Variety is the spice of life, but if you’ve ever wondered where the spice comes from, Zuri Zanzibar is the Indian Ocean hotel for you. This series of standalone bungalows, suites and villas is strung across tropical gardens leading down to the shore via an infinity pool, spice garden and outdoor gym. There’s a super spa, three restaurants and a whole lot of hanging lamps to admire. The archipelago is a ferry or flight from the mainland, but a world of its own thanks to its strategic Spice Island heritage – Persian traders, Omani sultans and Portuguese rule have all left their mark, but one thing’s for sure: everything still tastes good.
Double rooms from £444.77 ($590), including tax at 1 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $1.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast and dinner.
Zuri has its own sandy beach, where you can either hide out in a cabana or test your balance during a yoga class atop a stand-up paddleboard.
The hotel closes every May, reopening on 1 June.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, beach. In rooms: air-conditioning, TV, free bottled water, tea and coffee, and The Seaweed Bath Co products.
Our favourite rooms
Decisions, decisions… Choose between proximity to the pool or proximity to the beach. Even more important: Jacuzzi or no Jacuzzi? Do you overlook the ocean? (A: err, yes). Garden Bungalows can interconnect, but for maximum space, families will love either of the two-bedroom villas.
There’s an infinity pool next to Maisha, with several sunloungers to choose from – but you’re steps from sparkly Indian Ocean sands, where the hotel has helpfully set up cabanas with billowy drapes amid the palms.
Maua Wellness has three treatment rooms and a salon for mani-pedis and humidity-defying blow-dries. You can also book in for honeymoon-friendly couples’ rituals, holistic massages and youth-restoring facials.
Zanzibar is just south of the equator, so the chances are it’s going to be balmy; remember, though, the population is mostly Islamic so a little modesty in your clothing choices won’t go amiss.
Unfortunately, the hotel is not adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome, but there are no special facilities for mini Smiths.
The chef oversees his own vegetable patch, the bath products are made in Zanzibar and the decor includes things like upcycled glass bottles. There are solar panels, too, and the hotel produces its own bottled water.
For novelty value (even if you haven’t brought the kids), sit up at the crocodile-shaped table at the back of Upendo, where you can see into the open kitchen (if the hundreds of hanging lamps aren’t obstructing your view).
Spice up your life.
Upendo, near the lobby, and Maisha, by the pool, both serve breakfast. Dinner at the former switches between buffet service (but don’t let that put you off) and five-course set menus, with an African and Indian Ocean influence to classic grilled meats and fish. The buffet spans salads to stews, with a whole dessert room to save space for. Maisha is a little fancier (worth washing the salt out of your hair for), with a central, rope-decorated bar and lots of woven lamps. There’s also Bahari Beach Grill & Bar, for lighter lunches; look out for seafood barbecues of lobster and grilled fish held regularly out on the sand.
There are no fewer than four bars at the hotel, so it’ll be pretty hard to go thirsty around here. Peponi is next to the entrance and, yes, it has more lighting that’s fighting for your attention (these ones are upcycled bottles). There’s also a bar on the beach and a pool bar that’s technically a part of Maisha. The Dhow Bar is on the semi-private beach and is solely for guests of the suites and villas.
Breakfast hours are 7.30am to 10am (Upendo) and 8.30am to 11.30am (Maisha). Bahari serves food from 12pm to 6pm and 7.30pm to 10pm.
The full breakfast menu can be served in-room, as can all the comfort-food classics.
Zuri Zanzibar is within the namesake archipelago, 23 miles off the coast of Tanzania. You’ll find the hotel on the north-eastern edge of the biggest island in the group, Zanzibar (officially: Unguja).
Zanzibar has its own airport, Abeid Amani Karume, which is an hour’s drive from Zuri. Hotel transfers cost US$95 each way. Most international flights will stopover in cities such as Doha, Muscat, Addis Ababa or Kenya; or you can fly to the mainland and connect in Dar Es Salaam.
Nungwi, on the island’s northernmost tip, is the closest village, a 10-minute drive from the hotel. There’s a car park on-site; taxis will work out significantly more expensive than a hire car, but be prepared to encounter road-blocks, don’t expect to be able to rent a shiny new vehicle, and make sure your rental company sets you up with the permit you need to drive on Zanzibar.
There’s a ferry that links Dar Es Salaam with Stone Town, which takes a couple of hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
If there’s anywhere made for the fly-and-flop holiday, it’s probably most of the islands in the Indian Ocean. But Zanzibar, with its spice-trade past and Unesco-protected Stone Town, has plenty to coax you from coconut-sipping in a cabana – after you’ve enjoyed a spa treatment at Maua Wellness and tried out everything on offer over at the Wimbi Watersports Centre, of course.
Zuri can arrange cruises on its dhow boat (sunset is prime time, obviously), diving days out and Stone Town or spice tours. If you want to try local street food, head to the Forodhani Gardens after sunset, where market traders set up shop to tempt you with samosas and sugar-cane juice. It’s touristy, but the giant tortoises are calling you to Changuu, aka Prison Island, which has a 19th-century jailhouse in mint condition (probably because it was never used). As for the tortoises, they were a gift from the British governor of the Seychelles in 1919, and they’re more than happy for you to come snorkel with them. The island is a half-day boat trip from Zanzibar.
The Jozani-Chwaka reserve is where you’re most likely to spot the island’s beloved red colobus monkey, along with a twitcher-pleasing 40 species of bird.
In Stone Town, stop by Lazuli for smoothies and just-squeezed juices. At the ocean-front Beach House, dishes are prepared using seafood bought from the island’s fishermen each morning and flavoured with spices from local plantations. You can wade out to The Rock, or take the boat (it’s possible to stroll across the sea bed at low tide) – this former fisherman’s post that looks like a hobbit’s hut in the sea is where to go for hand-made tagliatelle with lobster, octopus salad and fish carpaccio with coconut. In Stone Town, head to Silk Route for spiced kebabs and tandoor-cooked paneer; or legendary Lukmaan for traditional Zanzibar food in a similarly authentic (and very simple) setting.
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 breezy, beachy hotel in Tanzania and unpacked their sugar and spice, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Zuri Zanzibar…
The spice isle just got a whole lot spicier, with Zuri Zanzibar shaking up the traditional hotel scene by turning regular Zanzibari design on its head (out: whitewashed walls and wood; in: lots of colour and marvellously modern lighting). The standalone bungalows, villas and suites are dotted around the gardens, hewn from local materials with bead curtains bringing it back to those roots.
Zanzibar went round the houses of international rule before independence was declared in 1963, switching hands from the Sultanate of Oman and Portugal before becoming a British protectorate. Stone Town is basically a maze, but a winding wander through its streets is one you won’t forget in a hurry. Zanzibar is only 20 miles or so from the Tanzania mainland, but it has its own pace, so make sure you go with it. Set your watch to Swahili time – when you’re this close to the equator, sunset and sunrise are basically the same time every day, so it makes total sense for 7am (an hour after sunrise and so the first hour of the day) to be 1 o’clock; 8am is 2 o'clock, and so on – and get ready to enjoy the spice of life.