Best hotels and hostels in Kenya

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southeastern Kenya

    Ol Donyo

    Welcome to what could just be our favourite place to stay in Kenya. Built onto the foothills of Chyulu Hills at the remote eastern reaches of the 1113-sq-km Mbirikani Group Ranch, Ol Donyo is a temple to good taste grafted onto one of the loveliest corners of Africa. The lodge is built entirely of local materials and employs advanced water recycling and solar-power systems. The rooms, each overlooking their own waterhole, are expansive and utterly gorgeous in both their scope and detail: private plunge pools, divinely comfortable four-poster beds with Kilimanjaro views, complete privacy and roof beds are merely the beginning of an overwhelming sensory experience that takes safari chic to a whole new level. The meals are world-class as well. Day or night wildlife drives are, of course, possible, but so, too, are walking safaris out onto the plains or up onto the Chyulu Hills, horse-riding safaris and even running safaris for those eager not to let their exercise regimen slip.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Laikipia Plateau

    Segera Retreat

    We can be difficult to impress, but this place left us speechless. Six villas and a couple of houses inhabit an oasis in the heart of the ranch, looking out onto the savannah, yet enclosed within their own natural compound that keeps dangerous animals out. The villas are utterly magnificent – spacious, luxurious in every way and steeped in safari tradition. It's no coincidence that the villas capture perfectly that Out of Africa longing that caused a generation of would-be travellers to fall in love with the continent – one of the bar areas is strewn with original letters and personal effects of Karen Blixen, and the retreat even has the plane that was used in the movie (flights can be arranged). The food, too, is memorable, and there's a wine list to match. There's a spa, hi-tech gym, sculpture garden and thought-provoking installations of African contemporary art that fill the ranch's artfully converted stables.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Mara Plains

    This utterly captivating camp has a dozen tents with beds and showers carved from old wooden railway sleepers and quality rugs lazing across the floors. The highlight for most, though, are the big, free-standing brass bathtubs overlooking a river of wallowing hippos. In keeping with Great Plains philosophy, the camp's footprint is minimal and could be removed without a trace. It's the details here that people remember – the footbridge approach across the river, the perfectly sited acacia tree in your line of sight and the furniture built from coastal wood. The food is some of the best of any of the camps and the manager-hosts are charmers. As an added bonus, each tent is supplied with a box of high-quality Canon camera equipment and binoculars to borrow.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Diani Beach

    Water Lovers

    Beautiful, peaceful and intimate, Water Lovers has eight rooms and one villa, all designed with aesthetics, sustainability and love in mind. The furniture is a mix of Swahili wood and Italian pottery, and the wonderful staff will cater for every need. As you might expect from Italian owners, there's a great private restaurant serving organic fare and homemade pasta. Snorkelling, kayaking and kitesurfing can be arranged, and there's a spa in the tranquil gardens. Given the personalised level of service, 'Come as a guest, leave as a friend' is a very apt motto. We love everything about this place.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Saruni Mara

    Way to the north of any of the other camps, and virtually on the border of the conservancy, this breathtaking camp has around a dozen tents dusted with antique furnishings and colonial bric-a-brac. Some even have open log fires and the decoration in each follows a theme of writer's, photographer's or artist's studio. The setting is in animal-packed, forested hills. The rooms have lovely hardwood floors, decorations like antique typewriters or cameras, ample space and lovely views down the valley from the large verandahs. You might even encounter the camp's resident eland! There are quite a few Maasai manyattas (villages) on the plains below Saruni Mara and this human presence does mean that wildlife (especially predators) can be scarcer and you may have to drive up to 45 minutes to really get into the heart of the conservancy – we reckon the quality of the camp more than compensates. There are lots of opportunities for bush walks, cultural encounters and market visits. It also runs a family-friendly 'warrior for a week' programme where children can learn the art of lighting fires without matches and other such skills you don't really want them learning! Night drives are also possible (we saw an African civet and lions on one such drive), and the camp's guides are top-notch.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Southeastern Kenya

    Campi ya Kanzi

    Campi ya Kanzi is, quite simply, an outstanding place to stay. Set upon the slopes of the Chyulu Hills – these may have been Ernest Hemingway's 'Green Hills of Africa' and that sobriquet means so much more here than it does in Chyulu Hills National Park – accommodation here is in luxury tents scattered around an enormous ranch that is centred on a nostalgically decorated stone lodge. Wildlife drives (of both the day and night variety), walking safaris up into the Chyulu Hills, transcendental meditation sessions and visits to Maasai villages are all possible, but you'll also be tempted to simply nurse a drink as you gaze out across Maasailand towards Mt Kilimanjaro in all its glory. Campi ya Kanzi was begun and continues to be overseen by Italians Luca and Antonella. While they bring so much personality to this place, Campi ya Kanzi is very much a Maasai concern. The camp's environmental credentials are also impeccable and the camp directly supports education, health care and environmental conservation in local communities, quite apart from employing dozens of local Maasai staff.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Asilia Naboisho Camp

