. The beach is like an eternal festival, with laughing faces all around, activities in and above the water, and restful zones when you need to catch your breath. And you’ll need to catch your breath because Diani will most certainly take it away.
Frequently Asked Questions about Diani
Is Diani safe?
Diani beach is generally safe. You have to be mindful of the beach boys and venturing alone to secluded areas at odd hours, just as you would anywhere else that isn’t your home.
How far is Diani from Mombasa?
It will take you an hour and a half from Mombasa to Diani by car, without traffic. Half the time will get you off Mombasa island, via ferry. The other half will be spent driving down the mainland to Diani.
Can you swim in Diani beach?
Yes, you can. The water is very shallow near the beach, but you can walk out a bit farther to find deeper waters. Farther out is also where the water is much cleaner and less sandy.
Is there Uber in Diani?
Yes, there is Uber in Diani. Other car-hailing apps like Bolt and Little are also available in Diani.