This region Kilifi is popularly known for its white sandy beach, clean coastline, old buildings, and Swahili culture. Its coastline is also very clean, these are just part of the reasons you need to visit. Kilifi is dominated by the Giriama, a subtribe of the Mijikenda from the larger Bantu community, so you get a peek at diversity in culture.
Also Read: Kenya Counties and Their Headquarters
Best Places To Visit In Kilifi County
Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve
The Arabuko-Sokoke forest is managed by the Kenya Forest Service and is the largest and most intact coastal forest in East Africa. It has about 20 percent of Kenya’s bird species, 30 percent of butterfly species, and 24 rare and endemic birds, mammals, and butterfly species.
While there, one can see rare species like Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew, Ader’s Duiker, and the Sokoke busy-tailed mongoose. Clarke’s weaver is only found in Arabuko-Sokoke and another area further north of the forest in the whole world, making it the only bird species found in Kenya. One can take a walk, drive, picnic, or cycle around the forest. The best time to visit the forest is early in the morning or late afternoon, while the best time for bird watchers to visit is from dawn to 9 am.
Vasco De Gama Pillar
This is a beautiful historical site that is recommendable to visit when you’re looking to enjoy a quiet and serene stroll by the coastline, especially towards the early evening. The towering pillar, which is at the seafront along the beach, has been well preserved and is a place where you can walk and even sit by the benches or around the pillar, and revere the scenic views, and if you’re lucky you can catch the sunset too. There is a guide who can join you too and will brief you about the history of the pillar which was built by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 the pillar is named after him being one of the most famous and celebrated explorers from the Age of Discovery. This monument pillar is a renowned attraction site for both local and international tourists visiting Malindi.
Kipepeo Butterfly House
The Kipepeo is Swahili for Butterfly; the Kipepeo project is a community-based project that was established in 1993. Its headquarters is situated at the Gede Ruins National Monument and Museum Site. Kipepeo intends to improve the livelihoods of local communities living adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest by generating alternative income possibilities. The butterfly farmers raise butterflies until the insects pupate and then bring the pupae to the project centre where Kipepeo staff packs and exports them to butterfly houses in Europe, Japan, and the USA. The project runs an attractive butterfly house in which a variety of beautiful butterflies found at Arabuko Sokoke Forest are on display. They also have a honey processing room where guests can learn how honey and candles from beeswax are produced.
Kijipwa mosque ruins
Located a few kilometers from the Mombasa/Malindi highway, some 100 human skeletons and skulls, believed to be of slaves, have been discovered in this area by archaeologists. It is believed that the site was a holding ground for the African slaves before they were shipped across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and other parts of the world. The mosque itself looks like a collapsed building now but it will be fascinating when you see it and learn of its users.
Bio-Ken Snake Farm
One of the most interesting activities in Watamu is the incredible research center and snake farm that houses the largest collection of snakes in East Africa. Snakes at the farm are normally brought/rescued by locals in the villages and kept for educational purposes before being released to Arabuko Sokoke Forest. Bio-Ken is open to the public with an entrance fee of Ksh 1000 for a fascinating guided tour of 100+ species including snakes, tortoises, lizards, and a chameleon.
The ruins of Gede are relics of one of the Arab-African settlements found along the East African coast. Taking a guided tour through the ruins and the museum will teach you a lot of interesting things about the fascinating culture of the Swahili people and the ancient town they constructed. It is best to combine your visit to Gede with a trip to the Kipepeo Butterfly House on the grounds as well as take in a traditional dance performance by Randu Giriama Dancers which is situated just outside the ruins entrance gate.
Sabaki River Estuary
Located north of Malindi town is where Kenya’s second largest river; the Sabaki River meets the Indian Ocean. Because of the conjunction of freshwater and saltwater, a mosaic of different habitats has developed. The estuary has huge dunes situated about 200 to 300 metres inland from the shore. Some parts of the dunes are still on the move while others are fixed in their position by growing vegetation. The estuary is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is an excellent place to view waterfowl. The best time for birding are around the high tides because it brings the wading birds.
Crab Shack Restaurant
The restaurant is set in the enchanting mangrove forest and is run by the Dabaso Community. The restaurant serves fresh seafood. The Dabaso Creek Mangrove Boardwalk leads you to their restaurant as you enjoy watching birds, shrimps, crabs, and other marine life. The best time to visit the restaurant is in the evening as you enjoy the sunset over a cold chilled drink. From the Crab Shack Restaurant, you can also embark on a traditional canoe ride to Mida Creek and other islands like Kirepwe, or Green Island to view birdlife and marine life.
