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Hotel Serena Beach Hotel and Spa Hotel 0 star
Easyexperts
Shanzu Beach, Mombasa north coast Mombasa, Kenya -
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Amy Adejokun Section editor

The Serena Beach Hotel and Spa is often voted as one of the best hotels in Mombasa or even Africa and it's not hard to see why. Scoring points from the get go with its beautiful lobby and entrance, professional welcome and efficient check in, the Serena should not disappoint. A luxury property that remains faithful to the local Swahili architectural style, without going over the top, this medium sized property also does a good job of avoiding the impersonal feel that is often felt at other 'clubs' and resorts of similar size. The Serena Beach Hotel and Spa is a mostly tranquil resort, highly suited to couples on romantic getaways.

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    • Hotel Serena Beach Hotel and Spa

      Serena Beach Hotel and Spa   -   © EASYVOYAGE

    • Hotel Serena Beach Hotel and Spa

      Serena Beach Hotel and Spa   -   © EASYVOYAGE

       
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    Location 6.56 /10

    The Serena Beach Hotel and Spa is situated on a stretch of Shanzu beach on Mombasa's north coast. Although the north coast is more developed and therefore lacks the beauty of the south coast, Shanzu Beach is one of the better areas of north Mombasa. Depending on the traffic, the drive from Shanzu to Mombasa island takes roughly half an hour.

    Accommodation 8.95 /10

    Guest rooms at the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa are divided into several categories. The 66 village rooms were our favourites (of which 26 have a sea view) because they were designed to be in something that ressembles a 13th century Swahili village, with winding paths, secluded courtyards and quiet garden corners. These rooms are found in several two storey buildings and each has its own small wooden balcony or terrace. But there are rooms to suit everyone; from the garden rooms that overlook the expansive lawns, to the family rooms or the opulent suites.

    Whichever room you decide upon, each is spacious, spotless and most pleasingly, lovingly decorated in the local Swahili style. From the Arabesque lanterns, to the wooden beams, the dark wood furnishings or the various objets d'art, each item adds warmth to the room. All rooms feature large double beds (with mosquito net) dressed in quality bed linen, however we found the mattresses a tad firm. Tea, coffee and mineral water are complimentary. The bathrooms are large, with separate bath and rain shower, plus the always appreciated bathrobes and slippers. However, the decoration in each bathroom is quite plain and slightly disappointing compared to the effort taken in the rooms.

    Other rooms and suites boast details such as Lamu doors, Swahili mosaics, carvings, brass plate ornaments and locally made chests. Undoubtedly the jewel in the Serena crown; the presidential suite is set out over two storeys with a master bedroom, reception room, sitting room and huge bathroom with massage shower. Upstairs, a study and library is found on a mezzanine level (where traditionally the women used to peer down to keep an eye on their men entertaining below). Outside on the large balcony, the outdoor setting and sun loungers are accompanied by an alfresco shower.

    Overview 9.20 /10

    Upon arrival and at the end of a tree-lined driveway, impeccably uniformed members of Serena staff greet you with refreshing towels and tumblers of ice cold passion fruit juice. The first impressions are promising, as you enter the spacious (although dark) reception area, beautifully decorated in typical Swahili style, with high ceilings and a host of Arabesque details such as heavy wooden Lamu doors and traditional carved details.

    Exiting at the far side of reception you'll find the Sokona Plaza, with its chic snack bar overlooking the pond and palm trees, it is also the centre of entertainment in the evenings. Heading towards the beachfront you'll come across the resort's only pool (with swim up pool bar), which is a shame as the size of the resort probably justifies a second. However, there is plenty of room to spread out on the lawns between the pool and the beach, on the sun loungers placed beneath the coconut palms and flowering frangipani trees.

    If you need a change from lazing by the pool, take up a game of tennis (floodlit courts), squash (air-conditioned courts), darts, archery, billiards or table tennis. For sea-based activities (at an extra charge) guests may go diving, deep sea fishing or for a ride in a glass-bottomed boat. Also, the well equipped gym has a full time trainer on hand to help you work off the buffet.

    Tucked away in the same corner of the resort grounds are the hairdresser and the Maisha Spa ("maisha" means "life" in Swahili). Offering yoga classes, massages and a range of other treatments, the spa also boasts a yoga deck built over a pebble-bottomed pond, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzis, 'Spa Bar' and four treatment rooms facing a central courtyard, each with private garden, outdoor shower and sun deck.

    Meanwhile, the business centre provides guests with internet access (300Ksh/hour, about £2.40) and WIFI is available throughout the hotel for 1000Ksh (about £7.90) per day. For those wishing to combine their beach break with business, Serena offers excellent conference facilities.

    Food and drink 9.90 /10

    The Fountain restaurant at Serena offers both buffet meals as well as set menus. Both offer wide variety (buffet dinners are held twice a week and include themes like Mauritian, Indian Ocean or African) and the service is always professional. The setting is a romantic one; with soft lighting provided by candlelight and Swahili lanterns. Dine inside under the high ceilings and rafters with carved trim, or on the terrace overlooking the Sokoni plaza gardens with their bushy bougainvillea. Even if the restaurant is quite large, the lay out (several fountains and cosy corners around a central garden) succeeds in creating intimacy.

