Zanzibar ~ Where to Stay
Emerson on Hurumzi
Some people may want to be on the beach the entire time they are in Zanzibar – and Stone Town does have beach hotel options. However, I wanted to be in Stone Town, in something a little less conventional. Plus, I had already planned to spend the second half of my trip at a resort on the beach. I actually had a dream hotel picked out for this trip that I had wanted to stay at for quite some time. When I knew I wanted to go to Zanzibar – I knew I wanted to stay at one of the Emerson Hotels. I booked my Stone Town accommodations before I even booked my flight to Zanzibar! I didn’t want the hotels to book up and me miss out!
There are two Emerson hotels in Zanzibar – Emerson Spice and Emerson on Hurumzi. They are within a short walking distance of each other. I decided on Emerson on Hurumzi because I liked the idea of having my own private rooftop Tea House. I only went to Emerson Spice once, and that was for dinner. Hindsight, I would have stayed at both Emerson on Hurumzi AND Emerson Spice.
They are both boutique hotels that were once merchants’ homes. Emerson Spice is a bit newer and it shows. Emerson on Hurumzi is more rustic and raw, showing its age a bit, which I really loved. Both hotels were unique and had a traditional Zanzibari vibe. You can see the cultural of Zanzibar – the Arabic, the Indian and the Swahili – in the colors, the art, the furniture, the architecture – in everything throughout the hotel. Emerson on Hurumzi also has a small art gallery at the hotel.
If you do not do well with stairs – this is not the place for you. Both Emerson on Hurumzi and Emerson Spice have many stairs and no elevator. The reviews I had read before going made it sound much worse than it really was. I didn’t mind the stairs. It was cool and made each place even more enchanting in my opinion.
Many, if not all, of the rooms are open. So, it can be loud at times with sounds of the town and the call to prayer. I didn’t mind it at all. I enjoyed it, but if you’re a light sleeper, I suggest bringing earplugs.
I stayed in the Keep Suite. As I mentioned before, this room has its own private rooftop Tea House. It overlooks Stone Town on one side, and there are sea views on the other side. When I tell you sunrises were stunning up there – I mean, wow.
The dark wood accents, teal curtains and pillows, antique furniture, and the old book about Zanzibar sitting on the table – made me feel like I had stepped back in time.
Not to mention the bath and shower that is open in the sitting area. I was obsessed with that shower! Every morning taking a hot shower there, after hitting the hot water switch and waiting 15 minutes, was the best feeling. Not only was the room open, curtains blowing in and all, but I was also able to smell and hear the rain too. It rained every morning.
Another thing I really love about this room is that the bedroom is closed off to the rest of the suite. This was nice because I was able to keep the bedroom cool at night, and I felt extra secure being behind an additional locked door. During the day, you can keep the window in the bedroom open if you want. The bed was very large for little o’l me. I loved it.
I was a little paranoid about spiders in the room per usual. I only saw one. When I was in the shower! I quickly took care of him. Next time I am there, I want to stay in multiple different rooms! Each room has its own character.
The staff at Emerson on Hurumzi was great. They were sweet and very helpful. Obama (yes, that is really his name) made sure to ask me how everything was each time I saw him during my stay.
As a solo female, I was a little worried about staying in a room that was open to the outside – but they assured me that everything was okay and to let them know if I needed anything at all. Within 10 minutes of getting into my room, I accidentally dropped my glass of juice and broke it all over the floor and the small rug. I called them, and they quickly came to pick it up. They always said “hakuna matata”. Yup, they really say that there! When I wanted to have dinner at Emerson Spice – they had someone escort me to and from Emerson on Hurumzi that way, I was not walking alone at night.
Each morning someone brought me my breakfast to my room. I had the private Tea House, so I wanted to take advantage of that. Every day I had the most amazing, freshest fruits with eggs and toast. I had coffee and juice of course too.
