NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Lamu Island is in the Lamu archipelago, just off the Kenyan coast, 217 miles (350 km) north of Mombasa
BEACH FRONTAGE 7 miles (12 km)
KEY WILDLIFE Dolphins, turtles, carmine bee-eaters ACTIVITIES Snorkeling, diving, exploring old towns, island-hopping, bird-watching
The focal point of Lamu Island is the eponymous town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich architectural heritage and cultural integrity that make it unique among the medieval Swahili ports that survive into the modern era. Only a 45-minute walk from town lies Shela Beach, a fabulous sweep of bone-white sand that fulfills every expectation of a tropical beach nirvana.
This is one of the few East African beaches to lack a protective reef, and although swimming is usually safe here, the sea is refreshingly lively.
The nearby Peponi Hotel, which has been run by the same family for 40 years, is the ideal place for a drink or a fresh seafood meal after a day on the beach.
Getting There Regular scheduled and chartered light aircraft flights link Nairobi, Mombasa, and Malindi to Lamu Island. The airstrip is on nearby Manda Island, from which point motorized dhows cross the channel to Lamu itself. The town and beach are easily explored on foot.
When to Go After the rainy season in May and June, the weather gets progressively finer. Christmas and New Year offer constant sunshine and pleasant offshore breezes.