Please note: This was one of my first-ever blog posts. I wrote it in 2006. Some, if not most, of the information may be outdated. My more recent post about Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi, and Mambrui from 2023 is probably more relevant if you are going there today!

Malindi, a legendary fishing town, about 100 kilometers north of Mombasa is remarkably neat, pretty, and clean. Once a favored fishing destination for Ernest Hemingway, this place is now heavily dominated by a large Italian diaspora! Although English and Swahili are the official languages in Kenya, many cafés and restaurants in Malindi have menus in Italian only.

The strong winds from the sea are a sharp contrast to other cities and towns along the East African Coast, which focus more on beach tourism. The long beach is nevertheless ideal for romantic walks in the fresh breeze from the sea. However, if you’re looking for a place to spend the whole day on the beach, basking in the sun, then Malindi probably isn’t the best place for you.

Eating, drinking and partying

Malindi is a popular destination for people who want to get away from the typical tourist places and enjoy life in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. The town offers a nice selection of quality restaurants and cafés. There are several Italian Ice Cream bars and cafés, especially on the north side of town.

The ultimate must-visit restaurant in Malindi is The Old Man and the Sea. It would almost be a crime not to eat at this place for anyone visiting Malindi. They’re particularly famous for their seafood, and it’s also one of the places in town that serves proper cocktails. I can never pass through Malindi without eating at this place, and neither should anyone else.

Malindi The Old Man and the Sea

Being a predominantly Muslim town, Malindi doesn’t have a wide range of nightlife alternatives. The hotels in town occasionally hold shows and parties mainly aimed at tourists. Also, there are a few nightclubs like the Stardust, where 50% of attendants are in an old, well-known profession, working hard to sell their personal services to the other 50%.

Things to see

The Da Gama Pillar is the top landmark of Malindi. This monument was erected on the place where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498 on his trip to East Africa.

A few kilometers south of Malindi is the historic site of the Gede Ruins. This trading town was town was probably built in the 12th century, and bears evidence of having been a relatively wealthy society. 600 years ago, however, the town was mysteriously abandoned and gradually forgotten. It’s an interesting place to see, and an hour well spent for those interested in history.

Gede Ruins
Gede Ruins

While Malindi has been around for a long time, little is left of the old Swahili town that Vasco da Gama found when he landed. One oddly placed monument, however, reminds both residents and visitors of the pre-Islamic past of this now mainly Muslim town. Just outside a large mosque, an old fertility symbol in the shape of a large phallus stands in the middle of a Muslim cemetery.


During my 3 trips to Malindi, I’ve had the pleasure of staying at Lawford, and the disgrace of staying at the African Pearl.

African Pearl Hotel at first seems like a nice place, with decent rooms, and a swimming pool. The atmosphere is good, and so are the prices. When I stayed there with my girlfriend in 2003, however, some items were stolen in a daytime burglary. The owner, Jeff, at first appeared very apologetic about the incident. When we left, he promised to refund our losses if police failed to recover the stolen items within a week. When, after a while, I tried to remind him about his promise, he started threatening me via SMS. I’ve since heard several others talk about negative experiences at this place. My advice to anyone traveling to Malindi: If the African Pearl is the only place with rooms available, it’s better to sleep on the street!

Lawfords Hotel is a family-run hotel where most guests, and the owner, are Italian. The hotel complex encloses a huge lawn all the way down to the beach. The place has a really personal and friendly touch. The rooms are nice and clean, and no complaints about the food! The place is also reasonably priced at about $100 for a very nice double room.

Getting around and away

Malindi Town Tuktuks

Malindi has an airport, so the fastest way to travel is by air. Traveling by road offers a good view of the Kenyan Coast scenery, and is strongly advised at least once.

The road northwards, to Lamu is allegedly in good shape now. It sure wasn’t in 2003, when I experienced a bumpy 5-hour bus ride in scorching heat along dusty roads, with the driver flipping the same cassette of Islamic prayers for the whole ride!). The one southwards, to Kilifi and Mombasa, is good in some sections. Navigating the potholes is no joke, though!

Getting between Malindi and Mombasa by public transport is never a problem, with buses and matatus available all the time. Once you get into one, you won’t even have to wait for long before it fills up. Buses and matatus usually don’t have time schedules – they leave when they are full.

A taxi offers maximum flexibility in terms of stopping for food bites or snapshots. The 100 km between Malindi and Mombasa won’t exactly blow your holiday budget. Expect to pay €60-€70 for the ride as a tourist, or significantly less if you can bargain in Swahili!


  1. Lyle Alexender August 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    so Nicely. Your Website is Nicely thought out, graphically impressive and full of great advice. Kudos.


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