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
- Review: Essque Zalu Zanzibar
- Review: &Beyond Mnemba Island (phenomenal resort!!)
- Review: Hideaway at Nungwi Resort & Spa (today)
- Review: Condor B767 Business Class from Frankfurt to Zanzibar
- Review: KLM B777 Business Class from Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam
Today (February 21, 2018): Review of Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa (Zanzibar).
*** IMPORTANT UPDATE: this property rebranded as Hotel Rui Place Zanzibar since my visit, and is no longer part of The Leading Hotels of the World ***
Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa – a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World collection – is located in Nungwi, on the North West coast of Zanzibar. The resort is set in 10 hectares of enchanting tropical spice gardens, fondly tendered by softly-spoken Zanzibaris and rabble of soaring butterflies. This breadth of gardens, bursting with exotic blooms, slopes gently down to the powder white sands of Nungwi Beach, lapped by the clearest blue seas. All 100 rooms and suites have private terraces and stunning views over the lush gardens and Indian Ocean. They are designed for guests in search of seclusion and space and feature interiors in a sophisticated contemporary style with subtle Zanzibar touches.
Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa features in my top 10 list of the best luxury resorts in Zanzibar.
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
- The resort’s best feature is its prime location on a rocky outcrop above magnificent Nungwi Beach, which features sugar white sand so fine that it literally squeaks between your toes. Gently lapped by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, Nungwi Beach stretches for miles on Zanzibar’s northernmost tip: its southern part is lined by restaurants, bars, and hotels (including the Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa), while its northern part is still largely untouched (although you’ll encounter many vendors here selling their handcrafted artifacts and paintings to tourists). Contrary to most beaches in Zanzibar, the fabulous sands of Nungwi are less affected by the tides, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling all day long. Loungers and umbrellas are available to hotel guests on the sand in front of the property (at low tide only).
- Set in a verdant tropical garden covering 10 hectares of pristine Zanzibar shoreline, the resort features a convenient layout. The iron entrance gate and driveway lead to the open air lobby, which is located on the top of the hilly property, affording magnificent sea views. The 100 accommodations are located in several rows of low-rise Kasbah style pavilions that spread out on both sides of the lobby and also cascade down the lush gardens towards the sea. The resort’s ocean front area is composed of the restaurant complex (which houses 3 dining venues), the swimming pool deck, and a sunset bar. Since the resort grounds are extensive, it does require some walking to get around, which is not necessarily a bad things since walking up and down the beautiful, manicured gardens is a pure delight.
- Hideaway Nungwi Resort & Spa features a contemporary and stylish design that not only evokes Zanzibar’s Omani cultural heritage but also blends tastefully with the more African decorative touches. For example, an elaborately carved wooden door (one of the design hallmarks that the archipelago is famous for) is on display at the hotel entrance; rows of Moravian star light fixtures adorn the lobby ceiling; and stylish white arches in both the reception area and the restaurants create an unquestionable Arabian ambience. From a design perspective, the highlight is probably the check-in area, which is decorated with rustic but impressive handmade furniture such as several throne seats and a stunning wooden wall panel depicting a giant gecko.
- The resort features 100 luxuriously appointed accommodations, each with a private balcony from where to relish the stunning views of the Indian Ocean and tropical gardens. During my holiday, I stayed in a Luxury Junior Suite, which is the hotel’s lowest room category. The large and airy room, located in the exotic gardens, featured a king bed draped in muslin nettings, a sitting area, and a writing desk. Subtle African touches included hide seats, woven rugs and a collection of black and white photography, depicting Zanzibar scenes from an era gone by. The bathroom was beautifully finished in mosaics, with double vanity units, a shower, and a separate toilet area (but no bath tub). The balcony had two loungers and overlooked the verdant gardens with the sea in the distance.
- For added luxury, guests can choose between Superior Junior Suites, 2 Jacuzzi Suites and 4 Villas located in a so-called Exclusive Private Area that comes with attentive butlers, private pools, and access to a private stretch of beach. From the moment you arrive in this area – which is located in a part of the garden that cannot be accessed by other guests – your will be appointed a butler who will unpack for you (when you are in need of that), provide refreshments, and arrange all your leisure and reservations. Guests staying in the Exclusive Private Area are also offered complimentary dining at the resort’s two a la carte restaurants (more on that below).
- The property slopes gently down to a beautiful infinity swimming pool, which is located on the edge of the rocky shoreline and overlooks the gorgeous blue Indian Ocean (although there is still a narrow sandy lounge area between the pool and the drop-off to the beach). The 50 m (160 ft) long pool is quite large, with about two-thirds reserved for adults and teenagers (perfect for swimming laps), while the remaining third is a shallow ankle-deep area where young kids can just stand and wade around. There are plenty of comfortable loungers around the pool, so finding a spot to relax here should not be a problem, even when the hotel is running at full capacity.
