For most travelers, the tropical destination of Zanzibar isn’t exactly annual-vacation material. More likely, it is a special-occasion trip where finding the right resort is a major decision — and one we hope to make easier for you. Take a look at our picks for the top luxury resorts in Zanzibar, a cluster of islands off of Tanzania’s coast.
Baraza Resort and Spa attracts honeymooning couples and well-heeled families with its peaceful atmosphere and regal look inspired by the island's sultanate history. All of the resort's 30 villas are huge (starting at 517 square feet) and feature details like antique and hand-carved wooden accents, alcoves with chic floor seating, and handsome arched doorways. There are four dining options featuring a mix of Arabic, Indian, Persian, East Asian, and Tanzanian dishes, as well as extensive on-site water-sports facilities and a PADI dive center. The elegant Frangipani Spa is one of the hotel's highlights, with a courtyard lap pool with pumped-in underwater music. All in all, this romantic and breezy resort is one of Zanzibar's most opulent places to stay.
The luxury boutique resort sits on one of the widest and most picturesque private white-sand beaches on the island. It's a perfect honeymoon destination, with couples making up the bulk of guests. The resort's beautiful rooms and villas are practically faultless; all are done in a chic minimalist style with modern woods and details like polished plaster walls. Standard amenities include free Wi-Fi, mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs with movies on demand, and bathrooms feature rainfall showers and open-air tubs. Villas have espresso machines and walled gardens with private pools. An excellent breakfast (included in the room rate) is served in guests' villas or in the hotel's artsy and airy restaurant. There are also three bars -- a lounge bar, a beach bar, and a rooftop Champagne-cigar bar with sea views -- but with only one restaurant, Zanzibar White Sand lacks Baraza's multiple dining options.
Gold Zanzibar Beach House & Spa is a luxury boutique hotel on the beach with open-air spaces and a secluded vibe. The 67 rooms are slightly less opulent than the ones at Baraza, and not nearly as chic as those at Zanzibar White Sands, but all are elegant -- outfitted in wood, white stone, and lots of gold -- and feature amenities like flat-screen TVs, minibars, air-conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. Large bathrooms have separate walk-in showers and bathtubs, as well as bidets, bathrobes and slippers, hairdryers, and toiletries. All rooms have their own private outdoor terraces with sea or garden views. Along with a wide white-sand beach with loungers and straw umbrellas, there's a Balinese-style spa with a serene outdoor covered lounge, but no steam room or sauna, like the tranquil spa at Zanzibar White Sands. Other features at Gold Zanzibar include a sleek outdoor pool, two restaurants serving local cuisine, and two bars -- one on the beach.
Essque Zalu Zanzibar is a large luxury hotel set on the northern tip of the island overlooking the Indian Ocean. The resort impresses on many fronts: interiors are low-key and contemporary, lush gardens are particularly well-tended, and dining is outstanding at the three hotel restaurants. There are 40 suites and nine three- and four-bedroom villas, which are particularly roomy, and many have superb sea views. Same as Baraza, Essque Zalu Zanzibar is on a tidal beach, so beach bums might prefer Zanzibar White Sand or Gold Zanzibar. But Essque's tiered infinity pool with sea views, whirlpool tub, and long wooden jetty help divert attention away from the lack of a permanent sandy beach.
The largest and most affordable of the island's Zanzibar Collection hotels, Breezes Beach Club & Spa is a 74-room resort popular with couples and vacationing families. Rooms and suites are large and feature locally crafted wooden furniture, though they lack the TVs and free Wi-Fi found at Essque Zalu Zanzibar. On-site, there are plenty of activities and amenities, including a dive center, tennis court, fitness center, large pool, and eight bars and restaurants. Breezes' gorgeous spa has a whirlpool tub and beachside massages and treatments; it's more lavish than the spa at Essque Zalu, but doesn't have the sauna or aromatherapy steam room found there.
Melia Zanzibar is an all-inclusive resort with lots of grassy areas and palm trees, fountain features full of lilies, and a long stretch of white-sand beach. Though it is kid-friendly, the vibe here is a bit more sedate than at other family-focused properties. A wide range of room types starts at the standard Melia Garden Rooms goes up to the huge Three-Bedroom Villas with massive gardens and private swimming pools. All units feature air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs with international channels, minibars, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and private terraces, many of which face the ocean. Spacious bathrooms come with large soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers. There are plenty of on-site activities and facilities, including an excellent spa, a fitness center, and a huge pool. Guests must go to the nearby Gabi Beach Club (via free golf cart ride) for water sports, which are available on-site at Breezes.