Mombasa comes to mind first when we think of a Kenyan coastal holiday destination.
It is not a surprise, as there are countless fun things to do in Mombasa.
The calm ocean winds and salty air heals your body and helps you sleep better, which are the benefits of visiting Mombasa.
Besides relaxation, you can do several other exciting things in Mombasa.
The list below explores and offers insight into the main island of Mombasa town only.
There are also surrounding towns that are popular tourist destinations, such as Kilifi, Malindi, and Diani.
1. Skip the cab and take a tuk-tuk ride to your destination
Mombasa is a relatively small city, and getting around is accessible on foot or by vehicle.
However, for a unique experience, use a tuk-tuk to get around.
Despite their small and noisy engine, they are affordable and will get you anywhere in no time.
Tuk-tuks are tiny 3-wheel and three-passenger modified motorcycles that are a standard mode of public transport in Mombasa.
Although famous cab services such as Uber are readily available, try something new in Mombasa.
The residents love the convenience of these rides, and you may use them to go anywhere on the island.
Where to Get a tuk-tuk in Mombasa
You can find these miniature modes of transport either at Mombasa CBD or along the main roads.
Most pick and drop passengers along major roads and streets, but they’ll stop almost anywhere.
For an Extra Fee – They can also drop you at your doorstep.
2. Taste the unique flavors of street food in Mombasa CBD
Every community has different methods of preparing food, and tasting local dishes is a must-do whenever you visit a new place.
You do not have to be a food enthusiast to expand your taste buds and explore different culinary experiences.
Therefore, in Mombasa, the simplest way to get a taste of the unique taste of traditional coastal food is on the streets.
The street vendors cook spicy fresh meals while you watch, guaranteeing freshness.
Additionally, they are affordable, meaning you won’t have to break the bank for this memorable experience.
Types of local delicacies:
- Viazi Karai. These are crunchy spice-coated potato balls that Swahili people boil to cook through, and then deep-fry for the crunchiness. For the best experience, eat them when they are hot with tamarind sauce.
- Mitai. As one of the famous street foods, it is a beautiful accompaniment for Chai or coffee in the evening. Mitai is a sweet coconut and flour pastry with a generous dusting of cardamom spice. Although they come in various sizes and shapes, they are equally delicious, depending on the vendor’s creativity.
- Cassava crisps. We all love potato crisps but have you tasted fresh cassava crisps? Locally known as Mhogo, this locally fried snack gets a generous sprinkle of lime, salt, and chili flakes for an extra kick.
- Madafu. Madafu is coconut water from the unripe coconut plant. The green-looking fruit is sold along the streets and is a refreshing drink, especially in the sweltering Mombasa heat. Besides quenching your thirst, it is rich in healthy nutrients and natural electrolytes. Store it in the refrigerator before drinking for a crispy and cool taste.
3. Take a dawn tour of Fort Jesus and the Old Town
You have only had a complete tour of Mombasa once you visit Fort Jesus and walk along the Old Town buildings.
Fort Jesus was built in the mid to late 1500s by the Portuguese to guard themselves and the port of Mombasa from invasion.
Today, it forms part of Kenya’s colonial history and is under preservation by the Kenya National Park.
It is now a museum where visitors can tour and learn about the fort’s rich history and surrounding ruins.
Occasionally – The venue hosts cultural and art shows by upcoming artists for tourists and visitors.
How to get there
Fort Jesus museum is easily accessible by as it is a 5-10 minute walk from the center of Mombasa’s central business district.
It is open every day from 8 am to 5:30 pm.
Entry fees for non residents adults is $10 .
4. Pose for quirky photos at the Mombasa Tusks monument
A visit to Mombasa CBD also includes a brief photography session at the enormous white tusks which mark the entrance to Mombasa town.
As one of the iconic monuments in the city, these tusks represent Queen Elizabeth 11’s visit to the town in 1952.
The two massive arches are a stark contrast to their current surroundings, hence not difficult to miss.
In Swahili, they are known as Pembe za Ndovu or elephant tusks, one of the big five animals that attract tourists to Kenya.
Taking photos beside this historical landmark is free so take as many as possible.
However, do not litter, as the area is under the keen eye of the local municipality.
5. Watch ships sail off to the horizon at Mama Ngina Drive
Modern parks are common in cities worldwide, and Mama Ngina Drive Park overlooks the Indian Ocean in Mombasa town.
The waterfront park offers an expansive view of the Kilindini harbor, the natural deep water inlet access for large vessels and ships.
The park has a concrete amphitheater and seating areas where you can picnic with your family or friends.
We recommend you visit at dusk when the ships sail off through the harbor illuminated by massive overhead lights.
The evening ocean breeze is also soothing and makes the perfect hangout spot.
Street vendors are plenty at the park, so grab one or two local snacks if you miss an opportunity in the CBD.
Keep In Mind – Access to the park is free and open 24 hours a day. However, avoid late-night visits to be safe.
6. Explore nature and wildlife at Haller Park
Haller Park is in Bamburi, a 15-minute drive from Mombasa CBD along the Mombasa-Malindi highway.