Local Ocean Trust
The Local Ocean Trust is a non-profit organization based in Watamu. The organization is a grassroots project located in Watamu and are passionate about the conservation of Kenya’s marine resources because there is a need to protect local sea turtles and the surrounding marine environment. Their flagship marine protection programme is Watamu Turtle Watch which was founded in 1997. They work with local communities including subsistence fishermen, marine stakeholders, and government authorities to protect, advocate, educate, and empower. Their Marine Information Centre next to the Watamu Supermarket makes it easy for visitors to stop by before or after shopping. The centre is open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 4:30 pm. You can also visit the Watamu Turtle Watch headquarters at Plot 203, south along the main road towards Temple Point. There are usually injured or sick turtles that live in water basins until they are strong enough to be released. The easiest way to see a living turtle during your vacation is to pass by Plot 2013.
Old Temple at Temple Point
The relics of an Old Swahili temple to the Kenya Wildlife Service Marine Park office are a sight that you can visit if you are in the area. Like the ruins in Gede, the temple is a part of the long cultural history of the Kenyan coast. The Temple belongs to the property of VentaClub – Temple Point you have to ask one of the friendly hotel guards to take you to the temple if you want to take a closer look. The Old Temple provides a perfect opportunity to wander around unexcavated ruins and contemplate the cultural history of the area. It’s a great spot to relax with a picnic and enjoy the natural scenery.
Takaungu Slave market
It was a slave market back in the days of slavery along the East African coast. 7kms from the Malindi/Mombasa highway, just before the Kilifi Creek stands an abandoned structure that dates back to the 14th, century that once used to be the sultan’s palace. The rusty house with almost collapsing walls includes two rooms on the ground floor, a veranda with an inbuilt swimming pool plus three other rooms on the first floor.
Mida Creek Boardwalk
Mida Creek Boardwalk’s starting point is a scene out of a movie with it being surrounded by mangroves and lined with palms. The boardwalk is explored by hiring a canoe with a guide by the creek who takes you around. A recommended time to explore the creek is close to sunset around 4 pm to 6 pm as the views are impeccable and it’s a great place to bird-watch from kingfishers hunting on shallow waters to flamingos feeding by the Mida. You can also visit the Giriama village where you can unwind and relax after the boardwalk. A trip to the creek might be organized by the hotel or you can go straight to the creek and promote local tourism by hiring someone to take you around with their canoe. If you don’t have suitable shoes, you can hire Crocs too and you can also support their local hustle where they sell bracelets, necklaces, and key chains made by the Giriama women.
Sita Community Snake Farm
Sita Community Snake Farm is a small community project situated in the eastern part of Mida Creek. The collection began as a means to educate the local community about snakes and reptiles found in the area, including those that are venomous and harmless, in the hopes of increasing tolerance and decreasing animal deaths. Everyone involved with the Snake farm has vast experience with reptiles and they can conduct reptiles and snake presentations in hotels in Watamu and Malindi to educate and inform tourists. The Sita Community Snake Farm is not far from the Dabaso Landing Site and therefore it might be a good idea to combine your visit with a trip to one of the Mida Creek Islands or do one of the many other activities the community has to offer in the Mida Creek area.
Watamu Marine Association
WMA is an association of tourism, community, and environmental groups working to develop community-based tourism enterprises and to conserve marine life. WMA works for the community and conservation in the Watamu Marine Park and Reserve on the North Kenya Coast. In 2007, the residents, land owners, tourism operators, traders, and local communities formed the Watamu Marine Association (WMA) as a non-profit making, voluntary membership association to preserve the natural beauty of Watamu and its environs through promoting sound environmental management practices, conservation education, and responsible tourism through various empowerment initiatives.
Fancy some fresh oceanic breeze? This destination stands out as one of those locations where you could get that boat ride just for yourself in the relaxing breeze of the ocean. Mtwapa Creek covers a 4-kilometer stretch of open water with a single entry and exit opening on the frontal edge. The trees around the creek offer a wonderful opportunity to watch various birds and other wildlife as you sail by. The creek is also surrounded by amazing ‘floating restaurants’ that offer seafood that you can help yourself to.
Rabai Museum is situated 25 kilometers from Mombasa town. This place has certainly been around for decades. You will certainly get to hear more stories and tales told by the locals themselves that will certainly shock you away from the documented stories concerning the missionaries. The unique trait of this place was the fact that early Christianity and education began here with the missionaries Johan Rebmann and Ludwig Kraft. The oral tradition passed down for generations by the residents who interacted with the missionaries gives you their perspective of what they thought about the ‘visitors’ and how they conducted their daily lives.
Mnarani Monument & Snake Park
This is a historical site that is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. It contains the Mnarani ruins that date back to between the 14th and 17th centuries. When you visit the monumental site, you first get to see the tortoise and snake park set up right by the entrance. You can hold the baby tortoises and observe them as they move around.
