Kilifi Town is one of the most underrated Kenyan coastal destinations. It’s the town that you probably don’t give much thought to when you’re on your way to the famous Watamu-Malindi towns or when you’re heading to Mombasa Island. But in fact, you’re missing out on one of Kenya’s treasures. Kilifi has tons to offer travelers. It has the usual sun, sea, and sand bundle, stunning landscape views, delicious food, and much more.
I absolutely fell in love with it the first time I visited, and now, it’s going to take a forklift to get rid of me. There are lots of things I love about Kilifi but below are my top 8 favorite things and why I highly recommend a visit.
Planktons cause this unique phenomenon where they emit light as a reaction to physical disruption. The water reacts to touch by glowing and glistering. It’s only visible at night, and it’s best seen on moonless or cloudy nights.
I was lucky enough that the first time I experienced it was when it was at its peak. That night’s swim made me feel like princess Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” spewing and waving out stars in the ocean. It’s definitely one of Kilifi’s gems.
The Kenyan coast is recognized for its immaculate beaches. Diani Beach in South Coast has been consistently voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. Kilifi does not stray far from this boast. Besides the white sandy beaches present in the likes of Bofa Beach, Kilifi also offers light-brown sandy beach options at Takaungu Creek, Summer Beach, among others. What’s more, unlike most popular beaches, there is little presence of vendors and beach boys. Therefore, you get to enjoy some private alone time.
3. Sunsets and Sunrise
In general, Africa is known for its eye-catching sunrise and sunset displays. Kilifi is no exception. I’ve seen some of the most spectacular sunsets and sunrise in Kilifi. The sunrise view from the deck of Beneath the Baobabs in Takaungu Creek offers a dazzling golden glow that sips from the forest horizon. And just as spectacular is the sunset from Seahorse Beach, which displays a collision of red and yellow light forming a twilight hue. It’s a sight to behold. Something that I doubt I’ll ever get used to.
4. No Traffic
Kilifi is a small town. Thus, it isn’t over congested and crowded with people and vehicles, which makes it the perfect spot for some peaceful living. Also, the primary mode of transportation within the town is via boda-boda (motorbikes) and Tuk Tuks (Auto Rickshaws), which take up less parking space and roadways. Of course, it is growing, and soon, it’s expected to mimic the likes of Diani and Malindi towns. But for now, I appreciate that it’s not there yet, and I take full advantage of this.
I’m not a foodie, but I must admit that Kilifi has an array of some pretty good restaurants. While I may not entirely give expert food criticism, I can comfortably proclaim that the restaurants are nothing short of amazing. My personal favorites being Nautilus Restaurant and The Food Movement. They are a little different, but both uniquely set themselves apart from most restaurants. They have well thought out decor, tranquil ambiance, and impeccable service.
Nautilus Restaurant is right by Kilifi Creek. You can go for a swim in the creek as you wait for your meal or simply, sip on a cold beer as you take in the spectacular view of the sunset over the ocean horizon, the famous Kilifi Bridge, or marvel at the picturesque collection of boats and yachts docked at the Boat Yard. The food is delicious and the vibe is perfect for both intimate, romantic dinners or chilled out hang out with friends.
Nestled in Kilifi Plantations is The Food Movement. It’s what I would define as a restaurant right smack in the middle of a mystical rural forest. It is adorned with rustic furniture, handmade decor, and murals, and the hanging tree branches around only add to its enchantment. The cuisine served is scrumptious and affordable. It’s a great spot to hang out with friends.
6. Distant Relatives Eco-lodge
Distant Relatives is one of the best backpackers hostels I’ve visited. Mainly because, as the name suggests, it’s not just a budget hotel, but it’s eco-friendly as well — something that is integral in today’s environmental conditions. They beautifully implement environmental conservation measures in almost every aspect of their operations. It’s visibly applied in their architecture, amenities, utilities, and decor.
It doesn’t hurt that they also host different local and international artists throughout the year, so there’s usually a night out option to the somewhat monotonous nightlife that Kilifi Town offers.
Not forgetting, every Friday Night is Pizza Night at Distant Relatives. It’s a weekly event where both locals and internationals come together to enjoy the highly popularised Italian dish that everybody seems to love, including me.
7. Beneath The Baobabs
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a little kid stuck in an adult’s body. I shamelessly enjoy visiting amusements parks. Combine that with my intense love for music, and we’ve got a winner in Beneath The Baobabs.
The place has all the musings of an adult’s playground: endless play space, swings, explosive bright colors, climbers and play structures, ramps, beach access, and an impressive chill out deck area right under one of the massive baobab trees around, where the magic happens, or so it feels like. Besides, they operate like a social enterprise, which only adds to its appeal.
Additionally, it’s the site to one of the best festivals in Kenya, the Kilifi New Year festival.
8. Musafir Dhow
Let’s be honest, everyone loves unique experiences, an adventure of sorts once in a while. The Musafir Dhow offers precisely that. The Musafir is a 70-foot traditional dhow that provides an active sailing experience and acts as a floating restaurant when it’s not sailing. Sailing participants work as a community, sharing duties, fresh food, laughter, and tears, beers and cocktails, dreams and aspirations. Being aboard the Musafir is an experience of a lifetime. I’d readily encourage anyone looking for a challenging yet adventurous escapade to partake in one of the sails.
There’s a lot to love about Kilifi. The beaches, the town’s quaintness, mother nature’s striking displays, and existing social enterprises. It is part and parcel of the Magical Kenya package. So, get your sunscreen and sun hats ready and come discover one of my favorite towns. It’s definitely worth a visit.