I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in Zanzibar, the famous spice island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class from Vienna to Dar Es Salaam
- Review: Park Hyatt Zanzibar (today)
- Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar
- Review: &Beyond Mnemba Island
- Review: Hideaway at Nungwi Resort & Spa
- Review: Condor B767 Business Class from Frankfurt to Zanzibar (via Mombasa)
- Review: KLM B777 Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam
Today (January 31, 2018): Review of Park Hyatt Zanzibar (Tanzania).
Park Hyatt Zanzibar is the quintessential destination from which to experience the rich culture, heritage and historical significance of Zanzibar’s main city, Stone Town, a designated UNESCO heritage site. Sitting majestically on the beachfront in the heart of Stone Town, the hotel provides the ultimate haven amongst the city’s labyrinth of winding alleys, bustling markets, mosques and famed Zanzibari doors, featuring magnificent ornate wooden carvings. The hotel is housed in two buildings, one of them Mambo Msiige, a typical Zanzibari mansion steeped in history, grace and mystique with a story dating back to the 17th century. From the spacious guest rooms and authentic cuisine to spectacular views from the oceanfront infinity pool, the Park Hyatt Zanzibar offers both discerning business travelers and luxury holiday makers rare, intimate and unforgettable experiences.
In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Tanzania with my online Tanzania travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Park Hyatt Zanzibar is located in Stone Town, the historical center of Zanzibar’s main city and a designated UNESCO Heritage site. As the cultural heart of Zanzibar, little has changed in Stone Town over the last 200 years. The town’s unique blend of Arabic, European, Indian and African cultural influences originate from the 19th century when the Sultan of Muscat moved his court to Zanzibar and Unguja island – commonly refered to as Zanzibar – served as a center for the trade of spices. During this period, Zanzibar, also known as the ‘Spice Island’, was the most important trading hub along the east coast of Africa. Today, the traders have left but the town retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact. Stone Town’s winding alleys and bustling markets are lined by historic Omani palaces and filled with rich aromas of spices, perfumes and local handcrafts.
- The hotel enjoys Stone Town’s most terrific beachfront location on a sand-lined promontory jutting out from the city into the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The hotel’s main entrance is located on a quiet, picturesque square in the old town, while the back of the hotel (where you find all the facilities) looks out over and gives direct access to Stone Town’s main beach. Due to the great location, with both the town and beach at their doorsteps, hotel guest can enjoy the best from both worlds. After exploring the vibrant streets and markets of Stone Town by feet, they can retreat to the peace of the hotel and relax in the sun with a mesmerizing view of the Indian Ocean and Stone Town’s harbour.
- Park Hyatt Zanzibar is housed in two buildings, one of them Mambo Msiige, a UNESCO heritage building steeped in history, grace and mystique. The mansion was constructed between 1847 and 1850 by Sheikh Salim bin Bushir bin Salim al Harthi, a wealthy Swahili tradesman from a prominent Omani tribe and a friend of Seyyid Said, the then ruler of Zanzibar. Meaning ‘not to be copied or imitated’, Mambo Msiige is a typical Zanzibari mansion and an architectural gem, featuring intricate carvings and centered around a peaceful courtyard. The building served as a palace, a government mission house, and a hospital for World War II victims, before being turned into a luxury hotel. The hotel’s other building, the new and purposefully built Zamani Residence, connects to Mambo Msiige via an old courtyard, blending old history and contemporary charm, while embracing Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European culture.
- Mambo Msiige’s stately main entrance features three Omani style arches with intricately carved wooden doors leading to a cool and light-filled courtyard, which serves as the main lobby and which is designed to provide escape from the heat. The lobby has a small fountain at its heart and features a beautiful, minimalist decor, blending traditional Omani architecture with understated luxury. A glass pyramid sits on top of the lobby’s roof, with Omani-Arabic chandeliers hanging from a wooden ceiling structure, whose construction is inspired by one of Zanzibar’s most iconic features, the dhow or a traditional Indian Ocean vessel. The lobby also houses the spa on the first floor (more on that below) and embraces an intimate library and a lounge, whose walls are adorned with Arabian design artefacts. Though not quite as atmospheric as Mambo Msiigi, the newly constructed Zamani Residence features a more modern and contemporary decor and houses a lounge, the main restaurant, most rooms, and two shops.
- The lobby gives way to a magnificent outdoor veranda and terrace, which wraps around the entire back of both the Mambo Msiige wing and the Zamani Residence. The terrace offers unobstructed views of the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, and sits directly on the beach, although you can only access the beach via one point where a security guard is always present. The veranda features dining tables on one side (in front of the main restaurant) and an infinity pool on the other side, with plenty of comfortable loungers and seating areas in between. The stunning pool is 18 meters (60 feet) long, surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs, and its elevated setting offers a great view of the beach and ocean, while glass panels assure privacy for the hotel guests. Pool attendants are on hand to provide fresh towels and help guests with anything they need.
