Discover 13 Unique Hotels in Kenya
Unique: It’s not all about looks; it’s an experience
Perched in a helicopter sweeping over the grassland and arid plains of Northern Kenya, the air safari aficionado may get a glimpse of one the unique hotels in Kenya near Mount Kenya. Here one finds, down among the forest groves, on a eye-catching disturbance in a natural clearing of 100 acres, the world-famous Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. A fly round to see Northern Kenya by air – a popular activity among the wealthy and elite holidaying at one of a handful of the unashamedly beautiful luxury lodges around the Conservancies of Laikipia – highlights the impressive and mixed bag of ecological gamut seen in Kenya. Concomitantly, the fertile highlands all around Mount Kenya were healthful for European Settlement in the early 1900’s, owing to the pleasant climate and productivity. After the founding of towns and associated infrastructure, settlers and missioners migrated into Central Kenya, growing it to a thriving farming region. They also attracted hotel investors who put up the distinguished hotels waxed lyrical about like: Nyeri Club, White Rhino Hotel, Outspan Hotel and Aberdare Country Club. What is more, it was in the heart of big game country with year-round fine weather. The Central Highland of Kenya could not be any more different in experiential delights from the Maasai Mara and Coast Region of Kenya, which in the own rights as Africa’s best safari destination and Africa’s best beach destination (by the World Travel Awards) host several unique hotels.
One advantage Kenya has over destinations like the Far East and the Caribbean is the closeness of its beaches to areas of wildlife reserves, enabling travellers to combine beach and safari holidays. This is a factor which is perhaps responsible for the continued upward trend in amazing and unique hotels along the coast of Kenya. Tourism at the coast accounts for 46% of all tourist bed-nights in Kenya. The principal interest for many travellers to the coast region of Kenya is in the four popular areas along the Indian Ocean (stretching for 512 kms) at Mombasa in the North Coast, Diani Beach in the South Coast, Watamu / Malindi in Kilifi County and the Lamu archipelago. In these four locations, a great deal of hotels have been built in response to increased traveller traffic. The coast resource also includes fine sand beaches fringed with palm groves and the warm ocean water sheltered by coral reefs. In general, the indication is that the wildlife and beach life of Kenya have their origins highlighted primarily to serve the recreational needs of settlers and travellers from Europe. In the same light, the capacity in Nairobi hotels and game lodges, albeit expanding much slower than the safari destinations and coastal hotels, has a pleasant array of unique hotels. Nairobi, as the center for many incoming tours, attracts as both the commercial center and the capital city. A hub for Africa. With good conference facilities, Nairobi hosts many international conferences that have become an established division.
13 Unique Hotels in Kenya
1. Mount Kenya Safari Club
Originally built as a holiday home for famous American actor William Holden – one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950’s and 1960’s – this sublime hotel with dazzling gardens and stunning views is now one of Kenya’s unique hotels and as famous as the icon it was built for. Mount Kenya Safari Club is unique in that it caters, luxuriously, for the world’s wealthy. Set on the slopes of Mount Kenya, above Nanyuki, it boasts a heated swimming pool, a chain of ornamental lakes, frequented by hundreds of rare birds imported from the world over, and such facilities as riding, safari trips, a golf course, bowling greens, croquet, and a private wildlife sanctuary. The Club also has its own team of African dancers, and is internationally regarded as one of the best resort of its kind in the world. Its 120 rooms set in 100 acres are hemmed-in by well kept lawns, gardens, trout filled rivulets and, priceless all-round views. It is located 10 kms from Nanyuki Town, turning left onto a dirt road nearby Lions Court and the Equator Marker.
2. Maasai Mara Keekorok Lodge
The least of all worries when planning a trip to the Mara is a place to stay. With nearly 290,000 holiday-makers visiting this colossus wildlife theater each year, development of hotels has been rapid in response to demand; particularly along the outer perimeter of the Masai Mara National Reserve, within the hatful of wildlife conservancies. Unique to the Keekorok Lodge is that it was its foremost establishment – both in Masai Mara National Reserve and the Mara Ecosystem. Established in 1962, with a bed capacity of 25 and the inestimable privilege to select the best vantage, Keekorok Lodge is ideally situated in the direct path of the spectacular migration. And in its favour, development of hotels within the Masai Mara National Reserve is highly restricted. Into that bargain, the lodge enjoys all 1,510 km2 of the wonderful scenery and abundant game consisting of rolling grassland plains, woodlands, and thicket patches. Still and all, Keekorok Lodge has stayed the course of providing many a memorable holiday and now has 85-Standard Rooms, 12-Chalets, 1-Executive Suite, and 1-Presidential Suite.
