The 15 Best Things To Do in Watamu, Kenya

Watamu is a small coastal paradise located on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. With its idyllic white sand beaches, rich marine life, and fascinating cultural attractions, Watamu offers unique experiences for all types of travelers.

If you’re planning a trip to Watamu, you’re probably wondering about the best things to do there. As someone who has explored Watamu extensively, I’ve put together this guide on the top 15 attractions and activities you must include in your Watamu itinerary.

1. Visit the Historic Gede Ruins

One of the most popular attractions in Watamu is the Gede Ruins. These are the remains of a Swahili settlement that thrived in the 13th century AD.

The ruins feature an ancient mosque, residences, and palace rooms giving you a glimpse into what life was like centuries ago. Walking around these well-preserved ruins transports you back in time to the Middle Ages. Don’t forget to check out the onsite museum to see artifacts like pottery, coins, and beads excavated from the site.

I recommend hiring a guide to get a more enriched experience and learn about the details of the various structures. The Gede Ruins are a must-visit for history buffs and make for great photo ops too!

2. Take a Dhow Cruise on Mida Creek

One of my favorite things to do in Watamu was cruising down Mida Creek on a traditional dhow boat. Mida Creek is home to lush mangrove forests that are home to fascinating birdlife.

Gliding silently down the creek lets you immerse in nature and observe beautiful birds like kingfishers, egrets, and cormorants up close. Look out for the colorful crabs clinging to the mangrove roots too.

The peaceful boat trip at sunset is an especially magical experience. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera for this one!

3. Soak up the Sun at Watamu Beach

No trip to Watamu is complete without spending time at Watamu Beach. This pristine beach has powder-soft white sand and a tranquil atmosphere.

I loved strolling barefoot on the beach and swimming in the warm turquoise waters here. The beach is lined with resorts and restaurants so you can easily spend a full day here unwinding and enjoying seaside cocktails.

Don’t miss the chance to see the magical sunset over the Indian Ocean horizon – it’s truly spectacular. Watamu Beach is one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen!

4. Snorkel at Watamu Marine National Park

The Watamu Marine National Park offers some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities along the Kenyan coast.

Snorkeling through the crystal clear waters, I saw colorful fish like clownfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish and even sea turtles! The vibrant coral reefs are simply stunning.

You can rent snorkeling gear from local vendors or join a snorkeling trip which takes you to the best spots. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of dolphins or whale sharks!

5. Explore Arabuko Sokoke Forest

For a dose of adventure, head to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. This dense coastal forest is famous as a birdwatching mecca with over 230 unique bird species.

As I walked the forest trails, an incredible variety of birds swooped over my head including the rare Amani sunbird. Other wildlife like the shy elephant shrew and golden-rumped elephant mouse also call this forest home.

Go on an early morning birding walk with a local guide to make the most of your time here. The Arabuko Sokoke Forest is a peaceful, verdant escape from the beach.

6. Visit the Kipepeo Butterfly Project

Adjacent to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest lies the excellent Kipepeo Butterfly Project. This butterfly habitat breeds around 40 gorgeous butterfly species in a netted enclosure.

I was amazed by the sheer number of butterflies fluttering all around me here. The vibrant colors and patterns on their wings are remarkable. Don’t miss the fascinating exhibit area that documents the full life cycle of butterflies.

You can feed the butterflies banana and watch them flock to lick up the juices too! Visiting Kipepeo is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers of all ages.

7. Try Kitesurfing and Windsurfing

Thanks to the steady winds and ideal water conditions, Watamu is one of the best places in Kenya for wind sports. For an adventurous morning, I headed out kitesurfing and had an absolute blast!

Gliding over the waves with the ocean breeze in my face was a magical feeling. The turquoise waters make a stunning backdrop. Many local companies offer kitesurfing and windsurfing lessons for beginners too.

You can also try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking or wakeboarding if you prefer to stay on the water surface. Watamu is a water sports paradise!

8. Watch Migrating Humpback Whales

One of the most remarkable natural spectacles I witnessed in Watamu was the annual humpback whale migration.

Between July and October, thousands of these giant creatures swim along the Kenyan coast. I was lucky enough to catch sight of a 50ft long whale breaching dramatically.

