Serena Inn

Serena Inn: Our full report

51 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (92%) From 63 reviews
All year

The Serena Inn in Stone Town is part of the internationally renowned Serena chain, which has hotels all over East Africa. The buildings which make up the Serena Inn were once used as the residence for a Chinese doctor but it has been a hotel for the since the 1990s and has all the facilities you would expect of an international-style chain – including a choice of restaurants, a swimming pool, shop and coffee shop. It even has a conference centre.

The Serena Inn is a fine old hotel that has been carefully restored from two historic buildings – the end result is a reasonably smart and relatively high-quality hotel. The Serena also has a fantastic spot right on the beach (though this is a town beach, so not really one for sun-bathing and swimming), with a view across the sea towards the Tanzanian mainland. The swimming pool sits in the centre of the Serena, with the hotel's main areas and bedrooms circling around it in a 'U' shaped formation. There is also a small games room for children and a conference centre for those on business in Stone Town.

There are several places to eat and drink here: the Masahani Bar looks out over the beach. Inside, the bar has polished red-tiled floors, a dark wooden bar and a few antiques dotted around. There are plenty of low, comfortable lounge chairs where you can sit under fans and have a drink from the well-stocked bar.

Outside the bar on the terrace, are a number of cushioned wicker chairs around small tables. During lunch time people gather here in the shade to grab a quick snack from the bar-menu. It is a lovely spot with a very welcome cool sea-breeze and a relaxed air.

Just adjacent to the bar, up a few stairs is the main Bahari Restaurant. Similar to the bar, the dining room isn't especially stylish. Though it is atmospheric, decorated in an Arabian theme with lots of carved wooden furniture, antique-style brass lamps hanging from the ceiling, and dark red tiled floors.

In addition to its main restaurant, the hotel has a second, more exclusive and romantic Seafood Restaurant, which is a roof-top restaurant only open for dinner. Situated on an open terrace, the views across the Indian Ocean from here are beautiful.

For a quick coffee or a piece of cake, make a stop at the lovely Mdele Coffee Shop. This is situated in an open plan area behind the pool and is furnished with a number of small tables and wrought iron white garden chairs.

Adjacent to the café is the Serena Inn's shop which sells a variety of curios. It is a relatively well stocked little shop, though for those who can brave some serious bargaining, you will find better prices with the street sellers.

Of interest to afficionados of old audio ephemera, there are some mysterious bits of ancient signalling equipment on show in display boxes on the first and second floor of the north-west wing of the hotel. These date from the 19th-century when this building operated as a telegraph office, linked to Aden (now Yemen) by underwater cable.

The bedrooms at the Serena Inn vary in size and luxury, with the Standard Room being the smallest, the Prime Rooms being slightly larger and the Suites being the most opulent. However all of the rooms are of a good size and furnished with lovely Zanzibari beds and bright materials, and each has a private balcony. They're floored with polished red cement and rugs. Each room also has air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom.

Our view

The Serena Inn is generally regarded as the best hotel in Stone Town, and it is a very well run establishment. When we were there last the team were helpful and friendly. The hotel can also arrange sunset dhow cruises around the harbour, or picnic trips to a sandbank for lunch!

What could be a draw-back for some people is that this is quite a large hotel – there are 51 rooms in total. It is the kind of place where all the staff wear immaculately ironed matching uniforms, and have a fixed gracious smile. It can feel a little commercial, but it certainly isn’t pretentious and everyone is genuinely very welcoming.


Location: Stone Town, Zanzibar

Ideal length of stay: 1 or 2 nights to explore the fascinating culture of Stone Town.

Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it's a further 15 minutes by car to Stone Town and the Serena Inn.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Property Chain – Serena Hotels

Food & drink

Usual board basis: B&B

Food quality: Breakfast at the Serena Inn is served from 6.30 to 10am in the morning, and is usually a buffet consisting of fruit, cereals and an English breakfast. Lunch is then served from 12.30 until 3, from an a la carte menu.

For lunch here is a snack menu available from the bar which serves food throughout the day – serving sandwiches, pizzas and other standard international food.

Dinner in the main restaurant is rather more formal, with a set 3-course menu. Alternatively, upstairs is the Seafood Restaurant, which offers very good seafood and smart dining in the open-air on the roof, when the weather is warm and dry.

The food at the Serena Inn is as you would expect from a good quality, but large hotel. We did not eat here on our most recent visit in 2019, however in the past we found it extremely good and well presented, although it was not spectacularly original or unusual. We stopped at the Serena a couple of times in 2017 and had very good gin and tonics ($8), accompanied by live taarab music from the wonderful Culture Musical Club on the balcony.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15

Drinks included: Drinks are not included.

Further dining info: The Serena Inn happily provides room service around the clock.

Special interests

Family holidays: The Serena Inn in Stone Town is a spacious hotel with a large swimming pool, cots and high chairs and babysitting on offer. Don’t expect anything quirky or exclusive here, but a convenient, comfortable base for your family beach holidays in Zanzibar.

See more ideas for Family holidays in Zanzibar

Wellbeing: There is a small spa at the Serena, which can provide the usual range of beauty treatments that you would expect from an international hotel. With a beautiful swimming pool, a stay here makes for a relaxing start to your holiday in Zanzibar.

See more ideas for Wellbeing in Zanzibar


Attitude towards children: The Serena Inn happily welcomes children.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at the Serena Inn

Special activities & services: There are no special activities organized for children, unless it is around Christmas time. A babysitting service can be provided – however note that this is generally the housekeeping staff, and not professionally trained babysitters.

Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available on request.

Notes: This is a good hotel for children, as it is one of the few in Stone Town that has a pool to keep them entertained and can also offer babysitting.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: The Serena Inn has free Wi-fi. There are also phones in all of the rooms which can be used to call outside of the hotel for a fee. There is cell-phone reception in most areas of the Serena.

TV & radio: There is satellite TV in all of the rooms, with a variety of international channels.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a private hospital only 10 minutes away from the Serena Inn for medical emergencies. Staff are first aid trained.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: There are always six security guards on duty at the Serena Inn – and the main doorman here is very knowledgeable and helpful.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the communal areas and corridors around the Serena.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: The laundry is an extra charge and costs between US$2 – 4 depending on the item.

Money: The Serena Inn will happily exchange US dollars, pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings.

Accepted payment on location: You can pay for any extras using US dollars, pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings cash. You can also use Visa, Mastercard and Amex for no extra charge.

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