3. Angama Mara
The Mara – a name that seems to conjure up all that’s wildest about Kenya – is 1,510 km2 of plainsland with the adjoining ranches and conservancies covering 4,566 km2, reachable from Nairobi, Mombasa, or from Nanyuki by air. Masai Mara National Reserve is globally unique and widely famed for the great annual wildebeest migration as well as hosting a year-round spectacular concentration of wildlife, making this an irreplaceable part of Africa’s faunal natural heritage. Siria Escarpment, also known as the Oloololo or Ol Donyio Escarpment, over 6,000 feet high and sloping westwards with the Mara River at its eastern foot, forms a break roughly down the western side of Masai Mara National Reserve and Narok County. It rises 1,000 feet over the surrounding flat plains, breaking the unvarying and unrelenting grassland monotony, to form one of the Mara’s most distinguished features which is especially wondrous when sighted at the Angama Mara Lodge set-up on Siria Escarpment’s edge. Near Mwita, the Siria reaches its highest elevation of about 6,500 feet, where the ridges forming the northern extension of the Karri Highlands occur. West of Siria Escarpment, the surface slopes towards Lake Victoria (3,500 feet) at about 35 / km. The lodge is split into 2 camps, each with 15 suites. Angama Mara has a new kind of safari experience. Named after the Swahili word that translates as hanging in mid-air.
4. Swahili Beach Resort, Diani
It’s a tale as old as time, standing on the seaside with the blue ocean and blue sky meeting at the horizon, that the beach is most people’s’ idea of paradise. To smell the salt water, hear the waves crashing against the shoreline and enjoy the sunshine, is a joy we chase. Which is why, most people would rather opt the for road that takes to the beach. While the airports in Mombasa, Malindi, Ukunda and Lamu help to increase accessibility to Kenya’s beaches, travellers also get here en-masse by rail and by road. The geographic distribution of Kenya’s two main principal attractions, wildlife safari and beach holidays, reflects the nature of tourism development. Although beach tourism is a fairly recent phenomenon compared to safari, its uptake has been no less than great. At Diani, along a 22 kms road is Africa’s Leading Beach Destination 2014 through to 2019 by the World Travel Awards. More than any other place in Kenya, Diani Beach Road has the greatest concentration of holiday resorts, and its large number of hotels makes it a guaranteed success for local and international trippers as a sun-and-sand-lover paradise. With a mixture of traditional Arab and Swahili decor as well as a modern touch, each room at Swahili Beach Resort offers breathtaking views across the gardens, cascading pools and to the Indian Ocean. “The rooms feature carved niches and are exquisitely furnished with Swahili furniture and decor. Traditional culture and contemporary contriving come together for your luxury”. If the above were not sufficient, there’s the extensive pool with 10 tiers.
5. Medina Palms, Watamu
This Resort is a wonderful place for coastal bliss. Within the 7-acres property, the elementals vary from well-planned strips of palms, picture postcard coastal apartments and generous walkways, all folded in with the long-drawn fetching pool cutting down the middle, almost from end to end. Accommodation is in a choice of: 1 or 2 bedroomed suites; 2-bedroomed penthouses; or 3-bedroomed ocean lodges, all with separate living areas and kitchens. Penthouses and ocean lodges also have private rooftop terraces with plunge pools. Highly acclaimed and rated 5-stars, Medina Palms also offers luxury beach villas which are ideal for families or groups of friends ranging from 3 to 4 bedrooms which include separate living areas, kitchen and rooftop terrace with a plunge pool. “Medina Palms’ architecture follows the lines of a Moroccan medina with a waterway running through the entire property from the entrance, through the Medina and Palmerie areas down towards the ocean. It’s committed to using the latest green technology to promote sensitive land use whilst maintaining the integrity of the local marine environment of the ocean; working hand in hand with local conservation and wildlife organisations with the key goal on alternative energy systems like solar and wind power, water recycling and refuse management”.
6. Hemingways Watamu
Watamu is Kenya’s most celebrated game fishing destination with almost seven decades as a paradise for big-fish anglers. The waters off Watamu and Malindi beaches are proper “sailfish country” where E. Hemingway pursued his choice sport in the 1930’s. Up until the 1980’s, big quantities of Barracuda, Yellowfin, Dolphin, Kingfish, Sailfish, Shark, Wahoo and Trevally were regularly caught. Watamu often appears stuck in yester’s vision of tomorrow. The native fishing ngalawa boats remain a common sight. Time warp! It’s still set out as a sleepy fishing paradise. Watamu of the 1930’s may have inspired the idyllic paradise essence, complete with pleasant ocean-facing resorts, but the luxury that was cutting-edge when Hemingway came out to holiday here is no match for today’s excellence in lodging options. Ensuring that Watamu does not fall behind the hospitality curve, investors were quick to respond to the rapidly growing needs of travellers by making considerable investments in infrastructure and varied resorts to meets the needs of different travellers. Although Hemingway Watamu is not a fairly recent phenomenon, having catered to its guests for over 30 years, it has overtime had mega-makeovers to keep it updated. The resort is pleasing in every respect, drawing inspiration for the Swahili for both the exterior and interior of the lodging complexes. It has great option too: 1,2.3 or 4 bedroom ocean facing apartments; and deluxe ocean facing rooms, designed and finished to the highest degree of modern coastal luxury. Fishing is still a big thrill for visitors here, as well as sunset dhow cruise on Mida Creek and playing a round of golf at close by Vipingo Ridge. Hemingways Watamu is found along Turtle Bay Road nearby Watamu village. Watamu lies 121 kms north of Mombasa City.
