28 Things To Do At Zanzibar Archipelago – A Tropical Island I Have Been To!

There are a lot of things to do at Zanzibar island, I know because I have been there ;-).

I went scuba diving myself, visited Stone Town, and drank coconut milk straight from the coconut on a gorgeous beach, but there is so much more to do and see on this tropical island!

Today, I am taking you with me on a tour around this breathtaking island.

But first, where is Zanzibar Island Archipelago located? And a Zanzibar map.

Zanzibar island has a total surface area of ​​1658 km² and about 800,000 people are living there.

The island is located near the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, it is about 40 km from the coast of Tanzania and it consists of several islands.

The largest islands are Unguja and Pemba and the smaller islands include Mafia, Latham, Hadimu, and Tumbatu.

You can click on the picture below to see Zanzibar located on Google maps.

A little bit of history of the island.

The island of Zanzibar has been conquered by two different countries.

First, it was the Portuguese who were interested in Zanzibar because of its strategic and ideal location for trading goods.

However, the Portuguese ruled quite passively over the island, and therefore it was later taken over quite easily by the Sultanate of Oman.

During the reign of the sultan of Oman, the trading route grew strongly and the island developed into a strong economy. The downside of all of this was that sadly Zanzibar got a big role in the slave trade.

The shortest war in the world ever was fought in Zanzibar, in 1896. In less than an hour, the Sultan gave Zanzibar to the British.

Zanzibar remained in British hands until 1963 and then it was declared independent. In 1964 Zanzibar merged further with Tanganyika, (known now as Tanzania), but remains a semi-autonomous state to this day.

In the video below, you can see a more expanded explanation of the history of Zanzibar:

28 Things To Do At Zanzibar Island.


1. Go look at the sunset.

I can hear you say: that is not so special is it, Lizzy, but when you love watching sunsets, Zanzibar with all its gorgeous beaches is a thing-to-see for sure!

The best places to watch the sun sink into the ocean are off course the beaches, with or without having a drink at a (bar) beach.

A good place for this is on the east coast of the island at the village of Michanwi. Another place where you can go see the sunset is at Kae Funk.

There is a very cozy beach bar with live music every night and delicious cocktails! Have a sneak peak at the Youtube video below :

Tourists are also quite fond of looking at the sunset from the Africa House Hotel in Stone Town.

2. Watch the sunset from a Dhow boat.

I know, quite familiar with number 1, but still, something unique to do.

The Arabs ruled Zanzibar island for a long time and this is why you can still see their traditional Arabian boats called a dhow being used. There are organized trips on these boats that include a djembe band, isn’t that fun?! And they serve a delicious Tanzanian gin: Konyagi.

You can take a fantastic sunset cruise from Nungwi, Kendwa, Paje, Kizimkazi, or Stone Town.

3. Let yourself get carried away by the music!

Taarab music is an important part of the culture in Zanzibar. It is a special mix of music styles from the area around the Indian Ocean

Join in with the locals and watch the musicians and marvel at the rhythmic sense of dancing people. In Stone Town there you can even visit the Dhow Music Academy.

You can find a little example of a band playing Taarab music in the video below:

4. Discover the under water world.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of me diving or the underwater world of Zanzibar myself (because yeah, I was diving haha), but it definitely was a breathtaking experience. I took a “fun dive” that was going to about 6 meters deep and the color of the clear water around Zanzibar was just amazing, you don’t even need to dive deeply to see lots of fishes in the see 🙂

The many sensational coral reefs make the island one of the most beautiful places for diving in the world. What will you see during your dive: tropical fish, turtles, mantas, whale sharks, dolphins…..

Of course, you can also just go snorkeling, the area around Kizimkazi and Mnemba Reef are the best places for both.. The Blue Lagoon at Paje Beach is another gorgeous spot.

Start saving your ideas

5. Follow the spice route.

Zanzibar is very well known for its spices and herbs. You can go on an organized tour and visit a spice farm and get to know all the spices from the island: lime grass, cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper, and so much more.