    The seafood restaurant known as the Jahazi Grill is the only à la carte restaurant on site and a great asset to the hotel. Beachside and therefore with superb views of a never-ending Indian Ocean, Jahazi serves up a wide selection of grilled delicacies, seafood being its specialty. We lunched on the delicious calamari, grilled with lemon, garlic and herbs. We were also pleasantly surprised with the smaller details such as the amuse bouche of fried crab cake in béarnaise sauce, the varied bread basket with three different butters, including the very original banana and cashew spread.

    Jahazi is decked out in a nautical theme that is harmonious with its surroundings, and for that (besides the great nosh) it really is a pleasure to dine here. In a two storey building (with a sand floor at ground level), the restaurant is open plan with lots of light, therefore well suited to that casual seafood lunch. Driftwood details feature throughout, and then there are the ropes, buoys, anchors, pulleys and fishermen's nets suspended from every corner of the room to complete the scene. Local kangas (brightly coloured, patterned sarongs) dress the tables, while white sails drape from the ceilings. On the ground floor you'll find an old up-turned canoe serving as the wine rack and a central BBQ, while dining at the "captain's table" on the upper floor will have you seated at the table headed by an old captain's steering wheel.

    The Makuti Bar, found close to the beach serves complimentary tea and coffee all day, while the Nyota Terrace cocktail bar is yet another part of the hotel where traditional Swahili decoration has been respected. Enjoy a tipple with the whiff of exotic incense hanging in the air. Kids and big kids should also appreciate the pizzeria and ice cream parlour.

    Beach 8.95 /10

    Adjacent to the Mombasa Marine National Park, the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa is found on Shanzu Beach. The beach is one of the better ones on the north coast, yet not the same as the gorgeous stretches of sand you'll find at Diani or Galu on the south coast. However, it is a great beach with fine, white sand and clear waters, and only metres from your sun lounger. The beach equipment (loungers, beach chairs and bar etc) are all found on the resort's beachfront lawns so guests tend to gather here instead, meaning the beach itself is often very calm. Like elsewhere on the Mombasa coast, there are several "beach boys" (beach sellers) who hawk their key chains and camel rides but don't let this deter you from swimming in the ocean. If you don't wish to be disturbed, you can still enjoy the views from the aforementioned elevated lawn area which they are prohibited to enter. The resort's water sports facility is located on the far right hand side, next to the Jahazi Grill.

    RHP

    To know

    The hotel offers its guests a free twice-daily shuttle to the island of Mombasa, about 10 miles away. A weekly entertainment guide is available in each room, with complimentary activities such as beach volleyball, water polo, wind surfing, catamaran sailing, snorkelling, aqua aerobics and even Swahili lessons for those who are willing to learn the local lingo. In the evening, take a nightcap whilst listening to the live bands (covering everything from contemporary pop to traditional African melodies), or be entertained by the regular cabaret and acrobatic shows.

    Guests should also take the opportunity to the visit the hotel's butterfly park where Samuel, Serena's butterfly expert, will happily chat about the 63 species of butterfly housed there. The hotel also oversees a 'Turtle Protection Project,' dedicated to sea turtle conservation. One evening a week, David "the turtle man" talks enthusiastically about the community's efforts to protect these endangered creatures via the hotel's hatcheries (locals are rewarded for any eggs found and handed to the hotel, as usually these "doomed nests" wouldn't survive on their own). If you're lucky you may even be able to witness the hatchlings' frantic scramble back to the water.

    Equipment

    • Shuttle bus
    • Car park
    • Handicap access
    • Restaurant
    • Internet access
    • Air conditioning
    • Spa

      massage, beauty salon, spa, sauna, wellness, keep fit, Turkish bath, hammam

    • Swimming pool
    • Sports equipment

      aqua gym, beach volley, golf, squash, tennis, archery, canoe, kayak, jet ski, sailing, gym, water skiing, mountain bike, fitness

    • Whirlpool bath
    • Safe
    • Non-smoking rooms
    • Solarium
    • Meeting room

    advantage

    • The rooms and their traditional decor
    • The à la carte seafood restaurant 'Jahazi Grill'
    • The turtle conservation program and butterfly nursery
    • The spa
    • The spacious bathrooms.

    disadvantages

    • Only one medium sized pool
    • No kid's club
    • Small swimming pool

    Traveller Reviews

    1
    • Overall Score 8.00/10
      • Package deals in October 2010 Posted on 2010-10-21 Couple - One week or more (Room without a view)

        Gorgeous hotel in the local architectural style. Top notch service too!

      • Advantages

        The spa, the food and the lovely rooms on the Lamu Village side

      • Disavantages

        One pool

      • Overview
      • Accommodation
      • Location
      • Food and Drink
      • Sport / Leisure
      • Animation / Entertainment
      • Value for money
      • Overall Score 8.29/10
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