Hidden in the shadow of Zanzibar is Pemba Island – an Arabic name that aptly translates to ‘the Green Island’. While it may form part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba is unlike any of its flat, sand-strewn neighbours.
While most islands offer palm-lined beaches and azure waters, Pemba offers a seaside escape set against a lush, hilly landscape that’s teeming with life. While its thickly vegetated hills are home to a densely populated farming community, Pemba is still vastly undiscovered by tourists.
See also a full overview of selected hotels in Tanzania.
Best Luxury Resort – The Manta Resort
Manta Resort is probably one of the most iconic lodges to be found anywhere on earth. The experience of entering the turquoise bubble and watching the surrounding marine life float by is truly captivating.
This is perhaps the resort that put Pemba on the map. The underwater room is on a level of architectural brilliance with a capsule that is anchored to the ocean floor anomaly known as ‘the blue hole’.
The room is literally out of this world and is worth every hard-earned cent to experience the sensation of being completely enveloped by the infinite turquoise blue ocean around you. The resort does, however, also cater for those on a slightly tighter budget with a selection of stunning Seafront Villas and Superior Garden Rooms to choose from.
- Location: Manta is located on the northern tip of the island in Kigomasha.
- Price: Superior Garden Rooms are priced from US$368 to US$460 per person per night. Seafront Villas cost US$520 and US$650 per person per night. The underwater room comes in at US$1840 per night for a double room.
- Rating: 10/10. Manta leaves nothing to the imagination and offers everything you could have ever dreamed up for a beach holiday.
The Aiyana Resort and Spa
This incredibly stylish resort has taken inspiration from the simple beauty of the islands of Zanzibar. Designed using a blend of natural materials, the thirty rooms are ordained with beautiful décor and a wonderful sense of spaciousness. The pride with which the staff of the resort take care of the property is of the highest level.
- Location: Nestled in the northern edge of the island, just a 30-minute flight away from Zanzibar.
- Price: Villas start from US$400 per night and can go up to US$1000 per night. An added bonus is that when guests book five or more nights, they get free return domestic flights from Zanzibar to Pemba for two people included.
- Rating: 9.5/10. The combination of timeless elegance and mesmerizing scenery is jaw-dropping and accommodation is reasonably quoted.
There are only five bungalows available at this lodge, with the emphasis being on sustainable, eco-friendly living. This gives a sense of being completely at one with the nature around you, separated from the ground only by the stilts elevating the bungalows off the ground.
- Location: Shamiani Island, bordered on all sides by endless horizons over the Indian Ocean. Pemba’s first real Eco Lodge lies just a short boat ride south of the main island.
- Price: Starts from a reasonable US$150 per room per night and goes up to US$450.
- Rating: 8/10. The resort was created as an idyllic hideaway on an island off Pemba, one of the best kept secrets in Africa.
Mid-Range Pemba Island Hotels
Best Mid-Range Hotel – Fundu Lagoon
It is difficult to beat Fundu Lagoon when it comes to location. Way off the beaten track and reachable only by boat, this beautiful lodge lies hidden in the mangrove forests that line the wild, unimaginably beautiful beaches of Pemba.
This small, remote and intimate hotel is located on the south-western shores of Pemba Island. Home to its own five-star dive centre, four bars, an infinity pool, a beautiful open-sided restaurant as well as a fusion spa, the hotel offers supreme luxury in the middle of mangroves.
- Location: Reachable only by boat, the hotel is set in a unique location that almost feels Robinson-Crusoe like. A lush mangrove jungle surrounds the resort from behind and is broken only by the pearly white shores of the sea. All meals and soft drinks are included in the price, but children under 12 are unfortunately not permitted due to the hotel’s remote location.
- Price: Starts from US$310 per person per night and guests can take their pick of twelve wonderfully isolated hillside and beachfront suites.
- Rating: 9/10. This resort epitomizes the ultimate African beach safari. Spend blissful days barefoot as you immerse yourself in this secluded retreat.
