A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Diani Kenya: Areas, Prices, Wifi, Vibe, and more

White sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water & warm tropical weather. Diani which used to be a package holiday & retirement destination is now on the Digital Nomad destinations radar. Diani Beach is a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya.

It is located 30 kilometres south of Mombasa (±45 mins by taxi) which is the nearest major airport, in Kwale County. It has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the fifth time running since 2015.

Contents

  1. Area
  2. Safety
  3. Accommodation
  4. Transportation
  5. Daily Expenses
  6. Language
  7. Places to work from & Wifi
  8. Fun and Activities
  9. Conclusion

Area

Diani beach is about 17 kilometres (11 mi) long and consists of three main areas, from the Kongo river to the north, Diani beach in the middle and Galu beach to the south (the southern point of reference is an old Baobab tree).

The native people of the area are the Digo, one of the nine ethnic communities known as the Mijikenda. Currently, the area includes various ethnicities from all over Kenya who have migrated to Diani, drawn by the tourism-related economy.

A small airstrip – Ukunda Airport – is located between the beach area and the Mombasa-Lunga Lunga road and has around 5 regular daily flights to Nairobi as well as charter flights to national parks for safaris.

Diani / Ukunda Airstrip

Thanks the extensive offshore reef, the water remains shallow near shore, with some underwater sandbars near the surface which allow wading with a clear view of the sandy bottom.

Inland from the beach, there is extensive vegetation, including numerous palm trees which cover the coastal areas, unlike the dry acacia trees of the mountainous Kenyan Highlands. The Mwachema River flows into the sea at Diani Beach

View from hills behind Diani looking towards the coast.

The general area is known for its coral reefs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, and the closely located Shimba Hills National Reserve, a wildlife reserve that looks out over the Indian Ocean. Diani Beach has restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, and several shopping centres.

Diani is one of the most prominent tourist resort areas of Kenya and is a very popular for kitesurfing, jet skiing, and snorkelling location. Diani is one of the most prominent tourism resort areas of Kenya.

The 16th-century Kongo Mosque is located at the Northern tip of Diani Beach, where the Kongo river flows into the ocean separating Diani beach from Tiwi. It is the last remaining ancient Swahili structure in Diani.

Safety

Diani is generally considered as very safe there is a low general level of crime and the community is extremely active against bad actors given the area’s dependence on tourism.

That said GDP per capita in Kenya is around $2,006.80 putting it the bottom 20% of countries from a wealth perspective so we would always recommend applying normal precautions. Leave the rolex at home and take a tuktuk or BodaBoda bike after dark especially if you’ve had a few drinks.

Accommodation

The accommodation options range from guesthouses, hotels, hostels, and private houses.

The town becomes nearly fully booked during the high tourism season. The high season is usually during the African summer months, December and January as well as the European summy July and August. Most of the private houses and many of the hotels have fast enough WiFi to do work.

Transportation

In general flights to Nairobi from Diani are around $80-$100 each way. Flights from Europe to Nairobi vary from around $500 to $1,000 depending on the carrier and how far in advance you bo0k. The fixed price for a matatu (local bus) from the Mombasa ferry to Diani is 150ksh ($1.00). As a rule of thumb, you should always negotiate to get better deals on Diani beach.

Car/Motorbike rental

Driving standards in Kenya are relatively low and the main roads between Nairobi and Mombasa and Mombasa and Diani should generally be avoided unless you are in a car. There are no major car rental companies in Diani and it is common in Kenya to rent a car with a driver.

When we rented these bikes we had to take them to get new lights, adjust chain, sproket and wing mirrors. The rental company didn’t have any US/EU standard helmets either.

There are two or three motorbike/scooter rental shops however, be extremely careful when hiring bikes as they are generally poorly maintained.  Always extensively check brakes, lights, chain tension, rear sprocket and indicators. I would also recommend a short test ride before agreeing to hire.

For our residents at Skippers we’re going to have bikes available to hire and use depending on the rates you’re paying.

A Tekken 250 rental bike from Skippers

They come with DOT standard helmets, gloves and other protective gear depending on your plans. Above is our first bike which is a lightweight 250 dual-sport which is perfect for getting around in the backcountry without too much work.

Taxi

There are a number of independent taxi drivers in Diani usually they have fairly modern cars and are great for getting to the airport or if you want to a local guide for a day.

Tuktuks

The cheapest and most popular option for tourists. Generally worth haggling on prices and you shouldn’t really be looking to spend more than 150ksh ($1) to go most places.

Motorbike taxi (Bodaboda)

Cheaper than normal Taxis but more expensive than tuk-tuks. Helmets are generally no provided and we generally avoid them they are the best way to get around when you start heading off paved roads.

Daily Expenses

To get the best value for money deals in Diani, You will need to bargain very often. Here I list some of the common daily expenses.

Food

There is a good selection of places to eatout from good value through to relatively high-quality restaurants. A meal from a local village restaurant starts at around $1.50 while a meal in a touristy restaurant or a hotel restaurant starts at $5.00.

The beach by Amigos beach bar, one of our favourite weekend lunch stops

There are many fine dining options inside the hotels and foreign-owned restaurants which will cost more. You’re looking at around $15 for a nice steak with a glass of wine.

Transportation

Regarding car or motorbike rentals, you can get better deals if you are going to rent long-term. Renting a motorbike costs $10-$30/day & renting a car costs $60-$100/day depending on the season. A motorbike taxi ride starts at $0.40 while a taxi ride starts at $4.

Accommodation

A hostel bed usually starts at around $15/night. On average lower-rated guest houses average around $30-$40/night this will generally not have air-conditioning.

The average hotel room price is around $100 per night which usually increases quite significantly during peak season. Airbnbs with a/c start at $60-$70/night with a/c and there’s everything from studios to luxury villas.

Bars & clubs

There are a good number of bars in the town with a number staying open late at night. The two most popular nightclubs are Manyatta which is popular as an earlier venue and Tandoori which is open 24h and shows most major football events.

Other good destinations for nomads include Diani Backpackers which runs a regular event on weekends as well as Tiki bar that has a very decent selection of cocktails.

4G sim card

Safaricom is the fastest and most reliable network. their packages range from daily data to monthly packages. Foreigners need to get their sims from an official shop.

There are shops at Nairobi/Mombasa airport or there is one above Carrefour in Diani. You’ll need your passport and it will also give you access to the local mobile money wallet mpesa which is accepted almost universally.

Language

The official language of Kenya is English and Swahili. Since Diani is a touristy island, English is spoken almost everywhere a typical visitor will visit. You will find fewer English speakers when you go deeper into the villages beyond the coast. There are areas where many locals speak other languages such as Italian or German due to the presence of many organized tours from specific countries to some beach areas.

Places to work from & Wifi

Kenya generally has an amazing 4g network. One of the best on the continent and generally has faster and better coverage than most European countries. In general hotels and cafes have invested in good WiFi.

Diani is a digital nomads’ paradise. Most of the cafes and restaurants have WiFi. If not the 4g is pretty good most places other than right on the beach which as it is a little lower than the surrounding land sometimes suffers from slower speed.

We have completed an extensive survey of bars and cafes with wifi and 4g in Diani here.

Fun and Activities

Besides chilling on the beach, swimming, or partying, there are many fun activities to do and beautiful places to see.

Here are some of the many trips & activities that you can do around the Diani:

  • Kitesurfing: There are several kite schools and the whole length of the beach offers good options for kiting;
  • Enduro motorbiking: There is extensive backcountry just outside of the town with easy to challenging areas to ride;
  • Golf: A full 18-hole course is available towards the north of the town;
  • Gym & Swim: A number of hotels have gym options for non-residents;
  • Mountain biking: There are several easier and more challenging trails;
  • Local boat trips: There are quite a few local boats offering short trips to the sand bars and up and down the beach area;
  • Snorkelling: You can rent quality snorkel gear from a few places or buy from Chandarma shopping center;
  • Day trips:
    • The local Shimba hills (±450m) have a small safari park and an elephant reserve;
    • Wasini island: A good full-day tour that includes visiting a few islands Diani’s spot for snorkelling & spotting dolphins;
    • Bora bora park: A small nature park over a few acres which is a great visit for small children;
    • Colobus monkey sanctuary: A monkey sanctuary in Diani that work to help and protect colobus monkeys;

 

Conclusion

Diani is a beautiful place and definitely worth visiting and spending some time there. White sand beaches, crystal clear ocean water & warm tropical weather.

There are some nomads as well as a number of longer-stay tourists who are generally friendly. As we get set up in the town we hope to increase the nomad friendliness to the maximum.

 

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