Malindi & Watamu
Watamu is located in the southern side of Malindi and this small coastal town has everything you need for a perfect holiday. It also happens to be a smaller version of Diani with the added advantage of being closer to the local life and culture. It is also more reasonable price wise and offers great value for money.
Fun Fact: Watamu means sweet in Swahili.
Malindi is the next big city to Watamu and while most people think of Watamu as Malindi they are quite different. Malindi is a big city, congested and crowded without a lot of things to do whereas Watamu is more of a seaside small town built for leisure.
Fun Fact: Watamu is a favourite of Italians and quite a few businesses around are owned by them including hotels, the locals often speak some level of Italian to interact with these tourists.
Check out my Kenya guide to come fully prepared for this gorgeous country.
Getting to Watamu
Getting to Watamu is easy both by road or by air. I drove from Diani to Watamu which took 4-5 hours because that was the most convenient way. The roads aren’t the best but the flight was more hassle than the drive plus i got a chance to see a bit of the country on the road.
The international airport in Malindi is only 20km away from Watamu. You can take a taxi to your hotel from there for roughly 1000-1500 shillings.
Public Transport in Watamu/ Getting Around in Watamu
Tuk tuk is the easy answer although I saw a lot of motorbikes as well and finally got to ride one because it was late and there were no tuk Turks around. Ubers are not common here and there are no official cabs in the city.
To go out of the city you will need a can which the hotel can arrange or ask any tuk tuk driver, they usually know people with cars and it can be easily arranged.
Do remember, always negotiate the price and fix it before sitting in. There is a huge margin and if you’re a tourist, a 100 shilling ride will be quoted to you for 300-400. Average is around 100 shillings for a ride around town.
Food in Watamu
Food is generally quite fresh and great here and there’s plenty of fresh fruits and juices to accompany every meal. Seafood is the best option especially the beach restaurants. There are quite a few Italian restaurants around as well which was a good idea if you craved a pizza or some pasta.
Here are my favourite spots:
The restaurant at Visiwa Hotel sort of became my go to place being close to my hotel. They had the best choice of desserts, great drinks and a good selection of fresh pizzas with a tad local touch. Sitting by the pool or the beach in the evenings enjoying the delicious food definitely made me love this place. They also have a bar at the beach which is very well made.
Located right at the beach, this little restaurant has very chilled vibes. After a morning of being lazy at the beach I simply headed there for some lobster with coconut rice and fresh coconut water which they can get for you from one of the guys at the beach. Delicious and fresh!
I didn’t know about this place until I went to the Mida Creek sunset cruise. It is a community run restaurant where they serve lunch and dinner in the middle of mangroves.
The best part is the entrance which is made of wooden path through mangroves and you can see the small crabs frolicking around. The walk itself is really beautiful and after the sunset, it becomes even more beautiful.
The ginger crab I have had here was divine, it couldn’t get fresher than that. I almost had to wrestle with it to get the flesh out but it was so delicious I didn’t stop until I devoured it all. An absolute must.
After dark, this place is a little spooky so make sure you have the number of a tuk tuk driver to take you back home.
Beach Boys of Watamu
There are a few guys hanging around near the beach area trying to sell coconut water or other small artisanal items. They are called beach boys and they are very difficult to shake off. If you don’t plan to buy anything don’t engage and don’t make eye contact.
Sadly, they are also associated with low level crime so keep your belonging safely in the hotel and take care of whatever you bring with you, don’t leave your bags lying around. Most of them are sweet and friendly but most conversations end with a request for money, based on experience.
Is Watamu Safe?
Watamu is a safe spot and because it is a touristy place the level of crime is low. You should still be cautious and not walk around with expensive stuff.
There are no street lights and evenings can feel a bit spooky besides there isn’t a huge nightlife here so stay put if you want to feel extra safe.
Money and ATM’s in Watamu
You will need to carry cash or use M-Pesa to pay most of the people especially outside the resorts. There are plenty of ATM’s in the town to withdraw money from. I didn’t see any money exchange around but you can ask your hotel for exchange but do expect a bad exchange rate.
Check out my guide about money in Kenya for more information.
Mosquito repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, flip flops, swimming trunks, deodorant, talcum powder, underwater camera, snorkelling gear.
(Watamu is quite humid and the powder helps avoid development of fungus around the genital areas or feet).
Where To Stay In Watamu?
Watamu has a good selection of hotels and resorts and while there are resorts they are not as boring and all inclusive types as you get in Diani. I stayed in a hotel next to the beach which was great. I could experience the local life as well as be close to the beach and getting around was very easy.
It was a 5 minutes easy stroll that got me to the beach and di didn’t feel trapped in a tourist city; perfect balance!
One thing I did miss here were the hotels with makuti. Makuti are the conical roofs made of coconut leaves, they are amazing for summer heat and humidity apart from looking spectacular.
Tip: Although there are few mosquitos in Watamu, it is best to get a place with mosquito nets around bed to avoid any issues especially in case you get power cuts which can happen.
Gay Watamu/ Watamu Gay Travel
There are no gay bars or venues in Watamu and needless to say as Kenya is a fairly conservative country where being gay is a crime, it is important to practise caution. People are quite used to foreigners and their ‘weird’ ways and unless you’re overtly attracting attention or make advances, you will be fine. PDA is not considered good even if you’re straight, it is just not part of their culture.
There were very few guys on Grindr, almost no one has their picture on but a lot of them were very friendly. I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone but had a good chat with one guy around the idea of cis and trans genders. I didn’t see any foreigners around either on Grindr. It considering it is a small town I wasn’t surprised.
It is always advised to meet people in public once you have seen them on camera (quick vid call should suffice).
How Many Days For Watamu?
I spent 3 days here which is a good mix with 2 days of exploring and one day of relaxing on the beach.
Top Things To Do In Watamu
Watamu is quite a fun place with lots of things to do. I have listed them below. Check out Top Things To Do In Watamu for details including costs and booking tours.
1- Meet some snakes in the Bio Ken Snake Farm
2- Explore the Gedi Ruins
3- Relax at Watamu Beach
4- Sunset Canoeing at Mida Creek
5- Go dolphins spotting & snorkelling on a day trip to Waka Waka Island
6- Watch a sunset at Marafa/ Hell’s Kitchen
7- Get an adrenaline rush with Watersports/ Kite Surfing
I hope this guide helps you plan the perfect trip to Watamu, if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask.