We list some favourite budget spots whose rates are often appealing throughout the year, yet they never compromise on style and comfort. From quiet places in Karen to the beach.
Photography: Peter Ndung’u, Brian Siambi, Traveldote, Respective Properties
LAMU HOUSE, OLD TOWN
This is a collection of properties in Lamu Old Town. The hotel is located in the sea front and has ten individually designed rooms, several swimming pools, courtyards, terraces and more. The apartment building is minutes away and boasts nine apartments with magnificent views. An excellent chef completes this voyage of the senses with a variety of gastronomic delights from local dishes combined with the best international cuisine. They have a special offer running till July at $100 per standard room and Ksh $150 per superior room.
MARIDHIYA HOUSE, OLD TOWN
Step back in time at Maridhiya House, an outstanding example of a traditional 18th Century Lamu townhouse which has been restored, rebuilt and extended. Set in a quiet, unspoilt area of the old town, a short walk from the seafront, Maridhiya has been renovated with care and skill to create a beautiful, comfortable home. The house comes complete with the services of our helpful staff who will be pleased to collect you from the airport and shop, cook and guide you around town and island. The house can host five guests and costs $99 for the entire apartment.
MSAFINI HOTEL & MANGO TOPROOF, SHELA
A two-minute walk from the beach, this limestone, five-story structure combines modern architecture and traditional Swahili design. Family-owned and run, they have been in Lamu for centuries and are happy to share their traditions and culture with guests. The hotel has a private pool as well as fourteen spacious and well-ventilated en-suite rooms, each with a private balcony. Accommodations vary in size and style, with options for twin, double and triple rooms. Rates from Ksh 6,000.
PALM SHADE RESORT
This is without a doubt the nicest place to camp in town, but the wind gets gusty so tents need to be well pegged. Campers can make use of a shaded, grassy area in which to pitch their tents, clean and decent ablutions and covered huts for preparing food and cooking. Food is also prepared on request and served up in the camping grounds. Basic rooms are available here. Trips on the lake and to Mt Kulal can be arranged. Ksh 500 per person camping; Ksh 1,000 for a rondavel.
ELIYE SPRINGS RESORT
Set on the western side of Lake Turkana along pristine sandy beaches and shaded by palm trees, you would be forgiven for thinking that you’re on the Kenyan coast. It has different types of accommodation ranging from luxury Bomas and selfcontained rooms to a campsite with manyattas and star-tents. There is also camping space in the sand dunes. The Resort runs a restaurant with a popular fully stocked bar. Enjoy the natural spring-water spa or hire a boat to visit Central Island or go fishing. The bomas go for Ksh 10,000 but there is room for as little as $Ksh 1,000.
KENYA MUSEUM BANDAS & ALIA BAY GUESTHOUSE
In a rugged spot deep inside the park, the Koobi Fora museum offers very basic accommodation overlooking the lake on a self-catering basis. There is a dining area and kitchen. Camping, with access to the facilities, is also available. Rooms cost ksh 1,000 per person, camping Ksh 300. Near the main gate is Alia Bay Guesthouse, the KWS-run cottage, sleeping five. Guests must bring their own water. Ksh 5,000 for the whole house. To book Koobi Fora, go to www.museums.or.ke
For the guest house, visit www.kws.go.ke or call its reservations’ team on 0726 610 533
NANYUKI & OUTSKIRTS
OLEPANGI FARM, TIMAU
It has five cottages including the impressive Round House with a bedroom on its upper floor and an outdoor bathtub. The farm does all of its own water harvesting and rooms are solar powered. Each morning, step out onto the wooden floorboards on the front porch of your cottage to take in the sheer beauty of the Lolldaigas. Food is organically grown in their own garden. The decor was curated over the years by the owners on their travels, and a favourite spot is the grass thatched Party House where bohemian maximalism is at play. Horse riding is available. Resident rates from Ksh 13,500 on full board.
COLOBUS COTTAGES, NANYUKI
On the banks of the Burguret River, these rustic cottages overlook woodlands filled with birdlife. They have two and three bedrooms, their own kitchen and deck, and are fully furnished complete with bed linen, towels and eco-charcoal. The cottages are equipped for self-catering or – with prior arrangement – meals can be served. Fun things to do here include fishing for rainbow trout and bird watching. Rates: 3,500 Ksh per person self catering, Plus 900 Ksh for a full English breakfast, and 1,500 for a two course dinner.
SOAMES HOTEL AND JACK’S BAR
Set within a 100 acre private property with sunrise views of Mount Kenya, this hotel was named after Jack Soames, a European settler who came to Kenya in 1920 and made this farm his home. It has a classic contemporary style with a clean cut modern look and is simply and tastefully furnished. It has 12 double en-suite rooms in 6 cottages set within a garden. Each room has a double or twin bed configuration, flat screen TV, modern bathroom facilities and a dressing room/ work space. Rates from Ksh 13,600 on booking.com.
ALAWI BOUTIQUE HOTEL
The hotel’s name (Alawi means ‘heavenly’ in ancient Arabic) draws from the legend of a rich and famous 18th century merchant, Sheikh Alawi, who on his innumerable business trips between the Gulf of Aden and the coasts of Kenya, fell in love and married a beautiful local girl. From the marriage four sons were born, and the rooms of this hotel are named after them. The Lamu-style property offers a selection of four comfortable double rooms and one single room, three of which offer panoramic views of the beautiful coral beach of Watamu. Rates from Ksh 10,500 in the low season.
MIDA ECO CAMP
This eco-friendly community camp offers three traditional huts and two campsites. On the rustic platform-restaurant, visitors can look out over the Arabuko Sokoke Forest and mangroves and watch a multitude of birds ducking and diving, while the friendly staff cook Giriama food over a fire for them. This community project was built from private donations and all profit goes to projects in Mida Creek including health, education and agriculture. Ask the staff to take you to their secret spot on Kirepwe Island and grill seafood for you as you wallow in the warm water. Rates: From 900 Ksh for a single room B&B.
VILLA ISLA DEL AMORE
This two-bedroom makuti-thatched villa is located just 10 minutes from the beach and features a terrace, garden and outdoor pool. The property is housed in a modern building dating back to 2012 and offers Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, and in the kitchen, microwave, fridge, toaster and coffee machine. A car-rental service is available as are staff to assist with cleaning, to act as a guides etc. An experienced chef versed in making Swahili food and international cuisine can also be hired as needed. Perfect for families, rates start from $112 per night.
Available for booking on Airbnb
THE MAJI BEACH BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Imagine a beach hotel without the shriek of young children. If that sounds like music to your ears, the Maji might just be the place for you. With a strict ‘no under 12s’ policy, and the freedom to take your meals when and where you want them, this is a place that might particularly appeal to those seeking a romantic escape, or stressed parents looking for a real escape. The hotel’s 15 rooms are spread over a converted villa, surrounded by a moat-like pool. The economy room goes for Ksh 8,210 pp but superior garden-view rooms start from Ksh 16,685 pp full-board.
FLAMBOYANT, DIANI BEACH
Although technically beachfront, Flamboyant looks out onto a pool and landscaped gardens giving it an air of elegance and peace that is absent from many other places on the coast. Considerable thought has gone into the fabric and furnishings, particularly in the common areas. The restaurant serves up good food, including eggs Benedict for breakfast, and the hotel is much more reasonably priced than many comparable small properties. Resident rates start from Ksh 11,000 for a double room, B&B.
KENYAWAYS KITESURF BEACH HOTEL
Further down the coast at Galu is this rustic little 10-bedroom hotel (five bedrooms with sea views), catering to a more chilled, barefoot kind of crowd. With the excellent Lymingtons bistro on site, guests don’t have to travel for good food. Bedrooms are pretty simple but nicely done and there’s a good watersports outlet on site offering kite surfing and other activities. Galu, a large sweep of beach, is quieter than Diani. Rooms are very reasonably priced, even those with a sea view. Rates start from $43 pp sharing a double, B&B.
