Echo Beach is all about good food, a great beach, and sheer relaxation.
Echo Beach Hotel: Our full report
Named after the 1980 hit song by Martha and the Muffins, Echo Beach Hotel opened in 2007 on a lovely stretch of white beach, on Zanzibar's east coast – on the Michamvi Peninsula. It is run by its British owners, Sue and Andrew Page, who previously ran hostelries in the Loire Valley; this small lodge-like hotel is very much their own creation, and feels close to their hearts.
The central bar/dining area is a high thatched structure with an extremely shiny, polished stone floor! The side nearest the beach has a glass wall to add protection from the winds, which can get strong in the evenings. There is a well-stocked bar, a small seating area, and plenty of tables set for meals. Interesting African artefacts collected by Sue and Andrew are dotted around the room and on the walls.
Their website comments clearly: 'Andrew is a French-trained chef … while Sue concentrates on interior design', and it's clear that both have tried hard to make Echo Beach Hotel original – through both its food and furnishings.
The swimming pool at Echo Beach is large and overlooks a beautiful sandy beach, dotted with sunloungers. Although the sea comes up very far at high tide, an area of the beach is slightly raised so dedicated sunbathers can continue to relax by the ocean.
There are four types of room at Echo Beach:
- 5 standard cottages,
- 2 garden cottages,
- 2 two-storey cottages, and
- One two-bedroom beach cottage.
The standard cottages are scattered around Echo's swimming pool, all with ocean views. The style and colour theme of each room varies, with the entire back wall covered in a heavily patterned paper, so each room feels quite different; our favourites are rooms 4 and 5! However, all have large Zanzibari beds, a desk and a chaise longue or some chairs. The result feel is a series of rooms with plenty of character, and with quite a luxurious look, although the finishing touches are not always quite up to the same quality.
The adjoining bathrooms are quite different in style from the main rooms: spacious, modern and uncluttered, and equipped with some Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries. The huge walk-in shower looks great, even if it wasn't quite as powerful as we were hoping! Note that guests who want hot water have to turn on an immersion heater about 20 minutes beforehand, so as not to waste energy.
Echo's garden cottages are set slightly further back, so they don't enjoy quite the same sea views. However, they are great for honeymooners or those who want a bit more privacy since each has its own shady day bed, reached by a spiral staircase and with a great view.
The two-storey cottages are designed with families (with older children) or friends travelling together in mind. On each floor is a completely separate room with its own entrance, but the whole allows guests to be in close proximity to each other.
At the far end of the beach, the beach cottage is a good option for families with younger children. It has a main bedroom with a large double bed and its own large en-suite bathroom. Adjoining is another bedroom with three single beds and another en-suite bathroom.
Echo Beach Hotel is really about relaxing by the lovely pool, wandering on the beach, snoozing in a hammock and generally chilling. It isn't the obvious base for activities, but they have recently opened a spa hut, offering a variety of treatments such as massages, manicures and waxing for reasonable prices.
The hotel also has a new on-site dive centre offering dives around the reef and to the Mnemba Atoll. If you've never tried diving, test it out in the swimming pool for free. For more choice, the extensive PADI dive and watersports centre at Breezes Beach Club, only a 10-minute walk away, has plenty of water-based activities that can be paid for.
Initially, when it opened, Echo Beach did have issues with service and quality. We've visited it several times since, and Sue and Andrew have worked hard to overcome these. On our most recent visit, in December 2009, we found the service to be generally friendly and efficient, and the food was (as it has often been) very good. We had a few small quibbles over quality – such as the sunloungers which really needed refurbishing – but generally the place was in good condition.
Our ViewEcho Beach Hotel seems to have overcome the teething problems of 2007–2008. It has developed into a small, simple, relaxed beach hotel, with a great location, lots of character and plenty of colour. Now, following more positive reports and the arrival of two new managers in the latter half of 2009, we are optimistic that it has turned the corner and that the quality of service and food that we experienced will please our travellers.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights or more would be perfect here - it's pure relaxation.
Directions: It takes about 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it's a further one hour by vehicle to Echo Beach.
Owner: Sue and Andrew Page
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Breakfast is served from 7:30am–10.00am and consists of a fruit platter with fresh juice followed by eggs of your choice. You can request a morning wake up coffee if you order the night before.
Lunch is served 12.00 midday–3:30pm.
Dinner is served from around 7.30pm until 9.30pm. When we visited Echo Beach in December 2009 we enjoyed some tasty nibbles with pre-dinner drinks, followed by an avocado and crab tian, then fish kebabs with dauphinoise potatoes, and a delicious banana flambé and ice cream for dessert. We thought the food was tasty, filling and imaginative.
There is a weekly BBQ, sometimes cooking a whole, large fish, and occasional Swahili nights, with entertainment. On request you can dine on your terrace or at one of several different locations such as on the beach.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included; they are charged as an extra.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Echo Beach, but in limited numbers.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions for children at Echo Beach.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children.
Equipment: There is no special equipment available for children.
Generally recommended for children: Yes – although the balconies on the top floor of the two-storey cottages would not be safe for children, so we'd recommend the ground-floor rooms of these cottages, or the standard or garden cottages.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is good mobile reception here. There is free WiFi access, and a spare PC behind the bar.
TV & radio: None available.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: For minor illnesses and injuries there are two first-aid boxes and the Dive-master is first-aid trained. There is a local medic at a nearby clinic, or a European doctor will drive out for an hour from Stone Town.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are two askaris on duty during the day, and four at night. There is CCTV at reception which covers the main gate.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in the rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is charged extra. When we were there in December 2009 a dress cost about US$5 and socks US$1.
Money: Echo Beach will happily exchange US dollars cash.
Accepted payment on location: Echo Beach accepts Euros, US dollars or Tanzanian shillings cash, and Visa or MasterCard credit cards, with a 5% commission.