This All-inclusive in Zanzibar Is the Perfect Post-safari Retreat — With White-sand Beaches, Excellent Food, and a Blissful Spa

After the thrill of a safari, White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa proved to be an excellent spot to slow down.

Aerial view of the private villas at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Courtesy of Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

It takes time to unwind at White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa. Not the least of which is because, in all likelihood, most guests at the Zanzibar luxury resort are arriving — as my husband John and I did last winter — post-safari. Reeling from our bush adventures in Serengeti National Park, we were still firing on all cylinders when we reached the 10-acre beachfront resort on the Tanzanian island’s eastern coast. Accustomed to 5 a.m. wake-up calls, eight-hour safari drives, and all the requisite thrills that come with it, we were floating on the extreme highs of predator kills and rare animal sightings — hardwired for anything but relaxation.

Upon arrival, Idrissa, introduced as our doting butler, must have sensed just how tightly wound his new guests were. And so, he slowly immersed us into his tropical oasis. Like dipping one toe at a time into a hot bath of water, we slowly toured the grounds: first, the rooftop bar, where we gazed over the resort, coastline, and endless stretch of Indian Ocean; then the beach (yes, the sand is white — there’s truth in advertising here); and finally, winding through the tropical grounds to the al fresco restaurants, thatch-roofed spa, and resort pool. 

Only after this extended orientation did Idrissa deliver us to our villa, where yet another tour was necessitated. How else would we know where the stairs next to our bedroom led? (Answer: To a sprawling terrace for dining, napping, and soaking in birds-eye views of the beach.) Or how to take a bath? (The soaking tub is in a secret garden behind the bathroom, and Idrissa was all too kind to fill it with bubbles and flower petals for our arrival.) We’d also need tutorials on the butler’s kitchen — everything from what spices were used in the freshly baked cookies on the table to how to use the espresso machine — as well as intel on the goodies left on our bed (the Relais & Chateaux–branded hats and traditional kitenge sarongs were ours for the keeping). 

Lengthy orientations aside, once the mellow of White Sand hits, it hits hard. Over the next three days, Idrissa checked in on us occasionally — if anything, to make sure we hadn’t died of relaxation. As the high-octane energy of our safari slowly left our bodies, it was replaced by a euphoric state in which we were unconcerned with anything, save for perhaps where we’d take our sundowners (on our rooftop terrace or at the sunset bar?) or how often we needed to reapply sunscreen (hourly for best results). Plans for tennis matches were carelessly abandoned, along with lofty goals of learning to windsurf — a serious pastime on this part of the island — or even a bit of gym time. Utterly unbothered with anything resembling a to-do list, we all but quarantined ourselves within the confines of our tropical oasis, with only Idrissa’s occasional check-ins, dropping off delicious frozen fruit skewers or even more delicious frozen fruit cocktails to mark the passage of time.  

Yet even in our lackadaisy, we absorbed the spirit of Zanzibar, as if by osmosis: at meals bursting with local spices and fresh flavors of the island; at the Lounge Bar, decorated with vibrant textiles, pottery, and woven baskets; and at the Senses Spa, where my body was buffed, and face exfoliated using Zanzibari cloves, lemongrass, cinnamon, and other native remedies. Lunchtime views over the beach were dotted with dozens of ngalawa, the traditional sailing boat of local fishermen. Walking through the resort’s gardens, we made the acquaintance of more locals: curious Red Colobus monkeys swinging from branch to branch. 

By the time Idrissa called on us to gather our luggage for check-out, John and I were perhaps unrecognizable to our doting butler and especially to our former selves. We had become the kind of people who would think nothing of lounging on a hammock all day and certainly not the sort to entertain a 5 a.m. wake-up call. The change was slow at first, then absolute — a testament to the transformative power of our white-sand Zanzibari retreat. 

Here, everything you need to know about White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa.

Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

  • Secluded and spacious private villas with every luxury accounted for, including a private pool and beach access, a rooftop terrace, and separate living room and bedroom villas. 
  • The hotel is located in Paje, a lively tourist destination with excellent restaurants and world-class kitesurfing and scuba diving (a watersports pavilion is located on resort grounds).
  • Cuisine is a star at the resort, emphasizing natural ingredients and local spices, from cinnamon porridge for breakfast to catches of the day and traditional biryani for dinner — all included in nightly room rates.

The Rooms 

Interior of the Garden Villa at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Courtesy of Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Our 968-square-foot beachfront one-bedroom villa was a stunner, spread across two air-conditioned structures: a living room and dining room with a butler’s kitchen, plus a bedroom with en suite bathroom. An exterior staircase connected the bedroom to a rooftop terrace, with a beach-view dining table and daybed. A private garden featured a soaking tub. The entire private space measures more than 16,000 square feet, with multiple sundecks, a swimming pool, and a private beachfront with hammock and ocean access. 

