We stayed at Sandies Coconut Village in December following a few days on safari in the Masai Mara (which was incredible). Overall we were not impressed and would certainly not return nor recommend it to anyone else who’s looking to add a beach portion onto their Kenya trip. Summary appears below.
First of all, the staff at the front desk are unbelievably rude and unhelpful – so much so that you are almost left feeling as though you’re on some kind of hidden camera comedy show. If you ask them for anything (and I’m not talking about anything out of the ordinary...just basic hotel front-desk type requests) they are so put out by the fact you’d even trouble them by asking, and have to be prodded and convinced to assist you. Example – when we arrived they’d run out of the mandatory hotel wrist-bands, and were told to ‘just keep checking back’ and they ‘might’ get some more in. When? They didn’t know. We asked if the wrist-bands could be sent to our room once they did arrive and were told no – just keep checking back. Which we did, repeatedly, during our stay. Nor wrist bands ever did materialise, but it seems no one was asking for them anyway, so it was all in all just a huge waste of time.
Additionally, we had wanted to book a scuba diving trip (which the hotel itself offers on their own website) in advance, and our travel operator sent a mail to the hotel and asked them to do so, seeing as we wanted to go the morning after we arrived and when we were due to get in it may be too late for us to arrange it on-site. As it turned out we arrived earlier than expected, and asked the lady at the front desk as we were checking in if the diving had been arranged for us the following morning. She was really annoyed and said “I don’t know”. We asked if there was some way she might be able to find out, perhaps calling the dive centre? “No...just show up tomorrow and see if there’s anyone around”. Riiiight.... After asking her several times she finally, begrudgingly and irritably, picked up the phone to call the dive centre. Of course nothing had been booked, and we had to walk over there and arrange it ourselves (luckily we’d gotten in earlier than anticipated and had been able to do so...otherwise we’d have missed the opportunity). So all in all, just shocking service from the so-called ‘reception’ staff.
We had been upgraded to a so-called deluxe beach room. With the exception of the very large and pretty balcony that overlooks the sea (and features a big comfy outdoor lounge sofa) there is nothing deluxe about these rooms at all. They are very tired, not in a great state of repair. The AC does not work properly so it was almost unbearably hot to sleep in the room. The beds are rock hard. The bathroom (shower stall only) is not nice at all and the shower floods all over the floor when you use it (and has nowhere to drain, so the floor just stays wet). The rooms really are in desperate need of an update.
Food and Drink
The selection of drinks was ok – not fabulous but about standard for what you would expect on an all-inclusive. Service in the bar was also quite good – prompt, responsive and friendly. So I would rate them quite highly on the drinks and bar service front.
The food situation was pretty grim though. Each meal was buffet style, which in itself is of course not a problem – but at EVERY meal we had there, they ran out of most of the offerings altogether about 20 minutes in and don’t replenish. In fact, one night (it was the African themed evening) they actually took what was left in one of the serving dishes and spread it around the empty ones. And not only did they not change the labels, but I even asked the ‘chef’ what a couple of the dishes were as I was dishing up (seeing as they looked NOTHING like what was written on the label) and they just lied and said it was as labelled. As a result we both ended up with a plate comprised of several portions of exactly the same thing (sweet potato coconut curry) – looked at each other and said “this is all exactly the same” and laughed. Yeah it was a bit funny (if a horrible excuse for a meal service) but I shudder at the potential implications of them doing this for people with food allergies.
The Grounds and Beach
The grounds are really nice – pretty and well-maintained. There are also lots of really brightly coloured lizards all over that are not at all camera-shy, so you can get some really spectacular close-up shots of them if you’re so inclined. We did not use the pool during our stay, but it was impeccably maintained and looked very nice, so would rate them highly on that front.
The beach is a bit of a problem. First of all, the hotel has set out the grounds so that there is a large sandy portion with coconut trees and sun loungers (this is what you see on the hotel website) where you can relax, read a book, get some sun, etc. But this is not actually on the beach. Rather, it extends toward the ocean where there is then a wall, and steps to go down to the actual beach. The actual beach is effectively unusable, on account of it being so overrun with really aggressive hawkers (the so-called ‘beach boys’ of Malindi). Seriously, it is pretty bad – they will literally descend upon you en masse as soon as you set foot on the beach, and the harassment is of a level that I have never before witnessed (and I have been on public beaches all over the Caribbean, Middle East and Asia). It’s actually pretty threatening, which is a shame because it means you’re pretty much limited to the ‘fake’ beach area set up by the hotel (and even then – the hawkers stand staring all day long from the wall and will yell across to you even from there). So just don’t plan on going to Malindi and being able to enjoy the actual beach in any genuine capacity, because I assure you that won’t happen – of course this is not the hotel’s fault, but unfortunately it does tarnish the overall experience they are offering. We went diving via a boat off the beach in Watamu, about 30 minutes away, and this did not seem to be an issue (at least we did not witness this while we were there) so Watamu hotels may be a better option if using the actual beach in peace is important to you and you want to come to this region.
Overall Comments and General Malindi Destination Tips
All things considered, I think Sandies actually has a lot of potential – but they’re just not currently tapping into it. Which is a shame, because it could otherwise be quite a nice place to stay for a few days, so long as you don’t mind the situation with the beach. Therefore - unless and until they make some serious changes (mainly re: the rooms, dining and shocking rudeness of reception staff), then I would look to stay elsewhere if you plan to go to Malindi.
As an additional tip, when booking in somewhere don’t necessarily feel the need to go to somewhere that does All Inclusive if you’re on a budget – food and drink are quite cheap in Malindi (unlike in other destinations where you can arrive to find yourself staring down the barrel of a 30USD hamburger if you’ve not signed up for the AI plan). And you MUST visit the Old Man and the Sea restaurant (which I have separately reviewed) as the food was incredible and so affordable – if we hadn’t already paid for the AI option at Sandies, we’d have eaten there every night of our stay.
Lastly – if any of you are divers – the diving in Malindi (which is actually out of Watamu at the time of year – December – that we were there due to there being a lot of seasonal sediment in the Malindi area) is enjoyable, but not really anything to write home about. I have also been diving in Pemba (an island off the coast of Zanzibar, south of Kenya) and had a similar opinion. It will get you wet, but that’s about it...fish life is seriously depleted from over-fishing, so there’s really just not a heck of a lot to see at all (unless you luck out and spot a whale shark, but it’s not very likely). Viz is decent though and the coral is nice...but if you’re used to a standard of diving like you would get, for example, in the Maldives or Indonesia, then you will be disappointed.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.