Few place names conjure up such evocative visions as Zanzibar; from pure white sand beaches, Swahili culture and ruined Arab palaces, to unspoilt coral reefs and exotic food. The reality does not disappoint. Some of the most interesting and best places to stay in Zanzibar are simple barefoot luxury lodges with tons of character and natural beauty but relatively basic facilities. Most people spend a night or two in Stone Town and then head to one of the picture-postcard beaches for some serious down-time.
Although luxury hotels with all the amenities are beginning to move in to the island, generally you're paying for a remote unspoilt location or romantic setting. Zanzibar has not yet lost its soul to the vagaries of commercial mass tourism so go now and enjoy it at its real, very real, unspoilt best.
For an affordable introduction to luxury beach life, Zanzibar style, the Pongwe Beach Hotel on the island's East coast is excellent. It owns the surrounding land so a deserted beach is guaranteed.
Another quiet budget resort popular with honeymooners and families alike is Shooting Star Lodge.
Fishermen and women will enjoy the Matemwe Bungalows where fishing expeditions with the locals are a highlight. The bungalows and villas look out over the reefs of the Mnemba Atoll.
One of the best-known and certainly one of the most luxurious places to stay in Zanzibar is the Mnemba Island Lodge. Wake up in one of the romantic thatch-sided suites built on wooden platforms over the white sand and spend days having your every whim tended to by your own personal butler. Beloved of celebrities - a Hollywood salary helps.
Another lovely if fairly pricey retreat is The Palms. That the beach is white and perfect goes without saying and the comfortable accomodation is a mix of colonial and local styles.
The closest thing to a hotel in our list is probably the Zanzibar Serena Inn in Stone Town. Reminiscent of an African Colonial Country Club it has white walls, dark wood furnishings and views over the Indian Ocean.
Also in Stone town is former tea house the Beyt al Chai. It's a down-to-earth budget option full of character.
For an equally authentic taste of Zanzibar in Stone Town, 236 Hurumzi is a rambling former palace with a great rooftop bar.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Charming, tranquil budget hotel in a former tea house. Beautiful bedrooms decorated in a fusion of Arabic and African style with four poster beds and rich colours. A relaxing lounge, great restaurant. and a host of other facilities such as spa, scuba course and banqueting.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
A taste of the real Zanzibar at this rambling Stone Town palace. Rooms full of typical Zanzibari furniture and antiques, and have verandahs that overlook the rooftops and the Indian Ocean beyond. Fabulous roof top bar and restaurant. A Zanzibari romance.
Sixteen cottages sprawled through gardens in a gorgeous sheltered cove. Traditional lime walls and woven palm thatches on the beach. An affordable introduction to paradise on Zanzibar's east coast. Beach life at its best.
Quiet, reasonably priced resort on a glorious beach. Private bungalows boast balconies with great sea views. Pure white rooms with ornately carved four-poster beds. Lively bar and great restaurant. Spa facilities for ultimate relaxation. Friendly and attentive staff. The ideal laid back beach hotel
Pwani Mchangani, Zanzibar
Next Paradise provides an authentic Africa experience in a breathtaking environment. Spacious rooms, elegantly decorated with hand carved wood furniture and precious oriental textiles. Set along a white sand, palm-fringed beach, offering views of the Indian Ocean. Romantic and idyllic.
Chapwani Private Island, Zanzibar
Charming eco friendly lodges on a private island just off Zanibar. Rooms are simple but stylish, overlooking the beach and the vibe is laid back. Freshly caught fish is the restaurant's speciality. Great for families & perfect for a spot of post safari "R&R".
Stone Town, Zanzibar
A stunning hotel reminiscent of a colonial country club. White washed walls, crisp linen, dark wood furnishings. Each room has a private balcony with beautiful sea views. Multiple dining options specialise in Swahili cuisine and seafood. A great spot for seaside family fun or romantic breaks.
Magical Robinson Crusoe-style eco lodge on Chumbe Island. State of the art, environmentally friendly bungalows provide simple but comfortable accommodation. Candlelit beach dining with excellent cuisine. Ideal for honeymooners and nature revellers alike.
Six luxurious villas and a sophisticated restaurant with a relaxed feel and terrific location. Rustling coconut palms, white powder sand and the warm waves of the Indian Ocean combine to create a stunning recluse for the discerning traveler.
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
Exclusive private island and haunt of celebrities. Thatched-sided bandas sit on stilts along the beach with stunning views out to sea. A personal butler attends to all ones needs. The coral reefs make for excellent diving. The ideal spot for a romantic getaway.
Remote stylish tented beach resort. Safari-style tented rooms with private balconies and plunge pools. A large infinity pool and spa specialising in African techniques make for complete relaxation. An excellent restaurant and three bars. The ultimate getaway for honeymooners and beach lovers alike.
Eco chic villas with thatched roofes perched above a white sand beach. Individual bungalows and villas with private balconies and hammocks looking out to sea. A secluded spot offering total relaxation and intimacy for honeymooners. Plenty of sea activities, from big game fishing to scuba diving.