Eco-friendly travel guide to Mombasa advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Mombasa, Kenya.
- Air quality: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 2 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3 / 5
- Public transportation: 2.5 / 5
- Parks: 4 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4 / 5
- Locals' English level: 4 / 5
- Safety: 3.5 / 5
- Accommodation: US$10 - $300
- Budget per day: US$40 - $600
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Mombasa is a coastal city that is known as the white and blue city in Kenya along the Indian Ocean. The city is the country's oldest and second-largest city. The city is tourism based and is home to one of the statehouses. There are several ways to ensure responsible travel in Mombasa, with some being:
- Support local businesses
- Use public transport
Air Quality and Pollution
The air quality in Mombasa is moderate as there is a substantial amount of air pollution taking place in the city. Most of the air pollution is caused by the various industries, vehicles and some day to day activities. The air is breathable, and there is a very small risk of it having detrimental effects on the health of people living in that environment.
Since it is one of the industrial hubs in the country, Mombasa gets a lot of its pollution from industries. Major waste from industries that ends up being deposited in water sources leading to water pollution are waste oils from slaughterhouses and fish processing plants as well as iron and steel industries. The city is still trying to combat water pollution.
Mombasa is generally a very busy city, and as such, there are high levels of sound pollution. Most of the noise is from the ordinary day to day activities as people go about their lives, e.g. cars, machinery, people talking etc. The noise is not destructive or annoying but is instead a normal part of life.
Respect the Culture
Culture in Mombasa is a combination of Islam and Swahili. Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic and believe in Harambee, which means to pull together. The concept is essentially about mutual assistance, mutual effort, mutual responsibility and community self-reliance. There may be other cultural practices that you do not believe in, but it is best to not make that visible to the people around you as you don’t want to offend their pride.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Mombasa is considered as being the tourism capital of Kenya as there are numerous sites to see and places to visit where you can experience the beauty and culture of the city. Below is a list of the top ten places to visit:
- Diani Beach: It is a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast that is 30 kilometres south of Mombasa. The beach is relatively famous and has been voted Africa's leading beach destination for the fifth time running since 2015. It is a great place to spend a vacation as there are beautiful beaches with white sand and clear blue shallow waters. There is an amazing sunset which makes the beach perfect for an evening stroll. There is also a safari and a restaurant selling coastal food and traditional dancers for entertainment.
- Haller Park: It is a nature park that was transformed from a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. There is a range of wildlife, plant and bird species in this natural well-conserved environment. The park serves as a great recreational place for adults and kids alike; there are numerous animals to see. There is a crocodile show at noon, which involves them being fed. The best time to visit the park if you want to see the animals is after 3 pm.
- Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests: Kaya is a sacred forest of the Mijikenda people in the former Coast Province of Kenya. The kaya forest is considered to be an intrinsic source of ritual power and the origin of cultural identity; it is also a place of prayer for members of the particular ethnic group. The settlement, ritual centre, and fortified enclosure associated with the forest are also part of the kaya. In the present day, the kaya is also referred to as a traditional organisational unit of the Mijikenda. Eleven of the approximately 30 separate kaya have been grouped as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Pembe Za Ndovu: It is home to giant aluminium tusks that tower over the busiest street in town, which serve to remind people of the wildlife heritage of the city. The place is attractive, and there is a great breeze coming from Uhuru Park. The best time to visit the tusks is in the evening as there will be fewer people. The spot is great for taking selfies, although this might be hard, especially if you go when it is crowded.
- Bombolulu Coast Workshop and Cultural Centre: It is a place that features friendly and talented artisans creating magical furniture and art that is managed by the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya. The centre features four sheltered workshops, a restaurant and a cultural centre with eight traditional homesteads which serve to showcase the diverse Kenyan culture, from traditional dances to unique displays of jewellery, textiles, wood carvings and crafts. It is an amazing place to learn about coastal cultures and witness amazing artwork.
- Shree Parshva Vallabh Jain Temple: It was one of the first Jain temples built outside India and the first in Africa. The temple is a common place for Hindu's to worship. It is located in a quiet area in town and is an excellent and spiritual place that is great for meditation. As is expected, the architecture is glorious.
