Welcome to Xanadu Villas & Retreat This little property on the spice island’s southeast coast is reached via a discreet, sandy, non-signposted turning, a 75-minute drive from Zanzibar airport. You’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there, which is the whole point.
It should take under a minute from your villa to reach the fine, white sand of Bwejuu and look out onto the Indian Ocean. Paje, 10 minutes from Xanadu by car, has bars and is known for good windsurfing conditions. For sightseeing, Freddie Mercury’s old stomping ground, Stone Town, is 75 minutes away.
Style and Character
Zanzibar was previously a Sultanate of Oman, and the striking dome-shape roofs and large circular rooms reference the Arab history and influence on this spice island. Alongside ornate copper camps and trays, there are African artworks, including black and white watercolours. Villas are set around a makuti-thatched central pool and bar/restaurant area. Vervet monkeys occasionally work their way through the grounds – even they seem pretty chilled out.
Service and Facilities
Service is about as personalised as it gets. Each villa comes with its own private butler, reachable by radio to deliver drinks, pick up laundry, or to set up tables for meals anywhere you wish. It’s a far less stuffy setup than many other hotels: each request is returned with a playful “Why not?”
At Xanadu Villas & Retreat , The swimming pool is at the heart of the property, with loungers and a bar and restaurant around it, lit up by lanterns at night. Down at the beach, there are more than enough loungers and swinging two-person hammocks, plus kayaks, SUP boards and other ways to get active, and a small spa with one air-conditioned treatment room and a circular spa pool.
Each villa looks slightly different, with décor blending African art (watercolour portraits of Maasai), Arab-influenced furnishings (copper trays and lamps), chunky wardrobes and mirror frames made from reclaimed dhow boats. There’s a Smeg fridge stocked with cold drinks. Lounge and kitchen areas are in a separate building within your villa area, with comfy sofas, colourful chairs, wildlife paintings, elaborate metalwork, books and more.
The relaxing living space opens out onto private plunge pools, greenery and bougainvillea flowers. Bedrooms are high-ceilinged, with air-conditioning and a windmill-sized ceiling fan, and tall, arched windows, which curious monkeys sometimes peek into. Big creamy white bathrooms, using Africology products, take rain showers to the next level – the water rains down from 12 feet above.
Food and Drink
The creative lunch and dinner menus are updated daily. There’s plenty of seafood: a chunky snapper fillet glazed with sticky-sweet tamarind and chilli sauce was one standout. Local food is represented with a Swahili ‘curry night’, either fish, chicken or veggie, served with chapatti (roti), spinach, pickles and coconut rice.
There’s no scrimping on portion sizes at breakfast. Omelettes filled with veggies are whoppers, while fresh fruit platters (filled with watermelon, pineapple and passion fruit) are big enough to feed two.
Value for Money
One-bedroom villas for two guests from £550 in low season; and from £630 in high. Prices are all-inclusive, including all meals and most alcoholic drinks, kayaking, SUP boarding and snorkelling, butler and laundry service. Premium wines and drinks, spa facilities and activities are available at an extra charge. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
Children under five are not allowed, while children five to 17 years are charged as adults. Activity managers can assist children for kayaking, SUP boarding and snorkeling. There’s no children’s menu, but chefs consult with guests to create meals as required.
Mbingu, the Presidential Villa, is the best choice for families, with direct access to the beach, a larger swimming pool downstairs and a plunge pool on the top floor, and lots of space. The two bedrooms are big enough to sleep four, though more beds can be added.