The Residence Zanzibar

The Residence Zanzibar: Our full report

66 villas
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 1 review
Fine for all ages.
All year

The Residence Zanzibar, built in 2011 on a beautiful stretch of beach on Zanzibar’s south-west coast, has created widespread buzz across the island. With 66 large separate villas set over 32 hectares of land, it’s a vast self-contained complex, so much so that if you are not being driven around in a golf buggy, you will be given a bicycle to get around. The Residence has a great range of facilities, from tennis courts, a gym and a watersports centre, to a weekly entertainment programme and fully equipped spa, meaning you could quite happily never leave the grounds.

The Residence Zanzibar is part of the Cenizaro chain of resort hotels, with sister properties in the Maldives, Mauritius and Tunisia. Although there are slight African influences if you look hard enough, the resort as a whole takes on a fairly neutral style, with manicured lawns, thousands of tons of concrete used to pave the pathways for the golf carts and bicycles, and American-style, seemingly pre-fabricated condos extending along the sea-front and in several rows behind. The attitude to design here seems to have been: Why have your guests trudge along a swept path of natural sand to the swimming pool when 50 tons of concrete slabs can do the job just as well?

From the moment you enter the Residence through huge gates, and the bumpy dirt road suddenly changes to smooth tarmac, you notice that everything is of a very high standard here. You’ll be greeted by the friendly staff at the main reception area, all immaculately presented in matching uniforms, before being whisked off by golf-cart to check in at your private villa.

There are 66 villas in total, split between 6 different categories:

  • 34 Luxury Garden Pool Villas with one bedroom
  • 13 Luxury Ocean Front Pool Villas with one bedroom
  • 11 Prestige Ocean Front Pool Villas with one bedroom
  • 5 Frangipani Garden Pool Villas with two bedrooms
  • 2 Frangipani Ocean Front Pool Villas with two bedrooms
  • 1 Presidential Villa with two bedrooms

All of the villas have broadly the same style and facilities but the main difference between the categories is their proximity to the ocean, number of bedrooms and their size, with those in the garden being set a row or two behind the Ocean Front villas. The seafront villas at the southern end of the complex sit on a low cliff, while those at the northern end are directly behind the beach, where at high tide it's easy to swim offshore.

The lounge areas are very spacious, and with the shutters pulled back and windows open they do feel quite bright and airy. The flat-screen TV, wicker furniture with cream cushions and polished floor has quite a contemporary feel which doesn’t fill them with character, but they’re spotlessly clean. There’s a small mini-bar (although do beware of the astronomical prices), and tea- and coffee-making facilities here.

Inside, with the curtains drawn, flat-screen TV on and air-con turned up, you could quite easily forget you were in Zanzibar were it not for a large black and white picture on one of the walls depicting a traditional Zanzibari scene such as dhows sailing across the ocean.

The large bedroom is just off the sitting room - the focal point of which is a big four poster bed, behind which you’ll find some space for hanging clothes. The en-suite bathroom is just as impressively spacious. You’re spoilt for choice of where to wash - the stand-alone bath (complete with special “bath menu" where you can order a fragrant bath to be drawn for you), the indoor hot shower, or the outdoor cold shower.

Out the front of each villa is the piece de resistance - a private 8-metre by 3-metre lap pool, complete with loungers. These are certainly some of the largest private pools we’ve seen anywhere and a good deal larger than plunge pools.

What we found most perplexing about these villas, however, was the lack of privacy. Even from the Ocean Front Villas, which are among the priciest, from our pool we could clearly see people in theirs on either side of us, and as we relaxed in our lounge and bedroom we could see people walking past on the beach in front, and they could obviously see us.

All the villas have iPod docks and minibars, and each villa is served by a personal butler, who is always just a call away, should you need anything at any hour of the day.

Activities at The Residence are plentiful. Kayaks, sailing, snorkelling trips, pedal boating, traditional fishing and sailing are all free of charge (with tuition) from the Boat House or Jetty, while kite surfing, deep sea fishing and diving are an extra cost. Guests can also make use of the floodlit tennis court, air-conditioned fitness centre and yoga classes free of charge.

The Spa is one of the star attractions at The Residence. With six individual pavilions, it offers a long menu of massages, beauty treatments (manicures, pedicures, waxing) as well as hairdressing and make-up.

Dining takes place in either the main dining room, Pavilion Restaurant or in your own villas. Read below for more about the food.

Our view

Our feelings about the Residence are a little mixed. It is certainly built to a high standard, and a lot of care and attention to detail has gone into the design, though there is a slight sense of "luxe on the cheap" about the scale of the place. And we found it a little sterile at times, which together with the lack of privacy, somewhat underwhelming food and high prices, both for accommodation and extras, left us feeling that there are other options offering better value for money.


Location: South-west Zanzibar, Zanzibar

Ideal length of stay: You could easily stay here for a week or longer just relaxing on the beach, and taking advantage of the many activities on offer.

Directions: The Residence is about a 1-hour drive from the airport.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Cenizaro Hotels

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Half Board

Food quality: Breakfast is served in the main restaurant from 7am - 10:30am. There's a wide selection of different options both hot and cold. Fruit, cereals, pastries, cakes, pancakes and cooked breakfasts are all available, washed down with plenty of fresh juice and coffee.

Lunch can be taken in a variety of locations. The dining room is open from 12 noon - 3pm serving a buffet selection of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and fish, followed by fresh fruits and light deserts.

In the evening there are again, several options for dinner. The main dining room serves dinner from 7:30pm - 10:30pm. When we were last there they had a seafood buffet. There were plenty of options, from salads, to sushi, to grilled lobster and fish on the BBQ, to the tempura station. There was certainly enough to go around, and while it was good, it wasn't outstanding. There were several different cakes and pastries for pudding, which again were average.

The more intimate Pavilion Restaurant requires a reservation to secure a table. It's a more stylish restaurant, serving a mixture of Greek, Turkish, Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean food, accompanied by traditional music.

Guests can also choose to dine in their own villas, choosing from the à la carte menu with a credit to put towards the cost. There is however a surcharge of 10 US dollars should you wish to dine in your room.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are an extra cost, and are fairly expensive. You can expect to pay about $6 for a bottle of water.

Further dining info: Room service is available at extra cost.


Attitude towards children: The Residence welcomes children.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.

Special activities & services: The Residence has special children's meals, as well as a free children's club for children ages 4 - 12 years (between 9am and 5pm). Babysitting can also be arranged on request at an extra charge.

Equipment: There are cots and highchairs available on request.

Notes: Parents should take care and ensure constant supervision of their children whilst in the villas, as the private pools are 1.2m deep.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: There is internet in your rooms if you have a laptop which you can plug in; alternatively WiFi is available throughout the complex. There are phones in each villa.

TV & radio: There is a DSTV in each villa with a DVD player. Free DVDs can be loaned from reception.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a fully trained doctor on site and many of the staff are trained in first aid. There is also first aid kits in all of the main areas.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: There are guards present 24 hours a day and the complex is also gated.

Fire safety: There is a fire plan in each room and fire alarms.


Disabled access: In Place

Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an extra cost.

Money: There are safes in each room. The Residence can exchange US$, Euros and UK£.

Accepted payment on location: The Residence can accept the above currencies, as well as American Express, Visa and Mastercard; although there is a 5% surcharge for this.

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