Cast off your cares – and your shoes – at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, a barefoot resort nestled in the palm-flecked fringe of Paje Beach, one of the most beautiful strips of sand on Zanzibar’s south-east coast. Traditional palm roofs and sun-bleached timbers make the villas look like they’re part of a rustic fishing village, separated by gardens of lush exotics and bright-blooming flowers. But as the hotel’s name suggests, it’s the sugary sands that take centre stage. Out on the beach and beyond, you’ll find plenty of diversions: open-air spa huts, for instance, or kitesurfing at the hotel’s expert-led school. In the evenings, toast the sunset on the rooftop champagne bar, before descending to dinners that make the most of Zanzibar’s spice farms, including saffron-dusted tiger prawns and fragrant fish curries.
If it’s just the two of you, you can’t beat the one-bedroom beachfront villas, which are made up of two buildings connected by a large sun deck with a private plunge pool. The larger building is the bedroom and bathroom, which has an outdoor bath tub and shower. On the roof, there’s a spacious terrace with shady seating and sea views. The second, thatch-roofed building is the living and dining area, although sunsets are best enjoyed from the dining cabana on the terrace.
The pool’s smooth, asymmetric curves and sandy base make it seem part of the landscape – a miniature oasis encircled by tall palms and neatly planted borders. There are cabanas with greenery-swathed roofs around the outside, each shading a few sunloungers.
Well aware that Paje is precisely the sort of place most spas could only hope to channel, the architects made it an open-air affair, with treatments taking place in open-sided huts with steep thatched roofs. You’ll feel the warm sea breeze as the therapist works out knots or rejuvenate world-wearied skin with the help of products from Healing Earth, who bottle up the best of Africa’s natural resources. Alongside the two treatment spaces (one of which was designed with couples in mind), there’s also a hammam and a sauna.
Bring your finest tupperwares to fill with fresh spice from the markets in Stone Town.
The sandy surrounds and lack of adapted rooms make the hotel unsuitable for wheelchair users. Extra beds for guests aged 15-and-up can be added to Cinnamon rooms (except the Quadruple) for €75 a night and villas and Deluxe rooms for €130 a night.
Welcome. There are several family rooms and plenty of activities to keep littles occupied, including an outdoor playground, a paddling pool and child-friendly watersports. Baby cots (free) and extra beds (€50-65 for under-15s) can be added to most rooms.
Go for a table on the terrace for the sunset views.
The evenings tend to be balmy, making a loose shirt, light dress or anything made of linen a good choice.
The dining room of Doors to Zanzibar has a soaring conical ceiling with a chandelier dangling from its centre beam. Simple wooden tables and chairs keep things restrained – all the decoration come from the various Zanzibari artefacts ranged about the room, including two ornate doors that are bolted onto the walls – the sort you can expect to see in Stone Town. With the climate as warm as it is, most guests tend to go for a table on the terrace, where you get a view of the pool and surrounding palms. There are plenty of traditional Zanzibari dishes on the menu, including flavoursome fish curries, grilled rock lobster and tiger prawns dusted with local saffron – one of the many dishes that make the most of Zanzibar’s plentiful spice farms. If you’re after something more familiar, go for their comfort food, which includes club sandwiches and chicken wraps.
There are three. The main bar is just off the restaurant, and has a lounge area with stone-coloured sofas – but many people choose to take their drinks out onto the terrace, too. The Beach Bar is open from noon till sunset, ensuring you don’t have to stray far from your lounger for a cold beer or piña colada. Up on the roof of the restaurant is the champagne bar, open for sundowners each evening.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am; lunch from noon to 3pm; dinner from 7pm to 9pm. The Beach Bar is open from noon to 6pm; the Champagne Bar serves from 7pm to 11pm; the Lounge Bar serves till 11pm.
The room service menu is made up select dishes from the main menu, and includes chicken curry, the fish of the day and club sandwiches.
Zanzibar White Sand is on Paje Beach, a long stretch of sand on Zanzibar’s southeast coast.
Zanzibar International Airport is closest. Flights from the UK involve a stopover – the fastest routes often go via Istanbul or Muscat. It takes around an hour to drive from the airport to the hotel; transfers for up to four people are €70 each way are available on request. Transfers for five or six guests can be arranged for €130 each way; for seven or more guests, it's €190 each way.
Most people choose to leave the driving to the locals, who’ve grown up with the oft-chaotic conditions on the roads. Driving along the coast and rural areas tends to to be calmer, but Stone Town should be avoided unless you’re a veteran driver with experience negotiating Zanzibari roads. (If you do decide to hire, the Smith24 team can arrange it.)
Worth getting out of bed for
As its name suggests, this hotel’s all about the beach. The long, flat strip of sand that runs along the coast is what put Paje on the sun-seeker’s map, sought not only for its forget-the-world character and suitability for sunset walks, but because of the crystal clear water that laps the shore. This makes for excellent snorkelling – for the best experience, get the hotel to take you out the reef on a boat. The southeast coast’s diminutive waves have also led to the Zanzibar becoming one the world’s best kitesurfing destinations. The hotel has its own highly regarded kitesurfing school, open from 15 June to 15 September and 15 December to 15 March. Zanzibar’s Unesco-protected capital, Stone Town, is on the island’s west coast, around an hour’s drive from the hotel. The rich history of this Swahili trading town is written on its walls, with buildings cycling between Indian, Arabic, European and East African architectural styles. One of the city’s most famous features are its ornate doors, which grace nearly every building of note. Many are carved from thick slabs of teak or mahogany and decorated with artwork that reflected the occupation and social status of the owner that commissioned them. Another Zanzibari hallmark are the pungent spice markets, which have been a mainstay in Stone Town for as long as people can remember. The best way to get to grips with this rich heritage is on a spice tour – they can be a little touristy, but most involve a visit to a spice farm in a local village, making them one of the best ways to experience rural Zanzibari life. For more natural thrills, journey into Jozani national park, a sometimes swampy landscape that allows the trees and ferns to thrive, supporting a large population of indigenous red colobus monkeys.
You’re unlikely to find anywhere local that does better food than the hotel.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beachfront hotel in Zanzibar and unpacked their spices from Stone Town’s markets, a full account of their break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Zanzibar White Sand Villas & Spa in Tanzania…
One thing’s for sure: Zanzibar White Sand can bring on that out-of-office feeling thick and fast. If you’re wondering why, it has a lot to do with the hotel’s name. The resort is down the road from the village of Paje, which is known for its long, flat strip of sand that really is as white as a beach can get. What’s more, this part of the coast is celebrated for its gentle waves, warm turquoise water and long sections of shallows, making it perfect for kayaking, kitesurfing or a midnight paddle. That said, the hotel’s name only tells half the story, as the resort isn't only built on the fine white sand, it's also surrounded by exotic and tropical flowers in every colour of the rainbow, turning the grounds into a lush beachfront garden. Add to that the earthy interiors and beach-hut esque exteriors, that adorn helps you slip into the barefoot mindset – which is good, as this hotel’s all about making the most of the outdoors. Spacious sun decks, and timber-framed daybeds and a rooftop champagne bar ensure you’ve got choices when it comes to soaking up the sun.