Kenya's coastal metropolis blends the hustle and bustle of a modern seaport with a colorful Swahili old town and laid-back beach resorts. Waves of Portuguese, Arabian, and British influence over the centuries have created a rich urban tapestry and a far more interesting city to explore than the capital Nairobi.
What We Love
Jahazi Coffee House: Step back in time at this slice of old Mombasa, a cozy café on Ndia Kuu Road in the Old Town that serves traditional coffee and tea, and Swahili dishes like samosas, biryani, and fish stew.
Mombasa Golf Club: It may not be as ritzy as say, Pebble Beach, but this vintage British colonial links course offers nine holes on rolling bluffs beside the Indian Ocean.
Best Known For
The Old Town: This is the heart of the city's Swahili culture; narrow streets are flanked by traditional houses with huge wooden doors, and the waterfront is lined with lateen-sailed dhows. Fort Jesus, a 16th-century Portuguese bastion, is now a Kenya national museum.
Beaches: Whether you head north or south along the shore, the local beaches are fabulous. Nyali and Bamburi are closest to town, but you can also hop the harbor ferry and drive down the coast to Diani Beach for an even more spectacular stretch of sand.
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Who It's Best For
Exotic Culture Lovers: More than any other major city in East Africa, Mombasa has managed to retain much of its old-time romantic vibe, like something from a 1940s movie rather than modern life.
Outdoor Enthusiasts: From golf and biking to scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and other aquatic adventures, Mombasa offers plenty of opportunities to work up a sweat.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Stick to the Shore: Beyond the Old Town and beaches, modern Mombasa is drab and uninspiring, and the traffic can be horrendous.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.