Discovering 15 Things To Do In Zanzibar: Something For Every Taste - Updated 2024

things to do in zanzibar island
Irina
Irina 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 9 min read

A part of Tanzania, although some locals might prefer independence, Zanzibar is a medium sized island. Being only 90 km (55.92 mi) long and 40 km (24.85 mi) wide, it’s easy to get around by car. Zanzibar is very famous world-wide for its coral beaches, making it the desired destination for anyone who wants to relax, enjoy the sun, and swim in the ocean. Although Zanzibar earned this reputation for a reason, there is more to Zanzibar than just its beaches. It is also an excellent destination to learn about history, local culture, endangered monkeys, traditional fishing, and small villages where you can disconnect from daily stress and worries. And amazing accommodations are available here - from luxury hotels to cozy vacation rentals. With your lodging sorted, you can go out and explore this amazing place in peace. Check out these amazing things to do in Zanzibar.

1. Explore Stone Town while learning history

Stone Town, Zanzibar
Source: Photo by user Rod Waddington used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re wondering what to do in Zanzibar, consider checking out Stone town. It is the main town on the island. Walking through the small alleys can seem like a labyrinth, a fun game with the main purpose of discovering years and years of history. The colourful architecture, the wooden balconies, the noisiness, the small shops and the passers-by give the place a unique personality. There are quite a few different activities that you can do while in Stone Town including watching the locals play football on the beach or visiting the local market in order to buy fruit and vegetables. Don’t forget to also walk around a bit and observe the variety of goods sold here just next to each other. While in Stone Town, you can also choose to go for a swim in the ocean or run along the shore. But do keep in mind that most of the population is Muslim, so wearing sleeveless shirts or short skits might be considered inappropriate. You can also simply enjoy local food in one of the many small restaurants around, for example the two suggestions below.

Luukman Restaurant

Address: New Mkunazini Rd

Price: from 1 USD to 3 USD / 2,235 TZS to 6,705 TZS

Access: walking from the city center

Open: daily from 7 am to 9 pm

Note: there is no menu, you should just head to the counter and check what’s available

Passing Show restaurant

Address: Malawi Rd.

Price: from 2 USD to 3 USD / 4,470 TZS to 6,705 TZS

Access: walking from the city center

Open: daily from 7 am to 9 pm

Note: it tends to be quite crowded during lunch time

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2. Meet red colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest

Red Colobus 7
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Olivier Lejade used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Jozani Forest is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Zanzibar, mainly due to the red colobus monkeys that reside here. These monkeys are an endangered species and Jozani Forest is one of the few places in the world where you can still find them. Although the area is not very large (the walk would most probably take you less than an hour), both the nature trail and the boardwalk provide good opportunities to spot the monkeys and several bird species. Walking through wild mangroves is also impressive.

Jozani Forest

Address: Zanzibar, Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania

Price: from 10 USD / 22,350 TZS

Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm. Closed on public holidays.

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: 20 minutes drive from Stone Town

Contact: +255242233485

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3. Walk on the 10 km (6.2 mi) long beach of Michamvi Peninsula

Approaching Zanzibar
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rob used under CC BY 2.0

Situated in the east, Michamvi Peninsula is the place where you want your picture from Zanzibar taken. The view of the ocean combined with the white, coral sand gives an extraordinary effect and wonderful colour combination. On the northwestern side of the peninsula you can learn more about village life in Zanzibar by visiting Michamvi Village. You can get there easily by hiring a dalla-dalla (mini-bus) from either Stone Town or Makunduchi Village.

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4. Get closer to nature in idyllic Matemwe

Beach at Matemwe
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Olivier Lejade used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Take a dalla-dalla (mini-bus) from Stone Town to discover a small traditional village in the northeast of Zanzibar. The long beach with its fine sand makes it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the ocean while watching the fishermen do their work. Due to the coral gardens, Matemwe is a great spot for snorkeling and diving. The village life here moves at a slow pace, the quietness and remoteness giving the perfect opportunity to disconnect and get closer to the nature.

Matemwe

Address: northeast coast of Unguja, between Mwangaseni and Kigomani.

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5. Where are the people on this island? Paje, Nungwi & Kendwa

Sunset
Source: Photo by user Hege used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re not after relaxing, meditation, and getting closer to nature, but you’re rather interested to find a place full of people, mostly other tourists like yourself, Paje, Nungwi, and Kendwa are some of the places where you should go. Paje is located in eastern Zanzibar, not very far from the Michamvi Peninsula. With its party atmosphere and noisiness, you can let the party animal in you get out and enjoy your time here. If you’re still energetic during the day, you can also try out kite surfing, as this is the most popular place for that. There are many dalla-dallas to these areas to bring you here from Stone Town. Up north, right at the tip of the island, you can find the busy Nungwi, and 3 km (1.86 mi) southwest of Nungwi there is Kendwa. In Kendwa, most of the activities are based around the beach such as snorkeling, diving, volleyball, and boat trips. You would still be pretty much surrounded by tourists, yet it doesn’t feel as crowded as Nungwi. Nungwi is a place of contrasts — although traditional fishing practices are still happening in this large village, luxurious hotels and crowds of tourists make it feel less authentic. It is, however, probably the place that offers some of the most luxurious hotels on the island, so in the end, it’s all about your preference.