It is a nature park that a local cement factory rehabilitates as it was initially a limestone quarry left to waste away.
Today, the area is a rich ecosystem of forest trees and wild animals.
Visitors to the park have access to a well-kept animal sanctuary, orphanage, and fish farm.
The gardens also offer beautiful scenery with access to the forest walk area.
In the forest, the indigenous trees provide overhead coverage and shade from the scorching Mombasa sun.
Bird watchers will also get a rare opportunity to spot the various species that call this forest home.
Haller Park is the ideal destination in Mombasa for conservationists and lovers of nature and wildlife.
They are conveniently open every day from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Animals you will find at Haller Park:
- Water birds
7. Shop till you drop at the local souvenirs and fabric markets
All trips must end with a shopping spree.
Otherwise, you will have nothing to remember about the holiday.
Mombasa has plenty of souvenir shops to buy an item for yourself or your family back home.
You can purchase locally crafted wood carvings, unique sisal bags, or clothing in the traditional Kikoi or Khanga fabrics.
Best locations to purchase souvenirs or gift items from local artists:
- Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre
- Akamba Handicrafts
- Local shops in the middle of Mombasa Town
These items are available at a fair price.
To get the best price and quality, engage the services of a local tour guide, as they know all the best shopping spots.
8. Dance the night away at exclusive nightclubs
Partying in Mombasa is an electrifying experience.
The trendy spots play a mix of Kenyan, African, and international music all night long to the delight of revelers.
If you are a party animal or just curious about the entertainment scene, visit one of the exclusive establishments in Mombasa.
Where to explore for great nightlife experience
One of the famous nightclub areas for locals and tourists is Mtwapa, a town 30 minutes from Mombasa.
You can use public transport or take a cab to get to Mtwapa.
Remember to drink responsibly and bring a friend or two for extra security.
9. Get a semi-permanent Henna tattoo
Perfect body art comes from an individual’s imagination and creativity.
Piercings and permanent tattoos are common forms of decorative body art.
However, body art has a cultural significance in the coastal part of Kenya.
In this region, a semi-permanent type of tattooing uses a natural plant extract known as Henna to mark the body.
Besides application on the skin, the dye also decorates cotton and silk fabrics.
In the Swahili Culture – A bride gets henna tattoos on her hands and feet to enhance her beauty during a marriage ceremony.
Therefore, Henna tattoos are common among women during ceremonies and celebrations in Mombasa.
However, you get one done at a small fee, and it will last about four weeks. There are numerous designs to choose, so pick the one you like most.
10. Party on a yacht with friends at Mtwapa Creek
Are you tired of on-land parties?
Then try a yacht party on the ocean with a friend along the Mtwapa Creek.
About 25 km from Mombasa town is the Mtwapa Creek, where private marina owners offer yacht rides to visitors at a fee.
You have unlimited access to the yacht with family or friends for an hourly rate.
Take a ride along the ocean, have a birthday party aboard, or hang out with friends for the mangrove views.
11. Hang out with locals at the public Pirates Beach
Most beaches along the Mombasa coast are only accessible through the beachfront properties, especially hotels.
However, the locals have free access to a public beach called Pirates.
It is a short walk from the Mombasa-Malindi highway in the Bamburi area.
Pirates beach is popular with the residents, and although it tends to get crowded, it is an excellent spot to mingle with locals.
The market outside the beach area also sells affordable items, including swimming tubes for hire.
Therefore, pirates beach is ideal for ocean swimming if you stay at a place without access to the beach.
12. Scream and Splash at Wild Waters
Family fun is the primary purpose of a holiday trip, and Wild Waters Mombasa never disappoints.
Wild Waters is a water adventure park for the entire family in Nyali, a beachfront suburb 10 minutes from Mombasa town.
The park offers a full day of play, food, and fun where you can slide and plunge into the pool from the numerous water slides.
The kid’s pool is a favorite, packed all day, especially during school holidays.
There is also a dry amusement area with bumper cars and air rides.
Good to Know – Once you have had your fill of play, their in-house restaurant offers a wide variety of Indian, Swahili, and continental meals. Their cuisine also caters to vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
They charge an entrance fee per person whether you swim or not. For the best experience, visit early during the day as the place gets crowded.
13. Savor fresh seafood at the Moorings floating restaurant
If you want a unique dining experience, visit the Moorings floating restaurant off the Mombasa-Malindi highway.
You can take a short boat ride while you wait for them to prepare your meal.
Additionally, they allow you to bring your catch for the day, and they will cook it to your liking at a fee.
The ambiance and floating on-water feel at the restaurant are exceptional.
After your meal, sit by the water and enjoy a cold drink while you watch the sunset in the ocean.
However, be cautious if you have young children, as there are no enclosures to protect them from the water.
The Kenyan coast is the ultimate holiday destination, as there are various things to do in Mombasa.
The above list shares some of the best-rated activities you can include in your holiday itinerary.
We recommend you start at Wild Waters, especially if you have kids. Their holiday will kick off on a high note, and they’ll look forward to the coming days.