Their oldest tortoise is around 20 years of age. The snake centre currently holds 13 snakes which include, the green mamba, black mamba, puff adder, stripped-bellied snake, and the worst spitting cobra. A guide walks around with you and educates you about the history of each snake, which is quite an informative session. Thereafter you climb up the stairs that lead you to the Mnarani ruins the first point of arrival is the ruin of the big mosque and there you learn the history of the mosque and can thereafter go on a nature trail where you discover another small mosque ruin and storage facility, and you will then end the walk with the viewpoint of the Kilifi creek where you get to see the grand view of the Indian Ocean.
Jumba la Mtwana Ruins
Jumba la Mtwana is a picturesque ancient ruins village situated in Kilifi County lying on the Mtwapa Creek and extends along the shore for a distance of about 300 meters and 250 meters inland. Jumba la Mtwana means ‘Big House of Slaves’ and locals believe the town was once an important slave port. The remains of buildings, with their exposed foundations for mangrove beam poles, ablution tanks, floors caked with millipedes and swarms of safari ants, and the twisting arms of 600-year-old trees – leftover from what may have been a nearby kaya – are quite magical. It paints a picture of lost treasures, ghosts, pirates, and abandoned cities.
After exploring all that Kilifi has to offer, the next best thing to do to complete your experience here is to enjoy delicious fare at the iconic Nautilus Restaurant. Famed for its exquisite menu that offers a wide array of French-inspired cuisines in a relaxed setting, overlooking the creek, this stunning Swiss-owned restaurant is undeniably the place to be for a tantalizing plate of exotic Swahili dishes. They have an impressive selection of wines, too. Situated along the Old Ferry Road, this restaurant features chic interiors with intimate seating, an inviting atmosphere, and beautiful views over the water.
Kilifi County boasts some of Kenya’s most stunning beaches, and Bofa Beach stands out as a true paradise by the shore. The soft white sands stretch as far as the eye can see, meeting the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Whether you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, or simply take strolls along the water’s edge, Bofa Beach offers a serene and picturesque escape from the bustle of everyday life. Swimming and sunbathing on the shore are among the relaxing things to do in Kilifi. The two activities are enjoyed by both tourists and locals.
Watamu Marine National Park
Best visited early in the morning, Watamu Marine National Park is the United Nations Biosphere Reserve and one of the oldest and best snorkeling areas on the coast. It is 4.2km from Watamu town. With over 600 fish species, the clear waters make spotting them stress-free and there are higher chances of spotting dolphins with ease than Wasini in Diani. It’s the best-protected coral reef along Kenya’s entire coastline, and diving in the warm, clear water gives you a glimpse into this underwater world.
You can also take a boat trip or even swim out to the reef at low tide. Look out for green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles, which nest on Watamu’s main beach between April and October. The coral itself is also a highlight, with over 150 species of hard and soft corals thriving here, including cerebral-looking brain corals, delicate fan corals, and sponges. The entry fee is Ksh 200 per adult and Ksh125 per child but you can negotiate the boat ride prices with the vendors.
Marafa Hell’s Kitchen
Known for its unique sandstone formations, the Marafa Depression is often referred to as “Hell’s Kitchen” due to its striking landscapes. It’s a great place for hiking and photography.
30 minutes from Kilifi Town are the Vuma Cliffs, a beautiful area that feels like the edge of the world. The rumbling force of the Indian Ocean’s waves crashing into these craggy tall black coral cliffs raises sprays as high as 60 feet. You can take stunning photos here, meditate for hours on end, or even fish for yellowfin tuna off the cliffs.
Kilifi Creek is a tranquil and picturesque inlet where you can enjoy boat rides, kayaking, and birdwatching. The Mnarani Ruins, located nearby, offer a glimpse into the area’s historical past.
If you are a golfer or fancy yourself a new sport, try visiting this picturesque facility that oozes nothing but splendor. It is where the who’s of the who’s retreats to spend quality time with family and friends while playing golf. The facility has topped the list of golf courses in the country and is the only golf course in Africa that is PGA accredited.
The architecture, designed by David Jones, is quite a sight to behold, and the landscape and well-mowed gardens are exactly what you need to wind down. A swimming pool is available should you wish to cool down. Horse riding is something you should try if you are looking for a thrilling activity to spice up your day. Food and drinks served in buffet style and made by the most experienced hands are also served as you sit by the baobab trees, breathing in the fresh crisp air and getting lost in the beauty of nature.
Fumbini Beach is nestled within Kilifi Creek, offering total tranquility and stunning sunsets. The water here is calm throughout the day and night, with just a gentle current you can barely feel. Every night, particularly during the new moon, the water at Fumbini Beach is full of bioluminescent plankton. Swimming in the creek sets off a reaction in the plankton, causing it to glow brightly as you swim. It’s a truly magical experience and impossible to do justice with words.
