Welcome to Mombasa, a city rich with history, diverse cultures, and stunning coastal beauty. Known for its vibrant markets, ancient ruins, and pristine beaches, Mombasa offers an enthralling tale for everyone. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide, curated by a Mombasa native, offers an insider’s glimpse into the city’s treasures.
From the historic Fort Jesus Museum to the lively Old Town, from the azure waters of Mombasa Marine National Park to the ecological wonder that is Haller Park, Mombasa is a city filled with endless adventures. Each attraction tells a unique story, ready to captivate every visitor.
So, why wait? Let your exploration of this mesmerizing city begin!
Fort Jesus Museum
The Fort Jesus Museum is a living testament to Mombasa’s rich and diverse history. This 16th-century fort, built by the Portuguese, provides a unique insight into the city’s past. The fort offers panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, reminding visitors of the city’s longstanding ties to the sea.
Verdict: Fort Jesus Museum
“Visiting the Fort Jesus Museum is like stepping back in time. The fort’s commanding presence is a constant reminder of Mombasa’s historical importance. Whether you’re a history buff or just an admirer of beautiful views, this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides an enriching experience that perfectly encapsulates the essence of Mombasa.”
Walking through the narrow, winding streets of Old Town is like taking a step back in time. With architecture influenced by the diverse cultures that have called Mombasa home throughout the centuries, every turn provides a new perspective on the city’s rich past. From the aroma of exotic spices wafting from the bustling markets to the intricate woodwork on the ancient buildings, Old Town is a feast for the senses.
Verdict: Old Town
“Old Town is the beating heart of Mombasa, a vibrant testament to the city’s diverse cultural heritage. Exploring the area offers you a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and history, taste traditional Swahili delicacies, and shop for unique souvenirs. This is an absolute must-visit for anyone looking to experience Mombasa in its truest form.”
Mombasa Marine National Park
This marine park is a treasure trove for underwater enthusiasts. As a protected marine area, it boasts an abundance of vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, making it a perfect spot for snorkeling and diving. The clear, warm waters of the Indian Ocean provide excellent visibility, allowing you to fully immerse in this underwater paradise.
Verdict: Mombasa Marine National Park
“If you’re an adventurer at heart, Mombasa Marine National Park is a must-visit. The diversity and beauty of marine life, coupled with clear waters, make it an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving. Even if you’re just there to relax, the pristine beaches offer a perfect spot for a leisurely day under the sun.”
This park is a perfect demonstration of successful rehabilitation, transformed from a barren quarry into a thriving ecological paradise. The park offers a chance to observe a variety of animals in their natural habitat, including hippos, giraffes, and the famous tortoise pair, Owen and Mzee. The beautiful trails and diversity of flora also make it a perfect place for nature walks.
Verdict: Haller Park
“Trust me on this, Haller Park is a beautiful surprise amidst the city chaos. It’s like a mini safari right in the middle of Mombasa. Not only do you get to see animals like hippos and giraffes, but you’ll also learn a thing or two about the conservation efforts in place. A perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon, don’t forget to pack a picnic!”
Mamba Village Centre
This is one for the wildlife enthusiasts! Mamba Village Centre is home to an impressive collection of crocodiles, and you can even witness feeding time if your timing is right. Beyond crocs, there are horseback riding opportunities and a beautiful botanical garden, making it a great place for a day trip.
Verdict: Mamba Village Centre
“Okay, if you’re not squeamish about crocodiles, you’re going to love Mamba Village Centre. But it’s more than just crocs – it’s a great place to spend the day, especially if you’re traveling with family. Try the horseback riding or just wander through the botanical gardens. It’s a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.”
This historical monument, in the shape of giant elephant tusks, has become an iconic symbol of Mombasa. Constructed in 1956 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the city, these tusks perfectly encapsulate Mombasa’s historical ties to the ivory trade. Driving or walking through this unique “gateway” to the city is a memorable experience.
Verdict: Mombasa Tusks
“Here’s the thing, the Mombasa Tusks may just look like a big structure on a busy road, but they tell a story of the city’s past. Plus, it’s a great backdrop for some stunning holiday snaps! It’s one of those landmarks that just say ‘Mombasa’ – don’t miss it.”
Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre
Bombolulu is a unique place where you can learn about Kenyan culture and at the same time support a local community. Run by the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya, this center is home to a number of workshops where artisans create beautiful jewelry, textiles, and other handcrafted items.
Verdict: Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre
“Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre isn’t just a tourist attraction, it’s a life-changing initiative that empowers people. You can learn about the local culture, shop for unique, handcrafted items, and support an incredible cause all at the same time. It’s definitely worth a visit – remember to leave some room in your suitcase for the beautiful crafts you’ll find here.”
One of the most renowned beaches in Kenya, Diani Beach is famous for its fine, white sand and crystal-clear waters. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker interested in water sports or you just want to lounge by the beach and soak up the sun, Diani Beach has something for everyone.
Verdict: Diani Beach
“Okay, let me be clear – a trip to Mombasa is incomplete without a day (or more) spent on Diani Beach. I mean, the white sands, the clear waters, it’s practically a paradise. Plus, if you’re into water sports, this is your spot. Don’t forget to apply lots of sunscreens, though!”
Offering some adrenaline rush, Mombasa Go-Kart is a great place for some fun and speed. Perfect for families, groups of friends, or solo thrill-seekers. It also houses a bar, a restaurant, and a computer room, ensuring an enjoyable time for everyone.
Verdict: Mombasa Go-Kart
“Alright, I’ll say it – Mombasa Go-Kart is an absolute blast! If you’re looking for some speed or just need a break from all the sightseeing, this is your place. It’s fun, it’s fast, and you’re going to have a great time. And hey, after a few races, why not grab a bite at the restaurant? It’s a win-win!”
Jumba la Mtwana
As an ancient Swahili settlement, Jumba la Mtwana tells a significant story about the region’s past. The ruins of mosques, tombs, and houses dating back to the 14th century provide a fascinating insight into the ancient civilizations of the Swahili Coast.
Verdict: Jumba la Mtwana
“History enthusiasts and curious explorers alike, Jumba la Mtwana is a place that transports you back to the 14th century. Walking through the ruins gives you a sense of the life back then, making it an enriching experience. So, take a break from the beach and dig a bit into Mombasa’s fascinating past.”
One of Mombasa’s most popular and pristine beaches, Nyali Beach offers a perfect combination of relaxation and fun. With its warm azure waters and white sands, it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or engaging in various water sports.
Verdict: Nyali Beach
“Ah, Nyali Beach, my go-to for a chill day out. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with it – it’s clean, less crowded, and the water is fantastic for a swim. Grab a good book, or a pair of goggles, and enjoy. If you’re in the mood for a bit of adventure, try out some water sports – you won’t regret it.”
A dhow safari is a unique way to experience Mombasa’s coastal beauty. The Tamarind Dhow, for instance, offers an unforgettable dining experience aboard a traditional dhow. As you enjoy a sumptuous meal, you can take in the spectacular views of Mombasa’s coastline and cityscape.
Verdict: Dhow Safari
“I’ve got to tell you, a dhow safari is a magical experience. There’s something about enjoying a delicious meal as you float along the Mombasa coastline, the city’s lights twinkling in the distance. It’s a treat for the senses and creates a memory that you’ll hold onto. Don’t pass up on the chance if you can help it.”