7. Watamu Treehouse
Although Watamu and Malindi are sometimes put under one bracket, they are in fact two totally different regions. Watamu covers the regions of Blue Lagoon, Turtle-Bay and Mida Creek inside Watamu Marine National Park, and Malindi Beach sits 23 kms northerly in the northeast corner of Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve. Among the extra-ordinary resorts at Watamu, widely-lauded as one of the best experiences in Kilifi County, is the twin two-storey Watamu Tree House. Located within a sightly forest and overlooking the ocean, “the first version of the tree house was created in 1992, as a single-room home, where the Krystall family came for holidays”. The present towers were conceptualized in 2001 by Nani Croze of Kitengela Glass House. In her distinctive signature style, Croze added quirky, yet elegant, coloured glass throughout the towers. An open plan policy carries throughout its rooms, the roof-top viewing decks looking out over the jungle and beautiful beach. It is found off Turtle Bay Road in Watamu.
8. Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge
The dusty but scenic procession of 23 kms from Chyulu Gate eventually reaches Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge. In-spite of it being one of the oldest safari lodges ever set-up in a park in Kenya, and the first hotel establishment in Tsavo West National Park, the world-famous 56-rooms Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge is still remarkably one of most revered safari lodges in Kenya. Its design, exceptional hospitality, coupled with its nuance of fine views, all add up to a top-rated safari experience. The Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge enjoys superb views over its own whooping waterhole, Chyulu Hills, the snowy dome of Mount Kilimanjaro and the plains of Tsavo West. The Lodge is also situated just a short distance from the fairytale Mzima Springs, Chaimu Crater and Five Sister’s Hills. From here, travellers may also explore Ngulia Hills and the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. From Mtito Andei Gate, the Lodge is found 38 kms away via Nhtongoni-Kambu Road.
One of the prominent features of Kilaguni is its splendid verandah, on which visitors can sit all day and watch big and small game of all kinds coming to drink at waterholes in the front of the lodge. The verandah looks over the Ol Turesh Valley and up to Mount Kilimanjaro, framed on the right by the Chyulu Hills, and on the left by Ngulia Range.
9. Sarova Salt Lick Lodge
Beyond question one of the most romanticized safari-destinations about Tsavo, and one of the bellwether safari lodges established in Kenya, the multi-award winning Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge is a visionary safari wonderland not least for the unique architecture. The entire complex is built above ground, on stilts, with all 96 rooms conforming to the design of the indigenous Taita traditional huts. Essentially raised as a large lookout for game viewing over the plains and overlooking a waterhole and Taita Hills, this captures the imagination of safari. Over the years, big game have become accustomed to its unobtrusive presence. The animals therefore ignore it, and come to drink and dig for salt around the waterhole in front of the building in large numbers. Between game-watching at the private verandas in the rooms, there are two public game viewing balconies and the something-else underground pillbox placed on the edge of the watering hole. Today, the Sarova Saltlick Lodge is an indelible asset of the living-history of Tsavo Ecosystem in more ways than one. It is also the perfect jumping-off place to the Battlefield sites in Taita Taveta. By the same token, Sarova Salt Lick Lodge is actively involved in identifying these sites and coming up with exciting historical journeys. Its sister hotel, the Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge, has a museum that displays some antiquities of World War 1. From both these hotels, holiday-makers can explore the Maktau Military Line, Mwashoti Fort, Maktau Railway Station and Cemetery, Snipers Baobab Tree, Salaita Hill and Mahoo Hills. The lodge is found 46 kms from Voi along A23 Voi-Mwatate-Taveta Road.
