Dhow Palace Hotel: Our full report
The Dhow Palace Hotel in Stone Town is a beautiful old building full of Swahili character.Originally, the building belonged to a wealthy Arab from the Omani royal family. It then remained as a private house until nineteen years ago, when it was fully renovated and became a hotel. The original structure is 150 years old (an extension was added several years ago) and the Dhow Palace still houses many antiques from the era of Arabian rule.
The Dhow Palace Hotel sits amongst the streets of Shangani, in the heart of Stone Town. It isn't by the sea, but from the rooftop restaurant there are some wonderful views across the multi-coloured iron roofs of Stone Town. It is an Islamic hotel, owned by the same people that own the Tembo Hotel and is alcohol free. Though there are plenty or nearby bars and restaurants where you can stop for a drink.
Built around two central courtyards, the Dhow Palace Hotel is relatively small, though it does have a central swimming pool, a pool table, and a table-football table. The pool is of a reasonable size and always has a few people lounging around it to cool off. Surrounding it is a red-tiled floor and lovely stone seats, one of which was occupied by the resident cat on our last visit. It is a great hotel for families and when we were last there, there were a number of families staying so the atmosphere was quite bustling and fun. To the side of the pool is a small games area with a pool table and a table-football table. This seems to be where most of the children hang out to compete against each other for championship titles! The adults can then relax to the side of this, where there is a lovely lounge area furnished with Zanzibari antiques.
The rooms tower up on either side of these two courtyards, and are reached by two sets of stairs. Along the wide corridors are some fascinating pieces of furniture, including an antique gramophone, and even an old upright piano!
There is also a lovely rooftop restaurant which serves a variety of fairly good international cuisine – though the main reason for dining here would be to enjoy the view - the open-sided terrace is wonderful on a bright day as you can see right across Stone Town and over roofs to the ocean.
The hotel has 29 Standard Suites and one slightly larger and grander Presidential Suite. All of the rooms are furnished with a mixture of locally crafted Zanzibari furniture, and items imported from India. The rooms are not spectacular or particularly large, but they are very comfortable and full of character and charm.
The Dhow Palace Hotel is one of the more charming hotels that we saw in Stone Town. It is very atmospheric, friendly and welcoming. For the quality of service, standard of room and general feel of this excellent mid-range hotel – it is great value.
- Stone Town, Zanzibar
- Ideal length of stay
- 1 or 2 nights to give you time to explore Stone Town.
- It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it is a further 10 minutes to Stone Town and the Dhow Palace Hotel.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- Breakfast is served between 7.00am until 9.30am. It is a buffet style breakfast consisting of fruit, cereal, tea & coffee and eggs of your choice. For the adventurous there are also a few 'mandazis' to nibble on – these are essentially a Tanzanian version of the doughnut!
Lunch is served from 12 until 3pm, and is a simple snack menu with a variety of sandwiches, salads, chips etc to choose from. Dinner is then a more extensive 3-course a la carte menu which is available between 7pm and 9.30pm in the evening.
The menu consists of fairly standard international cuisine, with a few traditional Swahili options. Everyone should find some thing to their taste.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room service is available at the Dhow Palace Hotel free of charge.
- Drinks included
- Drinks are not included.
- Family holidays
- The charming, great-value Dhow Palace Hotel in Stone Town offers a stay full of Swahili character during your Zanzibar family holidays. Expect a pool, a table-football table, cots and high chairs and friendly service! Under-fives stay free.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome at the Dhow Palace
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions at the Dhow Palace Hotel - though children under 5 years can stay for free.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special services or activities for children.
- Cots and highchairs are available on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- This is a great hotel for children, as there are plenty of things to keep them occupied during their stay. Though parents should be aware, that their children are their own responsibility for the duration of their stay.
- The Dhow Palace Hotel has phones in all of the rooms which can be used to order room service. There is free Wifi throughout the hotel and there is also a computer that can be used in the reception.
- TV & radio
- There is a TV in all of the rooms with local and international channels.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The Dhow Palace Hotel is in Stone Town where there are plenty of doctors as well as a private hospital nearby.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- There are guards by the hotel doors around the clock.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in all of the passages.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- The laundry is an extra charge – when we were last there it was between $1 -2 per item.
