Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Kenya Bay Beach Hotel, Mombasa

Most hotels, at a minimum, try to maintain an attractive outward appearance. Even if the rooms are dingy and the service surly, hotel owners know that to attract business they have to at least look shiny and clean.

Kenya Bay Beach Hotel, on the Indian Ocean coast north of Mombasa, is the opposite. On first glance, it does not look very inviting. The paint is peeling, fading and chipped. The pyramid-like roofs are splotchy and ugly. The fish ponds are murky.

But inside is a different story. The rooms are comfortable and clean, with flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, balconies and safes. The staff is friendly and helpful. The buffet meals are filled with a wonderful array of salads, entrees and desserts. White-faced vervet monkeys bounce playfully around the grounds.
The pool at Kenya Bay Beach Hotel

My family spent four days and three nights at the Kenya Bay Beach Hotel recently and, for the most part, enjoyed the stay.

The hotel is conveniently right on Bamburi Beach, and there's a nice pool.

The restaurant there the Frangipani is remarkably reasonably priced for a hotel restaurant. They'll even deliver your food right to your seat by the pool. (We also liked the pizzas at Roberto's, a short walk down the beach to the south.)

We had entertainment two of the three evenings, including a dazzling group of acrobatic young men who seemed impossibly agile and flexible. An offbeat "magic" show the next night wasn't as good, but in both cases you couldn't beat the price: free.

Of course, you can't review this hotel without also considering the beach, and in this category there are some pluses and minuses. A big negative are the annoyingly persistent sellers that surround you the minute your foot hits the sand (see: "Coping With Mombasa's Beach Boys"). Try to go very early in the day if you want a quiet walk on the beach.

The ocean water is comfortably warm, but there are no waves here, because a reef along this stretch of the coast knocks them down. So forget any thoughts of boogie boarding or surfing. Also, there's a fair amount of seaweed in the water. It's not terrible, but most people prefer a "pure" sandy beach.

One important tip: If you're the kind of human who likes to sleep, avoid staying at Kenya Bay Beach Hotel on a Saturday night. I was awakened at 12:30 a.m. early Sunday by the incessant bass pounding of music. Even though the windows were closed, I had earplugs in and, in a desperate move, had a towel wrapped around my head, the pounding was unrelenting.

At 1 a.m., I went out and found that the music was coming from the dance floor of the neighboring Il Covo Restaurant. This was actually on the far side of the grounds, so if we could hear the music in our room, every other guest could, too.

I went to the night desk clerk and asked if he could do anything to get the music turned down.

"No," he said, smiling.

"Is it always like this on Saturdays?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, smiling.

Sigh. The music continued until at least 3 a.m.

With the pestering beach sellers on one side, and a closed gate on the inland side of the hotel, you may feel a bit hemmed in. But you can get out and go other places.

Not far from the hotel is Mombasa Go-Karts, a fun outing. You can walk to it, but it's not obvious how to get there. We paid a young man from the beach $5 to walk us there.

The driver who does the airport transfers for the hotel Dennis is happy to take you other places, but be sure to negotiate the price in advance and be clear on whether you just want a ride or need a guide, too. In fact, it seemed that just about all the hotel staff members knew someone who operated a taxi or could serve as guide. Just ask them.

See also:

Coping With Mombasa's Beach Boys

Kenya travel tips: Money, credit cards, cash, ATMs

 (Please support this blog by clicking on an ad, or by donating via the Paypal button below.)

No comments:

Post a Comment