    So what if the tents, with their huge beds and indoor and outdoor showers, are among the most extravagant around. Why people really stay here is the opportunity to walk over animal-crammed savannah with an expert guide. If that wasn't enough, the wildlife viewing right outside the tents is superb, with big cats frequently passing in front of the camp. There are nine tents here, wonderfully spread out across the gentle slope – some are so nicely submerged in the bush that getting there can be a walking safari in its own right. The decor in the tents and public areas is stylish and contemporary, and the atmosphere warm and relaxed thanks to Della and Rich, the engaging camp hosts. The tents also get the right mix between luxury and comfort and a sense of being open to the elements. A coveted Gold Eco Rated award issued by Ecotourism Kenya is another selling point. Activities include walking safaris, night drives, horse riding, fly camping and visits to local villages and community projects.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Kicheche Valley Camp

    High in a valley that looks down into the heart of the conservancy – there is not a single light in view at night – Kicheche Valley is a terrific property. Top-level guides, a Gold Eco rating for sustainability and original safari tents with wonderful light floors made from recycled tetrapak, which give them a refreshingly contemporary look, are huge selling points. The six tents have a nice mix of Persian carpets, Congolese wall-hangings and straw mats, and there is a well-priced spa offering massages and beauty treatments. Activities include walking safaris, night drives, village visits and a fly-camping expedition that enables you to walk from here to Kicheche Bush, in the neighbouring Olare-Orok Conservancy. All the tents have electric sockets and the safari jeeps are designed with photographers in mind, thanks to the addition of bean bags. Guests must be 12 and over.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Nairobi

    Giraffe Manor

    Built in 1932 in typical English style, this elegant manor is situated on 56 hectares, much of which is given over to the adjacent Giraffe Centre. As a result, you may find a Rothschild’s giraffe peering through your bedroom window first thing in the morning. Yet the real appeal here is that you’re treated as a personal guest of the owners. You can use their chauffeur, sample their wines and dine in lavish excess. Literary buffs should ask for the Karen Blixen room, decked out with furniture the famous author gave the owners when she left Africa for the last time. Otherwise the rooms sport a classic safari look, with dark woods, Persian carpets and four-poster beds.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Laikipia Plateau

    El Karama Eco Lodge

    One of the most affordable places in the region. There are luxury tents where you can laze in your hammock overlooking the Ewaso Ngiro River, or if you're on a budget, opt for the basic (but still comfortable) tent with a bucket shower (full board US$300). Alternatively, try the campsite (KSh10,000 for up to five people, KSh2500 per extra person). Children will love the wide variety of activities available, especially the wildlife tracking where they can make clay moulds of different animal tracks. Day visitors are welcome and the package (KSh4500 plus conservation fee) includes lunch, drinks and pool access. If you want to make use of the lodge's vehicle for wildlife viewing, it will cost an extra US$75.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Western Kenya

    Sirikwa Safaris

    Owned and run by the family that started Saiwa, this beautiful old farmhouse is 11km from the swamp. You can choose between camping in the grounds, sleeping in a well-appointed safari tent or, best of all, opting for one of the two bedrooms full of National Geographic magazines, old ornaments and antique sinks. The mother and son who run it will entertain you for hours with stories from their more than 70 years in Kenya. Traditional English meat-and-two-veg-style meals are available (dinner KSh1800) and they can organise superb excursions, including ornithological tours of the Cherangani Hills and Saiwa Swamp. It's 5km north of the park turn-off road on the Kitale–Lodwar road.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Malindi

    Che Shale

    Three kinds of people make their way to this camp on Mambrui Beach, 25km north of Malindi: kitesurfers, foodies and tranquillity seekers. Choose between three types of bandas (thatched-roof huts), all crafted from local materials: basic (shared loo outside), beachfront (king-sized bed, relaxation space on the porch) and luxury (even snazzier). The excellent restaurant's mangrove crab dishes are unique on the coast. Kitesurfing, stand up paddle boarding and other activities on offer, there’s a huge thatched bar and playfully irreverent riffs on the ‘coconut-chic’ thing, and you can tour owner Justin's organic mangrove crab farm. Pickups from Malindi can be arranged.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Cottar's 1920s Camp