It really doesn’t matter where you stay on the island, because a spice tour can be arranged from any place. Vanilla, turmeric, cloves, and ginger are all originally from Zanzibar, and you can always bring a small supply back home as a souvenir!

6. Just be lazy and have a sunbath on the tropical beaches!

One of the main reasons for people to visit Zanzibar island is the beautiful beaches. And you can’t disagree with that! The coastlines are not going to disappoint you with more than 25 beaches. They have nice beach bars, azure blue water (so clear!), and swaying palm trees everywhere, where you can dream away!

Just laze around, swim, snorkel, or have lunch or dinner with your feet in the sand. Take a walk on the beach, watch the sunset, every beach in Zanzibar is gorgeous!

If you go sunbathing on the beaches, please don’t forget to use sunscreen, one of the necessities for Africa!

7.Explore Stone Town.

Stone Town is the old center of Zanzibar City and has been on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2000. Because of its special mix of Indian, Ottoman, and Arab influences, the architecture here is quite unique.

More in particular and special, are the fantastic doors. You can wander through winding and narrow streets, visit the markets, and admire the beautiful squares!

When visiting the city, you shouldn’t miss the slave market, and in the evenings, Forodhani Gardens is the place to enjoy a delicious meal.

Every evening, there is a variety of street food stalls with delicious foods. Did you know that Freddy Mercury was born on the island and that you can visit his birthplace? You can also take a stroll at the harbor.

8. Go to the beach of Nungwi.

This village located in the far north of the island has beautiful beaches, but what makes it special is the colorful fishing village which has kept a lot of its charm, although it is the most touristic spot on the island.

There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and places to stay. You can take a walk to the lighthouse and go snorkeling at Mnemba Reef.

9. Spend some time with the locals.

Walk away from the most tourist spots and you can enjoy some time well spent with the local residents. They are quite friendly and open to any questions you might have. Also, it is just very nice to walk around the village.

10. Take a ride in the Dala dala.

Getting around with a Dala Dala can get quite an adventure. These small busses run all over the island and they are the main transport for the local population.

What’s so special about the Dala Dalas is that they have no special stops. You can just raise your hand to get in or out. It is the most adventurous way because they can get quite speedy and the roads on Zanzibar are very bumpy and poorly paved, but that can be part of the fun, no?

Picture By Muhammad Mahdi Karim – Own work, GFDL

11. Go SUP, this means Stand-up-Paddling.

If you would like to do something less physically demanding than surfing or kitesurfing, you definitely need to try out SUP or more specifically: Paddleboarding. Surf Zanzibar offers a number of different SUP tours in the beautiful lagoons and also right through the mangrove in Chwaka Bay.

12. Explore Jozani National Park.

One of the most fantastic things to do at Zanzibar island is to visit its fauna and flora. You can admire rare animal species in the Jozani National Park, like the red colobus. It is a monkey that is only to be found on Zanzibar.

Also, there are more than 100 different species of special tress, more than 50 species of butterflies, and 40 different bird species. The nature in this park will blow your mind!

During the rainy seasons, the lake looks more like a swamp. You can visit it organized, but you can also go there on your own, guided by someone guiding you through the park.

13. Shopping at Zanzibar.

Zanzibar island is a very fun place to shop. It is where I bought my chess game, made from solid mahogany wood and a lot of local artists make them, it is hard to choose!

Let yourself be surprised by all the small and special shops with trinkets: paintings, jewelry, carvings, Zanzibar chests, exotic spices, etc. Don’t forget to negotiate the prices!

Have a look at this amateur video of someone going through Stone Town Market 🙂

14. Explore the village of Jambiani.

About an hour’s drive from Stone Town, in the east of Zanzibar, there is a village called Jambiani that has a lovely beach. Life is still authentic here, with active fishermen, women searching for seaweed, children playing on the beach, and locals chatting with each other. There is a nice atmosphere, with just a few restaurants, but that’s ok!