- Mombasa Memorial Cathedral: It was the first Anglican Church to be built in Mombasa and is an impressive building white building. The area in which it is located is easily accessible, and it would be great to combine a visit of the cathedral with Fort Jesus. Entry is free of charge, and people are welcome to join services on Sunday, which are from 9 to 11 am. There is a secure parking area with adequate parking space.
- Baluchi Mosque: It is a peaceful place that is open for prayers to the Muslim community. The mosque is vast and has beautiful architecture, and the surrounding areas are also quiet. There is a Quran reading by the Imam and space for women to conduct prayers privately. It is in a convenient location which makes it accessible for all five times of prayer.
- Ngomongo Villages: There are a replica of traditional homes of different Kenyan tribes where people get to know how Kenyan tribes lived and interacted before the invasion of Western culture. The historical site is a former quarry that was remodelled, and there is a small entry fee. There is a small open-air museum presenting the main Kenyan tribes, with hands-on activities and a dance performance. There is a tour guide who provides detailed information.
- The Nyali Bridge: It is a concrete girder bridge connecting the city of Mombasa to the mainland of Kenya and is one of three road links out of Mombasa. There is a ferry that provides a transport link to the island. Traffic moves smoothly on the bridge, and there is a great view of the sea on both sides. There is also a cool breeze from the ocean, especially in the afternoon.
Mombasa is the tourism capital of Kenya with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming through the city per year. There are numerous places to visit across the city. The city is home to many beaches, national parks, amusement parks and temples, which are exciting to explore, whether you are a religious person or not. There are also countless historical and cultural sites to see to ensure that you have the best possible memories from the city. The choice to visit Mombasa is, without a doubt, a great one, and it will be worth your time and every cent spent. Keep reading to be able to find out more about this fantastic tourist destination.
- Uhuru Garden: It is a vast park that is near the Mombasa CBD, with a serene environment with benches and shades where people can relax. The park is well kept with beautiful greenery where you can rest and unwind enjoying the cool breeze amid the scorching coastal sun. There are bats sleeping under one of the big trees in the middle of the park. There is a great view of the famous elephant tusks landmark from the park.
- Butterfly Pavillion: It is a beautiful park that is popular with nature lovers for its scenic views, refreshing sites, monkeys and really beautiful species of butterflies. The park is a great place to go biking or jogging or a nature walk. There is a lovely picnic area that is also good for weddings and other events. The park has working out spaces for health and lifestyles enthusiasts, including a bike hire place where you can hire a bike for either exercise purposes or to explore the park.
- Haller Park: It is a nature park that was transformed from a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. There is a range of wildlife, plant and bird species in this natural well-conserved environment. The park serves as a great recreational place for adults and kids alike; there are numerous animals to see. There is a crocodile show at noon, which involves them being fed. The best time to visit the park if you want to see the animals is after 3 pm. Also, it is possible to feed some of the animals if you arrive at feeding time.
- Nguuni Nature Sanctuary: It is a quiet open-air park with giraffes and ostriches. There are several picnic spots where you can carry your snacks and dine with the giraffes. The environment is great for nature walks with beautiful greenery. It is a great place for families to gather and explore as there are even places to have barbeques.
- Nyali beach: It is a clean white sand beach that is popular for swimming and picnics. The beach has a wonderful view of the ocean and is not too crowded. There are several places where you purchase drinks, food and snacks. There are several lifeguards on standby. The beach is easily accessible by public or private means. The atmosphere is cool and relaxed, making it a frequent location for those who practice yoga.
- Diani Beach: It is a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast that is 30 kilometres south of Mombasa. The beach is relatively famous and has been voted Africa's leading beach destination for the fifth time running since 2015. It is a great place to spend a vacation as there are beautiful beaches with white sand and clear blue shallow waters. There is an amazing sunset which makes the beach perfect for an evening stroll. There is also a safari which is a definite must-do, as well as a restaurant selling coastal food and traditional dancers for entertainment.
