Something anyone staying in Nairobi must consider is the traffic. Weekends are not too bad but during the week it can take anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get to or from Jomo Kenyatta airport. If you have a morning flight to catch this can mean leaving your city hotel 4-5 hours before your flight! If this is the case I would consider a hotel near the airport, we saw the Ole Sereni and the Panari. If you can travel into the city I would definitely recommend the Crowne Plaza.
It is a new hotel and a pleasure to stay at. It is in a quiet area and you will have a peaceful nights sleep.
We arrived on a Saturday early morning flight and were lucky that we could be checked in early. The rooms are large, modern and functional, beds comfy - little soft, choice of pillows, pillow mist, good air conditioning, tea and coffee, fridge/minibar, international tv channels, free wi-fi and fab bathroom. I mention this because many hotels had no hospitality tray, tv or a fridge and extortionate internet access.
Staff were very friendly and helpful, we did not experience any problems during our 3 day stay but we did hear a few business guests who had some niggly problems. We got the impression across Kenya as a whole that staff will listen to your problem but are not always able to do anything about it. The infrastructure in the country means that high standards cannot always be maintained but the staff will always try to help and be polite.
The coffee lounge is relaxing with excellent drinks and snacks. We also got a take away pizza from here and took it up to our room. We ate in the less formal restaurant Baraza by the pool, the menu had a wide choice and the prices were reasonable for a hotel. Main courses 1500 KHS upwards (£11). You can eat outside or inside and it was very pleasant in the evening. The Gazebo Bar & Grill opposite the hotel was very good. It has an informal atmosphere and the food and drink is much cheaper. Nyama Choma (mixed roasted meat) was about £5 for a large portion and a huge fresh veggie burger with fries was £2.50.
There aren't that many sunloungers around the pool but being predominantly a business hotel there wasn't much competition. The gym looked well equipped. The pool is in the centre of the hotel so is surrounded and it is a bit strange swimming and sunbathing whilst business people are eating in the restaurant.
There isn't much to do in the neighbourhood so we visited the Ya Ya shopping centre on the Sunday where there was a good Maasai market, learning to haggle is a must. A taxi cost 700 KHS from the hotel and there were plenty around to take us home. There were a few restaurants there too and a bank that was willing to change our notes into smaller denominations free and was open on a Sunday.
We booked our excursions through Hayes & Jarvis who use Pollmans - have to say would not do that again. We visited the Giraffe Centre on the Monday which is well worth it. They are succesfully breeding Rothschild giraffes to release and help get them off the endangered list. They are very friendly and you can have a kiss from them! The wildlife walk there is also worthwhile. After that we went to the Karen Blixen museum which was interesting and had a good gift shop. Our guide took us to Tamambo for lunch it is also known as the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden.
On our last day we visited the Sheldrick elephant orphanage between 11 and 12 and then we returned at 5pm to watch them all go to bed. It is very worthwhile adopting, they do amazing work and this enables you to visit at 5 without the masses that can be there at lunchtime. You must book the evening visit well in advance though.
I would advise negotiating a driver for the day and going to the Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen, Utamundi Craft Centre, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and some other shops. It is also worth looking for accomodation in Karen, it is a lovely area near excursions and not too bad for getting to the airport. The excursions were cheap to get into or a donation is expected and I think it would work out cheaper this way than booking through a tour operator. We used Elijah Njoroge who had an air conditioned Mercedes and was one of the most polite and accomodating people we met. He is an incredibly safe driver which counts for a lot in Nairobi. If you private message me I would be pleased to pass on his contact details.
The drivers at the Crowne Plaza were also safe drivers and it cost us $30 to get to the airport. It is good to have this price as a gauge then you can also get a taxi from the airport but I don't know if they charge for sitting in the traffic. The hotel did quote us $35 per person for an airport transfer when I e mailed them before we travelled so I would not recommend paying that.
We found the hotel a very relaxing place to stay, the staff were excellent and compared to the horror that is the Nairobi Safari Club the Crowne Plaza is far superior. If we return to Nairobi we will definitely be staying here.