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With miles of pristine beaches and a tropical climate year-round, it is hard to resist one of Kenya’s prime tourist destinations. Mombasa is popular with travelers looking to explore one of Africa’s most historic cities and still have time to relax on the beach. Evidence of the many people who have sought out Mombasa since the 1500s—the Portuguese, Arabs, British, and Africans—still exist throughout the city’s many historical sights and the mixed demographic. In Swahili, Mombasa is called Kisiwa Cha Mvita, (“Island of War”), a testament to the many cultures which have fought for this beautiful land over the centuries. You would be remiss to visit Kenya and not explore the flavors of Mombasa’s amazing coastal dishes. Freshly grilled fish, finely cooked kebab, and coconut rice are ju
st a sampling of the town’s culinary offerings.
Accessible by train, plane, and car, Mombasa is Kenya’s premier relaxation destination on the Indian Ocean. Don’t take our word for it—discover the beauty of Mombasa for yourself.
The Top 10: What to Do in Mombasa
1. Mombasa Tusks:
Built in 1952 on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Mombasa, these massive tusks are situated between the port and town. When looked at from the correct angle, the four tusks make the letter “m,” representing “Mombasa.” The Mombasa Tusks are a symbolic entryway into the heart of an amazing town.
2. Fort Jesus:
A perfect opportunity to explore the connections between Mombasa’s history with those of Europe and the Middle East. The Portuguese built this stronghold in 1593, and consequently spent the next one hundred years fighting with the Arabs to maintain in control. When the British ruled Mombasa, the fort was turned into a prison, and in 1958, the area was made into a National Park. Check out centuries old artifacts in the Fort Jesus museum, admire the fort’s amazing architecture, or use Fort Jesus as a jumping point for your trip into Mombasa’s Old Town.
3. Old Town:
The beauty of the ancient buildings in Old Town makes this site a must-see during your visit to Mombasa. Travel back to the 1600s, when the Portuguese lived in Mombasa, and admire the ornate carved doors and balconies. Stroll the streets and experience centuries of Arab culture that are infused into the architecture and language of the town’s current inhabitants.
4. Hindu Temples:
A testament to the many cultures that exist in Mombasa, the Hindu temples of the city are worth seeing for their beautiful stone engravings and extravagant carved deities. Be sure to check out the Iskcon Krishna and Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temples.
5. Diani Beach:
Located 30 kilometers south of Mombasa, Diani Beach is one of the finest beach resorts on the African coast. Rent a cottage, go diving in the coral reefs, or get a massage on the beach. With a fine assortment of restaurants and hotels along the beach, you will never have anything to worry about. Kids will love spotting the black-and-white colobus monkeys, which run freely around the beach, and adults will appreciate the resort’s nighttime discos, dance shows, and bars. If you are looking for a few days of relaxation and pampering, then we know you will love Diani Beach.
6. Haller Park:
On safari, you see animals eating in their natural habitat, but in Haller Park you can feed a giraffe right out of your hand. Haller Park is Mombasa’s biggest animal sanctuary. Walk along the park’s trail and observe the zebras, buffalo, and hippos. Admire the flora, spot over 160 species of birds or feed the snakes (under the supervision of a guide, of course.)
7. Mamba Village:
Unlike Haller Park, East Africa’s largest crocodile farm will not allow you to feed its residents. Offering a comprehensive tour of the farm, Mamba Village provides its visitors with information about the life cycle, variety, and behavior of crocodiles. Get the camera ready when it is feeding time because it is a sight you will not want to forget. If you have had your fair share of crocodile-watching, then check out the other attractions of Mamba Village. There is a botanical garden, camel and horseback riding, and an opportunity to eat like a crocodile at the village’s restaurant, which specializes in game meat.
8. Gede Ruins:
Explore the stone skeleton of a city abandoned in the 17th or 18th century without a trace of written history. Located 90 kilometers northeast of Mombasa, the Gede Ruins are worth a day’s visit. Check out the forest-enclosed ancient palaces, tombs, and mosques. The site’s museum displays excavated Arab, Chinese, and Phoenician porcelain, and a history of the city’s rediscovery in the 1920s.
9. Biking the Coast:
There is no better way to see the villages along the coast than to rent a bike and spend a day exploring. With magnificent mango and palm trees surrounding you, ride north up the coast from Mombasa and see traditional Kenyan villages along the way. We highly recommend joining an organized tour for your bike trip. Not only will a tour guide be able to provide you with unique insights during the trip, but they can also ensure your safety throughout the ride.
Mombasa has been fought over for hundreds of years for a reason. It is gorgeous! Spend a day—or a week—on the beaches. We prefer the beaches just south of Mombasa, as the north beaches are sometimes not as pristine. However, the entire coastline is worth taking some time to explore. Bring a book, buy a drink from a beachside bar, and enjoy the beauty of the Indian Ocean.
When to Go
The short answer is “anytime”: Mombasa has a tropical climate year-round. May through November see average highs in the 80s (Fahrenheit), and lows in the 60s. From December until April, the average highs are in the 90s and lows in the 70s. Mombasa gets most of its rain in April and May, receiving an average of 9 inches in May. However, June through March bring an average of just a half-inch.
If you are interested in celebrating the beauty and excitement of Mombasa’s mix of cultures, then check out the Mombasa Carnival in November. Mombasa’s many eclectic cultures are exhibited through parades, food, music, and dance. Watch traditional Kenyan dances, listen to local bands, and buy a souvenir from one of the many craft-sellers. The carnival is guaranteed to be a highlight of your visit.