Welcome to Hemingways Watamu. This Indian Ocean luxury 5 star boutique beach hotel in Kenya is everyone’s favorite and our guests just keep coming back for more.
An iconic tropical paradise on the Kenyan coast sitting right in the middle of the pristine Watamu Marine National Park with its idyllic white sand beach and turquoise waters.
The exceptional personal service and sincere charm of this established hotel has come to represent Kenyan coastal luxury to so many travellers for close to 30 years. And it’s just got even better with a mega makeover.
There is so much to do here – learn to kite-surf; get your PADI certificate, take a sunset dhow cruise on Mida Creek, play a round of golf on the nearby world class golf course, Vipingo Ridge; or go on safari for a few days in Tsavo or the Maasai Mara.
If that all sounds a little too energetic, relax around the pool with a good book as you work your way through our cocktail menu.
Watamu – meaning “home of the sweet people” in Swahili – is a small village on the Kenyan coast approximately 120kms north of Mombasa – Kenya’s second largest city. It is also 20kms south of Malindi – Vasco de Gama’s first landing point on the coast of East Africa.
Watamu’s shoreline features pristine white sand beaches and offshore coral formations arranged in different bays and sheltered by a reef. The area is protected as part of the Watamu Marine National Park and is considered one of the best snorkeling and diving areas on the coast of Africa.
The Marine Park is renowned worldwide for its natural beauty and boasts a diverse marine life from the visiting whale sharks and manta rays to three species of sea turtle.
Climate & weather
The low-lying coast of Kenya creates a tropical climate with wonderful sea breezes. It is at its hottest in March but cools off in July with temperatures ranging between 26C and 32C throughout the year.
The monsoons bring two distinct seasons – when the warm air moves south in March, the longer rains follow in April and May. It moves north again in September bringing the shorter rains of October and November.
The southeast wind, called Kusi, blows from mid March to November, cooling the waters. The northeast breeze, called Kaskazi, brings warmer, calm seas throughout the months of December, January and February.
Culture & traditions
The Swahili culture of the coast is an exotic mix of Omani, Portuguese and Bantu influences. Built on trade, the coastal town of Watamu was once an outpost for ivory, slaves, spices and shells. Local people are predominantly fishermen and farmers and the coast is rich in exotic fruit and sisal plantations.
There is a languid pace to life here, quite different to the hectic rush of Nairobi. Middle Eastern influences are more apparent at the coast in the architecture and religion and both Malindi and Watamu have elements of an Italian feel with great pizzerias and delicious gelato available.
Bright, airy rooms measuring 40m² with en-suite bathrooms and private balconies all offering exceptional views of the Indian Ocean – a view you wish you woke up to every morning.
There are 13 newly renovated Deluxe Ocean View Rooms on the second floor of our North Wing and 26 Ocean View Rooms on the ground and first floor.
These ultra lux apartments are located in the South Wing of the hotel and offer 1, 2 and 4 bedroom configurations.
The Residences have been designed and finished to the highest degree of modern coastal luxury and feature majestic open terraces with magical views of the beach and Marine Park, comfortable lounge and dining areas flooded with natural light, en-suite bathrooms and fully equipped contemporary kitchens.
Guests of the Residences enjoy full access to all hotel facilities with the added benefit of being completely self sufficient if that’s what you’re looking for.
4 Bedroom Ocean View Penthouse Apartment
Penthouse style duplex apartments featuring living and dining areas and exquisite furnished terraces on both floors offer the perfect set up for groups of friends or large families.
Offering two large master bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and two large twin bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms, all bedrooms provide wondrous ocean views and direct access to the beautiful terrace.
These apartments offer both interior and exterior lounging and dining space and a fully equipped modern kitchen.
Dining al fresco at the beach with a gentle breeze is one of life’s great pleasures. Whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, our signature menus focus on fresh produce cooked simply and served expertly.
There is something to everyone’s taste at Hemingways Watamu. Served in our main restaurant, breakfast offers a range of options to suit all types from the super hungry, the health conscious or the continental. For a mid morning treat, specialty coffees, cakes and the finest gelato are available at the Gede Coffee Gardens.
The Gede menu also includes a varied selection of delicious wraps, sandwiches and sharing platters plus a variety of grilled meats and seafood along with healthy salads, perfect for lunches and more casual evenings.
In the evenings we offer a full white linen service a la carte restaurant for dinner, providing a wealth of flavourful options freshly caught from the Ocean at our doorstep.
