Diani Blue manages to combine atmosphere, personal service and a central location on Diani Beach.
Diani Blue: Our full report
Diani Blue, formerly Asha Cottage, is a small, owner-managed, guesthouse with just six rooms, all of which face onto the small, landscaped pool area. It concentrates on providing a very personal, low-key service to guests who actively want to avoid large resort hotels but still want to be in the heart of Diani Beach.The plot isn’t huge, so the rooms are quite close together. Rather than detracting from your privacy, however, this lends quite an intimate and cosy feel. The emphasis here is on a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, good value and the feeling that you are a guest in someone’s home.
The access to Diani Blue is along an unsurfaced access road from the main Diani Beach road, and runs down a gentle hill towards the sea. Tropical gardens and a small footbridge across a stream lead to the property’s main areas. From here you look straight out across the pool and beyond to the beach and ocean, though it’s somewhat screened from people on the beach by vegetation and low palms.
The main building houses a simple reception lounge and veranda area, the covered dining terrace and a rather quaint, air-conditioned library-cum-snooker and darts room, with a bar.
Outside, past the free-form pool, a small area walled off just above the beach, called ‘The Ledge’, serves as the main outdoor dining and drinks terrace, shaded by low coconut palms and sunshades. Breakfast is often served around little tables tucked into various hideaways in the gardens.
Five of the rooms are positioned around the pool: two in the main house and three in the guest wing alongside the pool. These rooms are all of a similar standard, have both a pool view and a sea view (or at least a view in the direction of the sea), and feature pretty Swahili-style furniture and modern, glass-and-wood bathrooms. The sixth room, Alrhabah, is tucked at the back, slightly away from the pool. There’s a safe and hairdryer in every room, plus filtered water and a cellphone for guests’ use. Toiletries included in the bathrooms are sourced from a special eco-friendly line in Nairobi.
- Alq'amr (Blue Room): Closest to the beach, and located in the guest wing, Alq'amr is usually taken by repeat guests and honeymooners and can accommodate a third bed (a day bed is already in the room). It has a slightly private, sandy, ‘patio’ area.
- Ashamss (Yellow Room): Right behind Alq'amr, this has a king-sized bed and a single day bed, and is also recommended for honeymooners.
- Alnujoom (Red Room): The final room in the ‘guest wing’ has two single beds plus an extra day bed in the room. The singles can be prepared as a king-sized bed with no discomfort.
- Assama' (Nautilus): Set in the main house, on the veranda. this is also sometimes used by honeymooners, it has a good through breeze. The spare single day bed is best used for a child – three adults is a bit tight.
- Allardh (Seahorse): The first room in the main house is the last room to be booked, primarily because its door is across from the kitchen door.
- Alrhabah (Bushbaby): More towards the back of the house, and used as a family room, Alrhabah has one king-sized bed and one day bed, but can also accommodate a second day bed. The room has wicker furniture rather than Swahili and a slightly smaller bathroom than the other rooms.
Most of the activities at Diani Blue are outsourced to local operators and other businesses – details of what can easily be offered are listed on cards in the bedrooms. Options include: dining out; diving (they use the excellent Diani Marine, a nearby dive base); all-day dhow and snorkelling trips to Wasini Island and Kisite Marine Park (again, they use an excellent local operator, Pilli Pipa); and more adventurous watersports with H2O Extreme. For local snorkelling trips on the reef opposite, they use their own boat, masks and snorkels, and guests are guided by a fisherman, Rama. Captain Rama is usually happy to accompany guests into the sea, where he points out different species and essentially acts as a competent marine wildlife guide. There’s a small charge for the snorkelling trips, which depart at various times depending on the tides.
The guesthouse also has a wellbeing centre, with a professional masseuse, where various treatments are on offer, including an aromatherapy full body massage (Ksh3,000 for one hour).
Diani Blue actively sponsors the local Amadeus children’s home and have also created an educational trust for the 25 children of the staff. The trust is a merit-based scheme in which the child’s report card percentages determine the size of the hotel's funding, so a student with a 75% grade will have 75% of their school fees covered.
Our viewWith 22 staff – almost two per guest – Diani Blue achieves high levels of personal attention, offset by relatively modest accommodation and meals. We really admire its work in the community, the investment in its staff, and its supply chain and environmental ethics. One of the most appealing and personable properties on Diani Beach, guests will feel most at home if they are solos or couples. However, its affordability, size and appeal to the local market mean that it needs to be booked well in advance.
Ideal length of stay: 7 nights
Directions: There are scheduled flights to Diani Beach/Ukunda airport, which is seven minutes away by car. If you're transferring to or from from Mombasa, the Likoni ferry crossing, linking Mombasa Island with the south coast mainland can sometimes add significantly to journey times, especially at rush hours. For Mombasa airport, allow two hours.
Owner: Dominique De Bonis-Cosgrove and John Cosgrove
Staff: 22 staff (more than 2 per guest)
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Diani Blue tries to buy fresh produce such as seafood and salads locally. We thought the food was reasonably good, but they had a consultant chef in when were there, and appear to be working quite hard on improving their standards.
A continental breakfast – fruit, pastries (a different one every day – eg muffins), juices, toast and home-baked bread – is standard, and full cooked breakfasts are available at no extra cost.
For our lunchtime visit, we had a good calamari and caper salad and a rather bland avocado salad. Various other salads are available as chef’s specials, and there are standard options such as burgers and pasta if you want something heartier.
The three-course dinner is a full menu at a fixed price, from about Ksh2,000 (US$24). There is always a seafood supplement of about Ksh1,000 (US$12) and they specialise in desserts such as pineapple pavlova.
A jug of filtered and purified drinking water is provided in each room in lieu of bottled water, in order to cut down on plastic bottles. This is made with a dehumidifier that provides 25 litres of drinking water a day.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £5-10
Drinks included: Drinks are excluded, but are reasonably priced:¬ sodas around Ksh70 (US$1), beers Ksh250 (US$3), bottle of wine from Ksh2,000 (US$24).
Further dining info: Yes, but there are no phones in the rooms. Very relaxed and so will be very flexible.
Beach holidays: One of Diani Blue's main natural attractions is its broad white beach frontage and often crystal-clear sea – great for beach holidays. You can relax on the beachfront terrace, have a drink or a meal, lie in the sun or take a snorkelling trip in the hotel’s boat.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Ideally children should not be not under the age of 12 years, but there are no hard and fast rules.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: None
Notes: Fine for older teenagers
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: WiFi is available but it is charged at Ksh200/day on an honesty basis. Cellphone reception is OK. A cellphone with a local SIM card and some credit is provided in each guest bedroom. Extra credit can be added at any time and paid for on checking out. A small business centre is at guests’ disposal.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Diani Blue has a first aid kit but no in-house first aider. The excellent Diani Beach Hospital is a two-minute drive down the road. In a major emergency, the hospital would assist and flying doctors would come to Diani Beach airport, five minutes’ drive away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Night security guards are stationed at the front by the road and at the back by the beach. During the day they have one by the beach only. Asha Cottage is linked to G4S security and they have an emergency button. G4S are stationed at the top of the road and so wouldn’t take long to get here.
Fire safety: Sand buckets are set around the property.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
Money: Depending on what they have available, currency can be exchanged, using the rate of the day off the internet. No cash-back on debit cards.
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments may be made in euros, pounds sterling, US dollars and Kenyan shillings. Prices are all in Kenyan shillings. Visa and Mastercard are accepted with no surcharge, but note that guests cannot pay for transfers or taxi services by card – as they are not Asha’s services. No travellers’ cheques.