- Pembe Za Ndovu: It is home to giant aluminium tusks that tower over the busiest street in town, which serve to remind people of the wildlife heritage of the city. The place is attractive, and there is a great breeze coming from Uhuru Park. The best time to visit the tusks is in the evening as there will be fewer people. The spot is great for taking selfies, although this might prove to be a mammoth task, especially if you go when it is crowded.
- Mombasa Memorial Cathedral was the first Anglican Church to be built in Mombasa and is an impressive building white building. The area in which it is located is easily accessible, and it would be great to combine a visit of the cathedral with Fort Jesus. Entry is free of charge, and people are welcome to join services on Sunday, which are from 9 to 11 am. There is a secure parking area with adequate parking space.
- Swahili Cultural Centre: It is dedicated to preserving Swahili culture and history and is a great place to place to learn Swahili culture and heritage. The other aim of the centre is to train young men and women from Mombasa and Lamu Old Towns in traditional Swahili crafts; visitors can also join these classes and learn how to make Swahili crafts and art.
- The National Museums of Kenya - Rabai Museum is a museum located in the first Christian church building constructed in Kenya, in 1846. The museum is a great place to learn about the history of education and Christianity in East Africa. There are tour guides who offer a detailed tour as well as a small gift shop where you can get souvenirs.
There are several traditional foods in the city. Kenyan food is unique and is worth trying in all its splendour. Trying various local dishes is one of the best things about being a tourist as you get to experience multiple dishes that you probably could never come across anywhere else. Several restaurants and street vendors sell different dishes that you could try, whether it is out of curiosity or so that you can have a story to tell later.
Traditional Local Restaurants
One of the best things about travelling across the world is trying the various local cuisines available in that area. In most cases, traditional restaurants are the best place to experience local foods' taste, and maybe even a bit of the culture behind said dishes. There are numerous conventional restaurants around the city which serve amazing Kenyan cuisine. Below is a list of the most popular Kenyan restaurants in the city.
- Forodhani Restaurant: It is a beautiful seaside restaurant with a beautiful view of the ocean. They have great service and serve a wide variety of amazing local dishes and cool refreshing drinks. The service can get a bit slow at peak hours, but it is worth the wait. The prices are rather affordable. They have dine-in, takeaway and delivery options.
- Tarboush Restaurant: It is a famous restaurant that offers huge servings of great food at affordable prices. The restaurant-style is a combination of Arabic/Swahili cuisine with most of their dishes mainly made up of coastal dishes. They have generous portions, fast service and freshly squeezed juice. The prices are quite high, but worth it.
- Rozina's Restaurant Superb: It is a simple family-style restaurant that is clean and offers great service and delicious food. Their most popular dish is the chicken poussin. The food is costly, but the atmosphere is nice.
Vegetarian and Vegan
- Bollywood Bites: It is an Indian vegetarian restaurant inside the cinema that also serves Indo Chinese and South Indian specialities like dosa, some of which are vegan and others that could be made vegan upon request
- Namaskar Restaurant: It is a simple restaurant that serves authentic and tasty vegetarian dishes at reasonable prices. The food is fresh and served in generous portions. There is a great western atmosphere and great service. There is light music for entertainment.
Street food is found in several places across the city and is something that you must try. There are both street-side vendors and restaurants that specialise in street food. Some of the well-known restaurants are:
- 10 Street
- Urban Street Food
- Dockside Restaurant
Mombasa has very high temperatures, and as such, there is an increased need to stay hydrated. The high temperatures dictate the beverage of choice as people prefer to drink something that would cool them down. There are numerous cold non-alcoholic drinks, excluding water, to choose from in Mombasa. In its various types and flavours, tea is loved by most people, and in most cases, they drink it even on a hot day. Other choice beverages include soft drinks, lemonade, milkshake, vegan shakes, and even iced tea or coffee. On the colder days, especially during winter, the beverages of choice are usually hot with things like tea, coffee, and warm milk being the most sought after drinks.
