One dollar meat sticks barbecuing in front of a metal shack are served to us by Mama Zebra. We gave her this name because she’s as friendly as our mums, and has the aura of a perfect care-giver written all over her face. Her food shack is painted in black and white zebra stripes, inside and out, so we couldn’t come up with anything more creative – she simply became Mama Zebra.
Next we’re withdrawing money from a local ATM, whilst the camels are strolling through the crossing, not too far from us. The main street during the day isn't too busy – some of the shops/shacks are open, and a few older Italian expats are shopping for groceries in the small supermarket.
Although it feels as if you were in a village, Watamu is so much more than that! Regardless of its small size, this town has so many stunning things to see and do. It's a great fit for anyone – whether you want to spend a fortune and stay in a posh resort, or stay on the cheaper side and enjoy low-budget activities.
WHAT TO DO IN WATAMU
Watamu is a small town, about 2 hours drive North from Mombasa. It lies on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. Although its population is quite small (around 2,000 people), the town is a real gem and we have a feeling that it’s not quite discovered by the world yet.
We spent over three weeks in Watamu in total and we absolutely loved it there. It’s a truly magical place and we would love to share with you the things you can do there and the things that made us fall in love with this stunning piece of the world.
One of the reasons we fell in love with Watamu, is Watamu Treehouse. We had a chance of creating photographs and videos for this unique retreat and let us tell you that it’s truly a one of a kind place. It used to be a family home, and a few years back Paul, the owner, decided to open his space for guests. Treehouse doesn’t really have windows – all rooms are open to nature, and the trees (and sometimes monkeys!) crawl, or jump, into your room. The retreat is located just 5 minutes from the beach - you walk through an enchanted forest along a beach path to get there. Gnarly branches open up an alleyway for you to pass through and white sand makes its way between your toes.
It’s a truly wonderful experience to spend a night in one of Treehouse’s rooms and wake up to the sound of the ocean and rays of the rising sun entering your room. Even if Treehouse is out of your budget, you can get in touch with them and plan to eat one of their healthy meals there, attend a yoga class (and have their delish fruit juice served at the end!) or take part in one of their unique outdoor adventures. Believe us – it will be so worth it!
Crab Shack is a community project located in Watamu’s Mida Creek and offers not only crabs, but also other seafood and meat. It’s best to go there at sunset, when the sun rays are shining through the mangrove trees whilst you walk to the restaurant along the wooden platforms. When waiting for your meal, you can watch the birds feeding around or fishermen drifting in their canoe boats. We wouldn’t recommend the seafood platter but all the other things looked amazing!
Watamu Turtle Watch
We haven’t actually visited Watamu Turtle Watch but we had a chance to let the turtle out to freedom with their lovely workers. Whilst staying at Watamu Treehouse, we, and other guests, expressed how much we would love to see a sea turtle. Couple of days later, Treehouse got a call from Watamu Turtle Watch about a turtle found by a fisherman. It had to have some barnacles removed and was then ready to come back to the ocean. We were lucky enough to witness this amazing spectacle – the turtle first lazily walked on the sand towards the water, and once the water covered most of its shell, it disappeared into depths of the ocean in less than a second! We will never forget that!
If you want to witness something like that, make your way to the Turtle Watch, make a donation and leave your phone number or a number to your accommodation – they may call you when they have a turtle that needs to be released back to the ocean.
floating , kayaking & stand-up paddle boarding in the creek
Watamu Treehouse calls them ‘gentle adventures’. And they really are! Have you ever heard of floating? We couldn’t imagine how ‘floating’ works until we entered the river flowing towards the creek, and then to the sea. We laid on our backs, let the current take us all the way from the river, through the creek, to the ocean shore and ended up on the beach. Not only was it super relaxing, but it was also definitely a new kind of adventure! At times it may get rough at the end of the float, when the current wants to take you out to the ocean, but experienced guides from Treehouse are there to swim with you.
Floating can only be done a few days of the month, around the full moon, and early in the morning when the tide goes out to the sea. During other times of the day, you can enjoy Watamu’s creek’s stunning scenery, either on kayaks or stand-up paddle boards. You can paddle amongst the gnarly mangrove roots, look down through the clear water, and watch the moon rise and sun set over the Indian Ocean. And don't worry if you haven't tried these before - both kayaking and SUP are simple and after a few minutes you will just immerse in nature and forget about the paddle in your hand.
