You will be welcomed by friendly Zanzibari staff on arrival.
Pongwe Beach Hotel: Our full report
Nestled between two outcrops of coral rock and on a secluded stretch of white-powdery beach, Pongwe Beach Hotel was opened in 2001 and refurbished in 2016. It’s a quiet, simple and great-value little lodge on a sheltered cove, dotted with palm trees, hammocks and sun loungers. At high tide the water cuts Pongwe’s stretch of beach off from the rest of the east coast, while at low tide you can walk around to nearby coves, including to the immediate neighbour to the north, Tulia.
The main communal area at Pongwe Beach Lodge is not overly exciting: the open-sided thatched space is large, and since the hotel only has 16 rooms, it can feel a bit cavernous and lacks some of the atmosphere you may find in other lodges if there are few guests staying. That said, it is cool and breezy during the day which can be a welcome relief from the sun, and when there’s a full house it lacks nothing for atmosphere. The hotel attracts a low-key, fun-loving, crowd from all over the world. A large and stylish infinity pool surrounded by wooden decking is a welcome addition in the past few years, and is great for relaxing to catch some sun and enjoy the stunning views.
When we last stayed in 2016 we thought the food here was pretty good. Having just stayed at immediate neighbour Tulia, the night before, there was a big drop in ambition. But the meals are tasty and varied, and you’t not paying Tulia prices. There is plenty of variety at Pongee and they can be very flexible if you have any particular preferences or dislikes they will try to cater for you.
Pongwe’s 16, whitewashed cottage rooms are all simple and bright – nothing over-the-top, but comfortable and airy. The facilities and interiors in all of the rooms are all much the same – with a very large Zanzibari bed draped in mosquito netting, ceiling fan, a wardrobe, a table and armchairs. Towels, kangas and drinking water are provided and little touches such as fresh flowers make the rooms welcoming. Outside, there are a loungers or a hammock in the shade of your veranda. All the rooms can be set up as doubles and triples.
However, the distance from the sea does differ slightly. The beachfront rooms are much closer to the sea and have a slightly higher price tag. The three garden rooms are nestled further back in Pongwe’s tropical grounds, and don’t have a sea view. Pongwe also recently added four new Seaview rooms which are the best of the lot: they’re slightly more private and also have private plunge pools.
There is also a family bungalow at the southern end of the property, which has two interlinking rooms sharing a bathroom, one with two single beds and the other with a double bed.
The en-suite bathrooms all have hot showers, flush toilets and modern basins and they have recently been nicely decorated and somewhat improved, having been somewhat functional. The water here is always hot, thanks to an immersion heater and although it’s filtered, it is slightly brackish.
Our viewPongwe is a simple lodge, which in’t overly luxurious. However its excellent location, beautiful beach, friendly service and good food make it superb value. We love this place and it will always come near the top of our choices in this part of the island – a relaxed and peaceful beach getaway at a very good price.
Ideal length of stay: 4 nights – or even longer if you love relaxing on a beautiful beach
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then then it is a further one hour by car to Pongwe.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Independent. Owned by Valerian Preston.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Breakfast is served at Pongwe Beach Hotel from around 7.30 until 10.30 and usually consists of locally grown fresh fruit and a cooked breakfast with eggs of your choice.
An a la carte menu, which changes daily, is available for lunch and is served between 12.30 and 3pm. This normally has two choices for the starter and main courses. There is also a snack menu and a selection of freshly made pizzas available.
Then dinner is a 3-course set menu, being served from around 8.00 until 9.30pm. Specials often include a seafood platter, based on the catch of the day or fresh Kenyan steaks. They put up the dinner menu at 9am each morning so if you have any special requests about the meal or don’t like it, they will endeavor to be as flexible as possible.
When we last visited Pongwe Beach Hotel in 2016 we really enjoyed the food. They did a tasty Swahili buffet one night, including ugali, breadfruit, plantain, grilled chicken and tuna skewers. There was a dessert of a chilled half coconut filled with fruit salad and ice cream.
Pongwe always uses fresh and locally sourced ingredients. On a previous trip we had crab and avocado to start, followed by a tandoori chicken curry served with various chutneys and naan bread – all delicious.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included. You can expect to pay around US$4 for a beer, US$2 for a Coke and US$30 for a bottle of wine. Settle your bills on departure.
Further dining info: Pongwe do not offer room service, unless it is because someone is not feeling well and cannot come to the main dining area.
Family holidays: The simple Pongwe is a peaceful, great-value hotel for family beach holidays to Zanzibar, especially with young, independent children who can keep themselves entertained on the secluded sandy beach. Pongwe provides cots and highchairs and gives great discounts for children.See more ideas for Family holidays in Zanzibar
Honeymoons: Pongwe is a popular spot for honeymooners who want a simple and laid-back atmosphere. Relax by the infinity pool, go for romantic strolls on the beach or just enjoy the sunshine and pristine white sand. Pongwe offers a good value, idyllic and unforgettable honeymoon to Zanzibar.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zanzibar
Beach holidays: At Pongwe is one of the best beaches we have ever seen in Zanzibar. When the tide is high, Pongwe sits in a private, sandy cove. Then when it goes out, a wonderful stretch of inter-tidal zone is revealed for walking and exploring.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Zanzibar
Attitude towards children: Pongwe Beach Hotel happily welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Pongwe Beach Hotel, however under-4s stay free of charge.
Special activities & services: Pongwe does not organize any special activities or clubs for children - those that stay here should be happy to entertain themselves on the beach.
Equipment: There are cots and highchairs at Pongwe Beach Hotel.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Children are warmly welcomed at Pongwe Beach Hotel – there are cots and highchairs readily available and great children's discounts and staff from housekeeping can babysit if parents want some time to themselves in the dining/lounge area. However parents should be aware that children are their responsibility for the duration of their stay.
Communications: Pongwe Beach Hotel has a laptop at reception that guests can use free of charge to connect to the internet. There is also Wi-Fi throughout the lodge, which you can use free of charge if you have your own device. Cellphone reception ranges from good (Zantel) to almost non-existent (Vodacom)
TV & radio: There is no TV for guests, though guests are very welcome to join the staff in their staff house.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: A half-litre bottle of drinking water per guest per day is provided free of charge. That isn't very much, so you need to be prepared to pay for the 4 or 5 litres of water per day that you should be consuming.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: For minor illnesses and injuries there is a first-aid kit at Pongwe Beach Hotel, though for more serious cases there is a good local doctor at Kiwengwa who can be called out.
Quadbike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity from in this area. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Pongwe has an alarm at the gate, and an askari on duty 24/7. There is also security around Pongwe throughout the day and night. And there is a safe in the office for any valuables.
Fire safety: Pongwe Beach Hotel has fire extinguishers in the kitchen and reception. Fire extinguishers are also located between the rooms. The hotel has an annual fire-training day.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: There is an extra charge for the laundry – around US$1-2 per item – and clothes are machine-washed.
Money: There are not really any currency exchange facilities at Pongwe Beach Hotel
Accepted payment on location: At Pongwe Beach Hotel, you can pay for any extra charges in cash pounds, US dollars or euros, or using Visa, Amex or Mastercard (there is a 5% charge for using a credit card).