    One of the most storied camps in the Mara region, Cottar's, owned by a legendary safari family, induces a misty-eyed sense of longing from those lucky enough to have visited. As the name suggests, the enormous, stunning tents are dressed up like a well-to-do 1920s gentleman's lodging, with all manner of colonial and safari memorabilia. But there's more to Cottar's than just elegant style. There's some of the best food of any camp, a beautiful pool and a host of activities for children. Get the guides or hosts talking about the camp and family history and you'll spend one of your most memorable evenings out on safari. Guides here are among the best in Kenya.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Kicheche Mara

    Stunningly sited in a lush, intimate valley along a hippo-inhabited stream lined with acacias, Kicheche is a lovely property. The large tents with bucket showers have fine views and are wonderfully strung out along the valley, and there's a lovely mess area with free wi-fi. The safari vehicles have, like all at Kicheche camps, beanbags for photographers – a detail we always appreciate. Mamba tent in particular, the honeymoon tent, feels like a real wilderness experience on the outer limits of camp, but we also like Tembo and Kiboko camps. Eating under the stars, listening to lions roar and leopards cough, will have you thinking just how good life can be.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Sala's Camp

    So far south in the Masai Mara that you're almost in Tanzania, Sala's Camp is a real find. Away from the busier central and northern areas of the reserve, you'll feel like you're in your own private corner of the Mara. That does mean you'll need to drive further to explore, but the remoteness and wonderful tents more than compensate. The tents are large and luxurious with clawfoot bathtubs, lovely wood floors and a real sense of light, space and indulgence; some even have their own private plunge pools. And placed as you are at the intersection of the Sand and Keekorok Rivers, once the migration begins, you'll be among the first to know.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Masai Mara

    Maji Moto Eco-Camp

    On a hillside among granite rocks contorted into fantastical shapes, Maji Moto is around 60km north of the reserve proper. The camp is fairly simple but beautifully conceived, where guests sleep in large dome tents with mattresses on the floor. The highlight here is more cultural than wildlife – there are animals on the nearby plains but predators are rarely sighted. It's a brilliant camp for families, with warrior training, dances, village visits, bush walks, full-day safaris to the Mara and soaks in the hot springs all on offer. Multiday walking safaris to the Masai Mara can be organised and your stay genuinely helps the locals.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Nairobi

    Sarova Stanley Hotel

    A Nairobi classic. The original Stanley Hotel was established in 1902 – past guests include Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck. The latest version boasts large and luxurious rooms and a timeless lobby characterised by plush green leather banquettes, opulent chandeliers and lots of dark-wood trimmings. Rates drop slightly from Friday to Sunday. A highlight is the Thorn Tree Café, which inspired the name of Lonely Planet’s online community. Rates vary considerably with the seasons and availability, and are generally cheaper at weekends.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Kenya

    Saruni Samburu Lodge

    So perfectly designed is Saruni Samburu Lodge, the only accommodation other than camping within the conservancy, that its ‘tents’ virtually melt into the rocky bluff on which it’s located. And when we say tents we do, of course, mean tents with stone bathtubs, designer-chic furnishings and views that are quite simply out of this world. Throw in an infinity pool, superb Italian–Kenyan fusion cooking and attentive staff, and you get a place that gives any hotel in the world a run for its money. Prices include safaris, most drinks, airstrip transfers and almost anything else you can imagine.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Watamu

    Watamu Treehouse

    A wonder of recycled stained-glass windows, curvy walls of brushed concrete, nooks with sofas for sunset-watching and gnarled railings made of coconut wood, this twin-towered tree-house retreat rises from a sea of greenery. The seven plush, whitewashed rooms with rain-head showers are open to the elements, and this is a tranquil space for relaxation, yoga, paddle boarding and tasty, healthy meals. Half-board and full-board available, and there are tremendous views of the jungle and the sea from the Treehouse's terraces and yoga space. Ecofriendly, sensitive tours arranged and open to nonguests.

  • Top ChoiceLodging in Nanyuki

    Mt Kenya Safari Club

    This is the kind of place that makes you want to grow a moustache, kick back and smoke a pipe. The rooms have a luxurious, classic look to them and are decorated to a sumptuous standard, all with their own open fires and exquisite bathrooms. The whole shebang overlooks the Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy. There are more facilities here than you can shake a Maasai throwing-stick at (including a heated pool, clay tennis court, topiary maze, wedding chapel and art gallery). Keep an eye on its website as special rates are sometimes promoted there.