Emerald Bay Resort
Emerald Resort is a classic Zanzibar Island retreat set against Emerald Bay Beach, which features the largest natural sandbank in East Africa. Guests can go on day excursions to this pristine beach and resort staff will provide refreshing drinks, tents and beach chairs to enhance the day spent revelling in the azure waters.
- Location: Chokocho Village, in the South of Pemba. Roughly 35km from the Pemba airport, the resort is set in a remote area that makes guests feel as though they have escaped into a different world.
- Price: A double room starts from an affordable US$100 per night, although the costs fluctuate depending on the season. Trips to the sand bank are included in the price and there is a restaurant on site, which serves up spectacular seafood.
- Rating: 9/10. While it is not decked out in ornate trimmings and does not boast the decadence of some of the upmarket lodges, Emerald Bay gets the recipe exactly right for guests to enjoy their dream island beach getaway.
Budget Accommodation Options
Best Budget Hotel – Lala Lodge
Lala Lodge sets itself apart as a frontrunner when it comes to value for money. The lodge offers all of the magic one could ever hope for from a Pemba experience, yet at a fraction of the cost of some of the high-end establishments.
This small, quaint lodge is situated right on the beach. The eight en-suite rooms offer great value for money and come equipped with air conditioning – which is essential in the humid Zanzibar climate.
- Location: On the beach in the south of Pemba Island. You’ll find the lodge near the ferry terminal in the old fishing village of Mkoani. One of East Africa’s ultimate diving location’s, Msali Island, is located conveniently nearby.
- Price: Rooms start from just US$53 per night with the cost including a complimentary breakfast. Dinner at the Lodge Restaurant is US$10 per person and some highly rated food is served. A trip to Msali Island can be organized for about US$45 per person.
- Rating: 8/10. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of other resorts, the sense of peace and friendly staff add a lot to this great value establishment.
Pemba Crown Hotel
This hotel is a good option for those really needing to make their money stretch. Designed with the intention of hosting both local and international guests, the hotel does not come with a lot of the luxuries that one expects from a holiday in Zanzibar. The staff, however, are friendly and the hotel is clean and well run.
- Location: In the city centre of Wete. The hotel does not have a restaurant, but there are a few places to eat in the town itself.
- Price: A room will set you back between US$25 and US$50 per night if you pay in Tanzanian Shillings.
- Rating: 6.5/10. While it is not the most glamourous retreat, the hotel offers everything would need on a budget holiday including air conditioning and mosquito nets.
Misali Beach Resort
With its own private, pristine stretch of virgin beach, the establishment offers spacious rooms with sea views, exhilarating seaside activities and tours around the magnificent island of Pemba.
- Location: In Wesha, only 20 minutes from the main town of Chake Chake and the airport. A restaurant, swimming pool, café and doctor are available to guests. Classic beach activities such as scuba diving, fishing, spice tours and sunset cruises can also be arranged.
- Price: Room prices cost up to US$75 per day.
- Rating: 7/10. Although the lodge is in a great location, guests to Msali Beach have rated the service as not being of the highest caliber.
Swahili Divers and Gecko Nature Lodge
This versatile accommodation option is a launchpad for some of the best diving in Pemba. As one of the cheaper mid-range options, the lodge is simplistic in style and has a charming, rustic feel to it that lends itself to creating a laid-back atmosphere. The establishment is very well run and the efficient team of staff ensures that it is always spotlessly clean.
- Location: Situated in the north-west of Pemba, home to a stretch boasting Pemba’s most idyllic beaches.
- Price: Another very reasonably priced stay in Pemba. Standard rooms start from US$60 per night and the deluxe rooms go for US$85 and upwards – all stays include a complimentary breakfast. Guests looking to cut costs can also opt for one of the bunk beds in a shared room for only US$20 per night.
- Rating: 8.5/10. Value for money at Gecko is exceptional. Tourists looking for great diving and cozy, relaxed accommodation should look no further.