10. Giraffe Manor
Raised in 1932 as a residence for Sir David Duncan Mackintosh, the 12-rooms Scottish style hunting lodge set on 13-acres with austere views of Ngong Hills is today one of the amazing hotels in Kenya, and part of The Safari Collection. It is internationally recognized as a singular experience in Africa. Unique to Giraffe Manor in the northern area of Giraffe Center is the unmatched interaction with the resident giraffes which gracefully roam in and out the property. Most of the time these giraffes enjoy a limitless buffet of leaves but, they are never shy of popping in for a bite with the guests through the large dining windows. Granted that there are many modern touches within the Manor, it has retained much of the original 1930’s character and preserved its colourful and charming history. Each of its 12 rooms are uniquely outfitted to potray a piece of Kenya’s golden safari days. One of its rooms is named after Karen Blixen, the world-famous penman of Out of Africa. Then, there the Betty’s Suite named after one of the smallest and prettiest giraffes in the Center born in 2000, and which in turn was named after Betty Leslie-Melville a previous owner of Giraffe Manor (1974-2009). Other suites include the Finch Hatton Suite, Hellen Superior Room and Kelly Superior Room. Each room has a private veranda overlooking the forest, hillscape and park. Some of the high flying names that have stayed here include Ellen Degeneres, Mick Jagger, Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, Brooke Shields, Richard Chamberlain, Richard Branson, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman.
11. Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge
A big way of enhancing the experience and respecting the local culture is raising establishments that deeply infuse the native approach of architecture. Hard to miss yet unobtrusive and glam, secluded within a grove of acacia trees looking out to the sweeping savanna with Mount Kilimanjaro standing-sentinel in the background within the Amboseli National Park, the series of ‘maasai manyatta’ on the side of a hill, with the roughcast traditional roughcast finish shows great care and respect for the epochal Maasai Culture. Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge has 92 rooms, each housed in a single-storey building opening directly onto the grounds, and each reflects a Maasai Manyatta theme with hand-painted wildlife murals, locally inspired furnishings and artefacts, and “earthy” brilliant primary colours symbolic of these fabled warriors. There is a lovely swimming pool too. Transport is available at the lodge for safari organization in Amboseli National Park, there is an airstrip just 11 kms from the lodge and transfer facilities are available. The outstanding feature of the area is, of course, its fauna. It contains one of the greatest concentration of plains game in Africa, and on a scale that’s made iconic by sights of Mount Kilimanjaro. Amboseli National Park is famed for its herds of elephants, occasionally exceeding herds of 50, frequent the area. The the giraffes and zebra move from the central plains to the permanent water near the Observation Hill. At the tail of the procession come the buffaloes, that gradually disperse the breath of the park after meeting up the watering holes. In addition, there are thousands of varied antelopes, hippos, warthogs, and rhinos.
12. Villa Rosa Kempinski
Villa Rosa Kempinski offers the perfect mix of renaissance revival architecture with original features including a 4 storey elevated heated swimming pool, spa and four eclectic restaurants serving world class cuisine plus all the modern amenities of a 5-star establishment to create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere just a hop west of the central business district of Nairobi City. The 200 elegant rooms spread over ten floors and equipped conference facilities and business center, with an ideal location, makes the Villa Rosa Kempinski a great choice for both business and casual travellers. “Just 10 minutes’ drive from Nairobi’s CBD, Villa Rosa Kempinski offers guests a 24-hour front desk, a spa and state of art fitness centre. Free private parking is available. The tastefully furnished spacious rooms are elegantly furnished and offer city views. They are equipped with a minibar, desk and flat-screen TV. Some rooms have balconies” Booking.
13. Norfolk Hotel
In 1900, Nairobi was declared a city in preparation for the arrival of Kenya-Uganda Railway in 1903. The railway led to the blooming of several towns like Mombasa, Voi, Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Eldoret. Nairobi conspicuously became important as a inland deport. It also enabled the settlers to come into the country and occupy the “White Highlands”, as well as, the growing number of visitors to the region eager for game hunting. The declaration of Kenya as colony in July 1920 through a proclamation by the British Empire, assuring the European settlers of their dominance in Kenya, further accelerated the influx into Nairobi. Naturally, there was a growing need for hotel establishments to meet the demand. The historic landmark of Norfolk Hotel, built in 1904, which became the epicenter for early explorers and settlers, played a climacteric role in Kenya’s historical legacy. “For over a century business has been discussed and deals struck on the verandah of the iconic Norfolk Hotel.” Fairmont Hotels By catering luxuriously to the middle-upper budget, Norfolk Hotel established itself as Nairobi’s premier house for the sophisticated class. Then and now, its 27 luxurious suites and 143 rooms set around tranquil tropical gardens, with a heated outdoor swimming pool and a health club with a fitness centre, has attracted many travellers to Kenya. The rooms intermingle classic elegance and modern design with discreet technology. Many rooms have pleasing elevated views of the landscaped courtyard, while the signature suites are an excellent choice for guests seeking to experience luxury intertwined with the rich history of the city. In its garden is a collection of invaluable antique object piece like the “transportation trio” – a hand drawn cart, a model Ford and animal drawn cart.