Mombasa – City of Salt and Of Spice, Marvelous!
Do you dream of holiday destinations that are pristine, or with sandy white beaches? Amazing weather all year round? A laid-back place where you won’t be stuck in traffic hours on end, full of great culture, delicious food, romance, and exciting nightlife? Come to Mombasa! This gorgeous Kenyan coastal city is brimming with exotic foods, breathtaking scenery, exciting activities and a relaxing tropical ambience.
Mombasa sits leisurely along Kenya’s Eastern coastline with the Indian Ocean, making this city an obviously fantastic getaway for beach enthusiasts. Mombasa is definitely Kenya’s number one tourist destination! This fun-filled city has a variety of marine life living in its waters, a stunning array of world-class accommodations along the beaches, and a lively yet laid back and atmosphere.
Mombasa’s climate remains tropical year round, making it the perfect destination no matter the time of year you are able to squeeze in a holiday! It’s a great place to go solo, as a couple, or with the whole family. Mombasa has something for everyone no matter your interests or your age!
Mombasa – a port city through the years
Spices flow through the port city of Mombasa’s veins – Mombasa has been an important centre for trade of spices, salt, gold and other goods longer than recorded history has even noted. It’s trade links stretched out as far as what would be modern day China and the Indian subcontinent’s southern regions of Asia. It was – and still is – a very large, and very busy port town. Although it’s importance in trade isn’t what it used to be, it’s still the second largest city in Kenya and the biggest tourist destination in the country.
Once ruled by the Portuguese, the Arabs, and the British, the culture of Mombasa today reflects that of its past. The
ruins of historic Portuguese Fort Jesus, “Forte Jesus de Mombaça” and the Old Town were clearly influenced by these cultures and Mombasa’s trade relationships. There exist many Islamic and Portuguese examples of architecture throughout the city.
Getting in to Mombasa
Arriving to Mombasa by plane: Mombasa’s newly renovated airport has increased its frequency of flights going in and out of Mombasa from many European cities. If you’re looking for the airline with the most options for traveling in and out of Mombasa, look to Kenya Airways.
Arriving to Mombasa by train: The best advantage of taking the train to Mombasa, is being able to see the wildlife up close as you travel through the backcountry. There is train service provided mostly between Mombasa and Nairobi. Riding the train from Nairobi in to Mombasa is approximately a thirteen hour trip. You can have meals onboard the train, and options exist for purchasing either first or second class seats on the train.
Arriving to Mombasa by bus: The bus isn’t used in Mombasa as a major mode of transportation, and is mainly used when you need to go travelling outside of or into the city. The main provider of bus transportation in and out of Mombasa is the Matatu – a fleet of fourteen seater minibuses. The Matatu is a popular way for residents to head downtown, or out of the city.
Add these activities to your list of things to see and do in Mombasa!
- Mombasa Old Town and Spice Market
Find Old Town located around Fort Jesus. This area is bustling with shops, restaurants and the spice market. There are several markets throughout the Old Town area and the largest of them reaches out into the streets and alleys surrounding it and encompasses much of the neighbourhood. The spice market is covered, built during the colonial times. You’ll find immediately that many “guides” will attempt to offer their services for a fee – simply wave them on if you don’t require their assistance, or take on a guide (but beware, the guides are usually friends and family of certain vendors and will steer your towards their own market stalls – these guides will obviously be biased!) The spice market is definitely one of the Old Town’s major attractions, and one of the major attractions of Mombasa itself. The spices will draw you in with their vivid colours and exotic scents. You’ll notice fruits, nuts and vegetables piled high in baskets, bags, and hanging from strings and nets. You’ll quickly be able to tell that Mombasa has been heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, with the spices you will find here. With all the smells, sights, sounds and jostling market goers, it’s an invigorating experience for all the senses.
- Hindu Temples
Visit one of Mombasa’s many gorgeous Hindu temples while you’re here! These temples testify to Mombasa’s cultural diversity and are a sight to see in person. You are able to acquire a guide and go ahead into the temple along with your Temple Guide. Once inside the Hindu temple, you will see a stunning array of artifacts, idols, and various cultural arts and paintings displayed inside. Truly worth experiencing!
- Bombolulu Workshops
Come to see Bombolulu Workshops, and see the center that was created and founded in 1969. Bombolulu Workshops is a project effort of the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya – APDK, and the centre creates employment opportunities for one hundred and fifty disabled Mombasa employees. These employees use their skills to create textiles, wood and leather crafts, jewelry and other items that draw in tourists who purchase them as souvenirs. Bombolulu Workshops is Kenya’s largest rehabilitation center and your purchases help keep the center running and keep these disabled Kenyans employed.
- The Mombasa Tusks
The Mombasa Tusks are located at the entrance to the city, on Moi Avenue. These formidable giant tusk statues were built in 1956, to commemorate Princess Margaret’s visit to Mombasa. These tusks are not made of ivory, as some of the rumors have it – but rather, of aluminum. The tusks interestingly form two arches over both sides of Moi Avenue, together forming the shape of a letter M – for Margaret and for Mombasa.
