~ Shared Bucket List is proud to be supported by its readers. We do not accept money for any of our reviews and only recommend services/products we have used personally. If a purchase is made through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. ~
by Chloe Green (@SharedBucketList)
When you book a trip to Zanzibar, you expect to be blown away. It's no secret that 'Paradise Island', as it is commonly referred to by locals, is a haven of tranquility and sheer splendour. With its endless array of palm trees, clear blue waters and bright sandy beaches, there's no wonder that it makes such a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons alike. So, after months spent drooling over Instagram reels and holiday brochures, we were hopeful that our hotel would be a comfortable choice - somewhere to merely complement the tropical backdrop it was situated on - but Riu Palace (featured on Booking.com) did a hell of a lot more than that. We don't often say this but it was practically perfect! Watch our reel of Riu Palace, Zanzibar, here!
From the moment we were greeted by hotel staff (after many hours of travelling and craving a warm shower), we were treated as premium guests who had checked in to an opulent beachfront villa. We hadn't, by the way; we just opted for a standard double room but even that exceeded our expectations.
Riu Palace had many excellent features that we could rave about in this review but, for the sake of brevity, we have condensed our list. Here are our top five reasons you shouldn't think twice before booking:
#1 Surroundings and maintenance of hotel grounds
After checking in at the hotel lobby (an impressive blend of both traditional and modern African decor), we took a few more steps towards the hotel grounds. Our instant impression was astonishment. Acres of exotic plants and watered grass stretched out in front of us along with a winding downward path which led to an infinity pool and, eventually, Nungwi Beach (the most beautiful beach on the island). Dotted around the site were various bars, other inviting swimming pools and separate buildings to house the guests. No matter where we looked, everything was pristine.
#2 A genuine all-inclusive without hidden costs
We don't know about anyone else but, recently, we have found the term, 'all-inclusive', to be somewhat deceptive when it comes to some hotel chains in particular. Thankfully, Riu Palace kept true to its word on this one. In fact, we were so included that we were able to access the facilities and à la carte restaurants of our neighbouring hotel, Riu Jambo. Guests with a silver wrist band are identified as Riu Palace residents and given free reign across both sites; Jambo guests, unfortunately, are limited to theirs. In any case, within our own hotel grounds, there were no off-limit cocktails, spirits or restrictions on how many times you could attend the à la carte restaurants - highly appreciated as the food was delicious!
#3 Availability, efficiency and friendliness of staff
Hardworking, bubbly and attentive are three words that come to mind when we think of the incredible staff that accommodated us at Riu Palace. Many of them told us they worked exceedingly long hours and 7-day weeks for months at a time but at no point did we feel that they resented this. In fact, they were immensely grateful for their jobs and communicated that they felt lucky to work for such a well-established organisation. This was reassuring for us to hear and we didn't doubt the sincerity of this for a second because nothing ever felt like too much to ask and each staff member could always be seen with a smile on their face. A polite, 'jambo', seemed to go a long way and would be reciprocated by the cleaners, gardeners, bar staff, receptionists and porters. A genuinely lovely bunch of people who made our holiday extra special.
If you've spent any time at all reading travel advice on government websites, you'll know that it spouts some concerning generalisations about safety and security in some areas of Tanzania. Like most tourists, we were a little apprehensive about visiting after reading this which is precisely why we were glad to see such tight security at Riu Palace. We noticed several guards on duty throughout the course of our stay, day and night, at multiple different spots of our hotel grounds. This immediately set aside any of our worries. However, having said that, we soon forgot they were there and felt perfectly safe to wander up and down the beach by ourselves. Locals do approach you and try to sell various items (e.g. excursions, bracelets, clothes) but they are nowhere near as pesty as some reviews have claimed.
#5 Quality and variety of food
From the buffet restaurant to each à la carte, the food (in both Riu hotels) was phenomenal. There was plenty of choice, the dining areas were clean and each meal was well-cooked. Our favourite meal was at the Krystal restaurant which offered a fusion of different cuisines. Surprisingly, we preferred the steak served here rather than at the actual steakhouse on site but both were pleasing.
The seafood restaurant is absolutely stunning too, giving off a Santorini vibe with its bright white walls and blue domed-roof. It's also right next to the sea, making for a romantic evening dinner at sunset.
As aforementioned, we feel it is difficult to find fault with this delightful hotel (and writing this review is making us want to return A.S.A.P!)
If you're a couple looking for a holiday with a little something extra, we'd strongly recommend kicking back at this adults-only resort. Of course, there are plenty of other hotels available on the island and we would always encourage you to do your research before booking. Though, even the natives confirmed we'd picked a gem on the most idyllic part of Zanzibar. It certainly felt that way for us and we guarantee you won't be disappointed if you decide to stay here too.
Congratulations on earning yourself such a glowing review, Riu Palace, and thank you for making our holiday royally remarkable!
How long did we stay at this hotel for for? 9 nights (10 days) Who were flights with? Ethiopian Airlines Value for money: Excellent Personal star rating: 5/5 Tripadvisor star rating: 4.5/5
If there are any other queries you'd like us to answer regarding our time in Zanzibar, please either comment below or get in touch via our 'contact' page.