The Serena has one of the best locations in Stone Town...
Serena Inn: Our full report
The Serena Inn in Stone Town is part of the internationally renowned Serena chain, which has hotels all over East Africa. The buildings which make up the Serena Inn were once used as the residence for a Chinese doctor but it has been a hotel for the past 12 years and has all of the facilities you would expect of an international-style chain – including a choice of restaurants, a swimming pool, shop and coffee shop. It even has a conference centre for those who are in Stone Town on business.
The Serena Inn is a lovely hotel which has been carefully restored from two historic buildings – the end result is a smart and high-quality hotel. The Serena also has a fantastic spot right on the beach (though this is a town beach, so not really one for sun-bathing and swimming), with a view across the ocean. The swimming pool sits in the centre of the Serena, with the hotel's main areas and bedrooms circling around it in a 'U' shaped formation. There is also a small games room for the children to enjoy and a conference centre for those on business in Stone Town.
There are several places to eat and drink here: the Masahani Bar looks out over the beach. Inside, the bar has polished red-tiled floors, a dark wooden bar and a few antiques dotted around. There are plenty of low, comfortable lounge chairs where you can sit under fans and have a drink from the well-stocked bar.
Outside the bar on the terrace, are a number of cushioned wicker chairs around small tables. During lunch time people gather here in the shade to grab a quick snack from the bar-menu. It is a lovely spot with a very welcome cool sea-breeze and a relaxed air.
Just adjacent to the bar, up a few stairs is the main Bahari Restaurant. Similar to the bar, the dining room isn't especially stylish. Though it is atmospheric, decorated in an Arabian theme with lots of carved wooden furniture, antique-style brass lamps hanging from the ceiling, and dark red tiled floors.
In addition to its main restaurant, the hotel has a second, more exclusive Seafood Restaurant, which is a roof-top restaurant only open for dinner. Situated on an open terrace, the views across the Indian Ocean from here are beautiful, however reservations must be made in advance.
For a quick coffee or a piece of cake, make a stop at the lovely Mdele Coffee Shop. This is situated in an open plan area behind the pool and is furnished with a number of small tables and wrought iron white garden chairs.
Adjacent to the café is the Serena Inn's shop which sells a variety of curios. It is a relatively well stocked little shop, though for those who can brave some serious bargaining, you will find better prices with the street sellers.
The bedrooms at the Serena Inn vary in size and luxury, with the Standard Room being the smallest, the Prime Rooms being slightly larger and the Suites being the most opulent. However all of the rooms are of a good size and furnished with lovely Zanzibari beds and bright materials, and each has a private balcony. Each room also has air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom.
Our ViewThe Serena Inn is generally regarded as the best hotel in Stone Town, and it is a very well run establishment. When we were there last the team were helpful and friendly. The hotel can also arrange sunset dhow cruises around the harbour, or picnic trips to a sandbank for lunch!
What could be a draw-back for some people is that this is quite a large hotel – there are 51 rooms in total. It is the kind of place where all the staff wear immaculately ironed matching uniforms, and have a fixed gracious smile. It can feel a little commercial, but it certainly isn't pretentious and everyone is genuinely very welcoming. (You can see it's location and shape very clearly from our satellite photograph of the hotel.)
Ideal length of stay: 1 or 2 nights to explore the fascinating culture of Stone Town.
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it's a further 15 minutes by car to Stone Town and the Serena Inn.
Owner: Property Chain – Serena Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: Breakfast at the Serena Inn is served from 6.30 to 10am in the morning, and is usually a buffet consisting of fruit, cereals and an English breakfast. Lunch is then served from 12.30 until 3, from an a la carte menu.
For lunch here is a snack menu available from the bar which serves food throughout the day – serving sandwiches, pizzas and other standard international food.
Dinner in the main restaurant is rather more formal, with a set 3-course menu. Alternatively, upstairs is the Seafood Restaurant, which offers very good seafood and smart dining in the open-air on the roof, when the weather is warm and dry.
The food at the Serena Inn is as you would expect from a good quality, but large hotel. We found it perfectly good and well presented, though not spectacularly original or unusual.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included.
Family holidays: The Serena Inn is a large hotel, with plenty of space and a large swimming pool to occupy children. The hotel can also offer babysitting for parents who want a little time to themselves.See more ideas for Family holidays in Zanzibar
Honeymoons: The Serena is a beautiful and extremely well run hotel situated right on the water front in Stone Town. It is great place to spend the last few nights of a special holiday, whilst exploring this fascinating place.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zanzibar
Wellbeing: There is a small spa at the Serena, which can provide the usual range of beauty treatments that you would expect from an international hotel.See more ideas for Wellbeing in Zanzibar
Attitude towards children: The Serena Inn happily welcomes children.
Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: This is a good hotel for children, as it is one of the few in Stone Town that has a pool to keep them entertained and can also offer babysitting.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: The Serena Inn has internet access for $3 per hour, or $15 for the whole day. There are also phones in all of the rooms which can be used to call outside of the hotel for a fee. There is cell-phone reception in most areas of the Serena.
TV & radio: There is satellite TV in all of the rooms, with a variety of international channels.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is a private hospital only 10 minutes away from the Serena Inn for medical emergencies.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are always six security guards on duty at the Serena Inn – and the main doorman here is very knowledgeable and helpful.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the communal areas and corridors around the Serena.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: The laundry is an extra charge and when we were last there in December 2009 it cost between US$2 – 4 depending on the item.
Money: The Serena Inn will happily exchange US dollars, pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings as well as travellers' cheques for a slightly lower rate.