Alcohol consumption is high in Mombasa as alcohol is a source of entertainment or a way of cooling down after a long and hard day at work. There are several bars and pubs where people can go for a relaxing drink and hang out with friends, while some people prefer to drink in the comfort of their own home. The local brew of alcohol is known as Sake and is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the city. Several other alcoholic drinks are enjoyed by people depending on their taste in liquor. These include wine, gin, vodka, and cocktails, to name a few.
The tap water in Mombasa is considered not to be drinkable. In most cases, the locals are used to it and can drink it, but for foreigners, it is best to stick to purified water which can either be bought or found at hotels. The average price of bottled water in the city is $0.49 for 1.5-litre.
Organic foods are foods that are grown without artificial nutrients, pesticides, or other chemicals. Eating organic has become a widespread trend where people are very selective about what they put in their bodies. Several organic cafes attract patrons of all ages who are careful about nutrition. There are many cafes in the city that cater specifically to this group of people. Below is a list of some of the organic cafes that one could try in the city
- Café Mocha
- Everest Cafe
The local beer brewing industry in Mombasa is growing, and the beer is common across the city. Some of these breweries make traditional beer while others make simple local brews. The most popular is the East African Brewery.
Numerous activities can be done as you explore Mombasa. The city is one of the most visited in Kenya by both local and international tourists alike. The activities are designed to ensure that no one is left out, and people of different interests can still enjoy and have a great time. Some of the most popular activities include museum tours, hikes, bike riding, game drives, visits to the many religious sites, and beautiful gardens, to name a few. Some of the activities are in the city centre while others are just on the outskirts. It is essential to carefully plan your itinerary to ensure that you get the best out of what the city has to offer.
Yoga and Retreats
Yoga is traditionally a Hindu discipline that focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines. It has become quite popular across the globe, including Mombasa, with the most visited yoga retreat in the city being the House of Yoga Mombasa.
There are numerous accommodation options across Mombasa. The type of accommodation that you end up in depends on your budget, taste, and sense of adventure. This section will look into some of the accommodation options that are available for tourists to select from
There are several eco-friendly hotels in the city which aim for the sustainability of the environment. These hotels tend to offer safe, non-toxic, and energy-efficient accommodation. Other characteristics include the use of renewable energy, organic soaps, energy-efficient light fixtures, and recycling programs. A few of the most popular ones are:
- Leopard beach and resort spa
- Voyager beach resort
- Hotel English port and spa
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Mali Guest House is a simple guesthouse in a secure and friendly neighbourhood. The rooms are comfortable and clean, and the environment is relaxing. The price is quite reasonable.
- Leinmach House is a luxurious, and enjoyable environment that allows guests to feel at home. There are many comfortable rooms and a sparkling outdoor pool as well as 24 hours room service.
For those who plan on staying in Mombasa for a long time, staying in hotels might prove to be a bit too expensive. Several flats are hired out for a minimum of one month, and these are more budget-friendly as they reduce costs on several levels. For one, apartments allow for self-catering, which means that you get to save as compared to having to buy all meals at hotels. Also, if you stay as a group of friends or family, you can share the cost, unlike hotels that charge per head
Couch surfing refers to staying with a host family that rents out a part of their house to tourists. This is a trend that is gaining popularity in Mombasa. There are several websites where people who are willing can put their homes on offer, and tourists can book the one they find most interesting or convenient. One such website is simply called couch surfing.
There are numerous campsites across Mombasa for those tourists who want to rough it, by living outside during their vacation. Camping offers a sense of adventure as it allows people to get the full outdoor experience and can be quite affordable. Camping provides a great experience, including the fresh night air as well as the magnificent night skies. Below are some of the more popular campsites in Mombasa:
- Nguuni Nature Sanctuary
- Mamba Village Centre
- Diani Campsite and Cottages
How to Get There
Several modes of transport can be used to travel to Mombasa, with the most convenient for you being dictated by where you are coming from, be it a local or international area. People from surrounding cities usually travel to the city by bus or train. While those coming from further away commonly use aeroplanes.
The Mombasa International Airport is the only airport in the city, and it serves both local and international flights. There is a high number of direct flights from Europe to the city. There are several taxis as well as an airport shuttle that you can take from the airport to your accommodation.
