When I began planning a trip to Zanzibar with a girl, I’d only met via social media, there was a lot that could have gone wrong.

Thankfully, April is now one of my favorite travel friends, and we both had an absolute ball in traveling Kenya, Zanzibar, and Cape Town together.

Everywhere we went, we each chose one or two activities we were dying to do and signed up.

My favorite activity we did in Zanzibar was a snorkeling day trip around some islands.

We got to ride around on one of the famous wooden sailboats, spend the afternoon chilling either in or next to the water, and we got to see some cool fish.

It was such a fun afternoon, and we made so many new friends to hang out with.

Since we spent about two weeks hanging out in Zanzibar, we could cross off seeing pretty much all the touristy stuff.

It was easy to sign up because everywhere you go there’s people approaching you about tours.

We could negotiate great prices for most things, although I should mention that you need to be street smart and careful when choosing who to book with.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know, including a list of the best things to do in Zanzibar, to make sure you plan the perfect trip!

General History and Culture of Zanzibar

Stone Town


Stone Town is an ancient city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a unique blend of Arab, African, and European influences.

As you wander down the town’s winding and narrow streets, you’ll quickly see the island’s intricate past with its beautifully preserved architecture, especially its ornate wooden doors, coral stone buildings, and busy marketplaces.

Check out one of these popular Stone Town tours!

Swahili Influence


As you explore Zanzibar, you’ll find bits of Swahili culture in many aspects of daily life.

With roots in East Africa, Swahili is a fusion of Bantu, Arabic, and Persian influences.

Keep an eye out for it in the local cuisine, traditional music, and the widely spoken Swahili language when chatting with locals.

Arab and Persian Heritage

Arab and Persian Heritage IN ZANZIBAR

You’ll notice a strong Arab and Persian influence in Zanzibar thanks to its long history of merchants and travelers from the Middle East.

It’s easy to see the influence in Zanzibar’s architecture and customs, especially at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which showcases films and music from the Swahili-speaking world and the Indian Ocean region.

Slave Trade

Slave Trade zanzibar

This somber part of Zanzibar’s past plays an essential part in the island’s complex cultural identity.

As you visit the historic Slave Market site and other informative museums, you’ll learn about this dark chapter in the island’s history.

Spice Trade

spice tour zanzibar

Zanzibar also became known as the “Spice Island” for its production of valuable spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

The spice trade is an integral part of Zanzibar’s history, making it a major trading hub for centuries.

April and I did one we booked through a small shop in Stone Town, and were impressed with how many spices and uses for them we learned about.

The one we we didn’t love was how generic and touristy parts of our tour felt, but don’t worry that’s just one tour out of many available. Next time I’d probably opt to do one of the tours below instead.

While you’re there, join one of the many spice tours available on the island and sample the vibrant flavors yourself!

20 Best Things to Do in Zanzibar

1. Visit the House of Wonders

Discover the House of Wonders, a grand palace built in 1883.

As you stroll through the rooms and galleries, you’ll learn about the history of Zanzibar and its former sultans.

With its unique architecture and collections of artifacts, this is one place you could spend all afternoon in.

2. Check Out the Old Fort

The Old Fort, also known as the Arab Fort, is a historic landmark in Stone Town.

This 17th century fort is the oldest structure in town, showcasing the island’s rich history.

The fort hosts art exhibitions, live performances, and markets held within its walls.

3. Hang in the Forodhani Gardens Night Market

Experience the vibrant flavors of Zanzibar by visiting the Forodhani Gardens night-time food market.

You’ll be able to try lots of local dishes and street food while meeting friendly locals and fellow travelers in this popular bustling market.

4. Hop on a Boat to Changuu Island

Also known as Prison Island, Changuu Island is a quick boat ride away from the mainland.

You’ll be able to explore the historic prison ruins and learn about the island’s past as a quarantine station.

Oh, and don’t miss the chance to see the island’s resident giant tortoises and enjoy the beautiful beach.

Guarantee your spot on a Prison Island tour today!

5. Explore Jozani Forest

Jozani Forest offers a wealth of biodiversity and is a part of Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park.