I had dinner once at Emerson on Hurumzi. I sat on the floor and ate my food Swahili style on a low table. They had live music as well.
For my last night in Stone Town, I went to Emerson Spice for the “Seafood Based, Five Course ‘Taste Safari’ Degustation Menu” at The Rooftop Tea House Restaurant.
I loved Emerson on Hurumzi. I was sad to go. If I find myself in Stone Town again – there is no question where I’ll stay. It will either be at Emerson on Hurumzi or Emerson Spice - or both.
When I was trying to decide what beach resort to spend my birthday at, I really was looking at if the beach was nice and if the room was nice. I also wanted an all-inclusive resort because traveling alone I did not want to get sick or venture out at night by myself. I wanted the convenience. With Zanzibar being a hot honeymoon destination, any nice accommodation was very expensive. A few of the resorts I reached out to turned me off by saying that they prefer couples when I inquired about saying there. I thought this was really rude – especially because solo travel is a growing trend.
I decided on Meliá Zanzibar in Kiwengwa. What sold me was the bungalow, that I would be ending my trip in, on my birthday. I wanted the room I was waking up in on my birthday to be really awesome!
The vibe at Meliá Zanzibar is like what you would expect from any an all-inclusive resort. It is chill and relaxed – with people lounging around, getting a tan with drinks in their hands, eating lunch by the pool, getting golf cart rides from place to place - the epitome of a beach resort vacation.
I don’t know if I would call this a luxury resort or not. I guess it depends. If I had stayed in the first room I was in during my whole stay – I would say it was just a regular all-inclusive resort. It wasn’t until I moved into the second room did I think I was living the luxurious life.
Terrace Room with Partial Ocean View
The first room that I stayed in at Meliá was pretty basic. The bedroom and the bathroom were very large. The bathroom had an indoor shower, outdoor shower and a nice big tub. The bed was a 4-post bed with mosquito netting around it (of course). For the price – almost $350 a night – I was not impressed. There was just no wow factor. It felt plain and cold. But, I was only spending two nights there and wasn’t going to be spending much time in the room. So, it did the job for two nights.
Ocean View Bungalow
This room was something special. I always spoil myself a little bit on my birthday, and I absolutely did with this room. It was large, romantic, and finally - luxurious. This room is what beach vacation dreams are made of.
There was a separate room with the semi-outdoor bath and shower. I never used the bath in this room, but the shower was incredible. The bathroom area itself, with the sink, vanity, closet, refrigerator, toilet, etc - took up most of the room in the bungalow. I had read reviews about this, and it bothered some people. I did not mind.
The sleeping area had a couple of chairs, a small table, a TV and an beautiful and comfortable bed. What really made this bungalow special though, was the stunning view of the ocean. The color of the water was just insanely beautiful. Outside on the large terrace was a rope swing. The mornings out there on the terrace, watching the fisherman and women at work, was very relaxing.
There are so many things I could say about the staff at Meliá. Everyone knew I was by myself, so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but they were all so nice! Every day I would see the same people. They would always be so sweet, calling me by name, asking how I was doing, telling me I was looking good (lol so sweet), inviting me to the beach and to a party. They made me feel so comfortable and welcome.
One of the female staff members said hi to me every single day when I walked by her. She decorated my bed with flowers for my birthday as well.
The manager, Vikram, and I had multiple conversations throughout my stay. He always checked on me at breakfast. My last evening there, I took myself to dinner at the Jetty restaurant. I sat at the bar at first, before eating, and had a small chat with Vikram. I told him I was going to miss the passion fruit. Later at the end of my dinner, the staff brought out a birthday cake for me - with passion fruit on top! Like, what?! I was so happy. I felt so much appreciation for Vikram and the whole staff.
Later when I checked my email, he had emailed me to tell me he had checked out my photos and expressed that he would love to travel the world one day too. He also told me to let him know if I wished to take some passion fruit home with me as a birthday gift. That was literally the most amazing thing any hotel has ever done for me. Of course, I had to politely decline because I am not allowed to bring fruit back into the states (missing that passion fruit so much), but it was the thought that counted.
