Your choice of where to stay will depend on a combination of budget, priorities, and the amount of time you need (or want) to spend here. If you're here to unwind at the end of your safari, make for the beaches to the south of the city -- or choose The Retreat, a sumptuous beachside hideaway just north of Dar. But if you want to experience the pulse of city life and are here for only a night, stick to the hotels in the center or on the Msasani Peninsula.

The Msasani Peninsula & Dar's Northern Beaches -- The advantages here are pretty self-explanatory -- most of the hotels either have views of the ocean or are easily accessible. The excellent value Alexander's Hotel is tucked away in the midst of a residential neighborhood without the benefit of ocean frontage, but it more than makes up for this in other ways. Another option here, due to open at press time, is the new Double Tree by Hilton Dar es Salaam (http://doubletree1.hilton.com), which occupies an aesthetically worrisome building overlooking the sea, just down the road from The Slipway shopping center. Targeting business travelers, it'll offer all the usual amenities and comforts, not to mention the anonymity of a large, faceless hotel.

In the City Center -- Seedy, throbbing Kariakoo is where Dar's ordinary people go about their business, and this is also where the majority of the city's cheap digs are located. If you're keeping a tight harness on expenses, one place you won't feel ripped off is the Tanso Hotel, Livingstone Road, Kariakoo (tel. 079/728-2065 or -2001; bdc@citygardentz.com); with rooms for as little as $35 per night, it's among the cheapest places in town.

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South Coast Beaches -- Also known as South Beach, the stretch of pure white sand immediately south of bustling Dar comes as a bit of a surprise, considering how close it is to a big city. Yet within a few minutes, it's possible to find yourself on a near-virgin beach backed by a tropical forest and perhaps a sparsely populated village. You can spend your day horizontal, with cocktails brought to you as you watch dhows drifting by and tune in to the gentle, endless drone of crashing waves. Or you can find all kinds of watersports to stave off the inevitable tropical narcolepsy.

Some of the loveliest beach resorts (small, intimate, beautiful, luxurious) are located about an hour south of Dar's Kigamboni ferry crossing, and getting there is a little easier these days, thanks to the recent overhaul of the dirt road that stretches south. Budget travelers need not travel far at all to check into the terribly laid-back Kipepeo Beach Village, while decidedly upmarket Ras Kutani and Amani Beach Hotel (both reviewed below) are a good 35km (22 miles) south of Dar. Any of these places offers a cushioning hideaway, far from the crowds.

Although aimed primarily at Norwegian vacationers, Kasa Beach Hideaway (tel. 022/277-2766, 0754/61-8163, or 0754/69-7408; www.kasabeach.com) is another decent option about 38km (24 miles) south of Dar. Comprising a handful of coral rock cottages ($166-$212 double, including all meals) and self-catering villas ($180 without meals) in a palm grove on the edge of a plateau overlooking the beach, it's a comfortable and totally relaxed option that lacks the luxury of Ras Kutani and Amani Beach, but is more exclusive than Kipepeo , with somewhat more modern facilities and less focus on waterborne adventure.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.