Diani Beach has the best range of lodgings along Kenya's south coast, from stunning boutique hotels and luxury resorts to some excellent hostels and budget digs. Mombasa's accommodation offerings consist largely of uninspiring budget and midrange hotels. Wasini Island has several attractive, off-the-grid guesthouses, while Shimoni village offers a mix of deep sea fishing lodges and rustic digs. Funzi and Gazi islands have a luxury resort apiece.
Join the Dots: On the Coastal Backpacker Trail
There's so much to see along Kenya's stunning coastline. If you're travelling on a budget and after cheap, safe and fun digs, there's no better option than to follow the backpacker trail.
Starting in Diani Beach, bunk down at Diani Backpackers, inside a lovely house with a lush garden. You'll meet the owners behind the 24-hour bar. Alternatively, get your very own slice of white-sand paradise by bedding down at the budget Bidi Badu resort at the southern end of Diani Beach, complete with an excellent seafood restaurant. Next stop is the beachside Mombasa suburb of Nyali, where your best budget pick is the lively Tulia House Backpackers, a good base for exploring Mombasa Island.
From there, board a bus to Kilifi, home of Distant Relatives ecolodge, where there's always a good crowd, some beautiful gardens in which to chill out, and plenty of tours that showcase the best of local culture and nature. At the time of research, Malindi and Watamu still lacked good backpackers' hostels, but north of Malindi, on a deserted stretch of a superb kitesurfing beach, you can camp at the Barefoot Beach Camp or else stay at a rustic budget banda (thatched-roof hut) at Che Shale, Kenyan capital of kitesurfing. There are also some great budget digs on the banks of Mida Creek, from the rustic Mida Eco-Camp to the friendly luxury hotel turned hostel, Merry Crab Cove, with free boat drop-offs and pick-ups from Watamu. On Lamu island, Jambo House and Baitul Noor House mark the end of the line.