Paje

Address: southeast coast between the villages of Bwejuu and Jambiani, Unguja, Zanzibar.

Nungwi

Address: far northern end of Zanzibar.

Kendwa

Address: far north of Zanzibar, on the west coast overlooking Daloni Island and Tumbatu Island.

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The following content is contributed by Trip101 writer, Celeste

6. Wind through the rural plantations for a spice tour (from USD 101.0)

A day spent at Spice Island is a day spent right. This is even more so if you’re interested in plants and cooking in general. For a fuss-free experience from pick-up to drop-off, book this tour from Viator. It departs in the morning at 9am and lasts for approximately three hours. Follow an experienced guide who you take you to rural plantations for a spice tour. Find out how the island was named and learn more about locally-grown spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Here’s your chance to catch a glimpse of village life and sample fresh fruits straight from the trees.

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Spice Tour of Zanzibar

Duration: 3 hours

3 reviews

7. Visit the history-rich Prison Island (from USD 99.0)

things to do in zanzibar island | visit the history-rich prison island

Prison Island is also known as Changuu Island. This 800 m (0.49 mi) long island is 5.6 km (3.5 mi) from Stone Town and was home to a prison complex in the 1800s. Sign up for this tour from GetYourGuide for a fun day out at sea. You will not only learn about the history of Prison Island but also about the variety of tortoises that live here. Some of them are much older than you are! You will also be able to spot peacocks and small antelopes and take pictures with them if you would like. There will also be a traditional seafood barbecue lunch provided. The entire tour will last for about five hours. Bring along a change of clothes if you’re planning to so swimming or snorkeling in the clear water of the island.

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Zanzibar: Prison Island Tour with Lunch on the Sandbank

Duration: 5.0 hour

63 reviews

8. Go on a bike tour of an organic farm (from USD 41.0)

Need to burn off some calories during your trip? Ride a bike on this organic farm tour! You will depart from Bluebikes Zanzibar, a bicycle rental service in Zanzibar City. Or if you prefer, you can request a pick-up from Stone Town. This tour will last for approximately seven hours. During the tour, you will hear facts on the locally-produced fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices from your guide. Best of all, you will be able to personally connect with local farmers and taste the produce they’ve cultivated. Lunch will be provided too.

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Organic Farm Tour by Bike

Duration: 7 hours

9. Check out the Old Fort of Zanzibar City

Old Fort of Zanzibar 2018
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Archeolucia used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Those wondering what to see in Zanzibar can head to the Old Fort of Zanzibar City. Formerly known as Arab Fort, Old Fort is a fortress located in Stone Town. Drop by for a view if you want to take in the old charms of this fortification that lies on the main seafront. In Swahili, the name to note is Ngome Kongwe. It was constructed by Omani Arabs in 1699. Used as a prison in the 19th century, Old Fort of Zanzibar City is currently used as a venue for large scale events such as the Zanzibar international film festival and Sauti za Busara (African music festival). You might be able to get your hands on some tingatinga paintings (tourist-oriented paintings) from the local shops on-site. There’s also an open-air amphitheatre where live music shows are sometimes held in the evening.

Old Fort

Address: Mizingani Rd, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)

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10. Spend an entire day outdoors with Blue Safari Tour (from USD 136.0)

The Blue Safari Tour available to book on Viator will keep you occupied for an entire day. Since you will be under the sun most of the time, remember to slap on plenty of sunscreen lotion before you depart. From the pick-up, you will travel to Menai Bay Conservation Area to take a boat out to a sandbank for snorkelling and sunbathing. Menai Bay Conservation Area is situated on the southwestern coast of Zanzibar Island. Established in August 1997, it is known to be Zanzibar’s largest marine protected area. An extensive seafood lunch, fruits, and drinks will be provided for during this tour.

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Tanzania Full Day Menai Bay Experience

Duration: 10 hours

14 reviews

11. Relive the history of slavery at Slave Chambers

Slave Memorial
Source: Photo by Flickr user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

Slave Chambers is a short 10-minute walk from Old Fort in Stone Town. We highly recommend you to tour the place with a professional local guide who can share with you the history of this Zanzibari monument. As you enter the underground holding cell, you will only be faced with stone walls around you. The place may not have the best vibes since it is dark and cold and was once the holding place for slaves waiting to be sold. You will also catch sight of a memorial of five stone figures outside, depicting four slaves with chains around their neck. Do have your children tag along if they are mature enough to deal with this not-so-pleasant past of Zanzibar.