- Park Hyatt Zanzibar features 67 spacious guest rooms, including 11 suites, that blend understated elegance, contemporary style, modern technology and regional design elements. During my visit, I stayed in a Deluxe Room, which came with a private balcony that perfectly framed the ocean and beach views. The room itself featured a four poster king sized bed, a lounge seat and a small dining table with two chairs. The room’s design embodied a decoration style true to Zanzibar, with vintage photos on the wall and Arabesque lamp shades. The bathroom was nicely outfitted with a stand-alone bathtub, two sinks, a rain shower, and an enclosed toilet. Wooden shutters could be opened if you wanted to sit in the tub with a view of the bedroom or even Indian Ocean beyond the balcony. Toiletries were provided by Inaya Zanzibar, a a natural beauty product line from the island.
- Park Hyatt Zanzibar features one main restaurant, called The Ding Room, which offers all-day dining and is located at the end of the Zamani Residence. There’s an athmospheric indoor seating area (with open kitchen) in addition to the expansive outdoor terrace. The menu showcases the culinary traditions of Arabian, Persian and Portuguese cuisine and has been designed to include the freshest of ingredients, largely sourced from local farms and markets. Each morning, the Dining Room is the decor of a hearty buffet breakfast which is served until 11 am and offers a variety of freshly squeezed juices, pancakes made to perfection and much more. In addition to The Dining Room restaurant, the hotel also serves light snacks near the pool or in the beautiful Zamani Residence’s lounge ‘The Living Room’, which features vibrant colours, chandelier lighting and plush sofas.
- Those in search of rest and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of Stone Town can always retreat to the tranquil sanctity of the hotel’s spa facility. Located inside the Mambo Msiige wing on the lobby’s first floor, the spa features three large spa suites, including one couples spa suite and a private, outdoor relaxation centre. You can indulge in a selection of holistic therapies and body treatments with a varied menu designed to rejuvenate the body, calm the mind and nourish the soul. Guests can opt between a one-off treament or a full day of pampering.
- The hotel features a fully equipped fitness center with state-of-the-art cardio and strength training facilities.
- The hotel is managed by Park Hyatt, which is the top brand of the Hyatt Hotel Group and one of the most exclusive hotel brands in the world. Located in several of the world’s premier destinations, each Park Hyatt hotel is custom designed to combine sophistication with a distinctive regional character. Park Hyatt hotels feature well-appointed guestrooms, meeting and special event space for groups, critically acclaimed art, food and beverage programs, and signature restaurants featuring award-winning chefs. I have previously reviewed the Park Hyatt hotels in Mallorca, New York, Vienna, Siem Reap, Shanghai, Tokyo, the Maldives, and Sydney.
- The dedicated and knowledgable staff – both locals and expats – offers exceptional service.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Park Hyatt Zanzibar is the best hotel in Stone Town and thé hotel to stay in Zanzibar when you want to explore the island beyond its magnificent beaches. There are a few things you need to know when considering a stay here:
- Although it enjoys a prime beachfront location in Stone Town, the Park Hyatt Zanzibar hotel is not a typical beach resort. Although white and soft, the beach isn’t the best in Zanzibar and the proximity to the harbor means that the water is not very clean when you want to take a dip in the sea. The resort also does not provide any loungers on the beach as the beach is considered a public area. That said, the beach is full of life, especially around sunset, when Zanzibari residents come out in mass to play football, enjoy a picnic, or dance together. Watching this lively spectacle from the resort’s terrace is a pure delight. Local life on the beach is also in full swing each morning, which may wake you up earlier than expected when you stay in a beachfront room.
- The swimming pool area features a limited number of loungers, which is not sufficient to accommodate all guests in case the hotel is fully occupied. During my stay, I noticed that several guests were not able to find an empty seat and disappointingly left the pool area. The terrace is huge though, so it shouldn’t be any problem at all for the hotel to expand the pool relaxation area a little so more guests can lounge the day away in the sun near the pool.
- WiFi is provided free of charge throughout the property, but the internet connection is spotty in a few places.
- The breakfast buffet is very good but it doesn’t have a wow factor nor is up to the usual industry-leading standard of other Park Hyatt hotels that I have stayed at. The range of international dishes and selection of cold meats and cheeses is fairly limited.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Park Hyatt Zanzibar, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: make use of Hyatt’s best rate guarantee. If you find a better rate, the Hyatt Hotel Group will match it and give you $50 USD toward your next stay.
- Elite members of Hyatt’s loyalty program, World of Hyatt, are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – complimentary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and free breakfast. Click here to read my review of the World of Hyatt program (with pros & cons).
- Room tip: make sure to book a room with a sea view.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Zanzibar is located just south of the Equator off the coast of Tanzania.
The best time to visit the archipelago is from June to October during the long, dry season, when most days are sunny and substantial rainfall is fairly unusual. Another popular time to visit Zanzibar is during the short dry season from January to February when dry weather prevails although humidity is picking up.
The worst time to visit Zanzibar is during the main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, which last from March to May. Daily heavy tropical downpours (mainly occurring in the afternoon) are the norm and can ruin a beach holiday. During November and December there’s another rainy season, the so-called ‘short rains’, but these are much lighter, less frequent and less reliable than the main rains.
HOW TO GET THERE
Park Hyatt Zanzibar is 8 kilometers (5 miles) or 10 minutes by car From Zanzibar Airport, which is officially known as Abeid Amani Karume International Airport. Private, air-conditioned transportation can be arranged to and from the hotel. Click here for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to/from Zanzibar.
If you are traveling from Tanzania mainland, you can get to Zanzibar by either light aircraft (20 min) or ferry (90 minutes).