I left Meliá feeling like I had just made so many friends.
When I went to Bali and had a massage, I never thought I would have a better one. The massage I had at the Meliá Zanzibar spa - topped the Bali one. Just by a little bit, but still! It was so good. She even got my upper back to pop. If you know me, you know I have scoliosis and deal with very bad upper back pain. The massage was all around fabulous.
I also had a body scrub and wrap done. Followed by an outdoor shower before the massage started. I had such a great experience that I went back later the same day to get a pedicure.
The beach at Meliá is accessible by foot but it is a very long walk. The resort itself is very big. In order to get to the beach quickly – you need to take a golf cart. They have a little station by the main building where they pick people up to take them to Gabi Beach. One day I walked from the beach back to the Jetty. It was about a leisurely 30 minute walk.
The beach was not the prettiest. I actually spent most of my time there enjoying it in the morning during low tide. Luka, a fisherman, walked out with me and showed me some starfish and sea urchins. That morning was really special. The beach was great for laying out and relaxing, however. It was pretty, but it just wasn’t the beautiful, picturesque beach that I saw in Jambiani.
Let’s first talk about the “all-inclusive” part of this resort. All-inclusive doesn’t really mean that here. Upon arrival, you get a white or black Meliá wrist band. The white gets you some things on the menu, but not all. The black band gets you pretty much everything. When I upgraded my room the last two nights of the trip, I upgraded to the “all-inclusive premium” - the one with the black band. If I could’ve done that over I wouldn’t have upgraded. There weren’t THAT many more options on the menu. What it did allow me to get - was room service. Room service was nice because I didn’t need to go out after dark to get dinner. However, I did go out on my last evening there.
The breakfast buffet was my favorite. There were lots of options, and the food was great. My favorite thing was the big bowl of all-you-can-eat passion fruits. I was in heaven. I only had the buffet dinner once, and it was Swahili BBQ night. The food was good, but the Swahili food I made at my workshop at the spice farm was better. Read more about that here. Had I not had that experience beforehand, I would’ve been over-the-moon thrilled with the dinner that night.
They have a few restaurants and places to eat. The Spices Restaurant was where the breakfast buffet and dinner buffet was. The Jetty sits out on top of the water. I ate there for my birthday dinner. That was probably the best food. Seafood of course. The pool also has a bar and lounge. I ate lunch there every day. I had pizza mostly. It was excellent. I did not eat at the other restaurant - the Aqua Restaurant. I just didn’t have time and was too tired to book an actual dinner there. In the end, the all-inclusive premium wasn’t necessary. I don’t recommend upgrading to it.
I would stay here again, but only if I could stay in the bungalow or the Romance Pavilion. I would also stick with the regular all-inclusive option – not the premium. Also, I would not spend my whole beach vacation here because the beach was not as nice as in Paje and Jambiani.
The staff and the locals that I met along the beach was the absolute best part about staying at Meliá Zanzibar. The very last day I was there, on my birthday, I was walking below my bungalow on the beach. I ran into K.Shiner. That’s what he goes by anyway. He sang to me. He sang John Legend’s “All of Me” a cappella. Him, his friend, and I walked along the beach that morning while he told me about his dreams of moving to the US to study music. He wants to then return to Zanzibar to teach children about music. He was so passionate. It was a beautiful end to my stay at Meliá and in Zanzibar.
Like I said, I feel like I have friends there now. So, above all, I would return to hopefully see them again.
There are a lot of awesome places to stay in Zanzibar. If I return – I would love to stay in Stone Town again, go north to Nungwi, and also southeast to beautiful Paje.
Want to see more Zanzibar? Check out my full Zanzibar blog post here >>> Solo Female Traveler’s Guide to Zanzibar