An hour’s drive and a short ferry ride south of Mombasa, Diani Beach is the quintessential tropical escape. With its blend of natural beauty and uptown chic, this former fishing village has become one of the most in-demand destinations on Kenya’s south coast. Dotted along its soft, white sands is a parade of elegant guest houses, upscale hotels and glamorous villas. Brad and Angelina count among some of the more famous visitors who have holed up here.
Stretching from the mouth of the Mwachema River to the remote Gazi Bay, Diani Beach lines up 25 kilometres of beach. It’s textbook stuff, with soft white sands that melt gently into the cobalt waters of the Indian Sea. Dotted along the sand are makuti-roofed huts serving ice-cold beers and snacks, and the watersports centres offer everything from kite-surfing to windsurfing. Best of all are the neon-bright coral formations – just 10 minutes away when you board a white-sailed dhow boat.
A 1-minute walk from the beach is Diani Beach Road, the tarmacked main thoroughfare that runs parallel to the shoreline. It’s forever adding new restaurants and shops that can even give the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a run for its money. Three shopping centres and a large crafts market in front of Bahari Plaza are just some of its highlights. Follow the road to its northernmost tip and you’ll discover an eerie 14th-century mosque. Head south for Jadini Forest where black-and-white colobus monkeys scarper around the branches of baobab trees.
Shimba Hills National Reserve
Just a 20-minute drive away is the Shimba Hills National Reserve, one of Kenya’s smallest and most compact national parks. Several hundred elephants, the rarely-sighted sable antelopes, plus leopards, monkeys and giraffes can all be spotted through your binocular lenses. And Sheldrick Falls, a breathtaking 25-metre waterfall, is just the feather in the cap.