The Top Hotels in Tanzania

There are plenty of incredible sites in Tanzania, from the Ngorongoro Crater to Mount Kilimanjaro. Whether you’re looking to spot the Big Five or visit the islands of Zanzibar, there’s a memorable hotel on our list to make your home base.

Highlights
Tanzania, ArushaSerengeti National Park
As the camp’s name indicates, the main reason to stay here is to catch the Great Migration, the annual movement of more than one million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle making an 1,800-mile circuit through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, and into the Maasai Mara in Kenya. At the camp, large, tented chalets on stilts have wraparound decks with a 360-degree view of the landscape and its denizens. The lodgings blend into the surroundings on the bank of one of the great migration obstacles: the Grumeti River, with its many crocodiles, hippos, and boulders. Herds pass through the vicinity from August through November, and the Elewana’s northern Serengeti location miles from the main concentration of game lodges gives it a sense of privacy rarely achieved in the far more visited western and southern park corridors. One further advantage: The camp is within driving distance of the other great wildebeest crossing point, the Mara River, on the border region between the Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. The atmosphere at the lodge is cheerful and relaxed, and the huge tented suites, which are divided by canvas walls into bedroom and bathing areas, have comfortable queen or twin beds, wood floors, colonial-style leather chairs, African textile accents, and, unlike most mobile migration safaris, hot water and electricity 24/7.
Grumeti Reserves Grumeti Game Reserve, 31623, Tanzania
One of the most luxurious tented camps in all of Africa sits on an open plain within Singita Grumeti, a 350,000-acre private reserve that adjoins the Serengeti National Park ecosystem, through which vast herds of wildebeest and zebra migrate. Huge, ornate tents are throwbacks to 1920s expedition style, decorated with crystal port decanters, freshly cut flowers, decorative carpets and kilims, four-poster beds, clawed bathtubs, and wood-and-leather campaign chairs. A personal assistant organizes game drives, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning. Leased by American hedge fund mogul Paul Tudor Jones, the private Singita Grumeti concession has off-road driving rights (unlike the Serengeti National Park) and strategically placed manmade water holes that encourage resident wildlife to congregate for the guests. Opulence and attentive service don’t overwhelm the experience of immersion in nature; the tents’ mesh windows allow bush noises to come through at all hours, and zebra frequently dust bathe on the red-earth tennis court.
Kiwengwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania
The Spanish Meliá hotel chain took over management of this 40-acre, all-inclusive beach resort in Zanzibar from Kempinski in 2011. Airy, two-story blocks have rooms with huge baths and beach or garden views, and villas come with their own pools. Sheltered by a fringing reef on the northeastern coast of Unguja, Zanzibar’s main island, the resort’s calm white-sand beach has a long, shallow drop-off that makes swimming (as opposed to wading) impossible at low tide. However, the long jetty immediately in front of the hotel means swimming and snorkeling are always possible near the rooms: Golf carts departing every 20 minutes transport guests to the best all-day swimming area a kilometer from the hotel outbuildings. Here, the Gabi Beach Club offers Balinese-style loungers and a restaurant grill. Souvenir hawkers sometimes walk along the public-access tide line, but discreet security staff prevent unwanted solicitation.
andBeyond Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
This lodge offers a private island stay, paired with the option of experiencing the Swahili architecture, music, and culture of Stone Town (Zanzibar’s main town, 20 minutes from Mnemba by boat plus a 90-minute drive). Ten high-ceilinged, thatched bandas are footsteps from a flour-fine sand beach and are romantically furnished with elaborately carved wooden beds. For those who want a change of scenery, verandas and shaded beach beds offer a variety of places to sleep off all the early morning safari wake-up calls. Just under one mile in circumference, Mnemba Island has permanent residents that include poodle-sized Suni and rabbit-sized Ader’s duiker antelope, breeding doves, and enormous terrestrial coconut crabs. Sunbathers can spot dolphins from the beach year-round, and scuba divers might encounter the occasional whale shark.
Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Accessible only by boat, and with a daily rhythm determined by the tides, this beach resort co-founded by Scottish fashion and costume designer Ellis Flyte sits on the southwest part of Pemba Island, a 30-minute flight from Unguja, the main, more touristy island of the Zanzibar archipelago. The 18 thatched-roofed, canvas-walled rooms and suites are set directly on the white-sand beach, shaded by the surrounding mangrove forest, or perched on the hillside above, providing panoramic Indian Ocean views. A wooden jetty extends over a long, shallow drop-off, enabling guests to swim in front of the hotel at low tide. But the best beaches and snorkeling are 15 minutes away by speedboat off Misali Island, a conservation zone with more than 300 fish species, giant sponges, sea fans, and fields of old-growth cabbage corals. More sites reachable by boat offer a variety of reefs and drop-offs for experienced divers. Other activities include sunset dhow cruises, kayak trips through the mangroves to the ruins of an Omani fort, windsurfing, water skiing, wake- and knee-boarding, dolphin watching, and deep sea fishing. The resort’s informal vibe encourages guests to go barefoot even at the dinner table, but bring wading shoes to protect your feet against sharp coral and sea urchins.
Hotels
Kendwa Zanzibar, 73107, Tanzania
Why we love it: Tanzania’s first Design Hotel delivers eco-chic 20 miles off the coast

Highlights:
- A very haute take on African village architecture with 56 thatched bungalows, suites and villas
- The sight of dhows (traditional wooden sailboats) silhouetted at sunset
- Lush tropical landscaping with a spice garden flourishing over a quarter of the 32-acre grounds

The review: Set on the equator, Zanzibar glows with color from the pearl-hued beach to lush vegetation and the turquoise Indian Ocean. “Zuri” means “beautiful in Kiswahili, the island’s language, and the hotel delivers on this promise at every turn. Of especial note: the carved doorframes, contemporary African art and locally made furniture, often crafted from old dhows. Enjoy nice upcycled touches too like the rainbow of hanging lamps in the open-air Peponi bar, made from old bottles.

Tucked on a west-facing slope, most of the accommodations face the sapphire Indian Ocean, and all have large terraces with bold-colored hammocks and wicker furniture. They also boast outdoor showers, where concrete floors contrast with curtains of paper beads, handmade by artisans at the female-led social enterprise Chaka. Inside, the warm tones of Tanzanian teak and eucalyptus compliment the nyasi (grass) thatch from the mainland. Make sure to veil your bed with the mosquito net, which contains an energy-efficient cooling system!

Bungalows can sleep up to two adults and some have hot tubs. Suites step things up with larger terraces, living rooms and private outdoor Jacuzzis. Or really splash out with an exclusive oceanfront villa that can host up to six adults, complete with an infinity pool and private swathe of sand.

Guests can dine on the shore, at the pool or in one of the beachfront restaurants. Expect a fusion of African, Indian and Arabian cuisine, though European and Middle Eastern elements come into play as well. Zuri Zanzibar is especially strong on shisha (hookah) offerings and sugar-cane cocktails, along with dishes like beef samosas, coconut-milk ceviche, octopus-tentacle salad and pilau rice with kachumbari (a tomato-onion salad popular in the African Great Lakes region).

AFAR Journeys
More From AFAR