The remote beach retreat Funzi Keys is set on a lush island off Kenya's southern coast.
The Funzi Keys: Our full report
The Funzi Keys is a family-run beach lodge located on a small sand spit of Funzi Island, just off the coast of southern Kenya. Surrounded by mangroves and accessed only by boat, it is a remote retreat in a pristine environment.
The lodge closed for refurbishment and restructuring after Easter 2016 and is expected to re-open in 2017.
When the owner Alessandro first visited Funzi Island it was just golden sand, but in 1992 construction of a private holiday home started along with the development of a garden. The first three cottages were built for family and friends, but slowly it evolved into a beach lodge that opened as The Funzi Keys in 1999. The entire place was built by hand using local materials. Today, the characterful cottages are tucked between the lush vegetation of this idyllic tropical hideaway.
Funzi Keys prides itself on being extremely relaxed: there’s no strict timings, no dress code and no pretentiousness. You won’t find air-conditioning, any doors, or even any windows and its secluded beach location is stunning.
When you arrive at the Funzi Keys, you are greeted at the jetty and escorted to the main lounge and bar. This is a large double-storey thatched banda, which is mostly open at the front and supported by high white arches of Arabic-Swahili design. There are a few glass walls to shelter from seasonal winds, but mostly the structure remains open to make the most of the beach and sea views. The rustic stone floors are dotted with locally made makuti mats, and lovely untreated tree trunks support a traditionally made coral-stone ceiling.
A large traditional dhow sits at one end and comfortable sofas are dotted around the area. Bar stools line the bar, which becomes a sociable place for guests in the evenings. Upstairs, is the restaurant where breakfast is usually served. You can also opt to have lunch or dinner here, though the locations for these meals can range all over Funzi Keys.
The kidney-shaped pool sits in a vast area raised off the beach. Numerous sunloungers and thatched umbrellas are scattered around and at one end is a sheltered dining area looking out across the sea. Given the size of Funzi Keys there is plenty of space for all the guests to relax here.
The rooms at the Funzi Keys are all similar in style and design. However, some are significantly larger and, as a result, more costly than the others. Most significantly, the rooms are all very close to the beach, and some are situated right on it so you can walk out of your room and straight into the sea – a feature that is not always easy to find on Kenya’s coast. That said, the soft furnishings are less stylish than other places we visited.
- The eight, smaller, freestanding sea view cottages are set back from the beach. A steep A-frame thatch roof sits upon walls made from gauze and low bamboo walls that allow the sea breeze to pass through. However, a standing fan is also provided for really hot nights. Inside, you will find a spacious bedroom with a double or twin four-poster bed draped with mosquito netting. There is also a writing desk with a small hairdryer, mirror, and an information pack about the activities on offer, as well as tea and coffee making facilities. There’s space for storing your clothes and a few gifts: a Funzi Keys branded cap and t-shirt, as well as a kikoi which guests are free to take home. The rooms don’t have the same degree of style as some of the more contemporary lodges on the mainland. They are quite rustic and earthy in their design, but we found this quite charming. They will suit those looking for something a little more African, rather than modern or highly stylised.
At the back of the room and up a few steps, is the bathroom. It is a simple set up, with a single sink, very powerful hot-and-cold shower and a flushing loo. Toiletries are provided, as are towels.
In front of each room at the Funzi Keys is a pair of sunloungers. Unfortunately, these face the main public path and are not very private. That said, they are a real sun trap in the late afternoon.
- The seven beachfront cottages follow a similar format, but are much larger and very private. All are located right on the beach, so you can stroll from your sunlounger straight into the sea. Inside they have an additional pair of deckchairs set around a coffee table, an old reclaimed dhow and sofa. Each also has a built-in Jacuzzi bath. In these cottages the shower and toilet are separated from each other by thick flagstone walls, and don’t really get much natural light – this can make them feel a little bit dark and dated.
- The last two rooms act as family cottages and are the same as the beachfront cottages with the addition of an adjoining room for children. One of the cottages has a double room with a simple twin room situated down a corridor – each with their own private bathroom – while the other, has a second room raised off the floor and accessed by wooden stairs – a sort of thatched tree house.
There are numerous activities on offer at Funzi Keys. Those included in the price of your stay are: daily visits to a sandbank, snorkelling at the end of the pontoon and island walks.