Local whale watching tours can take you to the best spots to observe these magnificent mammals as they make their epic journey south. Seeing the humpback whales up close is an experience I’ll never forget!

9. Sample Fresh Seafood

Watamu’s enviable location on the Indian Ocean means that seafood is outstanding here. For the freshest and most delicious seafood dishes, head to local restaurants like the Crabshack, Ocean Sports or Medina Palms.

I feasted on grilled prawns, crab curry, seafood linguine and the popular Samaki wa Kupaka fish. Be sure to try the seasonal mango ice cream too! Kenyan cuisine also shines with its flavorful stews and curries.

Don’t miss the chance to sample fresh passionfruit juice, coconut sorbet and other tropical treats during your stay.

10. Visit Watamu Turtle Watch

Watamu Turtle Watch is a conservation program protecting the endangered sea turtles that nest on Watamu’s beaches.

I joined their educational tour and learned how Watamu Turtle Watch collects turtle eggs and takes care of them until they hatch. This gives the baby turtles, known as hatchlings, a better chance of surviving.

Later, I even got to see tiny hatchlings scrambling down the beach to the ocean – it was incredible! Visiting Watamu Turtle Watch lets you learn about marine conservation efforts up close.

11. Day Trip to Tsavo East National Park

For a change of scenery from the beach, I took a day trip to the magnificent Tsavo East National Park. This vast national park is home to 10,000 elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and more iconic African wildlife.

On an open-top safari vehicle, I saw entire herds of elephants, lions lounging in the grass, and hyenas prowling about. The rolling red earth and Savannah landscape here is stunning too.

Tsavo East made for an unforgettable safari experience that perfectly complements a beach stay in Watamu.

12. Explore the Historic Town of Mombasa

On my last day in Watamu, I visited the port city of Mombasa on a day trip. In the eclectic Old Town, I explored winding alleys lined with spice stalls and ate delicious street food.

At Fort Jesus, the impressive 16th century Portuguese fortress, I dove into the centuries of coastal history. I also visited the tusks monument on Moi Avenue and relaxed at the Centro Mombasa mall.

Mombasa’s cosmopolitan vibe, forts and beaches make it a fabulous destination to pair with Watamu. The cities are about a 2 hour drive apart.

13. Go to the Beach Carnival Party

Watamu knows how to party! I had an absolute blast at the weekly beach carnival with reggae bands, swirling poi dancers, and my favorite – delicious Swahili cuisine served into the night.

Vendors sell handicrafts, clothing and jewellery along the sandy beachfront. There is also bungee jumping, trampolining and volleyball to enjoy. You can swing to some great live music too.

The beach carnival really gives you a taste of the mellow coastal lifestyle. Don’t miss it on Friday nights!

14. Shop at Watamu Village Market

Within Watamu village lies a delightful artisan market with stalls selling all kinds of handicrafts and souvenirs. Here you’ll find paintings, wood carvings, soapstone figurines, clothing, bags and more.

I picked up some very reasonably priced items, like a handwoven sisal basket, batik print tablecloth, banana fiber bowls and soapstone animal carvings. Bargaining is welcome here!

Don’t forget to also explore the small shops along Watamu’s main road. I found excellent deals on beach dresses, Kenyan coffee, spices and personalised paintings.

15. Catch the Sunset at Lily Palm Restaurant

My favorite way to end a day in Watamu was watching the sunset over the creek at the Lily Palm Restaurant. Their outdoor deck offers panoramic views across mangrove forests to the ocean.

Order yourself a passionfruit mojito and soak up the dramatic colors in the sky as the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean. Stay a while longer to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner under the stars.

The staff here are so friendly, the tropical decor is charming and the food is exceptional. Lily Palm is undoubtedly one of the top restaurants in Watamu.

Conclusion

From thrilling water sports to intriguing history and wildlife, Watamu has something for every type of traveler. Its laidback coastal vibe makes it the perfect beach holiday destination.

I highly recommend spending at least 3-5 days here to make the most of all the amazing attractions and activities. With this guide, you now have the inside scoop on the very best things to do in Watamu for an epic beach vacation.

Just don’t forget your sunscreen, swimsuit and camera!

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