Slave Chambers

Address: Tharia St, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Opening hours: 8:30am - 6pm (daily)

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12. Wander around the The Old Dispensary

Old Dispensary
Source: Photo by Flickr user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

For a dose of historical architecture, check out The Old Dispensary, which is one of the most popular Zanzibar points of interest. Also known as Ithnashiri Dispensary, The Old Dispensary is a historical building situated on the waterfront. It’s a minute’s walk from Zanzibar Ferry Terminal. You can identify the building through its lace-like patterned mint-green balconies. It got its name from the purpose it served in the first half of the 20th century - as a dispensary. It was built by an Indian merchant, Tharia Topan, in 1887 but only fully completed in 1894 after being sold to another owner. Through the 1900s, the building changed hands to another Indian merchant living in Zanzibar and later, the government. Restoration plans began in 1990 under Aga Khan Trust for Culture and were completed in April 1994. It is also home to a small museum now.

The Old Dispensary

Address: Malindi Rd, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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13. Drop by the House of Wonders (Beit Al Ajaib)

House of wonders
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Moongateclimber used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The House of Wonders also goes by the name Palace of Wonders or Beit-al-Ajaib in Arabic. It was built in 1883 by the second Sultan of Zanzibar. It’s interesting how it got its name. Since it was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity and also the first building in East Africa to have a lift, this fascination led to the birth of its name. It’s probably easy to identify the former palace since it is the largest and tallest building in Stone Town. It is characterized by a clocktower, cast-iron columns, and high ceilings. Check out the exhibits on-site if they are available for viewing at the time of your visit.

House of Wonders (Beit Al Ajaib)

Address: Sokoku St, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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14. View the exhibits at Peace Memorial Museum

Peace Memorial Museum
Source: Photo by Flickr user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

Before you enter to view the exhibits at Peace Memorial Museum, take time to admire the exterior. The Arab-style building was designed by a British architect named J H Sinclair. He’s the man behind a number of structures in Zanzibar. This includes the British Residency, High Court, Bank of India, Darajani Market, Bharmal Building, and the Post Office. The spherical shape reflects Arab influence with traces of eastern architecture of Istanbul and India. You will get to learn about the rich history of Zanzibar through various artefacts on display at this museum.

Peace Memorial Museum

Address: Benjamin Mkapa Rd, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)

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15. Get on a quad bike and visit the local village (from USD 141.65)

get on a quad bike and visit the local village

This tour from GetYourGuide is a good half-day activity in Zanzibar. You can choose to to depart at nine in the morning or two in the afternoon. Before you depart for your tour, do remember to dress appropriately as a respect towards the local Muslims. After being picked up from your accommodation, you will ride your quad bike for about 4 km (2.5 mi) to Pwani Majangani. Your guide will make a short stop by a local shop for you to get some gifts for the villagers and their children. You’re encouraged to purchase some basic food such as biscuits as gifts. It’s a great way to show your support for the locals! You will continue the journey through the rice fields before arriving at the village. Here’s your chance to interact with the community. The tour will also include visits to local plantations and a fishermen’s village.

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Zanzibar: Quad Bike Adventure Tour to a Local Village

Duration: 4.0 hour

123 reviews

Choose your own style in Zanzibar

No matter your personality, you will definitely find a destination and some activities suitable for you in Zanzibar. There are so many villages, all of them so different from each other, providing a high variety of choices. If your budget allows, do try to rent a car and explore as much of the island as possible — you definitely won’t regret it! And if Zanzibar is not enough, take a boat to Pemba (100 km / 62 mi away from Zanzibar on the sea) to feel like Marco Polo. The hilly mostly unexplored territory and lack of infrastructure will give you a totally different feeling than visiting Zanzibar.

Frequently asked questions about things to do in Zanzibar


  • Which are the top attractions to visit in Zanzibar?

    A plethora of attractions and activities await visitors to Zanzibar. However, the top attractions to visit here are Stone Town, Jozani Forest, Prison Island, Old Fort of Zanzibar City, The Old Dispensary and Nungwi Beach.

  • Which are the best outdoor activities in Zanzibar?

    Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do in Zanzibar. Go snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing at Menai Bay Conservation Area with Blue Safari Tour or enjoy scuba diving at Matemwe. You could even embark on a bike tour of an organic farm or a quad bike tour of a local village.

  • Which are the most popular things to do with kids and family in Zanzibar?

    Zanzibar has many kid and family-friendly attractions. Take your kids to meet red colobus monkeys in Jozani Forest or let them accompany you on a spice tour of rural plantations. As a family, you could walk around Stone Town or admire the historical structures like Old Fort, The Old Dispensary, House of Wonders and Peace Memorial Museum.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Irina is a Romanian with a strong aspiration to become a digital nomad and a penchant for change. Initially studying econometrics and securing a noteworthy job in risk management in Berlin upon...Read more

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Visit Zanzibar For The Perfect Getaway From The Hustle And Bustle

Visit Zanzibar For The Perfect Getaway From The Hustle And Bustle