I recently enjoyed a sublime holiday in the amazingly beautiful country of Rwanda. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda
- Review: Kigali Serena Hotel (today)
- Review: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris (Volcanoes National Park)
- Review: Encounter with the mountain gorillas (my best travel experience ever!)
- Review: One&Only Nyungwe House (Nyungwe National Park)
- Review: Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Akagera National Park)
- Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Rwanda to Amsterdam (via Uganda)
Today (February 13, 2019): Review of Kigali Serena Hotel (Rwanda)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Kigali Serena Hotel
- Recommended tour operator in Rwanda: Uber Luxe Safaris
Situated along one of the Rwandan capital’s most vibrant boulevards, the elegant Kigali Serena Hotel is a great place to start or end a gorilla safari. Guests are welcomed into a gleaming granite atrium, adorned with lovely Rwandan artworks. The property features 148 sophisticated rooms, including 25 spacious suites, that come with air conditioning, Wi-Fi connectivity, a satellite television, and a lovely ensuite bathroom. The hotel offers a wonderful selection of dining options, from the Milima Restaurant that overlooks the courtyard swimming pool to the Sokoni Restaurant that has become a popular meeting place for both locals and travelers alike. There’s also a small spa on site.
Have you ever stayed at Kigali Serena Hotel? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Kigali Serena Hotel is located on a busy boulevard in the heart of Kigali. It’s a secure and tranquil location near the city’s central business district. The residential area surrounding the hotel is home to embassies and other high-end hotels (e.g. Marriott Kigali and Hotel des Mile Collines). It’s only is a short stroll from the hotel to the city center, where a buzz of shops, restaurants and bars awaits you. The hotel is 8 miles (12 km) from Kigali International Airport and thus perfectly located for guests visiting Rwanda for business or for an overnight stay at the end or start of a Rwandan safari.
- Accessed by a gated courtyard with palm trees and water parties, the hotel is housed in a modern, U-shaped, low rise building. Guests are welcomed in a multilevel, open atrium with a glass roof structure and gleaming walls that are adorned with authentic Rwandan artwork. A staircase connects the contemporary styled lobby with a piano lounge (where afternoon tea is served) and an intimate bar area. Sliding glass doors open to a balcony that overlooks the hotel’s courtyard. Most hotel facilities are located around this courtyard, with two restaurants, a lagoon-style swimming pool, and a wellness center with gym (more on that below).
- Guests can choose from an wide array of accommodations, including 54 standard rooms, 25 deluxe rooms, 37 superior rooms, 7 prime rooms, 18 studio suites, 6 executive suites and 1 presidential suite. During my visit, I was upgraded to a spacious deluxe room, which featured two queen sized beds, two desks, a sofa, and a balcony with view of Kigali’s cityscape. The large bathroom was equipped with walk-in rain shower, two sinks, a bathtub and enclosed toilet. The room came with all modern amenities one would expect in a five star hotel: airco, WiFi, hairdryer, direct dialing phone, flat screen television, minibar, electronic safe deposit box, and tea and coffee maker.
- The property features two excellent on-site restaurants:
- One of Kigali’s most popular dining venues, Milima Restaurant features a classically elegant interior with a light-filled atrium overlooking the verdant tropical gardens. During breakfast, the venue offers an extensive buffet selection of homemade pastries and breads, fresh juices and fruits, and an array of continental delicacies. It serves à la carte dinner each night, except on Wednesday and Saturday, when Milima is the scene of a renowned Mongolian Menu, a spicy fusion of the very best of Asian cuisine served under the stars.
- The Sokoni Cafe and Bar overlooks the pool and serves all-day café-styled cuisine to suit all taste. Sokoni is renowned in Kigali for its colorful cocktails and vibrant live music.
- The resort’s heart is a tropical garden, which features a 18 m (60 ft) long landscaped swimming pool with a jacuzzi on the side. The pool is surrounded by sun decks, one of them located on an elevated terrace from where a small waterfall drops into the pool. There are plenty of trees that offer shade to escape the burning sun in the heat of the day (although it never gets too hot in Rwanda). All in all, the pool area is a great place to relax and unwind after a day exploring Kigali, and it lends the hotel a flair of resort ambience.
- Located besides the pool, the hotel features an intimate spa, called the Maisha Mind Body & Spirit Spa, which is styled after a Moroccan oasis. The spa is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, and embraces a holistic approach to wellness. Treatments blend contemporary science with ancient rituals to craft a replenishing experience that balances your mind, soothes your soul and nourishes your body. The spa also features a a state-of-the-art gymnasium and cardio studio, and an aerobic studio offering workouts including kickboxing, dance, and yoga.
- The property is managed by the Nairobi based Serena Hotel Group, which is Africa’s leading hotel chain. Its collection of 35 unique hotels, resorts, safari camps, palaces and forts located in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Rwanda and Uganda), Mozambique and South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) are in some of the world’s most interesting, historic and exotic settings. The group excels in service, and its Kigali outpost is no exception to that rule. The staff are always friendly and attentive to guests needs. They even go above and beyond to make sure you enjoy your stay at the hotel.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Kigali Serena Hotel was the first 5-star hotel in Kigali when it opened in 2004, and it still shines. The rooms are the largest in the city and it offers all the amenities you would expect from a 5-star hotel. It’s not a destination hotel though, but rather a good place to start or end your holiday in Rwanda. You need to know the following when considering a stay here:
- The hotel houses large conference facilities and frequently hosts big meetings. When you stay at the hotel during one of these meetings, you might be occasionally disturbed by large groups of attendees in the public areas (including the restaurants and pool).
- The 148 room hotel has the ambience of a large business hotel, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are looking for a boutique hotel experience, then this place isn’t for you. However, currently, there are no boutique hotels in Kigali.
- While impeccably maintained, the decor feels a little dated and is in need of a refurbishment (the hotel opened in 2004 and has not been renovated since then). The property now faces stiff competition from more modern hotels in the area, such as the Marriott Kigali (its neighbor) and the Radisson Blue Hotel, but it still prides itself on the fact that it offers the most African feel of all 5-star hotels in Rwanda’s capital.
- The rooms facing the pool have a nice view, but there can be a lot of noise when the hotel organizes poolside events. Guests inside the rooms facing the street can also be occasionally disturbed by traffic sounds. This is why it is preferable to request a room on a higher floor in the hotel’s new wing, away from the street and courtyard.
- Security at the hotel is tight: all cars are checked by the hotel’s security team at the main entrance gate, and you have to pass through metal detectors every time you enter the lobby. This is not different from other hotels or public buildings in Rwanda’s capital, but some guests may find it bothersome nonetheless (especially since Rwanda is one of Africa’s safest destinations).
- Location: 7/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 7/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,6/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Kigali Serena Hotel (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: request a room on a higher floor in the hotel’s new wing, to avoid noise disturbance from the pool area or the street.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
In the heart of Africa, fractionally south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Although it’s regarded as a year-round activity, the best time to visit Rwanda is during the short dry season from December to February or over the long dry season months of June to September. These periods offer by far the easiest hiking conditions (for gorilla or chimp trekking) and the lowest malaria risk. The dry season does not necessarily means sunny season as there is often a light cloud cover, helping to moderate the temperatures. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. October to November is the short rainy season, with occasional light showers in the afternoon.
HOW TO GET THERE
The hotel is 8 miles (12 km) from Kigali International Airport. It’s recommended to pre-book your transfer from the airport to the hotel, either via the hotel or via your tour operator.