15. Eat out at the Rock Restaurant.

The Rock Restaurant is without any doubt one of the most spectacular restaurants in the world. It is built on a rock in the sea and when it’s high tide it can only be reached by boat, which sails back and forth. It is amazing! The food can get a bit more expensive than in other places on Zanzibar, but still affordable in western terms, about 25€ for the main course. (about 28$)

The restaurant is located about 15 minutes from Paje. It would be better to book a lunch or dinner in advance, as places are limited. You can eat delicious fresh fish, such as the “The Rock Special”: a fish dish with grilled lobster, shrimp, and whitefish.

16. Stay at Paje Beach.

Paje Beach is thé place to stay when you like kite surfing. The seas and skies are painted with colorful kite surfers, nog just nice to look at, but why not try it yourself? You can find several hostels and hotels in all kinds of price ranges and there are a handful of restaurants and shops.

There is a very relaxed and nice atmosphere with white sand and it is a lot less touristic than Nungwi, for example.

You can learn how to kite surf yourself for each level, from beginner to advanced. It can be a lot of fun to take a trial lesson and experience what it is all about.

Paje beach has grown into a small kitesurfing paradise over the years, as the conditions for learning there are ideal because there are no waves and the wind is usually good. One hour of private kitesurfing lessons costs about €70 ( 80$ ) and there are several kitesurfing schools that you can choose from.

17. Visit Prison Island and the Giant turtles.

Prison Island is about 25 minutes from Stone town by boat. The name might suggest otherwise, but it has never been a prison. The main attraction on this island is the giant tortoises. They are something wonderful to see, just stop and think about their age: some of them are over 150 years old!

18. Spotting dolphins!

The best chance of spotting dolphins in the wild is at the southwest of the island. These dolphins are not fed by the locals, so it is not guaranteed that you will actually see them.

You might stand a better chance of spotting them in the mornings. You can get organized excursions to the various places on the island, but the best place to swim with dolphins seems to be in Kizimkazi in southern Zanzibar, about an hour’s drive from Stone Town. These excursions cost around €40 (45$) for 3 hours.

19. Party at the Fullmoon Party!

Every month there is a fantastic and cool Full Moon party at Kendwa Rocks in the North of the island. This party has the best local singers and DJs. There are several bars, a stage, a large dance floor, fire eaters, acrobats, and a large area with tables and chairs in the sand. Welcome to the white beaches at Zanzibar!

20. Have a luxurious night on Mnemba island.

This is an option that is not very cheap, but quite romantic: stay on this exclusive paradise featuring twelve rustically chic beachside bandas, for just 24 guests, connected to the breathtaking Mnemba atoll, called AndBeyond. If you are looking for an exclusive and tropical paradise to stay at, this is it!

21. Go horseback riding.

There are several horseback riding organizations at Zanzibar, why not take a walk on one of the fantastic beaches?

22. Join a deepsee fishing boat to go deepsee fishing.

You and your family can charter a boat to go deepsea fishing.  The Zanzibar Archipelago attracts all kinds of weird, wonderful, and big game fish, like barracuda, wahoo, kingfish yellowfin tuna, sailfish, marlin, and so many others.

23. Drive around the island by bike!

Oh yes, even driving around by bike is possible at Zanzibar, why not? Organizations like Bikezanzibar give your real bike experiences by real people. They offer day tours, but also complete cycle holidays, you can hire a bike and even women-only trips are available.

24. Listen to the wake up call from the prayers.

When you are staying for the night at Zanzibar, you need to consider that at an early hour, you will be wakened up by the mosques. I remember that it was at about 5.30 in the morning. If you are not a morning person, it would be advisable to wear earplugs ;-).

25. There is a beautiful dispensary at Zanzibar.

 Ithnashiri Dispensary is an old historical building in Stone Town. It is located halfway the harbor and the Palace Museum. In the 20th century, this building was a pharmacy, hence its name.

It is located at Mizingani Road, which is on the seafront of Zanzibar. It is one of the prettiest buildings on the island and very photogenic.

26. Taste the local foods.

The restaurants in Zanzibar for tourists have an extensive choice in international dishes but don’t be surprised if a large part of the dishes on the menu is not available.

