For the last leg of my trip, I wanted nothing more than to relax and retreat, especially after having an emotional time in Mombasa. I saw a flyer for a hippie-dippie eco-friendly backpacker’s hostel called Distant Relatives in a small coastal town, Kilifi, which is 2 hours north of Mombasa. I was immediately intrigued and so I decided to dedicate my last few days in Kilifi.
Day 11: hippie hostel in Kilifi + beach bonfire and locals dinner
I woke up at my hostel in Mombasa and relaxed during the final morning. I told a few friends from the hostel about Kilifi, and I must have sold it well because four more friends decided to join me! Scott and Kyle from Canada, and Purity and Goodluck from Kenya and Nigeria. I was really happy to have a few familiar faces join me in this next chapter.
We arrived in Kilifi in the afternoon and checked into Distant Relatives. I immediately fell in love. The place was basically in the middle of a forest, and I instantly felt more relaxed with all the peaceful hippie decoration, pillow seating areas, big pool and open spaces to socialize.
Our crew slept in the same dorm-room cabin. It was one of the best dorms I’ve ever slept in – they had queen-sized bunk beds! Whoever thought of that was seriously a genius.
Our crew relaxed by the pool for a bit, and then we checked out the beach that was a 10-minute hike from the hostel. The beach looked more like a creek as it had foresty scenery surrounding it. I just loved the remote nature-y vibes of Kilifi versus the hustle and bustle of Mombasa; I’ll take a small village over a big city any day!
When we were on the beach, Purity befriended some local guys who offered to cook us an authentic Swahili dinner for a bit of cash in return, and we took them up on it. The guys were so amazing; they caught fresh fish and cooked it right on the beach for us, along with making coconut rice and a vegetable stew. A++.
I’m so glad we had Purity around to talk to the locals in their native dialect (she is from Mombasa). I wouldn’t have had the balls to do something like this all by myself, and I so appreciated being part of it. It felt really special enjoying the fresh food while watching the sunset and enjoying each other’s company.
As the sun went down, the guys made us a bonfire. We could see a full sky of stars, and we played around the water which had bioluminescent creatures. 🙂 What a perfect first day in Kilifi.
Day 12: Day trip to Watamu + boat ride + fresh bbq lunch
The next morning, I decided to go on an excursion to Watamu, which is one of the most highly recommended day trips from Kilifi as it has amazing snorkeling spots and dolphins. I left behind my Mombasa friends for a day, hopped in a tuk tuk, and was off. 🙂
I went with a tour group including three guys from Germany. We took a boat out and my spirits were instantly up…the water was a gorgeous shade of aqua blue and it was just fun to be out on the water.
We spent some time at a spot that had lots dolphins. We took pictures and observed as they bobbed up-and-down the water – we got pretty close to them!
Stopped at a nice spot for snorkeling. I actually love snorkeling more than diving because it’s simpler and you don’t have to worry about complex equipment. Overall a nice stop but I think my favorite snorkeling spot is still the Philippines!
We stopped on an island to shake out our sea legs – we had the entire beach to ourselves.
Then we did a boat drive through a creek. There were these eerie spider-like trees growing out of the salt water.
Lunch time! Some locals got together to grill us fresh tuna, salmon, shrimp, and lobster. Yes, LOBSTER! Everything was caught fresh that morning and barbecued on real coals. I was in heaven.
Talking to the locals gave me the vibe that Kilifi locals (and the surrounding coastal towns) were much chiller than Mombasa locals. I think small-town life makes people genuinely interested in talking to tourists, and not just talking to hustle them. It was really refreshing.
After lunch, we took the boat back to shore in Watamu, and I said goodbye to the group and crew. It was pouring rain, and my tuk tuk driver was stuck on the road. As I was waiting at a hotel for him, these two older English men saw me waiting alone and they invited me to have a beer with them. The guys were hilarious and it was a nice and relaxing treat after my full day excursion, chatting away and watching the sunset.
Finally my tuk tuk came and took me back to Kilifi. The evening ended with reuniting with my Mombasa friends, telling each other about our days over some food and pool time.
Day 14: Relaxing morning + local village tour
I had nothing on the calendar for my last full day in Kilifi (and Kenya!). I woke up early and started off the day with breakfast at the hostel and conversation with Scott and Goodluck.