You can immerse yourself in nature and keep an eye out for the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkeys.

Walk the forest’s scenic trails and discover its lush flora and fauna.

6. Explore Nungwi Village

Nungwi Village is a lively and picturesque fishing village, on the island’s northern tip.

You can connect with local artisans, take a traditional dhow cruise, or relax on the white sandy beach surrounded by turquoise waters.

Local’s Tip: This is the best spot to watch sunset from!

7. Hang on the Beach

Its stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters make Zanzibar widely known for its beautiful beaches.

In fact, I think I spent the majority of our time in Zanzibar laying on the beach reading and sunbathing.,

These are some of my favorite beaches to hit up:

  • Nungwi Beach
  • Kendwa Beach
  • Paje Beach
  • Jambiani Beach
  • Dongwe Beach

8. Snorkeling and Diving

With crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life, Zanzibar is an amazing spot to snorkel or dive.

You’ll explore the colorful coral reefs that surround the island. Some popular snorkeling spots include Mnemba Atoll and Changuu Island.

My friend April and I went on a snorkeling day trip and had an absolute blast!

For scuba diving enthusiasts, you can choose from several dive centers that offer guided trips and courses for both beginners and experienced divers.

9. Sign Up for a Boat Trip

Discover Zanzibar’s scenic coastline from a different perspective by hopping on a boat trip.

You’ll embark on a traditional wooden dhow and enjoy a leisurely sail along the shores, exploring hidden coves and mangrove forests.

Or opt for a more adventurous excursion, like a dolphin tour or sunset cruise, where you can witness the majestic marine creatures and stunning sunsets, respectively.

10. Learn How to Kite Surf

With consistent winds and shallow lagoons, Paje Beach has become a popular spot for kitesurfing enthusiasts.

If you’re new to the sport, there are many schools in the area offering lessons and equipment rental to get you started on your kitesurfing adventure.

11. Sign Up For a Spice Tour

Since Zanzibar is the “Spice Island”, because of its rich history in spice cultivation, it’s fun to see it firsthand.

You’ll wander through fragrant plantations, discovering a variety of spices, from cloves and cardamom to cinnamon and vanilla.

Some tours even offer traditional cooking lessons, allowing you to put your newfound knowledge to use.

12. Join a Walking Tour

Take a guided walking tour through the narrow alleys of Stone Town, the island’s historical heart.

You can check out impressive architecture, visit bustling markets, and sample delicious local street food.

Check out one of these popular walking tours while in Zanzibar!

13. Enjoy the Food Scene

In Zanzibar, you can experience a diverse and flavorful culinary scene.

From mouth-watering street food to fine dining establishments, this island has something to offer for everyone’s taste buds.

Don’t miss out on these delicious spots:

Local’s Tip: Always have cash on hand. A lot of places don’t accept credit cards.

14. Explore the Aquarium

The Baraka Natural Aquarium in Nungwi provides a unique experience where you can observe and interact with various marine species up close.

This natural tidal pool offers a glimpse into the local marine ecosystem, making it perfect for a family visit.

15. Hang Out in Chwaka Bay National Park

Chwaka Bay National Park, near Paje, features a pristine mangrove forest teeming with a diverse range of fauna, such as crabs, fish, and migratory birds.

As you venture through the park, you’ll also learn about local communities that live in harmony with the environment.

16. Get to Know the Marine Life

Zanzibar’s turquoise waters and coral reefs provide countless opportunities to explore the rich marine life surrounding the islands.

Dive into the underwater world at popular dive sites like Mnemba Island and Changuu, also known as Prison Island.

If you prefer a shallower experience, snorkeling around Mafia Island is a fantastic option.

With so much to discover, you’ll be enchanted by the stunning beauty and diverse wildlife that Zanzibar offers.

Booking Accommodation and Travel in Zanzibar

Best Time to Visit


The best time to visit Zanzibar is during the dry season, which runs from June to October. You can expect sunny days and cooler temperatures, perfect for exploring the islands.

I went in the middle of October and the weather was beautiful!

Another good time to visit is from December to February, where you can enjoy warm temperatures and relatively low humidity.