THE BRANDY BUS
Established within a shared compound in the heart of Karen, the bus is close enough to Nairobi for a quick spontaneous getaway, but far enough for some much needed fresh air and an escape from city life. It can technically sleep six. There are two queen-sized beds upstairs separated by a curtain, and two sofa beds downstairs in the common area. Although it is a compact space, the host has managed to fit everything you need into the bus. Its charm comes from its global inspirations, from woven baskets originating in West Africa to Mexican tiles.
Available for booking on Airbnb
ANGA AFRIKA LUXURY TENTED CAMP
This family-run camp has six tents and is set in the expansive backyard of their lovely home in Karen. Each tent can host up to three guests and is a great base for people either heading on safari or residents looking for a weekend escape away from all the Nairobi hustle without having to drive to Naivasha or the Aberdares. The ambiance created here is the same- lush greenery, tranquillity and an abundance of birds. The nights are also just as cold, but the tents are thankfully outfitted with electric heaters and hot water bottles. Rates from Ksh 10,000.
THE RIVER HOUSE
A world away from conventional design, the River House – conceived and designed by owner Jonny Dwek – is made up of eclectic design, tiny nooks and crannies that conceal stairways, ladders, bathrooms, you name it. As Jonny says, “It’s the opposite of architecture.” This treehouse-style home was made with his kids in mind, to give them the kind of childhood he dreamed about, and it may well bring out the child in you too. Three doubles, plus a deck-style room for a child. The house is generally available only when the owners are away.
$129 per night on AirBnB
This is one of only two lodges in the Mara Triangle and guests can therefore enjoy a slightly more exclusive feel to the game-drive experience. On first inspection, Serena’s pod-like structure seems a little otherworldly and the inspiration is a Maasai manyatta, but it is magnificently appointed to overlook the plains below with a terrific viewing deck. The 70-plus rooms are designed to catch the best of the views, too. Rates: Ksh11,000 pp sharing for full-board. They don’t offer a game drive package unless you book flights too, so game drives are charged at Ksh 4,500 per person per drive.
This is a classy riverside camp near Talek gate with tents set a decent distance from each other to ensure utmost privacy. Each room is aptly furnished with four-poster beds, free-standing bathtubs and open showers. Each tent also comes with its own private plunge pool perfect for dipping in during hot days, particularly appealing if it gets too warm in the tents during the dry season. Rates start from Ksh 14,000 per person sharing on a full-board basis excluding drinks. Game package costs Ksh 19,000 per person. Children under five go free.
A combination of luxury and adventure, in the low season, this is a quiet and enjoyable place to spend a couple of days. It has small but comfortable safari tents accessed via a rope bridge. Each tent has a wooden floor and en-suite bathroom complete with a full-length bathtub, and they are said to be the first tents with bathtubs to be installed in Kenya. Best of all is the camp fire ambience in the evening. Rates: Full board starts at Ksh 7,500 per person sharing. There is no game drive package, as most guests drive in, but a guide can be arranged.
AMBOSELI & TSAVO
SATAO, TSAVO EAST
This is a charming camp, furnished in classic safari style with an inviting downtime area with daybeds and loungers. Much of the game comes to you, with the boundaries between park and camp pretty fluid. Vulturine guinea fowl, semi-tame impala and other creatures wander in and around the 20-plus tents. On any given day (particularly in the dry season), you are likely to find hundreds – yes, hundreds – of elephants outside your tent, with every room facing the watering hole. Full board accommodation starts from Ksh 5,500 pp sharing, and Ksh 9,500 pp sharing for the game-drive package.
AMBOSELI BUSH CAMP
This is a secluded self-catered safari camp that can comfortably host 10 guests. This accommodation boasts extensive views of Mount Kilimanjaro and is only a few kilometres away from Amboseli National Park. Each tent has a large and comfortable bed and faces towards the majestic Mt Kilimanjaro. Whether you want a tasty BBQ or delicious pizzas, this bush camp is true safari luxury at the fraction of the price. Price: You can enjoy exclusive use of the property from only $95 per night.