For all these activities you can contact Watamu Treehouse – we went on many adventures with them, and every time it was unique and wonderful. It’s really hard to describe how beautiful it’s out there, in the creek. Just let these guys show you!
Sandbars exist only for a short while at low tides. You can find them on Watamu Beach, in front of Garoda Resort (use Google Maps to locate it). The times of your visit depend on the tides, so either check the tide times, ask the locals or try your luck! They are stunning – soft white sand and clear turquoise water to swim in and around them. Expect a few tourist boats here and there, but in general there is more than enough of sandbars and space for everyone.
Short Beach & Watamu Beach
Short Beach is a lovely small beach that not many people know about – it’s usually empty and when the tide is out, you can walk from Short Beach to Watamu Beach, along the rock formations. It’s better to do it with someone local though, because if you don’t know much about the tides, you may get stuck in there. If you go floating with Watamu Treehouse, the float will finish at Short Beach and you will walk to the sandbars after you had the yummy Swahili breakfast on the beach.
If you want to enjoy the beach in Watamu to yourself, don’t go to the beach in Watamu Town - there are quite a lot of tourists there and a few beach boys trying to sell you tours or stuff that you may not necessarily want or need. To enjoy the whole beach to yourself, go to the beach in Watamu Town and then walk away, with the ocean on your left, along the beach for about 20-30 minutes. Alternatively go to where the sandbars are, near Garoda Resort, and walk left (with the ocean on your right) for about 15-20 minutes. You will find peace and quiet there with the whole beach to yourself and a couple of local runners only passing by.
The mangrove forest around Watamu’s creek is probably one of our favourite places we have ever visited. It’s just stunning. You totally feel as if you were in a fairy tale. Whilst walking through the thin corridors amongst the dense mangrove trees, you step on a soft muddy bottom or white sand, all in clear salt water.
Again, mind the tides here as some paths may not be passable when the tide is in. And probably head there in the afternoon – the sun rays coming through the trees make this place even more incredible. To know more on how to visit the mangrove forest, get in touch with Watamu Treehouse, as it’s one of their ‘gentle adventures’.
Non solo gelato
And last but not least, you just have to try Non Solo Gelato.
Anna, the Italian owner, not only makes the best brownie on the planet, but also super delicious ice cream in a variety of yummy flavours. It seriously doesn’t need an ad – once you try it, you will be coming back there over and over again. Or at least, that’s what happened to us…
WHERE TO STAY IN WATAMU
Watamu may seem a bit pricey when you try to find places online but it doesn't have to be this way - the local food in Watamu Town is very affordable and the activities are not ridiculously priced either. After all, the stunning beach is there at no extra cost! When it comes to accommodation, Watamu offers a variety of places for different budgets.
Watamu Treehouse is our favourite - we spent a lot of time there, mainly thanks to doing photo and video projects for them, and we love this place to bits, although we do realise that for many it may be out of their budget (about 120 USD per person per night with meals included).
We have also stayed in Seawhispers Inn - a small guest house for 25 USD a night. It was modest but clean, comfy and right in the centre of Watamu Town.
We also booked Mida Eco Creek Camp (prices starting at 13-20 USD with breakfast) but unfortunately we run out of time and had to cancel, hence we never visited it. Also, it's located a few kilometres from Watamu Town which makes it tricky to get food, unless you want to eat in the camp.
HOW TO GET TO WATAMU FROM MOMBASA
There are a few ways to get to Watamu from Mombasa:
The least comfy way - you will probably be squished at the back of matatu (minibus) for about 2.5 hours. But it's also the cheapest and will cost you only 3-5 USD pp! Your big bag will get strapped to the roof and your driver may speed a bit but in general you should be fine. After reaching the crossing in Watamu where matatu will drop you off, catch a tuk tuk (rickshaw) to your accommodation for about 2 USD.
As everywhere in the world, Uber is also present in Kenya. You can catch an Uber from Mombasa to Watamu for about 40-50 USD. Make sure you cross on the Likoni Ferry to the main island of Mombasa, as it may be difficult to catch an Uber from Likoni and pricey to go on ferry in a car.
Ask your accommodation or someone on the street about a taxi to Watamu. They will know a friend or a local taxi driver who will be up for a road trip to Watamu. It will probably cost you about 50-60 USD (you will have to haggle the price down to this).
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you book your accommodation through our links, we will earn a small commission fee. It doesn't affect the price you pay, and we get to sustain our website thanks to these small earnings.
We have stayed in Watamu Treehouse and went on their adventures as a part of photo and video projects we did for them but as always all opinions are our own.