- At the Dhow Palace Hotel you can exchange dollars, pounds and euros. The Dhow Palace cannot exchange travellers' cheques.
- Accepted payment on location
- You can pay for any extras in pounds, euros, dollars and shillings cash. Visa and Mastercard is also accepted and there is no surcharge for this.
Room types at Dhow Palace Hotel
The Presidential Suite in the Dhow Palace Hotel is entered through a large vestibule room, where there's a small fridge, a few grand paisley-patterned chairs and a matching chaise longue – which all look strangely incongruous, as if they'd come straight from a country estate in England!
The polished stone floors then lead into the bedroom, where they are scatted with a few worn Persian rugs that enhance the antique character of the room. With walls painted a deep red, the bedroom has a beautifully carved four-poster bed draped with a mosquito net, an ornate dressing table, air-conditioning and a television. This room is wonderfully furnished, though the heavy furniture combined with deep red-painted walls, do make it feel a little small and dark.
A veranda overlooking the streets has a few chairs on to take in the views.
With individual pieces of interesting furniture and quirky, fun décor – we really liked this room!
The en-suite bathroom is a good size and is decorated with white and pink tiles on the floors and walls. The rooms are sparklingly clean, though the tiles might be a bit garish for some peoples taste.
The bathroom in the Presidential Suite has a flush-toilet and a sink – and also a blue-tiled Turkish bath/shower, complete with hot-and-cold water.
The standard suites at the Dhow Palace Hotel are mostly compact rooms, though they do vary in size. They have lovely Zanzibari doors - some of the rooms are situated in the original part of the building, whilst some are in the newer 4-year old extension. The newer rooms tend to be a little larger, though none of the rooms are huge.
All are furnished with locally made Zanzibari furniture as well as some wooden pieces imported from India. Each also has a small balcony overlooking the pool, a mini-fridge, air-conditioning, a TV and a kettle.
These rooms are comfortably furnished, and even though they are a little small and dark - for a one or two night stop in Stone Town, they represent very good value.
The bathrooms in the Standard Suites are small, yet very clean and functional. Each has a hot-and-cold shower, a flush-toilet and a single sink and some have a sunken tiled bath.
Other lodges in Stone Town
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Now trumped by the nearby Park Hyatt, the Serena Inn, in its historic building, was formerly Stone Town's only international-style hotel.
Zanzibar Coffee House
The Zanzibar Coffee House is a small quiet hotel tucked away in the back streets of Stone Town, with lovely, simple rooms.
Zanzibar Palace Hotel
The Zanzibar Palace Hotel is a highly regarded boutique hotel with very personal service and just nine rooms, all of them Zanzibari in style.
Beyt al Salaam
The Beyt al Salaam is a pleasant, boutique hotel with only six rooms and atmospheric and stylish Zanzibari décor.
Emerson Spice is a beautiful small hotel in the heart of Stone Town with individually designed rooms adorned with gorgeous fabrics.
Kholle House offers an atmospheric Stone Town stay in a historic building, and is very good value for money.
Jafferji House is a converted old house that blends modern facilities with traditional style. The ten, unique rooms are show great attention to detail.
Swahili House is a traditionally styled boutique hotel furnished to a high standard with a convenient location in the centre of Stone Town.
The Tembo Hotel is a good-value, family-friendly hotel right on the seafront in Stone Town, with 36 rooms and a good-sized swimming pool.
Emerson on Hurumzi
Emerson on Hurumzi was Stone Town's first boutique hotel, featuring antique furniture, unique, stylish rooms and a superb rooftop restaurant.
Mbweni Ruins Hotel
Mbweni Ruins Hotel is very convenient if you want to stay on the beach, but very close to Stone Town, or visit Chumbe Island.
Maru Maru Hotel
In the heart of Stone Town, Maru Maru combines contemporary style and creature comforts with a Zanzibari twist.
The Park Hyatt Zanzibar is a high-quality example of this group, with excellent facilities and service.
Kisiwa's central location in the heart of Stone Town's Shangani area makes it a great base to explore this fascinating town.
The Seyyida is a characterful old hotel near the seafront in Stone Town, with the rare bonus of a swimming pool.