The Coast of Kenya was one of the more pleasant surprises of my journey. I never imagined Kenya, a country we normally only hear about for Safaris (O.K. and long distance runners), to have such an amazing coast. It has pristine white sand beaches Caribbean -esque colored waters and even Zanzibar-esque Swahili cultures.
To get to the coast from Nairobi you can either fly, or take the new train to Mombasa, the second biggest city in the country, which takes about 5 hours.
I first went up to Kilifi, a quiet town about 2 hours up north from Mombasa by public transport. The reason I went to Kilifi is because it is home to a famous Eco Lodge and Backpackers called Distant Relatives that other travelers I had met told me about. I reached out to them to see if I might be able to help them out with some work in exchange for accommodation and food and I was happy that they agreed, and I went initially to help them translate their website into Spanish, but it is such a lovely place that I ended up staying 2 weeks helping out with some other things after my translation and enjoying this beautiful environment.
I then took an 8 hour bus ride that everyone told me not to take to Lamu Island. The reason people warned me not to take the bus is that Lamu is in the North East coast of Kenya near the border with Somalia and people are worried that the militant group Al Shabaab might cross into Kenya to do something bad. I took the bus there and back (most people fly from the city of Malindi) and had no problems and fell in love with Lamu island.
Lamu’s old town, where I stayed, is beautiful and has a rich and preserved Islamic culture with friendly people. It is amazing to wander the narrow and maze like pedestrian streets with gorgeous Swahili style intricately carved wooden doors and decorations. One of Lamu’s most distinct features is that it has no cars,
(recently they started allowing some motorcycles), but historically the options were boat, foot, or donkey! For this same reason there are tons of donkeys that are sometimes set free to roam while they are not working and it’s beautiful to see them doing as they please 🙂
My last stop on the Kenyan coast was in Ukunda, also known as Diani Beach and just about an hour and a half south of Mombasa by public transport. It is home to some beautiful beaches and perhaps it is the most developed part on the Kenyan coast with lots of resorts and hotels, restaurants and bars. I stayed at a backpackers hostel for a week exchanging work (this time as a waiter for dinner time) in exchange for my room and enjoyed this atmosphere and my afternoon yoga sessions on the beach with some cute dogs.
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In Lamu I stayed at Amu House, which I highly recommend as it has an amazing location in Old Town and has a beautiful rooftop area and the family that runs it couldn’t be friendlier.
In Diani beach I stayed at Diani Backpackers which I also recommend as it is a nice place to stay and especially if you want to connect with other backpackers/travelers.
And of course Distant Relatives is an amazing place that I recommend you don’t miss if you find yourself on the Kenyan coast.