If seafood is not to your taste we always have a variety of land based favourites ranging from aged beef steaks to traditional favourites such as Tandoori Chicken. A selection of pastas and vegetarian dishes are also available.
Begin your day with freshly baked croissants, fruity turnovers and cinnamon rolls with a Kenyan coffee and finish up with eggs and bacon and all the trimmings, prepared as you like it.
For the more health conscious, kick start your day with fresh fruit, homemade muesli and an energizing fruit smoothie or try a local favourite of scrambled eggs with smoked tuna. Our Chefs are ready to start your day in style as you watch the day come to life over the Indian Ocean.
Starting the day with delicious pastries, cakes and gelato from Non Solo Gelato and running through the day and evening the Gede Café menu offers a lighter, more casual setting for guests.
Homemade pastas, create your own pizza, tasting platters for one, two or more, grilled seafood and steaks and a wide range of sandwiches and wraps ensure there is something to suit everyone’s palate.
Try a Cobbs Salad Wrap or Grilled Jumbo Prawns or a simple but stunning spinach quiche. Or how about our Special Sharing Platter with Crab Claws, Fish Cakes and Samosas for everyone to nibble? The Gede menu is also available in the evening.
This is where you spoil yourself. Candle light, starry skies, gentle breezes, your favourite tipple and a superb range of fresh seafood with a Swahili flavor.
Our grill also provides meat lovers with options of prime aged beef fillets or delicious Karoo lamb whilst there is always a tantalizing selection of fresh pastas and vegetarian dishes on the menu.
For something extra special, catch your own fish of the day and ask our Chefs to prepare it for you to your liking. Too much to choose from? Never worry, our Chef creates a Table D’Hote menu every evening so you can try a little of it all.
The iconic Hemingways Bar is located right on the seafront and offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean and Watamu Beach.
With an extensive wine and spirit list and a variety of fresh, tropical cocktails there is simply no better place to enjoy the traditional Kenyan sundowner. The Gede Café food menu is available in the Bar.
Birthday? Anniversary? Or perhaps a Wedding? With our expert event planners on call to arrange your perfect celebration there is no better place than Hemingways Watamu for that special occasion.
From a sundowner cruise on a traditional Swahili dhow boat to a candlelit dinner for two in the Arabuko Forest or a sit down wedding reception for 150 guests, let us do the work, and you can simply enjoy.
As much as possible our chefs make use of the freshest local produce. Our fish and seafood arrives each morning off the boats, our honey arrives by dugout canoe from Mida Creek and our local markets let us choose the tastiest of fruits and vegetables.
Choose from our selection of African inspired skincare and massage treatments to reinvigorate and recharge after a long day in the sun. The Hemingways Watamu spa is a natural extension of the property’s commitment to quality and personalized service.
Sitting adjacent to the botanical pool in its own pavilion, the Spa offers guests the ideal hideaway to retreat for a few hours of ‘me time’.
The treatment menu combines signature treatments from Terres D’Afrique, an African skincare company that takes inspiration from the traditional uses of African plants, as well as Hemingways’ own treatment recipes using the best locally sourced ingredients.
Our small, experienced team of therapists are on hand to rehydrate, restore and re-energize.
The Spa at Hemingways Watamu offers a collection of unique facial and body treatments that are linked with the beneficial effects of aromatic products for both women and men.
These bespoke treatments help nurture and maintain the youthfulness of the face and body and ensure wellbeing, relaxation and balance.
Terres d’Afrique offers a holistic approach to spa treatments that respects the symbiotic relationship between your skin and its micro flora and help restore its natural balance. An awakening of your body’s senses, combined with deep relaxation to help you leave the world behind.
Our energetic instructors are on hand seven days a week to put you through your paces. Fully air conditioned, the gym is equipped with a variety of cardio-vascular workout machines and a good selection of free and standing weights.
We are fully equipped to kit you out with tennis gear. If the heat of the day is too intense for tennis, play early morning before a re-energising breakfast or after sunset under the floodlights.
Hemingways Watamu is renowned for deep sea fishing and has also recently pioneered humpback whale watching excursions during the months of June – September. The migration of the majestic humpbacks along the coast of East Africa is truly something to behold.
As host of the ILTTA World Championships, many ESPN, DSTV and SKY televised events and numerous other Tournaments annually, Hemingways Watamu is a focal point of fishing off the East African Coast.
