Kinondo Kwetu is a delightful beach lodge on Kenya’s coast.
Kinondo Kwetu: Our full report
Located at the southern end of Kenya’s Diani Beach coastline, Kinondo Kwetu is a secluded Swedish-owned all-inclusive luxury boutique hotel set among baobabs and palm trees on the private Galu beach overlooking the Indian Ocean.
The Diani coast can be quite built up in places, but Kinondo Kwetu – which translates as 'Our Home at Kinondo' in Swahili – has one of the most remote locations in the area, with no immediate neighbours. The land next door to them is holy and protected, so no-one will be able to build there in the future either. It is this quiet remoteness that struck us as being one of Kinondo Kwetu’s strongest assets – the beach is largely deserted and there are no persistent beach boys, who can become a bit of a hassle further north.
The beach is beautifully white and tropical, though it is quite narrow with a relatively steep shelf. Still, it’s as close to the idyllic image as you can get. The reef is quite far out, so snorkeling can’t be done from the shore, but a short boat ride will take you to good diving and snorkeling sites.
The main areas of Kinondo Kwetu lodge include a central lounge and dining area set within a large house. The whitewashed walls and thatched roof are built to a high standard but in a traditional Swahili way, resulting in an authentic feel. Inside is decorated with art from all over Africa and the lounge and bar are furnished with built-in sofas around the sides. Arab lanterns and dark wood lend a distinct Swahili style.
The bar and lounge at Kinondo Kwetu open up almost completely at the front, via large shuttered windows, onto a vast veranda set beneath a thatched roof. There are further lounging sofas here and plenty of space. Steps lead down to another lounge area and then onto the pathways that lead you to the rest of the lodge. During meal times, separate tables will be set here for dining under the cool thatch.
Kinondo Kwetu has a large pool at the back of the lodge with numerous sunloungers, as well as a smaller pool nearer the beach.
The 16 breeze-cooled rooms at Kinondo are all bright and stylish – but differ in their location and set up. They are all split between five different cottages and two houses – making each one slightly different in size and shape, although all are decorated in a similar style.
Three of the five cottages are freestanding and have just one en-suite room; one has two rooms (a double connecting to a single); and the other double-storey cottage has two double rooms, each with their own entrance and so perfect for two couples travelling together.
The Big Mama Taa Villa is a large separate house with six rooms within it, some of which are interconnecting – a great option for families who would like to all be under one roof.
Three more economical rooms are located in the main house; one is a double ensuite, and the other two are single rooms with a shared bathroom.
All the bathrooms have hot-and-cold running water and powerful showers. The shower water has a slight saltiness, but it is very slight and separate drinking water is provided.
Unusually, none have locks on their doors: it's a gesture of respect to the unionized staff working at the lodge and a signal to guests that they can treat the beach lodge as they would their own home. Only one room is air-conditioned, the others just have fans.
The service at Kinondo Kwetu struck us as being particularly good. It was friendly and efficient, but also very discreet. When we commented on this to the owners we learnt that all the staff are in a union, and so only work eight hours a day – anything extra is calculated as over time and compensated for accordingly. The lodge pays their staff a good salary and does a lot of staff training to help those who are new to the industry to develop their skills. The staff are clearly very happy here and it shows in their attention to detail. So although Kinondo Kwetu is not the cheapest beach lodge on the coast, clearly they take care to be as responsible as possible.
Many people will just want to chill when at staying at Kinondo Kwetu, but there are plenty of activities on offer as well. Included in the room rate is the use of the sauna, and most non-motorized activities such as snorkeling from the beach (though we would recommend taking the boat out for much better snorkeling) use of the sea kayaks and sailing on the traditional dhow. There is also a tennis court and the local community visits are really interesting.
Some activities do cost extra. A free dive lesson in the pool is included as part of your stay, but any further dives taken with the on-site PADI diving centre cost extra. Kinondo Kwetu also has a stable and can arrange horseriding for a variety of different riding abilities – a full beach ride costs from about US$60 and you are always accompanied by someone from the lodge. Waterskiing and wakeboarding can also be arranged on site. Deep-sea fishing and kitesurfing are booked through nearby outfits.
Plenty of local excursions can be organized too. The closest is a 20-minute walk or a five-minute drive to Kaya Kinondo sacred forest – the first of the coastal Mijikenda people's ancestral groves (kayas) to be opened to the public. Digo guides and interpreters are on hand to take you on one- to two-hour guided walks through the giant trees, watching forest birds, insects and other wildlife.