- The entire resort is oriented towards the west, guaranteeing perfect views of the famous Nungwi sunsets, where hues of burnt orange and blushing rose drop into the sparkling waves of the Indian Ocean. You cannot beat these Nungwi sunsets and I honestly think the sunsets at Nungwi are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen (and I have seen many of them all over the world).
- Hideaway Nungwi Resort & Spa has 3 restaurants, all located in one ocean-front same pavilion. The main dining venue, Aqua Restaurant, has a gorgeous terrace overlooking the clear blue water as far as the eye can see. Each evening, it offers an abundant international buffet alongside live cooking stations such as pasta & pizza corners, while it is the scene of an extensive breakfast buffet each morning. The other dining venues are à la carte restaurants: The Carnivorous serves exotic African game, daily sea catch, crustaceans, and local vegetarian specialities; while Ishi Teppanyaki offers Asian cuisine with sushi and sashimi, dim sum dumplings and teppanyaki prepared with flamboyant skill.
- The resort features several bars. Next to the infinity pool is an Arabian building which houses the Sunset Bar with westerly views to admire nature’s close of day. Above this bar is the Horizon Terrace Cigar and Shisha Lounge where you can enjoy some Arabic flavors, such as mint tea and spiced tobacco. On the pool’s other side, is the beach bar, housed under a thatched roof that offers a much-needed escape from the midday heat; it’s the ideal location to enjoy a refreshing cocktail or cold drink.
- The resort is the only Tanzanian establishment counted among the portfolio of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW). The latter is an exclusive collection of more than 375 luxury hotels and resorts in over 75 countries. LHW does not own hotels; it rather offers a reservation service for independent hotels and supports sales and marketing, advertising and public relations, financial services, quality control, and hotel inspections for its member properties. LHW has many iconic properties in its portfolio, such as such as Maia Luxury Resort in the Seychelles, the 12 Apostles Hotel in Cape Town, The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia, The Langham London, Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, Le Sirenuse in Positano (Italy), Laucala Island in Fiji, The Setai Miami Beach, and The Ritz in Paris.
- The resort organizes entertainment most nights, inspired by the sights and sounds of Africa. Evening entertainment includes local and international dance shows, live music and gala parties by the swimming pool throughout the week.
- The Hideaway Spa & Fitness Club is housed in a separate pavilion in the gardens and features several massage rooms, a traditional hammam, and a hot tub centered around a courtyard with a water party. Treatments use natural organic products by Healing Earth, a luxury African spa brand which harnesses the restorative powers of pure actives from the oceans, plants and minerals.
- The resort offers complimentary WiFi throughout the property and although it comes and goes it is generally quite strong compared to other hotels in Zanzibar.
- All rates are half-board or all-inclusive. Half board package includes breakfast and then choice of lunch or dinner in Aqua, the buffet restaurant. All drinks are extra. Dinner is also included in the a la carte restaurants with a half board package when you are staying in the Exclusive Private Area (24 hours reservation in advance required). All inclusive means 3 meals a day (including at the a la carte restaurants) and all drinks, in addition to snorkeling, kayak rentals and paddle boats.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa is one of the most famous resort of Zanzibar. Its best assets are its prime location on the stunning white sands of Nungwi Beach and the many facilities on offer. Yet, it’s not perfect and definitely not suitable for everyone. There are several issues that made me wonder why this hotel is part of the prestigious LHW collection:
- To my own surprise, the resort has a Club Med-alike ambience. To give a few examples, resort animators organize aqua gym session in the pool at noon (accompanied by very loud music), and locals try to impress guests at night with dance shows. Depending on your own preference, you will either love or hate this.
- Food at the restaurants is abundant and fresh, but I would not label it as fine dining. The buffets get boring after a few days, some items taste fairly bland, and the presentation of the food in the a la carte restaurants lacks imagination. If you fancy delicious food, you may be disappointed here. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives, since there are no other restaurants in the area to try out.
- I don’t say this easily but the clientele of the resort was anything but what you would expect at a high-end, exclusive resort. I was surprised by the often rude and loud behavior of several guests (mostly from East Europe and Russia), probably exacerbated by excessive alcohol use. It all contributed to an unpleasant atmosphere, which is a far cry from a refined ambience that most discerning travelers are looking for.
- A new hotel is being built next to the resort and the construction noise can be quite loud and relentless from time to time.
- The most narrow stretch of Nungwi Beach is located right in front of the hotel. Access to the beach is no problem at low tide but it’s more difficult during high tide when the beach becomes very narrow (and sometimes disappears). There’s a sandpit available on top of the cliff though (although that area was under renovation during my stay and looked a bit shabby).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 6/10
- Breakfast: 7/10
- Spa: 7/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: members of Leaders Club – the loyalty program of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) – can stay for free at the resort. Leaders Club members get one free night with every 5 stay credits at one of the 370+ LHW hotels – the fastest earn rate of any hotel loyalty program. Unlimited members even get a free night after four qualifying stays. Read here my review of Leaders Club.
- 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 seasons 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 with short.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hideaway of Nungwi Resort & Spa is located a 90 minutes road trip 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).