Garden view at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Courtesy of Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Other villa categories include the $2,400-per-night two-bedroom family villa and the $4,300-per-night five-bedroom presidential villa. There are also more affordable suite accommodations, including the Cinnamon Rooms with garden views and Deluxe Rooms with access to a shared pool. A new collection of Garden Villas operates entirely off-grid, using 100 percent renewable energy and operating with net-zero carbon emissions. All 18 rooms, villas, and suites are decorated with natural wood and stone interiors accented by traditional textiles and objets d’art, with thatched roofing and abundant tropical foliage outside. 

Food and Drink

The lounge bar at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Courtesy of Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Reservations at White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa are booked on a half-board basis, with standard rates including daily breakfast and multi-course dinners. Guests can choose to upgrade to an all-inclusive booking covering three meals per day plus all house wines, beers, spirits, and liqueurs, as well as mini-bar items. 

Unlike many all-inclusive resorts, White Sand’s dining is top-notch, with a diverse selection and regularly changing menus. Breakfasts are packed with fresh fruits and pastries, Zanzibari porridge seasoned with local cinnamon and spices, and classic dishes like eggs Benedict and omelets. Instagram-worthy floating breakfasts in your private swimming pool are also offered for an additional fee. An al fresco beach café turns out delicious pizzas from a wood-burning oven, fresh catches, and crisp salads (best enjoyed with a bottle of rosé). Multi-course dinners featuring South African wine pairings are served by candlelight at the main restaurant or course-by-course by your butler in-villa. Sundowners are served at the Sunset Bar, where views stretch over the Indian Ocean. 

Activities and Amenities

The beach at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

Gregor John/Courtesy of Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

With year-round winds and calm shallow waters, Paje is known worldwide for excellent kitesurfing — and White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is home to one of the area’s best facilities, Zanzibar Kite Paradise. The high-end watersports club offers kitesurfing lessons, equipment rental, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks (including glass-bottom kayaks).  

For more physical activity, book one of the resort’s tennis courts with a pro, join a free group yoga session, or borrow a bicycle to explore the city (via beach cruiser) or the sand (via fat-tired e-bike). There’s also an al-fresco fitness center with limited weight-lifting equipment and just a few cardio machines. 

Several excursions can also be organized through your butler. Choose from a traditional ngalawa boat tour, horseback riding, or a guided visit to the nearby Jozani National Forest. A tour of historic Stone Town — a UNESCO World Heritage Site with fascinating history, architecture, and food markets – is a must. 

The Spa 

The Senses Spa is small but a standout nonetheless for its traditional treatments and serene setting. Each of the two open-air treatment rooms is enclosed in a thatched-roof stone structure that allows the tropical breezes to pass through. There is also a hammam, infrared sauna, salon, and nail and hair salon. During my 60-minute Zanzibar Spice Scrub, I was massaged and buffed with a concoction of fragrant cloves, healing lemongrass, and nourishing moringa oil. A facial using hydrating marula and rose followed for a head-to-toe glow.

Family-Friendly Offerings 

White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa provides plenty of diversions for all ages, from a baby pool and sandy playground with slides and mini trampolines for its littlest guests to watersports lessons and PlayStations for teens. There’s also ping pong, table football, petanque, darts, volleyball, chess, and board games. Children’s menus are available at both restaurants, and everyday needs — including changing tables, bottle warmers, baby bathtubs, and pool floaties — are available for guest use. Nearby, the resort’s mini-farm with rabbits and donkeys, as well as the native Red Colobus monkey, is ideal for family visits. The Senses Spa even offers kid treatments such as the 60-minute Junior Glow, combining gentle Swedish massage and a mini facial. White Sand also provides babysitting services for an additional fee. 

Accessibility and Sustainability 

White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is the first resort on the island of Zanzibar to feature off-the-grid accommodations. Four recently completed villas operate entirely on solar energy produced by photovoltaic solar panels. Throughout the resort, solar heating provides hot water, and a desalination plant filtration system produces high-quality drinking water, eliminating the need to import bottled water. Biowaste is used for compost throughout the 10-acre grounds, including the organic herb and vegetable garden and fruit trees, all of which supply produce for the resort’s restaurants. White Sand also partners with local producers to provide everything from the handmade soaps in the guest rooms to the fresh catches of the day offered at the two restaurants. 


Located in the resort town of Paje, White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa is roughly 30 miles (about one hour) from the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport. Renting a car is neither necessary nor recommended as taxis are reliable and affordable. The resort also provides airport transfers and other local transportation at a fair cost. Many of Paje’s attractions are easily within walking or biking distance.  

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay 

Cinnamon Rooms start at $750 per night, with coveted villas starting at $1,900 per night. All bookings come with half-board, including daily breakfast and dinner, butler service, and unlimited non-motorized watersports. The all-inclusive option is an excellent value for those who enjoy a cocktail (or five) or with large appetites. A bonus for families: Children under three stay and eat for free. Discounted rates also kick in when booking four or more nights.

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