A cheaper choice would be to eat in local restaurants, where simple dishes are usually offered: ugali (corn porridge, chipsi (fries), wali (rice) with nyama (meat), kuku (chicken), or samaki (fish). Vegetarians can ask for maharage (beans) or mboga (green vegetables).

If there is one thing widely available in Tanzania it surely is bananas. There is fried bananas, banana soup, boiled banana, and also banana beer.

People tend to mostly eat a lot of fish, lobster, and crab, and typically “Swahili dishes” are prepared with coconut milk. At parties, there is always pilau, spiced rice. For warm drinks, they drink a lot of tea and when there is enough money: soft drinks and beer.

27. Zanzibar has festivals, yeay!

There are more, but these 3 are the most known:

  • festival number 1: Sauti za Busara.
    This Swahili music festival is the best-known in East Africa, the biggest one and it takes place in February This festival has many different styles of music, from dance and theatre, over traditional taarab to hip-hop.
  • festival number 2: Zanzibar International Film Festival.
    Taking place in July, Stone Town has a terrific film festival with movies, of course, conferences, typical dances and other arts. This festival is enjoyed very much by tourists.
  • festival number 3: Watersports festival and dhow race.
    This beach and watersports festival, every year in September, is one full of culture and music and beach life, during 3 days. It is taking place in Jambiani. This festival is organized by volunteers from local organizations, individuals, hotels and village groups.

28. Learn a little about the history of slaverny.

Zanzibar has been the center of the slave trade in East Africa for a long time.

In Stone Town, near the church, you can visit the old slave market and pay your respects at the slave monument, plus the old house of David Livingstone, who was fighting against slavery. The image below of the monument shows statues of chained slaves.

In the slave cellars, which you can visit as well, the slaves were kept for a few days before they were sold.

You can visit all these places on your own, but also historic tours are organized on this topic.

The underground slave market.

My Final Conclusion.

As you can see, there are tons of things to do at Zanzibar island and even if you stay for weeks, I don’t think that you will ever get bored or unhappy with this gorgeous and lively island 😉

I will soon tell you all about thé best places to stay overnight in Zanzibar, keep posted!

I wish you happy travels!

Kind regards,


I now have a YouTube channel as well!


6 thoughts on “28 Things To Do At Zanzibar Archipelago – A Tropical Island I Have Been To!”

  1. Wow! Zanzibar Island looks like an incredible place to spend a dreamy vacation!

    I appreciate the quick history lesson which makes the appeal of traveling to Zanzibar Island even stronger. From the spices, to the music, to exploring Stone Town, shopping, dining, and visiting the beautiful beaches, this looks like paradise!

    What is the best time of year to visit? When is the peak season for tourists?

    • It sure is a lovely place, isn’t it?

      About your questions:

      – the best time to visit Zanzibar island would be during the dry season there: from July to September

      – The months of June to October are regarded as the peak months to travel to Zanzibar

      Have a good time Aly on Zanzibar island!

      Kind regards,


  2. This is wonderful!  I learn something new every day.  I had never heard of Zanzibar Island.  Is it close to the Canary Islands by chance?  I have been to the Canary Islands, and it was like paradise.  The winds were pretty strong though, so I am curious if Zanzibar has strong winds there as well from the trade winds off the coast of Africa?   

    • Hi Leahrae,

      I am happy that you have learned about Zanzibar now, it really is a lovely place to stay! 

      About your question, it is not close to the Canary Islands at all, it is on the other side of Africa 😉 The Canary Islands are on the west coast, Zanzibar is on the east coast, and it is merged with Tanzania.

      I don’t remember it being very windy no, and I don’t think it has hardly been affected by cyclones or any kind of other heavy weather, luckily;-)

      Happy travels!

      Kind regards,


  3. This Zanzibar list is amazing! It definitely makes me want to start planning a trip. Especially loved how you included options for all interests, from exploring Stone Town to relaxing on the beaches. One thing that caught my eye was the spice tour – something I never would have thought of, but sounds absolutely fascinating! When you say “local spice shamba” is that a specific location or can you recommend a particular tour company that offers these? Thanks for such a comprehensive guide!



Leave a Comment