Sultry, dusty Mombasa is the gateway to Kenya’s sparkling Indian Ocean coast. Crammed onto an island that is connected to the mainland by a short causeway to the west, a bridge to the north and a ferry to the south, this distinctly tropical city is steeped in history. Its chunky fort, historic houses and cosmopolitan population bear witness to its long pedigree as a trading centre: Swahili, African, Indian, Chinese, Omani and British traders have been striking deals here since the 12th century, and dhows (traditional sailing boats) still ply the surrounding waters.
Mombasa’s best suburban beach, Nyali, just north of Mombasa Island, is close enough to town to get busy at weekends. Here you can lounge on pale, palm-shaded sand, hire windsurfing or snorkelling equipment, drink coconut juice fresh from the shell, take a camel ride along the shoreline or visit the Mombasa Marine National Park. Watersports centers at or near resort hotels also rent pedalos, bogie boards and catamarans. Some places even offer accredited diving courses.