For some strange reason, Mombasa is frequently sold as a beach destination with the added convenience of a few cultural attractions thrown in. Don't be fooled. The beaches here -- stretching along the coast on the mainland north of Mombasa island -- have been overdeveloped and are cluttered with vacationers looking for a cheap deal. In truth, you shouldn't stay in Mombasa unless you really want to take your time exploring the city. And, as I've mentioned, there isn't all that much to explore.

On Mombasa Island

There are no luxurious options in the city center, but there are two reasonably comfortable hotels that work out to be fairly good value and are pretty convenient if you simply need a bed for the night and would like to spend whatever time you have here checking out the Old Town.

Mombasa's North Coast

I wouldn't recommend this stretch of coastline as a true beach destination, but the places here are a good alternative to the soulless hotels in the city center. Ranged along the beach are numerous large resort-style hotels, and many of them are truly deplorable. Closest to Mombasa island, but without actual beach access, Tamarind Village (a reviewed recommendation) is strides ahead of the competition, and although it lacks a beach of its own, the views from its rooms, the famous restaurant, and its poolside terraces are the most interesting for miles -- they look onto Mombasa island itself, providing the most vivid understanding of how the city might have looked a few hundred years ago. Don't be fooled by the upbeat marketing of places such as Voyager Beach Resort and Sarova Whitesands Hotel, which both have more in common with sardine factories than places to rest and have a relaxing time. If you do favor the crowds, however, and must choose between the two, you'll probably be better off at Whitesands (tel. 041/212-8000;, where there's every chance (I'm told) of sharing the pool with African royalty, such as Swaziland's King Mswati III.

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.