Lake Kivu Serena Hotel: Our full report
Set on the shores of Lake Kivu, Lake Kivu Serena Hotel lies on the outskirts of Gisenyi, on the western edge of Rwanda.It's a large, international-style hotel with a range of facilities and activities, and fronted by a long beach.
The 66 en-suite rooms at Lake Kivu Serena are set in two diagonal lines, one overlooking the gardens and the other facing the pool area below and with views over the lake; we would definitely recommend the lake-view rooms. As you would expect from a Serena property, the rooms are finished to a good standard, but lack the character or individuality that you might find at a smaller or independent property.
Outlook aside, all the rooms have broadly the same features: neutral décor, air conditioning, 24-hour power, tea- and coffee-making facilities, safes, DSTV and WiFi access, and a private balcony. That said, six of the rooms are slightly larger 'suites' with a small lounge area with sofa, minibar and flat-screen TV, and a larger bathroom with a double shower.
Downstairs, the open, breezy bar has lovely view over the lake – though it does lack a little in atmosphere. Adjacent to the bar is the Kiyaga Restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served as a buffet, with lunch and dinner being served either as a buffet or from an al a carte menu depending on the hotels occupancy. Guests can choose to eat on the veranda next to the pool, or in the inside dining room during cooler evenings. The Ziwini Cafe is located beneath the pool, and is open during the day, serving a selection of snacks and drinks.
The facilities at the Lake Kivu Serena are excellent. There's a large swimming pool overlooking the lake, with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas dotted around. A shallow children’s swimming pool adjoins the main pool, although parental supervision is recommended. Loungers and umbrellas are set out, too, along the beach that runs in front of the hotel. There are tennis courts that guests can use as well as a watersports centre with catamaran, jet skis and more. A spa provides Elemis treatments, with prices from US$65 for a 90-minute massage. And a little shop sells trinkets and souvenirs from Rwanda, Kenya and the Congo, as well as useful items such as toothpaste and sun cream.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Lake Kivu Serena is quite popular with ex-pats visiting from Kigali and over the border in the Congo, so can become quite lively at the weekend.
The Lake Kivu Serena is the most comfortable option along the shores of the lake. What it lacks in character and individuality, it makes up for in facilities. For a few days relaxation before or after gorilla trekking, this is a lovely option.
- Lake Kivu, Rwanda
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay here for up to three nights to relax and enjoy the lake views.
- Gisenyi is about a two–three-hour drive from the Volcanoes National Park or about three hours from Kigali.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Half Board
- Food quality
- Breakfast is served between 7.00am and 10.00am and comprises a buffet of cereals, fruit, meat and cheeses, as well as various hot dishes. Tea, coffee and juice are also available.
Lunch and dinner are usually à la carte, but if they have big groups staying (for example if there is a conference) they will often do a buffet. On our last visit in 2019 we had a buffet dinner. We enjoyed a pumpkin soup, followed by a tasty chicken curry. This was rounded off by a selection of mini desserts, including a decadent chocolate mousse and little cakes.
Pizza is available at the bar throughout the whole day.
- Attitude towards children
- The hotel welcomes children.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions.
- Special activities & services
- The hotel can provide children's meals. They can also offer a babysitting service, although this will just be a member of the housekeeping staff, and not someone trained in childcare.
- They have cots and highchairs on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- The Lake Kivu Serena has a good-sized pool, including a special children’s one. They also have good lawns for kids to run around and let off steam.
- We advise that children are supervised when using the swimming pool or playing on the beach, or on the balconies.
- There is free WiFi in all the rooms. There is also a business centre that guests may use if they don't have their own computer.
- TV & radio
- There are TVs in each of the rooms and also in the bar.
- Water supply
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first-aid kit on site and also a resident nurse. There is a hospital in Gisenyi.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- There are guards patrolling 24 hours a day. There is also CCTV in operation.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in each room, and fire hoses around the lodge, which the staff are trained to use.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is possible for an extra cost.
- There are safes in each of the rooms.
- Accepted payment on location
- The hotel accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express. They also accept most major currencies (including US dollars, euros, South African rand and GB pounds. They do not accept travellers’ cheques.
Other lodges in Lake Kivu
Alternative places to stay in this same area.