The waters off Watamu offer hugely diverse fishing opportunities and it is one of very few places where three types of Marlin, Sailfish, Broadbill Swordfish and Short bill Spearfish are all available.
With a series of underwater mountains easily accessible offshore, bait and the predators are concentrated unlike the situation in the open Ocean. Hemingways Watamu was the pioneer of the practice of ‘tag and release’ of billfish on the Kenyan coast.
We continue to wholeheartedly recommend this to guests and award certificates to anglers in recognition of their catch.
Fishing charters are 10 hour full day excursions or 5 hour half days, depending on your preference and normally kick off just after sun rise when conditions are calm and often best for an early catch.
Our experienced crews are happy to work with beginners and help them through each step on the fishing learning curve or just sit back and watch a master at work in the chair on a big fish. Children interested in fishing are very welcome too.
All conventional tackle is provided (although those fishing on fly should bring their own kit) along with delicious fresh packed lunches from our kitchen and drinks.
All Hemingways Watamu’s deep water fishing craft are twin engine and in touch with each other and the shore by radio link. Each boat carries life saving and fire fighting equipment on board and bigger boats are equipped with a head.
We have 3 categories of boats:
- >30 foot sport fishing boats designed to take up to 4 guests. These boats usually run with a crew of 3. This is definitely the most comfortable way to fish with plenty of room to sit or lie down and relax whilst waiting for the action to happen.
- 20 – 25 foot twin outboard craft for up to 2 guests with 2 crew. Being smaller boats, you are right where it’s all happening – a lot of fun for those who want to be involved in everything.
- Small craft for up to 4 guests fishing inshore/bird watching or just exploring the beautiful Mida Creek and surrounding reefs.
Fishing starts each season in July with the first two months being windy with the South East trade winds (Kusi) blowing but the fishing is very rewarding for those happy to be out there in what can be quite rough conditions.
September brings calmer seas and October heralds the arrival of the main Billfish run from November to early April but sailfish and black marlin often come inshore in numbers in August.
The shores of Kenya are almost as good as anywhere in the world for sailfish; four to six to the boat is quite normal with our record at twenty three in one day – all tagged and released. A big blue marlin is an absolute privilege to see and they are usually found in deep water following tuna shoals.
Some very big blue marlin can be expected mid February to mid March. The main season for black marlin is December to mid March although we do see medium sized ‘Blacks’ in August/September often in very shallow water.
Catching broadbill is an overnight speciality – you drift at night, with squid weighted to different depths and light sticks on the leader – an experience not to be missed. The fishing rates using a big boat (35-38 footer)for the low season (July-October) are Half Day $580 and High season (Nov-April) $650.
Full day rates are $950. The prices include; selected packed lunches, soft drinks, bottled mineral water and beer, fuel, all tackle and bait.
Humpback whales are the most majestic animals in the ocean, and are seen annually passing through the Watamu National Marine Protected Area on the Kenyan Coast.
Ask any tourist to name the Big Five of Kenya, and they will no doubt give you the usual list of land animals. Although visitors to Kenya are aware of Kenya’s beautiful beaches, coral reefs, fishes and sea turtles, not many know that 10 different species of dolphins and whale have been identified in Watamu, which could easily be included in the “Marine Big Five”.
Each year whales are first sighted along the coast of East Africa in early June as they make their annual migration north from Antarctica. Whales travel to warm tropical inner reefs during both breeding and birthing.
Newly born calves typically remain with the mothers for about two years, until weaned. The return journey is made in October, swimming over 4,000km to the cold, food-rich seas of Antarctica, their main feeding area for sardines or krill.
These magnificent marine mammals can reach a length of 15 metres and weigh around 30 tonnes (about six times the weight of an elephant). Watching them in their natural environment leaping out of the water, sometimes in pairs, or larger family groups, is an unforgettable sight.
They can sometimes even be seen from land in Watamu, as you sip a cold beer facing the marine park.
Watamu is a haven, a natural sanctuary for families of dolphins including mothers and calves. Protected by Kenya Wildlife Service, the Malindi Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve and its protected lagoons and islands are the perfect way to watch our dolphins playing, feeding or having a party!
Although they stay in Watamu all year round, dolphins are best seen from November to April when the waters are calmest. Take a morning to view Indo Pacific bottlenose dolphins, and Indian Ocean humpback dolphins in the wild, naturally.
Watamu Marine Excursions are the established dolphin watching tour guides with over 20 years’ experience. They will provide an informed experience, compliant with dolphin watching guidelines.
