The Park Hyatt Zanzibar was home for the weekend on the island of Zanzibar. A juxtaposition of old and new, this hotel was certainly not what I was expecting but represented an incredible base for my time in Zanzibar with all the luxury you would expect from a Park Hyatt.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar History
The Park Hyatt Zanzibar does not look like a hotel from the outside – instead it looks like a home. Because it was. You can read all about the hotel’s history here, but in a nutshell, the hotel is divided into two buildings: an old one and new one. The original building is known as the Mambo Msiig mansion. Built in 1847 for Sheikh Salim bin Bushir bin Salim al Harthi, an Omani noble, the government took control over it in 1859 after Salim took part in a coup attempt against Seyyid Said, then ruler of Zanzibar.
It was sold to the British and used for Anglican missionary efforts and later served as the British consulate. By WWI it served as hospital for Europeans soldiers who suffered casualties during the war. After the war, it continued to be used as offices for the colonial government. After the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, it became a government records offices for the new national government. It fell into disarray but was restored to its original grandeur as it transformed into a luxury hotel. Adjacent to Mambo Msiig is a newly constructed building that houses the bulk of the hotel rooms, though speciality suites are in the original building.
What I noticed when we checked in and throughout the stay is that there were not many guests at the property. Certainly, that made it all the more exclusive for us but I expect this hotel will become much busier as more understand its prime location and amenities.
The check-in agent was friendly. I asked him about the incident at the port and he shrugged and said that we should have flown over! He did not escort us to our room, but gave us clear directions to navigate to our room in the adjacent building.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar Rooms
It was dark when we arrived and our beds — two doubles — had already been turned down for the evening with bottled water on the nightstands.
The attention to detail in the rooms, and the whole hotel for that matter, was impressive. Although we kept the balcony door shut, there were curtains that could be engaged around each canopy bed to protect against bug bites (and spray too in the closet). The bedding, rug, furniture, and even the vent covers tied together nicely to make you feel like you were in Zanzibar and not just a luxury hotel.
A large soaking tub, sink, separate shower, and water closet filled a large bathroom. Wooden doors could be opened if you wanted to sit in the tub with a view of the bedroom or even Indian Ocean beyond the balcony.
We spent several hours sitting on the balcony, enjoying the beauty of the blue water below and blue sky above.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar Beach
When I said in my intro paragaprah above, “This hotel was certainly not what I was expecting” here is what I meant: I pictured white sand and a beautiful private beach. That was not present. On the contrary, the sand is rather gray, the beach is public (and used throughout the day), and the water is filled with fishing boats.
This is not a complaint. On the contrary, there was something charming about watching soccer games on the beach below and hearing the cries of locals swimming against the hotel walls during high tide. But be warned: our wake-up call on Saturday morning was the football game on the beach. If you want a beautiful private beach, you will need to go to beyond Stone Town and the Park Hyatt is not for you.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar Architecture
The Omani influence is present throughout the hotel — and it just works well. The lobby has towering ceilings with skylights.
A “library” offers a comfortable place to read or work and the “veranda” a place to play chess:
A courtyard outside offers a tranquil place to relax before or after a spa treatment or just to enjoy some fresh air. Other than the football matches on the beach, the neighborhood is quiet with very little foot and car traffic.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar Food & Drink
While we did spend time outside the hotel, we spent most of our time inside the hotel. The point was to relax and rejuvenate after the long journey to Zanzibar. Each evening we enjoyed drinks at the Living Room (hotel bar), sitting inside during happy hour and outside later in the evening.
I must give a shout-out here to Juma Sinde, who cheerfully served as our bartender. I do not drink much alcohol, but when I do my favorite drink is a Mai Tai. Ever since I first flew to Hawaii on United many years ago and was introduced to a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with Myer’s Rum, it has been my drink of request. There was an extensive cocktail menu but no Mai Tais, though Juma was happy to give it a try.
It was terrible.
But to his credit, he asked me how it was and when I gave him my honest feedback, he invited me inside to make one together. When I make Mai Tai, I mix:
- Bacardi White Rum
- Myer’s Dark Rum
- Pineapple Juice
- Grand Marnier
Also, I like it served in a rocks glass and never a collins or highball glass.
Delicious as always. Juma had a sip and approved.
The best feature of the hotel is the patio outside, where we also ate breakfast in the mornings. Beautiful bright green vines and trees with a pleasant ocean breeze outside. Sail boats frequently meandered by. I reckon we lingered over breakfast for two hours each morning and spent another 2-3 hours on the patio each evening.
Breakfast was wonderful. I stuck to my usual favorites of omelets, yogurt, granola, cappuccino, and orange juice. Nothing disappointed. The pancakes turned out better than the waffles but I recommend both. The buffet is set up inside the Dining Room though we sat outside. Service was punctual and friendly.
The walk from the ferry port to the hotel took a lot out of my friend so we did not venture outside of the hotel the first night, having dinner in the Dining Room. Denny ordered a mixed grill while I had rack of lamb. The food is quite pricey considering there are restaurants and a night bazaar close to the hotel, but it was delicious. The expectations were not to have any local food or a cultural experience, just to have delicious food from the convenience of the hotel.
Additionally, drinks and light snacks are also served in the library and by the pool.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar Pool & Fitness
Speaking of the pool, the views are great — while the beach may be public, the pool is private.
Nearby is a fitness center that is compact, but has brand new equipment sufficient for a full body workout. Also, a small locker room is available.
I enjoyed this hotel so much. At around $300/night (or 20K Gold Passport points) it is high for Zanzibar but nevertheless worthwhile to have such an oasis from busy Stone Town. We ended up arranging a tour guide through the hotel and had an amazing tour, the subject of the next installment of this trip report. If you’re there, be sure to look for Juma in the bar.
Upon checkout we took a taxi to Zanzibar airport, about a 10 minute ride (8km). We paid $15 for the ride plus $5 tip.