Book via AirBnB
LION’S BLUFF, LUMO CONSERVANCY
Perched on a hill – or bluff – with 360-degree views towards Tsavo West and the community-run Lumo conservancy, this is a camp with a truly incredible perspective. Accommodation is in 12 solar powered tents or two cottages overlooking the plains, all furnished in a rustic but colourful and cosy style. The lodge offers bush breakfasts, sundowners out in the bush, archery for kids, night game drives and nature walks. There’s also disabled access to one of the tents (as well as elsewhere in the lodge. FB rates start from Ksh 7,500 pp, sharing. Game drives are charged at Ksh 2,000 pp.
NYERI & ENVIRONS
SANDAI HOMESTAY AND COTTAGES
Forty minutes from Nyeri, guests are welcomed into Petra’s eclectic home and have the choice of the four original rooms, self-catering cottages, rondavels or a bigger house for families and friends. African prints and colourful quilts reign supreme here, giving every room a homely feel. The bigger house on the edge of the homestead sleeps up to 8 and has gorgeous views of Mt Kenya. Activities include horse riding into the neighbouring Sangare ranch where plains game roam. Rooms start at approximately Ksh 6,000 to Ksh 14,000 for the cottages.
This old colonial hotel built in the 1920s is a place for those looking more for nostalgia and fine gardens than mod-cons. Indeed, it feels like little has changed in the last 50 plus years, with dark wooden panelling very much a feature of this Nyeri mainstay. The sitting room is less than cosy but the standard doubles with wooden floors looking out onto well-manicured lawns are hard to beat. Even if you’re not staying, consider dropping in for an outdoor buffet lunch in congenial and peaceful surroundings. B&B starts from Ksh 10,600 per room.
ABERDARE COUNTRY CLUB
Probably the plushest place to stay in the locale is the Aberdare Country Club, a sprawling property comprising cottages, health spa, pool and its own nature conservancy. Drop-ins are required to pay a Ksh 500 day fee just to visit. Once at the hotel, you’ll find yourself in something of a haven, with the main dining area overlooking large, hillside gardens where peacocks roam. Activities include horse-riding, nature walks, golf, and tennis. A visit to the Ark is booked through the club. Prices are usually higher but in the low season, a single room starts at Ksh 15,000, thereabout.
KISUMU & ENVIRONS
ACACIA PREMIER HOTEL
With its outdoor terrace pool bar and restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, tastefully-furnished rooms with all mod-cons and impeccable service, it sets a high bar for business hotels in this city. The hotel’s attention to service is one of its high points. Guests are welcomed with warm towels and cold drinks, and staff go out of their way to be friendly and courteous. The chefs put considerable thought and effort into producing food that actually whets your appetite. Various types of rooms available, rates from Ksh 15,000.
SOVEREIGN HOTEL, KISUMU
This five-star gated hotel is very private and set apart in the high-end Milimani neighbourhood. Rooms are contemporary and well decorated. A king-size bed, two closets, safe, two-seater couch with table, mini bar, flat-screen TV and study desk in case you want to do some work incorporate the furniture in every room. The beautiful paintings and photographs add colour to the rooms, bringing them to life. The lounge bar is well designed and photographs of music icons bring about nostalgic memories of the music of the past centuries. Rates from Ksh 14,000.
KWEISOS HOUSE, KORU
About a 90-minute drive east of Kisumu is this simple, rustic homestead, built on a hill with tremendous views over the surrounding countryside. The original house is a Harrods flatpack, shipped from England in 1912. With three rooms – two doubles and a twin – it makes for a cosy family stay. Over the years, the owners have added four more double rooms allowing it to accommodate up to 14 guests. Activities include walking, tennis, horse-riding and trips to nearby dams on the large farm for tilapia fishing. Pool available. Ksh 7,500 pp full-board, Ksh 3,000 pp self-catering. Ksh 2,000 for children under 12.