Check out the Do’s and Don’ts to help you and the dolphins have the best experience. Guests are encouraged to stay in the boat for your and the dolphins’ safety, and reminded that Watamu dolphins are wild animals and very protective of their young.
An alluring setting for a romantic getaway or a memorable celebration.
Celebrate your engagement, honeymoon, anniversary, and birthday or just run away together for a while to the secluded ivory sands of the Indian Ocean. The beauty of a tropical oasis with all the benefits of 5 star service and standards creates the perfect mix for the ultimate party.
Our experienced events management team will help you plan your memorable occasion and be there on the day to make sure it runs perfectly. Perhaps you’d like a private evening on an Arabic dhow on Mida Creek or a sunset ceremony overlooking the white sands of Watamu.
There’s plenty of space to accommodate your guests and the bride and her bridesmaids can relax in the spa while we arrange the finishing touches to the big day. The ceremony could be conducted in the shade of a whispering palm tree in our exotic gardens, or barefoot on the beach.
Let us take care of everything from the cake to the name cards on the table. The local choir, vibrant and rhythmic, will sing you into matrimony before the Arabic dhow sails you off into the sunset, sipping champagne and toasting your new life together.
Spend lazy days enjoying each other’s company, the temperate climate and our delicious menus. If you want an adventure on your honeymoon, head inland to the bush for a few nights of safari at Tsavo or the Maasai Mara and return to Watamu for kite surfing and scuba diving before you fly back home.
Modern corporate facilities offering professionally organized and efficiently planned meetings and events on one of Africa’s finest beaches. The ideal executive retreat within easy reach of Watamu, our corporate facilities offer the coveted combination of privacy and relaxation.
Equipped with modern communication and presentation technology, our conference suite is a stylish venue for board meetings, strategy sessions and away-days.
The total seclusion of our conference suite is an inspiring arena for business networking or in-house discussions whilst the myriad activities on offer in Watamu provide the perfect opportunity for networking and team building.
For the more adventurous, spend a morning snorkeling over the coral reef, master kite-surfing, learn to dive, engage in scuba diving or take a sunset dhow cruise on Mida Creek.
For wildlife-lovers there is deep sea fishing, humpback whale watching and the extraordinary Arabuko Sokoke Forest – the largest, most intact coastal forest in East Africa, home to some of Kenya’s rarest mammals, elephant, brilliant butterflies and saltwater mangroves.
If you are up for the challenge, sign up for one of the courses at Tribe Watersports, one of the best kite surf school in Kenya, which is a stroll away down the beach. It welcomes beginners and experienced kite-boarders.
The warm, forgiving waters and the sand-cushioned sea bed are kind to beginners while the reef with its swells, kickers and sliders is a wild water-park for confident kite-boarders.
A fantastic sport to enjoy in Watamu as the area provides the right conditions with constant wind and flat water. It is a great way for the family to enjoy a beach holiday and discover and new way to be active on the water.
Stand up paddle
Stand Up Paddle (SUP) is one of the most up and coming sports for everyone, which is fun and great for communing with wildlife on their level.
Whether its watching sea turtles take a breath or the sharks and rays swimming in Turtle Bay, or to entice the curious Watamu dolphins who may join you, this is the best, most natural way above the water to view the marine life in our Park and Reserve.
The five-star golf resort of Vipingo Ridge is a popular day trip for Hemingways’ Watamu guests. 40 minutes’ drive from Watamu, a meandering system of water features runs through the course, keeping the greens bright and spongy.
The course is also an oasis for myriad birds and butterflies. The fairways have been expertly modeled so that every hole poses a unique strategic challenge to golfers.
Once you’ve mastered the effects of the fickle monsoon breezes to complete this 72-par course, head to the terrace bar of the Swahili style clubhouse to watch the sun set over the western inland horizon of baobabs and sisal plantations.
Diving takes place all year round although in our rainy season can be limited to inside the lagoon. Dives range in depth from only 6 or 7 metres to 30 metres, all taking place on the fringing reefs that grow along the shore of Kenya.
The Watamu Marine Park is amazingly rich with over 500 species of fish inside the lagoon and over 1000 if you include the second and third reefs. Lion fish, groupers, barracuda, damsels, moray eels, butterfly fish and parot fish abound.
Wonderful Nudibranchs are also fascinating to watch. Whale shark and Manta rays are also seen and provide a very special experience even to the experienced diver. Over 200 brightly coloured coral species also inhabit the waters giving food and shelter to this underwater world.