Red House Beach
Red House Beach is a tiny stretch of sand jutting out of the rocks, where Kilifi Creek meets the Indian Ocean. It’s probably the least visited public beach in Kilifi and offers spectacular views of the sunrise – if you can get up that early.
Many people are familiar with the TV show Love Island, but most do not know that a trip to the seven islands at Papa Remo Beach will give you the treat of a lifetime as you will get to see a real-life love island. Sitting among the seven islands, the island was given its name because it forms a pool in the shape of a heart when there is a low tide. A trip to the islands is free but one has to take a short hike up the island to get a better view of the pool. Getting across to the island is easy during low tide as one can just walk there, and the entrance to Papa Remo Beach is free. While here, you can get the rare chance to see starfish.
Watamu Turtle Watch
This excellent organization protects the approximately 50 hawksbill and green turtles that lay their eggs on Watamu Beach. The center provides much-needed education in the local community about the fragility of sea turtles and actively patrols for people selling turtle shells. At the trust’s rehabilitation center, you can normally see turtles being treated for injury or illness and learn about these magnificent creatures. It’s a very worthwhile visit.
Malindi Marine National Park & Reserve
This is located about 5 km from Malindi town, and it is advisable to call the local warden to find out the time of low tide the day you plan to go as that affects one’s experience, although the recommended time of day is in the morning as it guarantees one to have a heightened experience. When entering the marine park, you must get rid of all plastic bottles as they are prohibited on the site and will need to be disposed of before entering the premises. When you enter the park you can park your vehicle at the location, change at the bathrooms and toilets within the area, then thereafter you can negotiate with the local boat captains to take you on your preferred journey, and the options can be spending two hours on the ocean both snorkeling and swimming by the coral formation, where you get this amazing opportunity to see a range of fish from red snapper, butterflyfish to the colorful parrotfish to also seeing sea cucumber, anemone and other species inhabiting the coral garden. Then after the snorkeling experience, the captain will then take you across to a makeshift island that appears when the tide is low for you to relax and swim.
The Kilifi Bridge is an iconic landmark that connects the north and south sides of the Kilifi Creek. It offers great views and is an excellent spot for photos.
A day’s experience at the pristine Watamu beach will surely spice up your day and have you craving for more. If you are looking for a romantic getaway and want to spice things up, look no further. Simply basking by the beach, getting that tan, and staring at the clear blue skies is enough to get you all plumped up. When the temperatures get searing, take a dip in the waters and swim to your satisfaction.
Afterward, dry by the shores while slowly sipping one of your favorite drinks. You need to see the sun going down by the beach, and the mesmerizing golden horizon throwing its shades in the blue waters, a classic case of ‘sky meets the sea.’ Enjoy the scenic view while slowly sipping your sundowner, and even listen to an old classic song if you are a lover at heart. Take evening strolls by the beach, especially if you fancy some me time and enjoy the cool breeze; it is the best way to calm down your thoughts and feel rejuvenated.
Did you know nearly every year, at Malindi’s coast, hundreds of Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters off the Kenyan coast to mate, give birth and nurse their young? This spectacle is a marvel to wonder at. The best time to watch whales in Watamu is between July and October. You can book a tour with one of the local tour operators who offer boat trips to the areas where the whales are known to congregate.
The tour usually takes about half a day, and you will have the opportunity to see humpback whales breaching, tail slapping, and spouting water as they surface to breathe. You may also see other marine life such as dolphins, sea turtles, and various species of fish. It is important to choose a responsible tour operator who follows the guidelines for responsible whale watching, such as keeping a safe distance from the whales and not disturbing them in their natural habitat.
Watch the Sunset at Lichthaus
There is only one sunset that matters, the one by the ocean. The sunset bar sits where the Indian Ocean flows into Mida Creek and has the best sunset views. One has to book a reservation to get space and it is six people per table. The best time to arrive is around 4 pm for you to catch the sunset. Entrance is free but one has to buy a meal or a drink, and children are allowed.
Dabaso & Dabaso Rock
Dabaso lies on the southern part of Mida Creek and borders the main road leading to Temple Point. Dabaso is an excellent place for bird watching and it is ecologically a part of Mida Creek where many waders and waterfowl can be seen during high tide and is also an attractive site for forest birds due to the trees and bushes that grow on and around Dabaso Rock. The most impressive feature of Dabaso is the Dabaso Rock. Historically and culturally it is a holy and spiritual site for the Giriama people. While visiting Dabaso, you can consider visiting Sita Community Snake Farm.