Snorkeling among a tropical reef, canoeing along a mangrove-lined creek, and sampling fresh fish, in the coastal village of Watamu
Sheltered by the curve of the tidal Mida Creek and fringed by a barrier reef, Watamu, on Kenya’s central coast, is a mecca for snorkeling and diving, and makes for a relaxing post-safari stay. You can take a boat out to Watamu Marine National Park to explore the kaleidoscopic sea life that flits among the corals. You could also explore by paddleboard, try kitesurfing, or navigate the creek by dugout canoe.
Between activities, relax on white-sand beaches or, at low tide, investigate shallow pools filled with shells, seaweed, and skittering ghost crabs. In the village, you can browse stalls selling bright fabrics and local carvings, sip drinks in the cafes, and taste seafood fresh from fishermen’s nets. You might also like to venture just outside town to visit the Ruins of Gedi — remnants of a medieval Swahili trade hub.
Snorkeling & diving in Watamu Marine National Park
Lying just 300 m (984 ft) offshore, the coral gardens that form Watamu Marine National Park provide habitat for around 600 fish species, many invertebrates, crustaceans, and molluscs, as well as whale sharks, manta rays, and octopuses. It’s the best protected coral reef along Kenya’s entire coastline, and snorkeling or diving in the warm, clear water gives you a glimpse into this underwater world.
You can take a boat trip (arranged locally or through your resort) 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.
Mida Creek by boat, kayak, or dugout canoe
This tidal creek, surrounded by mangroves and fringed with palms, cuts into Arabuko Sokoke Forest to create an oasis for wildlife. Fish teem in its waters, crabs hide among the mangroves of smaller streams, and migratory birds touch down here to rest and refuel on their long journeys.
You can take in the natural grandeur by dugout canoe or kayak, paddling through small channels that cut through the mangroves. Or, join a boat trip, sipping dawa (a local cocktail with vodka, sugar, and lime) as the sun sets and spotting wildlife as you go, from kingfishers diving for prey to fish eagles perched on nearby trees. Mida is also where you’ll find the community-run Crab Shack, which serves fresh crab alongside crisp samosas and cold drinks, all while supporting locals.
Watamu village & beach
Around Watamu, shimmering sand is lined with private beachfront homes, jagged islands and rock pools invite exploration at low tide, and people come and go in brightly painted tuk-tuks.
You can stroll through the village, which blends Kenyan, Arab, and Italian influences, to browse its shops and relax in its cafes, or admire some of the handicrafts sold from bright and cheerful stalls. The village’s population of Italian expats have left their mark on the cuisine, and you’ll find authentic pizza and gelato alongside freshly caught fish.
The Ruins of Gedi
Just outside Watamu, you can visit the remains of a medieval Swahili settlement, the walled town of Gedi. Here, you’ll see remnants of stone buildings used by Arab traders until the 17th century, including a palace, mosques, and distinctive pillar tombs — structures topped with a pillar or column.
Best time to visit Watamu
While it’s warm or hot in Watamu year-round, July to October experiences the driest conditions with clear skies and milder, more comfortable temperatures. January to early March is generally dry but can get humid as temperatures soar. Between October and April seaweed occasionally collects along Watamu’s shoreline, so you may not have the same pristine beaches as other times of year.
Map of Watamu
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Watamu
- Kenya's Coastline 22 miles away
- Mombasa 55 miles away
- The Tana Delta 59 miles away
- Diani Beach 76 miles away
- Tsavo East National Park 94 miles away
- Funzi Island 94 miles away
- Lamu Archipelago 96 miles away
- The Parks & Reserves of Southern Kenya 97 miles away
- Tsavo West National Park 142 miles away
- The Chyulu Hills 161 miles away
- Amboseli National Park 205 miles away
- Nairobi 264 miles away
- The Parks & Reserves of Northern Kenya 271 miles away
- Meru National Park 273 miles away
- Shompole Magadi 281 miles away
Photos of Watamu
Accommodation choices for Watamu
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Watamu. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Ideas for experiencing Watamu
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Watamu, and which use the best local guides.
Dhow & Dolphin Cruising
Dhow & Dolphin Cruising
Dhow & Dolphin Cruising
Take a leisurely sunset cruise aboard a traditional dhow or a dolphin cruise out into the Watamu Marine National Park.View details