Diving and snorkelling from the Funzi Keys in Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park costs extra and is organised by Charlie Claw's, a dive outfit a short boat ride away. Deep-sea fishing is also available and arranged with Sea Adventures. Funzi can hire out their sea kayaks and when we were last there this cost US$10 per hour. Windsurfing and sailing on their laser cost US$25 per hour, while the catamaran was US$45 for an hour. Funzi also have a boat guests can use for fishing in the creek, or for river trips to look for crocodiles and birds.
Those looking to relax might also enjoy a massage in Funzi’s spa, whose staff also perform pedicures and manicures around the pool.
Guests may be interested to know that the lodge sponsors an orphanage, donates milk to a Maasai community and is building a community church as well.
Our viewIf you’re looking for a contemporary and modern beach property with a high degree of design, this lodge isn’t for you. But if you’re after some relaxation in an undisturbed environment, away from any other tourists and people then Funzi Keys would suit perfectly. The environment is blissful and the service is friendly and relaxed.
Ideal length of stay: Five–six nights would be ideal.
Directions: The Funzi Keys is about a 35-minute drive from Diani Airport along a tarmac road, followed by a five-minute drive along on a dirt road, then a 20-minute boat ride.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The Funzi Keys has its own farm on the main island. Their cattle, pigs and chickens are all reared organically and feed guests at the lodge. There is also a fruit and vegetable garden. Most of the seafood and about a third of the vegetables are then bought from the local community.
The tasty and fresh ingredients really contribute to the quality of the food at Funzi, which we found to be good. Like the general character of the lodge itself, the food is hearty and home-cooked rather than fancy or stylish.
Breakfast was an à la carte menu offering items such as eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, cereals and yoghurt. There was plenty of choice and we particularly enjoyed having it around the pool with views across the sea.
We didn’t have lunch when we last stayed at Funzi, though were told it consists of a main course and a dessert with a choice for both.
We did enjoy dinner which was comprised of a choice of two starters – tamarind potatoes, or leek-and-potato soup – three main courses –a pasta dish, beef carpaccio, or ginger crab – and a choice of a cheese platter or sweet dessert to round things off. We opted for tasty fruit crêpes.
Meals are served all around the property, but if you’d like to dine on the sandbank it costs an additional US$20, a further US$10 for a dinner on the beach, or US$10 extra to dine in your room.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included, apart from premium spirits and cellar wines.
Further dining info: Yes, but it needs to be arranged in advance as there are no phones in the rooms.
Family holidays: The small, quirky Funzi Keys is great for relaxed family beach holidays in a pristine environment on the Kenya coast. It provides family rooms, cots, highchairs, a playroom and childcare by staff. Children under the age of three stay free.See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya
Honeymoons: For a remote beach retreat in a pristine environment, Funzi Keys is a great choice for a Kenya honeymoon. The atmosphere is very peaceful and relaxed; it’s a lovely tropical hideaway. The cottages are either right on the beach or very close to it, and all are very private.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya
Beach holidays: Funzi Keys is about as remote as beach properties get in Kenya, so come here for an exclusive experience away from other tourists and in a pristine environment.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The Funzi Keys will gladly accept children.
Property’s age restrictions: All ages are welcome and children under the age of three are free.
Special activities & services: The Funzi Keys can arrange for their housekeeping staff to mind child, but parents should note that they are not formally trained in childcare. They also have a playroom for children.
Equipment: The Funzi Keys have baby cots and highchairs available.
Generally recommended for children: The Funzi Keys is a nice relaxed lodge, with some great family room options. For families who like slightly more quirky and offbeat accommodation options it would be perfect.
Communications: The Funzi Keys has cellphone reception. There is a portable modem and a computer that guests can use too.
TV & radio: No.
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The owners are first-aid trained and have a first-aid kit on site. For something more serious, guests would have to go to Diani Hospital an hour away. The lodge also has an airstrip and can call flying doctors if there is a emergency.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: The Funzi Keys has Maasai guards patrolling the property during the day and night and there are safes in the rooms.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are in placed every room and all the main areas. They are regularly serviced and staff are trained on how to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an additional charge. They have machines and tumble driers but can hand wash delicates too.
Money: The Funzi Keys will do currency exchange, but only small amounts as they do not keep a lot of cash at the lodge.
Accepted payment on location: The Funzi Keys will usually accept cash in euros, British pounds, US dollars, and Kenyan shillings. Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted and there is no surcharge, but be aware payments will be processed in dollars.