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Watamu, Kenya
Fast Facts
Scuba Diving
Ancient Ruins
Kid-Friendly Hotels
Points of Interest Nearby
Family Travel Tips

Watamu, Kenya


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Watamu may lack the charm of Lamu, bustle of Mombasa and tourist trappings of Diani and Malindi yet this once fishing village is well worth a visit. Watamu's superb sandy beaches are safe for swimming, strolling and sunbathing. Watamu Marine National Reserve, with its myriad of marine life, is one of the best places in Kenya for snorkeling and diving. Watamu sits a short distance from two top birding destinations - Mida Creek and Arabuko Sokoke Forest - and Gede Ruins, one of the best-preserved Swahili settlements on the Kenyan Coast. While most hotels cater to European package tourists on all-inclusive holidays, there are a few good choices for independent families and budget travelers.
Getting There
Watamu is situated on the Kenyan coast and is located 125 km (78 miles) north of Mombasa and just 25 km (15 miles) south of Malindi. The nearest international airport is in Mombasa. Malindi has a small domestic airport. Road transfers from Mombasa and Malindi can be arranged through area hotels or booked directly with Juma Wilson, a reliable driver and excellent guide. The trip from Malindi is roughly 25 minutes. The drive from Mombasa is nearly 2 hours. Watamu can also be reached by bus and matatu. Driving in Kenya is a hair-raising experience and costly means of travel.
Getting Around
Boda-Bodas (bicycle taxis), tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicles) and taxis are readily available. Matatus travel regularly between Watamu and Gede and Watamu and Malindi.
When to Travel
The best time of year to visit Watamu is between December and April. Not only is the weather hot and dry, the ocean is clear and the beaches are free of seaweed. The short dry season from August to September also has ideal weather but the ocean is rough and murky and the beaches are strewn with seaweed. There are two rainy seasons, March to June and October to December. The peak tourist seasons are Christmas, Easter and the month of August.
Health & Safety
Watamu is a malaria risk area. Other health risks include sunburn, coral cuts and travelers' diarrhea. Watamu is relatively safe yet it is imprudent to stroll alone after dark. Beach boys, hawkers and touts can be a bit of a nuisance but just be firm and friendly and they will likely move on. Water shoes are recommended at all times and fundamental at low tide. When packing your first-aid kit, don't forget to include high factor sunscreen, diarrhea medications and DEET insect repellent. See our Kenya page for information on vaccinations, malaria and other items to include in a medical first aid kit.
Things to Keep in Mind
The tidal range is substantial meaning the shoreline changes dramatically every 6 hours. There are few independent restaurants as most resorts are all-inclusive. A service charge of 5% may be added to accounts settled by credit card.
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Travel Trivia
At Four Corners you can stand in which four U.S. States?