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I Finally Made it to Africa: What to do in Mombasa!

Let's take a quick throwback (well, not that far back)! In February, I had the pleasure of joining a long-time college friend on a 10-day trip back to her home country of Kenya! This was my 28th country, yet first visit to the African continent (2 more to go!) Naturally, this trip also included staying in her family's homes and graciously being toured around by her cousin for majority of the trip (a more permanent local since my friend lives in the US and had not been back for 5 years). This was, of course, a HUGE win for both the authenticity of the experience and for my pockets!

There were, however, two instances where we did not stay with family: our overnight safari at the Masai Mara National Reserve and our two nights in Mombasa. In this post, I will share Mombasa recommendations through both my experience and my research (as time limited us from doing more than we wanted).

Mombasa Trip Summary

Click each to jump to a section, or just keep reading!

Flights: Kenya Airways - $94 USD & Jambojet - €62

Hotel: Jumeirah Beachfront Apartments - $266 USD (44,569 KSH) for 2 nights


Day 1:

Day 2:

Now for the Details


Mombasa was a short 1 hour, 15 min flight from Nairobi. I took Kenya Airways going and Jambojet (booked through returning.

Sidenote: I usually prefer booking directly with airlines, but the flight through Kiwi was ~$20 cheaper for whatever reason!


We had a hard time finding a beachfront all-inclusive with great ratings. Many guests complained of noise or bad food/service. I did end up loving our hotel with a great 4.5 star rating, Jumeirah Beachfront Apartments on Nyali Beach. There were 4 bedrooms, ALL queen beds, 3 bathrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room, and balcony, all for $133 / night aka $33 per person!

No noise, delicious food available 24 hours, nice pool plus partying with hookah on Friday night, and the apartment was spacious and beautiful, but the view of the beach was a bit of a letdown, plus outdated looking bathrooms. I still recommend it! Cheapest when booked directly with the hotel site.

Night 1: Settling In

We landed at night and took an Uber to the hotel. By the way, Ubers can be paid in cash in Kenya! Make sure if you use that option, you are not already paying by card. Another thing I noticed immediately was the plethora of huge black crickets at the airport and on the hotel grounds.

Hopefully you're less afraid of bugs than my friends and I! D:

Check-in wasn't the smoothest. After being switched from an apartment with a broken A/C, we finally settled in more than an hour after arrival and ordered a delicious assortment of dinner from the 24-hour restaurant. This cost 9,000 KSH total, or $16 USD per person, probably the most expensive meal we had, but definitely not bad!

Fish in coconut sauce, lamb, samosas, and fresh juices :)

Day 1: Nyali Beach, Old Town, Mama Ngina, and Mombasa Tusks

In the morning, I woke up to a monkey running by my window! I ran out to the balcony and admired the four monkeys below in the parking lot, as well as the beach before quickly turning back inside due to the heat and humidity.

Note: DON'T forget sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and strong mosquito repellent!

We definitely wanted a Kenyan breakfast, but it must be pre-ordered the night before. So we each split a tasty English breakfast for a total of 2,800 KSH, about $5 USD per person. We also got hooked on my friend’s aunt’s masala chai back in Nairobi, so ordered a pitcher. Unfortunately, the hotel must have used tap water, and it was salty and inedible. Could've been a mistake, but definitely would specify they use bottled water when you order.

The day began exploring Nyali Beach behind our hotel. The beach was a bit littered with debris, but had soft tan sand and pretty blue water. A guy sold us fresh coconuts and another convinced us (mostly me) to buy hand-carved keychains. After talking him down to 500 KSH per keychain, we gave a list of names, chose our designs (choices of different animals or a heart), and he took my What's App number so that he could return later that evening with our keychains and be paid (no way was I paying him beforehand).

From the beach, we were accompanied by a local friend of my friend's cousin, Daniel. He was mellow guy of few words; perhaps there was a language barrier. Still, being chaperoned by a local definitely brought us some peace of mind. He arranged our rides for the day!

I quickly claimed the yellow tuk tuk, and we set out for Old Town Mombasa!

Old Town, or Mombasa, in general, holds a heavily Arab influence, noted by the many mosques, architecture, and local attire (women donning hijabs and the men, kanzu). As a primarily-Muslim city, it is suggested to dress more modestly here. I did bare my shoulders and my Chinese friends bared their knees, and no one seemed to mind, TBH, but having Daniel around could have also helped.

The first stop was Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese to protect the port of Mombasa, the center of trade between Africa and the Arab world. Today, it's an UNESCO site. We were met by another tour guide here, who we paid 500 KSH (~$3 USD) each and the fort entry fee of 1,225 KSH (~$7 USD). Fort Jesus was definitely worth doing with a guide, especially for the price, to understand the Arab, Portuguese, British, and Indian influences in Mombasa.

And again, it was blazing hot during that tour, so bring your hat, sunglasses, maybe even an umbrella!

Following Fort Jesus, we took lunch nearby at Forodhani Restaurant, a beautiful outdoor seaside restaurant known for its biryani, yes, like Indian biryani! I had learned through a few YouTube vlogs that while in Mombasa, you MUST seek out the Indian-influenced cuisine! The food was AMAZING and so were the views! Our many shared dishes and fresh juices came out to 5,380 KSH or ~$9 USD!

As the sun began to set, we tuk tuked to Mama Ngina Drive, a popular waterfront and lively park. I will admit, this was not my best experience. The park was trashed. There was a spot to buy street food and trinkets where I bought a coconut that was pretty awful, and that vendor was a jerk for agreeing on a price and not giving me my change (it wasn’t much, but still).

