beautiful young woman Sunbathing by the beach-Top Things To Do In Diani

Hidden Gems of Kenya: Top Things To Do In Diani

(Last updated on 21/12/2023)

There is never a dull moment for one to visit the Kenyan Coastal area. And if you are looking for a place to enjoy the holidays, a romantic escape, or a quick getaway, the Kenyan Coast is a minefield of options. 

As usual, there is a debate about whether to head to the north coast or south coast. Fortunately, both sides of the coast have a ton of activities to choose from. 

If you are looking for top activities to do on the Coast, you are in luck. The place has many options, depending on the region you are visiting. Diani is one of the top destinations. Here is a simple guide to top things to do in Diani to tick off your bucket list.  

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African female taking a road trip using binoculars, looking for wildlife

How to Get to Diani

Diani’s sun-kissed shores beckon, but how do you get there? Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time adventurer, navigating your arrival options is a breeze.

Are you traveling from Nairobi? If yes, then you have several options to choose from:

  • Fly – The fastest and most convenient option is a 1-hour flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or Wilson Airport directly to Diani Airport. Several airlines offer affordable daily flights, making it an easy choice for a seamless arrival. An alternative to this is to fly to Mombasa and connect to Diani via the ferry. 
  • Train – take the Madaraka Express train (SGR) from Nairobi Terminus, offering a scenic journey through Kenyan landscapes. Arrive at Mombasa Terminus and then grab a matatu (minibus) or taxi to Ukunda, a roughly 1-hour ride.
  • Bus – several bus companies like Mash, Oxygen, and Modern Coast operate comfortable express buses from Nairobi to Mombasa. From Mombasa, catch a connecting matatu or taxi to Ukunda. This option is budget-friendly but takes longer, around 8-10 hours. However, to save on the taxi option, you can take buses like Simba and Chania, which operate from Nairobi to Ukunda. Unfortunately, these are not well-known for their comfort. 
  • Drive – for adventurous souls, renting a car offers the freedom to explore Kenya’s countryside at your own pace. The drive from Nairobi takes around 9-11 hours, via the Mombasa Road and A14 highway. Ensure you have a reliable car and a GPS, and be prepared for occasional roadworks or traffic delays. Plus, you can shorten your trip by avoiding Mombasa and taking the often off-road but scenic route of Samburu Road. 

Once in Ukunda, you can use any of the below transport modes:

  • Taxis – Taxis are readily available and provide convenient point-to-point transportation. Negotiate fares beforehand, especially for longer journeys.
  • Matatus – These shared minibusses offer the most affordable way to get around, connecting Ukunda with Mombasa and nearby villages. Be prepared for crowded conditions and learn basic Swahili to navigate routes.
  • Boda bodas – These motorbike taxis are a quick and exhilarating way to zip around. Ensure you wear a helmet and agree on the fare before hopping on.

Young Man on Jet Ski

Top Things to Do in Diani: Activities

1. Jet Skiing In Diani

Jet skiing is a common activity in Diani, with many local and foreign tourists taking every chance to track the waters in powerful Yamaha jets. Even if you are a non-swimmer, the jet ski companies provide you with a rider. Jet skiing also allows you to see the dolphins.  

You get how long you want to enjoy the experience, with some rides going as far as Galu Beach across Nomad and Leopard Beach hotels down to Southern Palms Beach hotel and into the Congo River.

2. Picnic By The River Kongo Beach 

Kongo River Beach, where the Indian Ocean merges with the river, is a must-visit in Diani. With white sandy beaches and beautiful views. Plus, when the waves aren’t heavy, you can actually cross the river to the small island.  

Besides enjoying the breathtaking view, you can pack a picnic basket or indulge in some of the local delicacies sold by the beach. Either way, you are sure to have a lovely time. 

camels-walking-behind-each-other-on-diani-beach-kenya

3. Camel Rides Across Diani Beach

When was the last time you enjoyed a ride on the back of a camel? The city and other rural areas might have few to no camels, but the coastal region has a number of them. How about chasing the coastal sunset on a camel ride? Or tracking out the beautiful and scenic spots for your pictures while enjoying some lessons on camels and the coral reefs. 

4. Fitness Along The Beach

Being on holiday does not mean you cannot keep up with your fitness routine. Fitness along the beach is common, from running to yoga, dancing, and cycling. 

5. Quad Biking 

Are you a thrill seeker? Quad biking is one of the best ways to take the off-beaten path in Ukunda. This lets you enjoy a thrill-filled drive to Shimba Hills on the often scenic but dusty road. There are tour companies offering this service, but they usually require a valid driver’s license. 

How long can a ride be? That will depend on how deep you want to dig into your pocket. While the prices are affordable, rates will vary on how long you will use the quad bike, usually ranging from an hour to a full day. We recommend getting the half or full-day trip to get the most out of quad biking. 

A young while male kite surfing

6. Kitesurfing

The Galu Beach area in Diani Beach offers one of Diani’s best kite surfing locations. It’s also suitable for both beginners and advanced kite surfers. The wide sandy beach and stable and constant wind-warm waters of the Indian Ocean make the kite surfing experience in Diani worthwhile.

7. Skydiving 

Diani Beach has quite a magnificent view, which is better experienced from an aerial view. With skydiving, you get to experience the thrill of a lifetime. 

Imagine soaring through the sky above Diani Beach, adrenaline surging through your veins as you freefall past turquoise waters and pristine white sand. Tandem jumps with experienced instructors take you to 12,000 feet, offering breathtaking bird’s-eye views of the coastline and Shimba Hills in the distance.