The major provider of intercity bus transportation in Mombasa is Matatu, which has a fleet of mostly fourteen-seater minibuses. Matatu is quite popular with the residents as the buses stick to the time table and are comfortable and affordable. Bus tickets are purchased in advance at one of the bus company offices.
The only inter-city train route in Mombasa is from Nairobi, and there are two departures per day in each direction. The train ride takes about 6 hours. Tickets are bought in advance at the train station.
Hitchhiking across Kenya is not easy, if you stand by the road and stick out your thumb, you could be waiting a long time, and you could attract the police who could give you a safety lecture. Government and NGO vehicles, as well as trucks, are strictly forbidden to take passengers, although I have found that rule a bit relaxed in the far north of Kenya. Tuk-tuks tend to carry people, sometimes even for free.
Boats are a common mode of transport used to get to Mombasa. You can either use private boats, cruise ship or a ferry. Two sailing clubs are open to non-members where you can get private boats. If you are arriving overland from the south, you need to cross the river by taking the Likoni Ferry. Lastly, several cruise ship companies travel to Mombasa; including Oceania Cruises and Silversea Cruises
Mombasa is a rather large city with many things to do and places to explore. Moving around the city can be a bit complicated as the public transport system of the city is not efficient. In most cases, hiring a taxi or a rental car is the best way to move around. Below are several other ways you can move around the city.
Most of the tourist attractions in the city are far apart, so walking around as your tour is not feasible. However, there are some places where one can take a relaxing walk and enjoy the fresh air that is in most parts of the city.
Bicycles are a common mode of transport in some areas, especially areas with trails to explore. Bikes are available for hire in several areas for an affordable price.
There are no electronic vehicles in the city.
Buses are not a major mode of transportation within the city.
Tram, Train and Subway
There are no trains that travel within the city.
There are many shopping centres in the city whereby tourists and locals alike can go for shopping. It is more sustainable to shop in local shops as well as to ensure that you do not only stick to one shop but try to spread the wealth by visiting different shops.
There are several markets across the city that are dedicated to selling fresh food. They sell both local and international food, processed or unprocessed. Some of these markets include
- Majengo Fresh Chicken Mombasa
- Mwembe Tayari Market
- Atiq Mini Market
There are several flea markets across the city that offer both an exciting shopping experience and a chance to mingle with the locals. Most of them sell various things, especially souvenirs at reasonable prices. However, they tend to double the price when selling to tourists. Some of these flea markets are
- Kongowea Market
- No Maneno Bazaar
- Fort Jesus
Second Hand Stores
The trend of second-hand stores has caught the world by storm; numerous stores have opened where people can buy things they wouldn't usually afford for less than half the price. The most common ones in Mombasa are:
- Used Electronic Appliances
- F. M Second Hand Goods & Rehani
- Prestige Shop Second Hands Goods
There are no actual eco-friendly fashion labels in the city.
The recycling industry of Mombasa is relatively new and focuses mainly on recycling of plastics. Trash can be collected at once and is then separated at dumpsites, and the stuff to be recycled is sent to various recycling plants across the city.
The city had a poor waste management system, until recently when they decommissioned one of the oldest dumpsites and introduced several garbage collection trucks that move around either every three days or weekly, depending on the area collecting waste.
Work and Study Abroad
There are several job opportunities for foreigners in Mombasa. In as much as the city employs locals first, there are opportunities for foreigners. The city also has many universities in the city, which are open to enrolment for international students. The city is comfortable and inexpensive to live in.
Aga Khan Academy Mombasa is the most popular exchange student program in the city that mainly partners with schools in Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East.
An au pair is a young foreign person who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and pocket money. The concept of Au pairs is not popular in Mombasa, although there are a few vacancies. Several agencies and websites connect potential Au pairs with families that need them. One of these websites is "great au pair."
There are several voluntary organisations across Mombasa that are always open for volunteers. Some of the most popular volunteer organisations include the Humanitarian Project in Mombasa, which is dedicated to bettering the lives of impoverished children, their families and communities. You can look up other volunteer opportunities in the city.