I also was excited to ride a camel on the beach at some point in Mombasa, but realized I may not have the opportunity, so I paid 200 KSH ($1.50 USD) for a camel ride hoping to ride along the waterfront. The guy led the camel around the parking lot instead of by the water like he said he would (the camel was "too scared" which ok, did you not know this about your camel beforehand?!). I wish I hadn't given him my money, and I especially felt bad for the camel's worn knees and branded cheek. D:

Also, if you didn’t know, camels get up hind legs first! So brace yourself, and hold on tight!! The guy didn’t even warn me! Another reason I wasn’t fond of him….

Still, the sunset was lovely as I watched a huge swarm of people load onto the ferry, likely heading home after a long day's work. Also, check out the huge baobab tree in the park! Despite my experience, I’d still say to check out Mama Ngina Drive, as it is a popular spot for locals.

By nightfall, our tuk tuks took us not too far from the drive for some freshly-made cassava chips. Unfortunately, my recent bout with food poisoning made me extra wary of the fact that no gloves were used in the making of these chips. I hesitantly ate two yummy chips, topped with wet and dry seasonings, and called it a day. But in case you're interested and have a stronger stomach for street food, here is the location.

Our last point of interest of the day was the Mombasa Tusks, the postcard symbol of Mombasa! It was built in honor of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Mombasa in 1952.

We finished off with a trip to a grocery store in Mombasa Mall, where we were scanned by security upon entry (interesting), and I purchased a delicious berries and cream ice cream bar and heartburn meds (I’d been feeling it since morning for reasons unknown).

Upon returning to the hotel, we paid our two tuk tuk drivers 1,000 KSH ($6 USD) each, and Daniel a tip of 500 KSH. Before you come at me, my Kenyan friend insisted we don't overpay just because we are tourists (plus, she is not a tourist)!

Day 2: Day Trip to Kisite Mpunguti National Park

For Day 2, we booked a dolphin / snorkeling excursion via a day tour, again, arranged by my friend's cousin back in Nairobi. We were also to spend time on the famous and most beautiful beach in Mombasa, Diani Beach!

Our driver picked us up at 6 AM, so early that we had to take our pre-ordered Kenyan breakfast to-go. Luckily, there was also room for our suitcases, since we would be flying out that evening, although the hotel would’ve stored them for us. Our driver also picked up three more people (we thought it was private, not that it bothered us much), and by 9AM, we reached Kisite Mpunguti National Park!

We were able to get a nice discount for the driver and park entry through my friend's cousin (7,500 KSH or ~$56 USD each), but heard others paid over $100 for this tour, so see if you can haggle a bit. In fact, rule of thumb, ALWAYS try to haggle. As a tourist, you'll always be overcharged!

At the park, for an extra fee, you can have someone come along and take Go Pro pictures and videos while you swim, and for 500 KSH ($3), you can rent flippers for snorkeling. After changing into our swimsuits in the bathroom, we headed to the dock.

I won't lie, there was loads of confusion. The first boat was packed, so we waited for another boat for ~30 mins, boarded it, and waited another 30 mins for some issue with our tickets (I mention this delay for a reason I'll get to later).

Not long after we finally took off did we see our first dolphins!

After about 15 minutes with the dolphins, our boat took us on a LONG one hour journey further out. I definitely took a nap while also trying to avoid the scorching sun (and failed because I did end up burned over the next two days. Again, SUNSCREEN and shade!).

Eventually, we reached an area where the water became a hypnotizing turquoise blue. This is where we would indulge in snorkeling!

I had snorkeled a few times before, each time always just at surprised as the last that I could do so without a life vest (I'm not a strong swimmer)! But this time felt especially magical!

Courtesy of the Go Pro. Now, I paid $50 and my friend who didn’t care for pictures ending up being given a deal of $20. I should’ve taken my own advice and haggled especially because the pictures and videos were not good. I wouldn't throw so much shade, but I felt like he was doing the bare minimum and could care less about the quality of his work. Also preview them before transferring to your phone, so you can decline if you must.

We ended our excursion with a delicious seafood lunch in a restaurant that was just chilling out on an island of sorts. This also included crab, which they cracked for you! Too bad I’m allergic :(

Due to the morning delay, we had to skip Diani Beach on the return :( So from the tour, we headed straight to the airport for our 7 PM flight. And surprise, we got a blow-out along the way....

But we made our flight!

Things I missed, but you should give a try:

  • Diani Beach - most beautiful beach in Mombasa with spotless white sand and deep turquoise blue water

  • Marikiti Market - the biggest market in Mombasa, sounds great for souvenirs! Although I got some beautiful souvenirs at Yusufi Antiques near our lunch spot on day 1, including a safari hat, a wooden mancala board, beautiful painted magnets, and a Maasai shuka, aka blankets the locals use as sun protection. Each tribe have their own colors and patterns!

  • Tamarind Dhow - take a sunset cruise dinner aboard a traditional dhow (wooden sailing boat)! For the best rate, book in advance directly through their site (or rather scroll all the way down and request a reservation. They will respond via email). We did have a reservation, but missed it. Luckily there were no penalties. Also they require minimum 15 people to sail, so it may take a while for them to confirm (check in with them closer to the date).

  • Experience the wildlife at Haller Park or Ngunni Nature Sanctuary

That concludes my two days in Mombasa. I wish I had more time and would definitely return especially for the things I missed and to try more amazing food!

Have you been to Mombasa, or do you want to go? Comment, and let me know!

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