Then I took a walk into town. Most people take a motorbike because it’s kind of far, but I had all day and didn’t mind the extra steps. The views along the dirt road were diverse and gorgeous; I passed through villages, forests, and farmland all in one walk.
Kilifi town is very chill, filled with a few shops of families selling their own food and products. I loved walking up and down the streets and saying hi to huge smiling faces and high-fiving children who were so excited to see a tourist.
After my walk through town, I had some lunch at the hostel and chilled by the pool. There’s actually quite a lot to do at the hostel and plenty of people to hang out with at all times. You could easily spend a whole day there and not get bored.
By late afternoon, I was feeling a bit restless and decided to head down to the beach near the hostel. There, I saw one of the guys who cooked us dinner the first night, named Wastar. We caught up for a bit and then he invited me to see his village nearby. I was excited because I’ve always been intrigued by how the locals really lived, and since I met Wastar on the first day and he wasn’t a rando, I knew I could trust him.
On the way to the village, Wastar taught me how to climb a coconut tree. I only got like 2 meters up, but he made it all the way to the top!
I love me a fresh coconut, but it tasted even better knowing someone climbed a tree to fetch it. 😉
The path to the village had some gorgeous scenery, with palm trees reaching the sky throughout a lush forest. I made a comment that we had palm trees in California too, and Wastar asked me in all seriousness, “so how do you climb the palm trees there?” And I responded “we don’t…” It cracked me up. 🙂
We made it to his village and I was surprised by the very simple living conditions. The houses were very small and made of sand/mud, and inside had nothing more than one mattress for up to 3 people to share and a tiny fire pit in the corner as a kitchen. It really hit me how little these villagers have in terms of resources and basic needs.
And yet, I asked Wastar if he was happy, and he said he wouldn’t have it any other way and never wants to leave Kilifi. Life is simple, but people are happy. It was really beautiful to see the kids having the time-of-their-lives playing with sand and the adults sitting under the shade chatting with each other. Everyone was super welcoming to me.
Then Wastar brought me to a nice lookout point that had views of the entire creek. It was golden hour and I remember feeling so happy that I took a chance to go on this adventure with him.
Wastar showed me a project he’s working on, which is renting out one of the mud houses as accommodation to tourists, giving them a “locals” experience. I was super impressed with how much thought and attention to detail he put into creating this house – he created everything by hand including some art pieces and this functional kitchen.
The accommodation was super basic (no electricity or running water), but it really does give a taste of how villagers live on the coast of Kenya. We had an exciting conversation as I was helping him strategize on marketing this place on Airbnb. If you are ever in Kilifi, I definitely recommend giving Wastar a call to either stay at this place or have him show you around! He’s a wonderful guide and it’s truly special seeing this part of the Kenya. His WhatsApp number is +254 708 038447.
We picked and roasted some fresh cashew nuts over a fire, breaking open the cooked nuts with a rock and stick…the local way. 😉
Finally, we shared a bottle of plum wine at the local “bar”, which was a few plastic chairs under a palm tree, ha. Plum wine is special beverage in his village – a woman travels six hours by foot and carries it on her head to fetch it for the entire village. I felt so special!
The sun went down and I said farewell to Wastar. I was so touched by his hospitality and grateful for such a fun afternoon – we did so many things! I think this was my favorite day of the entire trip :).
I honestly didn’t have super high expectations for Kilifi as I thought I would just be sitting by the pool, but I’m SO happy for all the adventures and local experiences stumbled upon during my time there. I’m especially glad that I had Kyle/Scott/Purity/Goodluck around as well – almost a whole week of living together and we became quite the tight-knit crew. Kenya has certainly been filled with highs and lows, but I’m just grateful to end on a high note.
I’m blogging from the airport in Nairobi, and it’s pretty surreal knowing this trip is over. I certinaly have a lot of thoughts to share about my feelings about backpacking through Kenya which I’ll share in a separate reflections-post in my usual fashion. But for now, I’m excited to return to my life in SF that I so love, bringing with me a whole new side of me that is stronger, wiser, and more grateful than I was before this trip. ❤