Certified courses available: PADI, BSAC, SSI and VDST
Exceptional snorkelling conditions in the Park allow all visitors easy access to the spectacular undersea life. Whether a newcomer to the sea, or an experienced diver, you’ll be able to find some exciting things to do.
The Marine Park is about 5 kms long from North to South and approximately 1 km from the shore to the fringing reefs. Snorkelling conditions are ideal at low tide, and especially good at spring low tide.
There are hundreds of beautiful coral reef fish which leave you awestruck and dazzled by their vibrant colours. If you are lucky, you may see a sea turtle, a guitarfish or large grouper.
Places to see
Beyond the beach, Watamu has several interesting places to visit. Hike through the shady forest in search of colorful birds, sail Mida Creek in a dhow or head to Malindi to discover Swahili antiques in bustling little streets.
The Mida Creek reserve is formed of extensive mangrove forests, warm shallow waters and large areas of mud flats at low tide.
This area hosts not only many local birds, such as greater flamingo, yellow-billed stork, great white egret and malachite kingfisher, but is also the winter home of many migrants such as the crab plover, curlew sandpiper, whimbrel and sanderling.
The osprey and African fish eagle are often overhead. The Creek is used by the local population for subsistence level fishing. Many small, dugout canoes will pass as you cruise in the creek.
A bird-lovers paradise, Mida Creek is also the spot to watch the spectacular African sunsets whilst sipping an icy cold Dawa aboard an old Arabian dhow at the end of an active day.
Gede Ruins, an archeologist’s delight, was one of the ancient Arab towns that dotted the East African Coast. It dates from the late 13th or early 14th Century and was finally abandoned in the early 17th Century.
Excavated since 1927, many areas have been revealed, including the Great Mosque, the Palace, several residential houses and pillar tombs. Surrounded by tall shady trees, a walk through Gede is a must for anyone interested in the Swahili people and Kenya’s history.
Canoes and Creek Rides
Get out on the water at sunset in a locally made bamboe canoe with a fisherman guide, your camera and your balance!
Very famous is the Crab Shack at Dabaso fish landing site. This is a wooden walkway leading to a number of wooden shelters from where you can relax with amazing views and perfectly observe the birdlife of Mida Creek. You can also enjoy a Swahili fusion lunch and dinner, or simply drinks watching the glorious sunset.
Canoes can be chartered either from the Mida Creek Boardwalk or from the Dabaso Landing Site, a small anchorage ground for canoes on the east side of the creek.
Mida Creek Conservation Community group offer special trips to Kirepwe Island including a picnic with traditional food of fish, rice and fresh fruit. Alternative experiences include a trip to Dongokundu to be entertained by traditional Giriama dancers.
As you wander the stone streets of this sea-town, you’ll notice it has a distinctly Italian flavor – you can even find homemade Italian gelato here.
Unusual Swahili treasures lurk amidst the dusty wares of haphazard shops. The House of Columns, Malindi’s museum, contains a library and photographs of the colonial history of the town. Vasco de Gama himself stands in stone just across the bay, near the Portuguese chape
Don’t feel that you have to spend your whole holiday on the coast; you might like to venture inland for a few days on safari to explore one of Kenya’s other thriving National Parks. Our experienced team will tailor an adventure that will surpass your expectations of the African bush.
Tsavo East and Tsavo West
Only a two-hour drive from Hemingways Watamu, you’ll discover more than 12,000 square kilometers of open plains and grasslands full of wild animals.
Famous for the man-eating lions that brought work on the railway bridge to a halt in the 1890s, the park is still home to prides of manned predators – although they are not so determined to eat their guests these days.
Abounding with herds of elephant, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck, giraffe, gazelle, zebra and at least 500 species of bird, your binoculars are best placed within easy reach.
Enjoy the night air under luxury canvas and awake to an azure sky, a whisper of cloud casting the faintest shadow on the ochre earth, before blazing a red dust trail as you head back to the coast.
As an established business in Watamu that has seen the area develop and grow over the last three decades, we do our best to contribute to wider community life beyond Hemingways Watamu.
Our involvement includes maintaining roads, supporting the local school and clinic, promoting ecotourism and recycling as well as fulfilling our role as a founding member of Watamu Marine Association (WMA).
Given our location within an incredibly precious marine ecosystem we recognize the need to limit our environmental impact wherever possible. Waste water treatment systems and rain water harvesting are two such areas we focus on.