However, keep in mind that it can get crowded during this period because of the holiday season.

Where to Stay in Zanzibar


When planning your visit, you may wonder where to stay in Zanzibar.

There’s a wide range of options to suit various preferences and budgets. Popular areas include Paje, famous for its sandy beaches and watersports options, and the more luxurious and secluded Mnemba Island.

Other options for relaxation include Bwejuu, home to budget-friendly beach bungalows, and Kiwengwa, an ideal spot for honeymooners.

How to Get to Zanzibar


Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean.

Reaching the Zanzibar Archipelago, which is one of the main islands, Unguja and Pemba, is relatively easy. The most common method is flying into Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar City, with flights connecting from major cities across the world.

Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, which offers daily trips to the islands.

The journey takes approximately two hours and provides a scenic view of the shoreline as you approach Zanzibar.

FAQs About Visiting Zanzibar

What is Zanzibar Best Known For?


Zanzibar is best known for its rich history, beautiful beaches, and unique culture.

As the Spice Island, Zanzibar played an essential role in the spice trade and is famous for producing cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. You can discover this rich history by visiting spice farms and taking part in spice tours that all depart from Stone Town.

Another major attraction of Zanzibar is its stunning beaches with serene turquoise waters. These beaches provide an ideal setting for activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, and kitesurfing, with a variety of dive sites and pristine coral reefs, such as Mnemba Island.

Zanzibar’s unique culture and architecture, heavily influenced by Arab and Islamic traditions, making it stand out from other places.

The beautiful Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases Omani imperial architecture with intricately carved doors and elegant balconies. While wandering through the narrow streets of Stone Town, you can admire these architectural wonders and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Finally, Zanzibar offers a wide range of activities and experiences to enrich your visit, like:

  • Cultural tours
  • Nature and wildlife areas
  • Historical sites
  • Art galleries and museums
  • Cooking classes to learn local cuisine

Embrace the unique characteristics that make Zanzibar stand out and enjoy exploring everything the island offers.

How Many Days Should I Spend in Zanzibar


Deciding how many days to spend in Zanzibar depends on your interests and the activities you’d like to experience.

I spent almost two weeks, and honestly could have easily stayed for another few weeks.

I spent time staying in Paje Beach, Nungwi, and Stone Town, and would love to go back to spend a few weeks chilling and working in Paje. It’s such a cool little beach town, with plenty of spots for digital nomads to work.

Can You Drink Alcohol in Zanzibar?


While alcohol consumption in Zanzibar is more restrictive than in other destinations, you can still find places that serve it. Just remember to be respectful of the local culture and customs by consuming alcohol in designated establishments, and not in public spaces.

Many locals do not drink alcohol due to the predominantly Muslim population, and as a result, few stores sell alcohol and many restaurants do not serve it.

While alcohol is generally more limited in Zanzibar compared to other travel destinations, you can still find it in certain places.

Is it Worth it to Go to Zanzibar?


Deciding whether a trip to Zanzibar is worth it depends on your interests and preferences.

I spent two wees there and would absolutely recommend visiting Zanzibar to most travelers.

If you enjoy history, architecture, and cultural experiences, you will find Zanzibar a fascinating destination. A visit to Stone Town will allow you to wander through narrow streets, see beautiful boutique shops, and dine at fabulous restaurants.

Zanzibar’s pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters offer plenty of opportunities for relaxation and water-based activities. If you’re a fan of snorkeling and diving, you’ll love exploring the rich coral reefs that are home to diverse marine life, including wild dolphins.

For safety, travelers find Zanzibar to be a safe destination, but it’s always important to exercise common sense and stay informed about local conditions.

My friend April and I felt safe overall, but you should still use common sense like keeping your belongings secure and being cautious while walking around at night.

So, when considering if Zanzibar is worth visiting, take a moment to reflect on your travel interests and preferences, and how this unique destination can cater to them.

Final Thoughts


Writing this has made me ready to book another trip to Zanzibar.

This island is truly so special, and worth spending at least two weeks exploring!

Let me know in the comments below which activity you’re most looking forward to checking out!


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