WELCOME TO THE ULTIMATE
Our next arrangement after deciding where in the world we're exploring next and booking airfare, is always to figure out accommodations. We hit the net (so you don't have to!) to research the best beach in Zanzibar to stay on, and settled on Kendwa Beach, a secluded spot on the Northwestern coast of the island that is not much affected by tides or seaweed, granting calm and clear water all year long. Although there are several 5-star resorts located on this beach, we chose to book the Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa as it was the most affordable option for what you get- a gorgeous retreat, delicious all-inclusive buffets, fun activities and all at a very reasonable rate.
When we first arrived through the enticing resort gates after a harrowing airport experience, we were greeted by a stunning high-ceilinged bamboo lobby, elevated on a hill overlooking the beautiful grounds below. The hotel staff promptly invited us to have a seat and welcomed us with an elegant tray of fresh watermelon juice and traditional Zanzibar cardamom cookies called Nan Khatai.
After we relaxed for a bit at check-in, we were escorted to our room which was equally luxurious, complete with a double king-sized canopy bed fitted with a stylish mosquito net. The sophisticated wooden accents in the room coupled with the earth-toned textured walls, and golden nuances, gave the allusion of an Arabian oasis villa. We appreciated that they accommodated the fact that we had two children with us, and thus provided two separate twin beds for each of our children free of charge. The room was one of the most spacious hotel rooms we've been in with over 755 square feet of living space, and a cute veranda topping a lush garden. The spacious walk-in closet was equipped with robes, slippers, and a beach tote for use during the stay. The bathroom included a large soaking tub, separate shower and wonderful amenities.
Although it was nearing late afternoon, the weather was perfect, so we headed straight for the beach. Kendwa Beach at sunset is absolutely breathtaking. The sand is white, soft as butter and fine. The water warm and turquoise. The resort boasts a private area on the beach with security, and numerous parasols and chairs set up, which ensures that you always have a spot waiting for you. (That's right, folks! At this resort you do not have to wake up at dawn to go reserve your spot for the day with towels-- Looking at you, Thailand!). They also had snacks set up on the beach which was an added plus, as my children complained they were "starving" as usual. Our kids hit the snacks while the adults went for a sunset swim. One of the locals saw our kids struggling with the ravens who came around frequently trying to snatch a bite, and introduced them to the local way of using a sling shot to scare them off. They had a lot of fun with that, which had us liking the friendliness of Zanzibari people already! Although there are local merchants selling souvenirs on the beach, they aren't obnoxious, like some beach destinations in the world. That was much appreciated and it certainly made us much more likely to buy local crafts!
After dark, we got our first peek at the delicious buffets, which are housed in the Kilimanjaro restaurant under a soaring Zanzibar Makuti style roof. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of food available. We also appreciated that most of the meat was halal (met Muslim dietary guidelines) and the staff were quick to let us know which things weren't. The buffet had many traditional Zanzibari curries and dishes to try, a customized homemade pasta station, salads, sushis, carving stations, seafood galore, breads and an entire room full of desserts!
That night we also got another exciting surprise as it was our son's 6th birthday. Towards the end of our dinner, in came a whole line of dancing and singing staff. We thought it was a dinner show and didn't know what was happening at first. They traveled all around the restaurant for a good 15 minutes dancing with a cake in a kind of suspenseful game, tricking patrons into thinking the cake was for them and then snatching it away at the last second, all while singing the delightful Zanzibari song "Hakuna Matata" (not the Lion King version lol). When they finally came to us with the cake and set it in front of our son, he was beyond thrilled! The staff later confided in us that they look in everyone's passports upon check-in, recording birthdays in order to make surprise celebrations. It really made his birthday abroad truly special and for that we are forever grateful.
We opted out of the nighttime activities the resort had planned which included a movie screening on the beach and an all night dance party and decided to sleep early. When we returned to our room, housekeeping had visited and sprayed down the room with mosquito repellent (not sure how I felt about us and the kids breathing that all night-- but at least we didn't get a single mosquito bite on our whole trip!) They had also drawn the mosquito nets and left us another small cake, drinks and fruits in our room. Yum!
The next four days are a relaxing blur of pool and beach, food and drinks, naps and walks and back again! The saltwater pool is extensive with waterfalls and hydro-jets, and many private areas and cabanas. You can order included drinks and snacks all day at the poolside bar, so you know we took advantage. They have an activities desk to organize all your water sports, dhow cruises, and other excursions. As well as lots of included daily activities to keep you and your family entertained. Did we mention there's a world-class spa? What are you waiting for?!
Our last night happened to be Christmas Eve and the Gold set up a fantastic Christmas Eve buffet beachside. It was absolutely spectacular, with every kind of food you could possibly imagine, plus a whole roasted pig and goat Luau style! In addition to the tantalizing displays, they had live entertainment including a fire show, dancers, and a local band singing Christmas carols all night. It was truly a night to remember, and to add to the Christmas magic, our children woke up the next morning to one last surprise from the hotel. They gifted each of them a delightful hand- crafted personalized stuffed animal made by a local artisan.
We truly had a magical time staying with the Gold Zanzibar Beach House and Spa, and we highly recommend you stay there too on your next trip!
Staff Helpfulness: 10/10
Food Quality/ Variety: 7/10
Resort Amenities: 8/10
How we did it?
To book the Gold Zanzibar during its peek, which is the month of December) rates start at $422 per night. We accumulated points using both the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card. These cards allow you to pool your points, since they are both issued by Chase. We transferred all our existing points to our Chase Sapphire Reserve account because it allows you to redeem each point for 1.5 cents in travel credit. The total of this trip cost us 84430 in Ultimate Rewards points, translating to $1,266.46. Worth it? Totally!