- Mtwapa Creek
Mtwapa Creek is very well known for it’s bird-watching opportunities, among other activities. Mtwapa Creek is located nestled along Mombasa’s North Coast. This Indian Ocean Inlet is home to some smaller marinas amongst the tropical vegetation. If you’re not in the mood for bird watching, there are mountain bike tours around the Mtwapa Creek area, and it’s a major starting point for deep sea fishing trips! Mtwapa Creek also has a great nightlife scene, so come check it out. To get to Mtwapa Creek from downtown Mombasa, take the matatu from Digo road.
- Nyali Theatre
The Nyali Theatre, located on Nyali Road opposite Nakumat Cinemax is a good place to spend some downtime in Mombasa. The theatre features Hollywood and Bollywood new releases, and there’s also a casino and a bowling alley. If you’re hungry, grab something to eat at the Italian Restaurant – there’s also Indian bhelpuri, a type of chaat – vegetables, hot puffed rice and a tangy tamarind sauce – and other dishes. You can get to Nyali Theatre by taking a taxi from the city centre.
- Kinazini Funzi Dhow Safaris
Jump on the bus from all Mombasa beach hotels if you want to take a safari in an unspoiled Island, and head to Kinazini Funzi Dhow Safaris off main Tanzania Road. These safaris operate daily, and take you aboard a Dhow, a traditional Arab sailing ship to set sail to Funzi Island. You can explore the Ramisi River Mangroves for crocodiles and many species of birds via canoe, bathe on the beautiful sandbanks of the Indian Ocean, and take to Robinson Crusoe Island for a lobster and seafood barbecue feast. The price is approximately $105 per person.
- Tiwi Beach
Head to Tiwi Beach along the south coast of Mombasa, if you’re up for some beach time that isn’t overrun by mass tourism. At Tiwi Beach’s low tide, you can enjoy swimming in a tidal pool with the tropical fish captured there until the next tide comes back in – but be careful to avoid touching any of the sea urchins – they have a painful sting. Tiwi Beach is ideal – not a lot of people but it still has a small café serving up snacks, food and drinks. To get to Tiwi Beach from downtown Mombasa, jump on the Likoni ferry to the south by taxi from Mombasa city centre. You can also get there by public transportation from the city centre by getting on a matatu in Digo Road, which is located across the street from the post office – the matatu route you will need to take is conveniently named “Ferry” and matatu touts will be glad to assist you in finding the right vehicle. The matatu delivers you just outside the ferry which is free for people travelling by foot. Take a matatu going to Diani but get off at Tiwi Spot, and to avoid any hassles down this road, it’s best to hire one of the motorbikes along the main road to carry you to the beach.
- Haller Park
Haller Park is located along the Bamburi Nature Trail, on the east side of Links Road just north of Nyali. Travel north on Links Road to Nyali and look for the entrance to the park. It’s open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. You will find yourself in a small zoo with a park atmosphere, and you will be able to encounter giraffes, several hippos, monkeys, and enter a reptile house to view the reptiles inside. The Haller Park guides speak English, Spanish, French and other languages . One word of caution is to keep an eye on the monkeys. There are many of them, and they do seem to be very friendly but can occasionally bite. It’s best to remember that they are wild animals.
Where to eat in Mombasa?
Mombasa has such a diverse cuisine with so many different influences ranging from Swahili, Indian, Chinese, Italian and Korean cultures. Mombasa has many restaurants, eateries and cafés to choose from, many including preparation of freshly caught local seafood. Try Miyake Restaurant when visiting Fort Jesus.
Address: Fort Jesus on Sir Mbarak Hinawy Road
Miyake Restaurant is described as being an authentic fusion establishment, offering not only delectable meals but excellent service and an inspiring ambience, altogether an elegant dining experience. The restaurant offers a scenic view of Fort Jesus, and the décor is very modern with influences of African art and culture. Dishes are a fusion of African cuisine and international dishes – Biriani, Pilau, Kuku Kienyeji and Tilapia are on the menu at Miyake.
Address: Silos Road, Nyali, Mombasa, Kenya
Considered to have the best seafood in Mombasa, Tamarind Mombasa is well known for it’s excellent ambience and delicious food. The view from the restaurant is amazing, and the fish tank is an interesting touch. The staff ensure your meal is a wonderful experience at Tamarind Mombasa!
Address: Mwembe Tayari Road, Mombasa, Kenya
Described as being one of the best places to order palak paneer, Singh Restaurant is a wonderful place to come in from the noise and business of the outside and enjoy a slow, delicious dinner experience. Recognized for quality food and excellent service, Singh Restaurant also has a lovely atmosphere.
Where to stay when visiting Mombasa?
Lambada Holiday Resort
Mtwapa Creek, along Mombasa’s North Coast
This resort has sixty rooms, all spacious, as well as an entertainment area, hair salon, swimming pool, sports bar and restaurant.
Mwembe Tayari Road, Mombasa
For about $20 per person, you can stay at Hotel Saphire which offers 110 rooms and suites as well as a health club and gym.
Sun N Sand Beach Club
Malindi Road, Kikambala
A family friendly all inclusive resort with 298 rooms, various activities, nightlife a health club and pool.
Visit the African destinations category to learn more about other tourism opportunities available in Africa!