Our viewHaving stayed here a couple of times, we think this is one of the very best small hotels on the coast. The chic African design, excellent food, gently enveloping (but not overbearing) service, and the charming and genuine hosts is altogether irresistibly good. There's plenty to do here if you get tired of doing nothing, but you need to be aware that there are no local restaurants or bars nearby.
Ideal length of stay: 4 nights-plus
Directions: Kinondo Kwetu is located at the southern end of Diani Beach, past the end of the tarmac. The transfer from Diani Beach Airport takes about 20 minutes. Transfers to Mombasa Airport take two to three hours depending on traffic on Mombasa Island and the Likoni Ferry.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Kinondo Kwetu are a highlight. The marmalades and jams are homemade and very little is shop bought. All sauces, pasta, bread and other requirements are made from scratch, often using the produce from a local, Norwegian-owned organic farm.
Breakfast is a cold continental buffet set up from 8.00am to 10.00am, but timings are very flexible. Cooked breakfasts are made to order and include local eggs, bacon and sausages.
Lunch is usually served from 1.30pm onwards (but again this is flexible) and is a three-course set menu like dinner. The staff are happy to incorporate any likes or dislikes, and most dietary requirements can be met with a little advance notice. Not surprisingly, the seafood is prolific here and very good.
Afternoon tea, coffee, snacks and cakes are served from 4.00pm by the big pool. Pre-dinner drinks are served from 7.30pm with 'bitings' (canapés).
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included, but champagne is extra and costs US$140 per bottle.
Further dining info: Kinondo Kwetu are happy to offer room service, but there are no phones in the rooms so it needs to be arranged in advance.
Family holidays: Spend your Kenya family beach holidays with various watersports at the boutique but relaxed Kinondo Kwetu, which has no age restrictions (5+ recommended). It offers interleading rooms, cots, baby car seats, toys, first-aid trained nannies and a large though very deep pool.See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya
Honeymoons: A small, luxury boutique hotel, Kinondo Kwetu is a lovely choice for a Kenya honeymoon. It’s idyllic and remote setting and pristine beach hard to beat, and its attentive but discreet staff are sure to spoil you! A perfect, romantic setting for an unforgettable honeymoon.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya
Beach holidays: Having stayed here a couple of times we think this is one of the very best small hotels on Kenya’s coast. Away from any beach boys it’s ideal for a quiet yet luxurious beach holiday. You can make use of the facilities at the PADI diving school, or just hang out on the nearly deserted Kinondo Beach.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The owners spend much of their time on site and have young children of their own, so Kinondo Kwetu is very family friendly.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: Kinondo Kwetu offer lots of activities – though mostly sports like waterskiing, snorkeling and kitesurfing that are better suited to slightly older kids.
Equipment: Kinondo Kwetu have baby cots and baby car seats, beach toys and life vests for kids. They also have first-aid trained nannies who are very experienced, but not professionally trained in childcare. They will happily prepare special meals for children too.
Generally recommended for children: Kinondo Kwetu has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and well suited to children. Young children and poor swimmers will need to be supervised near the large pool, which doesn't have a lifeguard and is very deep. The lodge is big enough to absorb children without impacting on the peace of other guests. There are also interconnecting rooms that work well for a family.
Notes: Young children and poor swimmers will need to be supervised near the large pool, which doesn't have a life guard and is very deep.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: Kinondo Kwetu runs on mains power, so there should usually be electricity around the clock. There plug sockets in the rooms are the UK-style three-square-pin variety.
Communications: There is WiFi in the main house at Kinondo Kwetu and also by the pool. If guests require a computer they can use one in the office. There is good cellphone coverage all around the lodge.
TV & radio: There is no TV at Kinondo Kwetu.
Water supply: Mains
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There’s a first-aid kit onsite and they also have a first aid-trained member of staff. Diani hospital is 25 minutes away, but the doctors will come to the lodge as well.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Kinondo Kwetu has guards who patrol the lodge and beach throughout the day and night, and there are three dogs on the property as well. Tourist police also patrol the general area.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are dotted around the rooms and cottages and are regularly inspected. They also have fire hoses and perform regular drills.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Guests can have their first five items of laundry washed for free during their stay. It is handwashed and line dried. Extra pieces cost extra.
Money: There is a central safe for valuables.
Accepted payment on location: Kinondo Kwetu normally accept cash in euros, US dollars, Kenyan shillings and British pounds. They also take Amex, Visa and MasterCard but apply a 5% charge on top.