Looking for places to stay in Zanzibar? Want a luxury resort by the beach? Read our review of sleek, stylish hotel Zuri and book here.
Zuri in a nutshell
A tranquil 55-bedroom beachside resort with a sustainable ethos and stylish design.
As you’d expect of a member of the Design Hotels group, style is key at Zuri. Under the guidance of designers Jestico + Whiles, the architecture carefully balances modern design with local, natural materials; this slick island retreat features lots of cool concrete, mahogany and limestone.
Guest rooms – suites, bungalows and villas – are scattered between cottages in a series of spice ‘villages’ dotted around the leafy 32-acre resort and connected by a network of pebbled paths. As you wind your way between cottage and beach you’ll find little alcoves to relax in, shaded by baobab trees and with just the swish of palm trees for company. A private sandy beach, strung with hammocks, is licked by the emerald waves of the Indian Ocean. Or, if you’d rather get active, do laps of the infinity pool, or push-ups at the outdoor jungle gym.
Which room should I book at Zuri?
Whether you’re in a bungalow, suite or villa you’re guaranteed luxury. An indoor-outdoor approach gives a real sense of outdoor living with private plant-shaded terraces and open-air showers. When it’s time to sleep, however, modern luxuries come into play. Not least the Evening Breeze system built into each bed, offering cold, cool and fresh temperatures that you can control with a remote.
Thoughtful touches include kangas (traditional dresses worn by the women of the Swahili coast) waiting in your room on arrival in place of standard hotel gowns, and chewy coconut cookies left as part of the turndown service on your first night.
All rooms feature side tables carved from tree trunks and natural toiletries made with Zanzibar seaweed but if you want to spend a little more, the ocean-front villas also have private living areas, jacuzzis and their own, secluded stretch of beach.
The food and drink
Choose from three restaurants dotted around the resort. Maisha (‘life’) is a breezy poolside spot serving light snacks and local seafood. Take a seat on the terrace and tuck into prawn tacos, crayfish linguine or mezze platters of olive tapenade, pickled vegetables and pittas.
If you’re after something more low-key, the buzzy Bahari (‘sea’) beach bar serves lunch throughout the day. Sink into squidgy sofas and sip on fiery ginger lassis, or perch at the bar and try juicy king prawn skewers with chimichurri sauce and seared tuna salads. Don’t miss out on dessert; peanut cookies sandwiching a scoop of sweet banana ice cream make an ideal mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Breakfast and dinner are served in the resort’s main restaurant, Ubudo (‘love’). The menu changes each night but typical dishes range from a buffet of Mediterranean classics to fancy five-course set menus. Zanzibar grew up as a major hub on the spice-trading routes, so its cuisine is a blend of African, Indian and Middle Eastern flavours, and the Swahili dinners are where the kitchen really shines. Help yourself from pots filled with fragrant chicken pilau, made-to-order chapattis, fried green bananas, smoky aubergine slithers and jammy mango chutney. If you’ve room, make yourself a concoction of vanilla cream with dates, halva, cardamom syrup, coconut and sesame brittle for dessert.
A buffet-style spread of cold options can be beefed up with made-to-order hot options. Help yourself to bowls brimming with fresh-from-the-tree mango and passion fruit, or the dozen or so homemade varieties, made with local fruits, on the jam station (try tangy pineapple on slices of Madeira cake or sweet, sticky date on squidgy banana bread).
Join the queue for a frilly crêpe or a fluffy waffle then top it with caramelised banana, grated coconut and local honey. After something savoury? Chilli-spiked omelettes with spring onion and tomato pack a punch, with slices of chargrilled aubergine and courgette to pile on the side.
There’s a smoothie counter too, with a different choice every day; think avocado and soursop, banana and papaya or even bungo juice (this orange fruit tastes a little like orange, pineapple and mango mixed together and gives a refreshingly sharp start to your day).
What else can foodies do?
Try the Swahili dinner, then cook some of its components yourself with the help of chef John. Hidden away in the spice garden is an outdoor kitchen where you can prepare the likes of pweza ya nazi (octopus in coconut), sambusa ya nyama (beef samosas) and pilau ya kuku (spice rice with chicken). Don an apron and learn how to fold samosas, fry chapattis and grate coconut the traditional way. After the two-hour session, feast on rich spinach and coconut curry, fluffy turmeric-fried potato croquettes and a zingy tomato, red onion and lime salad.
Guided tours of the spice garden take place every day, too. Let Adam explain to you the different types of plant and what they’re used for. Taste bitter cinnamon bark, freshly peeled from the tree, or take in the perfumed scent of fresh jasmine. From mango and custard apple to cardamom, baobab, black pepper and vanilla, everything seems to grow in abundance.
If you want to explore outside the resort, a trip to Stone Town (the pretty old town area of the island’s capital, Zanzibar City) takes two hours by taxi, and the hotel can organise a guide to show you the sights. Pop to Puzzle Coffee Shop for cold-brew coffees made with Tanzanian beans and Lukmaan restaurant for freshly grilled kingfish with a side of banana. 1001 Organic is a must-visit, a social enterprise working with 26 small-scale farmers in the forests of Pemba (the second largest island in the Zanzibar Archipelago) who then sell the spices in their small shop. Smell and taste before you buy, from sweet cinnamon, ginger-infused salt and floral black pepper.
Is it family friendly?
Children are welcome and a babysitting service is available on request, however restaurants don’t open till 7.30 in the evening, and with little else to do except eat, sleep and swim, it’s geared more towards honeymooners than families.
Take time to find out more about the island by practising Swahili with Revocatus in the restaurant, or having impromptu history lessons with Is’haka by the pool.
Words and photographs by Ellie Edwards, June 2019