Prepare for a 40-second adrenaline rush as you plummet toward Earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 km/h, before the parachute unfurls, gently gliding you down for a soft beach landing. This once-in-a-lifetime experience costs from $350, often with optional video and photo packages to immortalize your aerial adventure.

Top Things to Do in Diani: Places to Visit

1. Colobus Conservation

For the environmentalists, Ukunda certainly has something for you. And we are not just talking about the rich marine life and the rainforest. We are talking about this little hidden gem that’s paradise for primates. 

Dedicated to protecting colobus monkeys, this conservation center educates visitors about primate conservation through engaging tours. It’s where conservation efforts and wildlife welfare take center stage, fostering an appreciation for these endangered primates.

A-young-woman-with-long-black-hair-_dreadlocks_-and-arms-stretches-sitting-on-a-concrete-wall-overlooking Shimba Hills
Me sitting on a concrete wall overlooking Shimba Hills

2. Shimba Hills National Reserve

Beyond the beaches, Ukunda beckons nature enthusiasts. Shimba Hills National Reserve is a must-visit for wildlife and nature lovers. For starters, the scenic views of the rainforest and the hills are simply to die for. Trust me, I live here! 

In addition to the scenic hills and the Mwaluganje Forest, the reserve also offers a magnificent waterfall, the Sheldrick Falls. However, be prepared to shed some calories to get here, thanks to the 2.5km hiking trail to the waterfall. 

Finally, embark on a safari and see the various wildlife in the reserve, including elephants, buffalos, giraffes, the rare sable antelope, and a multitude of bird species. 

3. Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park & Reserve

For the aquaphiles, Ukunda’s marine treasures are irresistible. And one of these irresistible destinations is Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park & Reserve. Kisite Mpunguti is a marine paradise with an array of marine life, including dolphins, colorful fish, and turtles. Not forgetting the iconic and endless barrier reef.

Nested a few kilometers from Ukunda, it will take you about 30 to 40 minutes to drive here. However, you can enlist the services of a tour company that will organize all the activities for you, including picking up and dropping off from your hotel. 

Ready to experience Kisite Mpunguti? Here are the top activities from my experience 

Barrier Reef at Kisite Mpunguti - Top Things To Do In Diani
Barrier Reef at Kisite Mpunguti

4. Tiwi Beaches 

A tranquil paradise a short distance from Ukunda, Tiwi Beach entices with its unspoiled beauty. Sunbathe on soft sands, take leisure strolls along the shore, or indulge in water sports for a perfect day of relaxation and adventure. Most importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to swim in the African-shaped pools.  

5. Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest

A visit to Ukunda cannot be complete without spending time at the Kaya Kinondo sacred forest. It is a historic site bearing the cultural lessons of the Digo community. The nature trail features about 187 species of plants, with some used in making traditional medicines. 

The tour around the forest takes about one hour, introducing you to a whole new world of African spiritual issues, taboos, and religious practices associated with the ancient Mijikenda people.

6. Shimoni Slave Caves

For the history buffs, take a step back in time at the Shimoni Slave Caves. Carved into the cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean, these caves in Shimoni narrate a poignant tale of the region’s dark past in the slave trade. 

Guided tours explore the caves’ depths, shedding light on their historical significance and the harrowing experiences of the past.

Final Word

Whatever activity you choose, you can be assured your trip to Diani will not be boring. Try the local cuisines, visit the sacred forest, and learn one or two things about the local communities. And if you are ready for some adrenaline rush, be sure to try jet skiing or kite surfing.  

FAQ


What is the best time to visit Ukunda/Diani Beach?

The best time to visit is during the dry seasons, typically from late December to March and from July to September. These months offer sunny weather, ideal for beach activities and wildlife spotting.


Are there any safety concerns at Ukunda/Diani Beach?

Generally, Ukunda/Diani Beach is safe for tourists. However, it’s advised to be cautious of your belongings. Additionally, avoid isolated areas at night and adhere to safety instructions for water activities.


What are the must-try local dishes in Ukunda/Diani?

Sample authentic Swahili cuisine, such as Biriani (spiced rice with meat), Mahamri (sweet fried bread), and freshly caught seafood dishes like grilled fish served with coconut rice.


How do I get around in Ukunda/Diani Beach?

Taxis, tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicles), and motorbike taxis (bodabodas) are common modes of transportation. Renting a car or hiring a driver for day trips is also a convenient option.


What are the top water activities available in Ukunda/Diani Beach?

Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, kite surfing, and boat tours to explore the vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs.


What currency should I bring?

The Kenyan shilling (KES) is the official currency. While some hotels and larger stores accept USD or Euros, exchanging at local banks or ATMs is recommended for the best rates.


How is the weather in Ukunda/Diani throughout the year?

Ukunda/Diani experiences a tropical climate. That means the usual hot and humid weather, with rainy seasons from April to June and October to November.


What should I pack?

Lightweight, breathable clothing, comfortable shoes for exploring, swimwear, sunscreen, and a hat are essential. Pack an adapter for charging electronics, and consider insect repellent and a first-aid kit.


What are the must-do activities?

The list is endless! From snorkeling in Kisite Marine National Park to skydiving over Diani Beach, exploring Shimba Hills National Park, or learning about Mijikenda culture in Kaya Kinondo, Ukunda caters to every taste.

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