Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean near Tanzania. The island is tropical, and people visit year-round for a relaxing beach holiday.
But, the best time to visit Zanzibar for you depends on your priorities, including weather, crowds, and activities.
Zanzibar weather varies year-round. Unlike in the nearby island neighbor Mauritius where there is only 2 seasons, Zanzibar's weather can be broken into 4 seasons. While the climate and temperatures do not change too much throughout the year, there are two rainy seasons, one with long rains and one with shorter ones. These seasons are a great time to visit if you want fewer crowds and lower prices at the risk of rain.
The rest of the year is sunny, and the weather is nice, but there are a few humid months. The dry season is from June to October, and the crowds and prices are highest during these months.
But, if you want the best weather, June to October are the best time to visit Zanzibar.
Short Rainy Season: November and December
The first of the two rainy seasons in Zanzibar, Tanzania, is from November to December. These months are the short rainy season, which is when rain is common, but it is light and usually passes pretty fast.
People still visit Zanzibar during the short rainy season, but the crowds are nothing compared to the peak seasons. Hotels, tours, and flights still operate during this season, so you will have plenty to do and see on your trip. And the beaches will be less crowded too.
So, if you can tolerate the short rains, you can have a relatively quiet and cheaper time on Zanzibar island in November and early December. And the weather is like this throughout most of Tanzania if you want to explore more of the country with few crowds.
November and December are also the best time to visit Zanzibar if you want to stay for a longer time. Prices are lower so you can find some long-term stays that won't be too expensive.
However, prices rise significantly in mid-December for the holiday season. The holidays are a popular time to travel, and Zanzibar, Tanzania, is no exception. Hotels and resorts often implement a minimum-stay requirement during the peak holiday season. There are, however, events that hotels host to make your holiday stay special, like dinners, shows, and parties.
Things to do during the Short Rainy Season
The short rainy season is a good time to do a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. You can do all the fun outdoor activities like relaxing on the beach, exploring the island, and enjoying the water, but you should plan to do all these activities earlier in the day if you want the best chance of missing the afternoon rain.
A few good afternoon activities to enjoy while you wait for the rains to pass are:
- Catch up on your work if you're a digital nomad like me
- Take a cooking class to learn how to recreate your favorite dishes back home
- Or, book a massage for some serious R&R.
The rain is usually gone by evening, so you can spend more time outdoors before or after the sun sets.
The Best Time to Visit Zanzibar as a Digital Nomad
Although Tanzania doesn't yet offer a digital nomad visa (otherwise known as a freelance visa) The short rainy season is ideal for digital nomads to visit Zanzibar. You'll be rewarded with fewer crowds and cheaper costs. Plus, the weather will give you the perfect excuse to spend some time indoors while it rains, without you feeling as though you're missing out on something.
Any digital nomad knows that to be successful at the digital nomad lifestyle, you'll have to find a balance between work and play and this short rainy season helps us walk the line much easier (and more cost effectively!).
Hot and Humid Season: January to March
After the short rains are done, the weather gets much nicer from January to March. Temperatures are high, and you can expect some humidity, but there is little rain, so it's the best time to visit Zanzibar if you want to maximize your outdoor time.
However, since the weather is nicer, you can expect more people who are also looking to avoid the short rains between January and March. It is not quite as busy as the dry season, but more people are still coming to the island to enjoy the sunshine compared to the rainy months.
And, in early January, prices are still some of the highest you'll see because it is still the holiday season. A lot of people are visiting Tanzania to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation.
If you are visiting during this time, know that the long rains can start as early as mid-March. So if you can, visit Zanzibar earlier in the season.
Things to do during Hot and Humid Season
One of the best things to do during the hot and humid season is snorkel or scuba dive. Between January and March, you will find the clearest water in Zanzibar, especially off the island's southern coast, which is why it's a good time of year to do these activities.
The hot and humid season is also a good time to go on a safari, either in Zanzibar or anywhere else in Tanzania, like Serengeti National Park. You will notice the heat and humidity, but the animals will be out since the sun is, so it is a good time to see them. There is also a good number of safaris and other tours available during this season, and they do not book up as fast as they do during peak season.
Long Rainy Season: April and May
April and May are the worst time to visit Zanzibar, Tanzania if you want good weather. These months make up the long rainy season.
The long rainy season is when Zanzibar weather is the worst since it is almost constantly raining. The rains are hard during these months, and you will be hard-pressed to find any sunshine.
And, many hotels and resorts close during the long rainy season since demand is so low. You will still be able to find places to stay, but your options will be limited.
However, if you love to be where the crowds are not and want to enjoy the quiet beaches, this is the best time of year to visit Zanzibar. You just need to be prepared for long rains risking ruining your time outside.
If you're seeking peace, solitude, and plenty of time spent inside, this is the time to visit for you.
Things to do during Long Rainy Season
There is not much to do outside during the long rainy season unless you want to risk getting stuck in a major rainstorm. However, if you can find activities or tours to book, they will likely be cheap because their demand is so low.
And, the beaches, restaurants, and bars will almost never be full, so you can go where you want. Although, be prepared that most likely places will be closed for this season to give their staff a much-needed break before the peak season hits.
However, April actually has some of the best sunrises and sunsets over the Indian Ocean when it stops raining long enough to see them.
Dry Season: June to October
And finally, June through October make up the dry season in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which is by far the most popular time to visit.
If good weather is most important to you, June to October are easily the best time to visit Zanzibar. Temperatures are perfect for enjoying the beaches along the coast, and the sunshine is almost constant. You can easily spend all your vacation days on the beach during these months.
However, it is also the time of year when everyone else wants to visit Zanzibar. Thousands of people visit the island during the dry season, so be prepared for the busy beaches and high prices.
Be sure to book your accommodation, tours, and activities you want to do in Tanzania well in advance if you want to travel to Zanzibar during these months.
However, hotels do oftentimes offer specials and deals during peak tourist season. They want people to choose their hotel over all the others, so they may offer a free night if you book a long trip, a free meal, or discounted activities and tours. If you want to maximize your travel budget on Zanzibar island during these months, you'll want to keep an eye out for these deals.
Things to do during Dry Season
The dry season is the best time to do most activities in Zanzibar because of the weather, but if you are doing paid activities and tours, prices and demand are high, so book in advance.
One of the most popular activities during this time of year is going on a wildlife tour. Since there is no rain, animals will be out and about and easier to spot, especially in the more natural areas on the island.
If you are hiking and exploring the island on your own, you will have no problem seeing the wildlife, but a tour is a good way to guarantee you see the best animals and get the best views of them.
Thanks to the weather, the dry season is also the perfect time to enjoy the beaches and pools or take part in water activities. If you stay at a resort on the beach, you will likely have access to activities like snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, and fishing.
Scuba diving is also popular during the dry season, particularly in July and August, when the water conditions are good for it. The best places on the island for scuba diving in these months are on the island's north end.
The dry season is one of the most popular times to go on a safari in Zanzibar and Tanzania in general, but that is because it is the best time to see the most amount of animals. And, since demand is high, you will need to book in advance, but you will also have plenty of options for types and lengths of tours since they are all running in these months.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Zanzibar for You?
Now it really is up to you when you deem the perfect time for your Zanzibar getaway. Personally, I vote for October, November, and December, until right before the holidays commence. For you, it could be the rainy season for more solitude or the dry season for more outdoor activities.
To make the most of your time, visit its African neighbors as well, like Kigali, Rwanda. Whichever time you do decide to visit though I'm sure you'll love your vacation to Zanzibar.
Hero photo by Nick Johanson/shutterstock.com