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 near-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 sacred to the local Digo people, 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 sun loungers, as well as a smaller pool nearer the beach. These are surrounded by expansive gardens which are filled with mature trees, proving plenty of shady spots to escape the sun. Here you'll often see Kinondo's horses wondering around and nibbling fresh shoots of grass, they are friendly however we advise keeping your distance.
The 16 rooms at Kinondo are all bright and stylish, and vary in their location and set-up. They are located in five standalone cottages and two large villas – making each room slightly different in size and shape, although all are decorated in a similar style.
Three of the five cottages (#1 Shimba, #2 Twiga and #3 Songoro) each have one en-suite double room. These three cottages are close to a modest-sized pool, which is normally considered a child-free area. Then the fourth cottage (Mbuyu) has two rooms (a double connecting to a single), while the fifth cottage (Ubani Beach House) is a double-storey building with a double room upstairs and a double connecting to a single on the ground floor. Both storeys have their own entrances and are perfect for two couples travelling together.
The expansive Mama Taa Villa is a large, separate building with eight suites within it – four family inter-connecting rooms (two upstairs, two downstairs), two double rooms (one upstairs, one downstairs), one Honeymoon Suite (the upstairs Andersson Suite) and one family suite (the downstairs Borelius Suite). These rooms offer excellent options for families who want to be under one roof.
Finally, there are three more economical rooms located in the Mama Tina Villa that comprises the older part of the property. One of these rooms is an en-suite double, while the other two are single rooms sharing a bathroom. These three rooms offer a more economical option and they are ideal for teenagers needing a bit of independence.
All the bathrooms have powerful showers. The shower water has a slight saltiness, but it is very slight and separate drinking water is provided. All rooms are air-conditioned with the exception of the Mama Tina singles. But you may not feel the need to switch on the air-con: the coast almost always has an onshore breeze blowing in from the Indian Ocean. Unusually, the rooms here don't have locks on their doors: it's a gesture of respect to the unionised staff working at the lodge and a signal to guests that they can treat the beach lodge as they would their own home.
There is also a newer option at Kinondo Kwetu – Alex House on the north side of the Kinondo Kwetu plot. This is a separate house taken exclusively, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, sleeping up to eight people. This echos Kinondo's rustic African aesthetic and it is finished to an equally high standard as the rest of the property, however it provides a little more space and privacy with its own lounge, kitchenette (although the villa is fully serviced), and private pool and gardens.
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. On this subject, the lodge has a close engagement with the local community, and built the Kinondo Kwetu Clinic, which guests 20,000 visits a year, has delivered more than 1000 babies and monitors the health of 450 HIV patients.
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 are several non-motorised activities such as snorkelling from the beach (though we would recommend taking the boat out for much better snorkelling) and use of the sea kayaks. The long pier that leads out from the beach is useful for finding the best places to swim at various states of the tide. Kinondo Kwetu has a tennis court, and even a rather cool skate park (boards and helmets available), but if you want something less hectic, hatha yoga sessions are run in a tiny forest grove behind the beach (at extra cost).
Kinondo Kwetu also has a stable and can arrange horse-riding for a variety of different riding abilities. Currently there are only four horses, two polo ponies, one ex-races, and one younger colt, however at present only the two polo ponies can be ridden by guests; Kinondo are making plans to bring in a few new horses in the near future. A full beach ride costs from about US$60 and you are always accompanied by someone from the lodge.
The diving around the Kenyan Coast can be excellent. 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. The dive instructor comes to the lodge when required, and will organise paperwork, indemnities and so on.
Waterskiing and wakeboarding can also be arranged on site. Kinondo also informed us that they plan to bring in two water 'doughnuts' for 2022 which can then be pulled behind a motorboat; we expect this to be a popular option for older children and families. Deep-sea fishing and kitesurfing are booked through nearby outfits.
Plenty of local excursions can be organised 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.
Having stayed here a number of times, we think this is one of the very best small hotels on the coast. The combination of chic African design, excellent food, gently enveloping (but not overbearing) service, and 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.
- Kenya Coast, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 4 nights-plus
- 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
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. 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.
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. You can have breakfast more or less wherever you like: people often have it on the beach.
Lunch is usually served from 1.30pm onwards (but again this is flexible) and is a three-course set menu. On our most recent stay this included a creamy spinach soup with parmesan crisp & freshly baked rosemary rolls; seared tuna salad with a mint dressing, this was followed by peanut butter ice cream and homemade cookie.
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).
Dinner is normally three courses. On one occasion we started with a prawn and avocado salad with a creamy pepper dressing. This was followed by the catch of the day, in this instance fresh Dorado cooked to perfection, served with fragrant rice and seasonal vegetables. Dessert was passionfruit sorbet with an almond crisp.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Kinondo Kwetu are happy to offer room service, but there are no phones in the rooms so it needs to be arranged in advance.
- Drinks included
- Most drinks are included, but champagne is extra and costs US$140 per bottle.
- 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 ideas for Family holidays
- 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 ideas for Honeymoons
- 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.
- See ideas for Beach holidays
- Kinondo Kwetu is ideal for a luxurious and relaxing beach break on the Kenyan coast. Food and service are outstanding and there’s a remarkable attention to detail. Spoil yourself in the spa or relax in any of the lovely areas decorated with art from all over Africa.
- See ideas for Luxury
- 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.
- 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. However, if you have young children, please ensure you don't book an upper-floor room as some balconies are not infant-proof.
- 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 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.
- 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
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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 hand-washed and line-dried. Extra pieces cost extra.
- 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.
Other lodges in Kenya Coast
Alternative places to stay in this same area.