“ Address: PO Box 363, Diani Beach, Ukunda, Kenya / Tel: +254403203721 „
After a miserable Christmas break with flu I desperately wanted to take a January holiday to beat the winter blues. My partner and I could only take a week off work but really wanted to go somewhere hot so decided Africa it was! I've always wanted to go on safari so Mombasa became the frontrunner and after lots of internet research we decided on the Southern Palms Beach Resort.
After a painful two hour transfer we finally arrived at the resort! We were instantly wowed - a lovely reception area, people to take our bags and cocktails presented in pineapples! The staff were so friendly and tried to get our room keys sorted as quickly as possible as they knew how long the journey had taken us. The manager gave the group who had arrived on the coach a quick talk about meal times and the hotel which was very helpful before we were shown to our rooms.
We were absolutely delighted with our rooms! We had been allocated a superior room somehow with a large balcony overlooking the pools. There was a fruit platter and a few bottles water left out for us which I thought was a lovely touch! The bed was a large four poster (complete with mosquito net surrounding!) and there was a single bed which could also be used as a settee. There was a desk and chair and a reasonably priced mini bar in the room along with two large wardrobes to put our clothes and suitcases in. We had an old TV which had one English channel, CNN. We didn't really want to keep up to date with the news but the ongoing Egypt situation meant that we were switching on first thing in the morning and just before bed! I found everything about the room very pleasing including the excellent air conditioning!
The bathroom wasn't quite as great as the bedroom but still fine. A dated shower and flooring along with a light that made a buzzing sound when it was turned on - it reminded me of something from Psycho! However the sink area was very nice and looked like it had been fitted more recently. They had included a couple of cheap soaps but no other nice freebies to use! Something else I didn't like about the bathroom was that there was no glass in the window - just netting, which meant that anyone walking out of their room at the back could have heard me singing. Not like that stopped me - I do like to sing in the shower! Overall I was very happy with the room and for one week an average bathroom didn't bother me one bit. 8/10
The first things to mention are the beautiful pools! There are two large pools but they could easily be one as they cover almost the whole complex - in fact the website states that they are the largest in East Africa! The water was a wonderful temperature, although with an outside temperature of 100 degrees, water of any temperature would have been fine! Within the pools were two pool bars which I think were my favourite thing about the whole holiday! Any water that I would keep with me whilst sunbathing was pretty warm by the time I got round to drinking it so the swim up bars were fantastic! The pool was a very relaxing area although a couple of times a day there were watersports including water volleyball and aqua aerobics. The former I had no interest in whatsoever but after spending the first few mornings watching all the oldies gather together and take part in embarrassing jumping, hand holding activities I decided to join in! The aqua class was hilarious and the guy who ran it had us all jumping around shouting things out and as well as a half hour work out it was a good chance to get to know other guests and have some fun.
There was a gym on site which I used twice in the evenings once the sun had gone down. The gym was well equipped with 3 treadmills, a bike, a set of weight machines and free weights. This might not sound like a lot but I didn't see anyone else using the gym the whole time I was there so it was plenty of equipment. There was also a beauty salon which provided manicures, pedicures, facials and massages to the guests at an additional cost. We soon found out that you could take a short walk along the beach and have any of these treatments for a quarter of the cost. There was also a TV room but it only had the same 5 channels as the bedroom.
The facilities were wonderful and I could happily spend a week or two at the resort without leaving once! 9/10
Food and drink
We knew when booking the hotel that out of the 7 days we would only be there for 4 of 5 after the safari so the idea of paying for all inclusive did not appeal. The only other option was half board which suited us much better, providing more flexibility and better value for the days we wouldn't be there!
Breakfast was served between 7.00 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. which luckily gave me enough time to drag myself out of bed and grab something before heading to the pool! It was served in the main restaurant where we could choose to sit inside or outside. It was never too busy despite everyone eating in one place and there was always lots of food. Guests could choose from a cooked breakfast, cereal, croissants and pastries as well as eggs cooked as you like. However, the best thing had to be the pancakes and waffles which were cooked to order and along with the icing sugar, chocolate sauce, maple syrup and honey, it was the highlight of my mornings!
Lunch was provided for all-inclusive guests at the café bar, however as half board Alex and I had to pay for our lunch. With it being so hot we were never starving at that time so generally we would have a bowl of chips and an ice cream or maybe a hot dog or pizza to share! It was never healthy but never very expensive! The café served everything from pasta to pizza and sandwiches and various other snacks all at reasonable prices. These were served between meal times and all-inclusive guests could have what they wanted at any time.
There were three restaurants in the resort where we could eat - the main restaurant, an Italian and a grill. The main restaurant had a different theme every evening and the food was fantastic quality. Everything tasted so fresh and not mass produced and the best part was that you could watch the meat being cooked and choose your piece! There was also a chef who you could watch rolling out dough and cooking naan bread (there was always a killer curry!) - delicious! Desserts were lovely and there were lots of options including cakes, pastries, profiteroles and mousses. With the variety of food on offer it was difficult to get bored and we would have been happy to eat there every night. Everything was buffet style so we could go up as many times as we wanted.
We ate in the Italian restaurant one night and ordered pizzas. They were good but nothing out of the ordinary and we really could have done with another one each! Starters and desserts of soup and mousse were similar to those of the main restaurant. We enjoyed our meal there but decided not to go back and to try the grill next as we had heard that it was the best food on the complex from other guests. The grill restaurant meal started with salad, then soup (wonderful, especially the pumpkin soup which I'd never tried before!) until the point where we were provided with a hot plate of potato, rice and vegetables. THEN the chefs each took it in turns to bring a massive joint of different meat around on skewers where they would cut some off onto our plates. The grill restaurant on a typical night would have lamb, beef, pork, chicken and a variety of fish. The meat was tender and delicious and if we'd have stayed for another week I would have eaten there most nights! Options galore and never boring! 10/10
I've actually always wanted to go to a hotel with a pool bar and this was one of the things that made us decide on Southern Palms! I'm not someone who can sit in the sun all day and end up spending most of the time in the shade or the pool. The pool bar gave me the best of both worlds! The main pool bar was never too busy and you could always sit comfortably on the seats. In fact quite often we were the only ones there! It got the sun during most of the day but there was enough shade to duck into when needed. There was another pool bar down at the other end of the pool which was always empty, mainly because no-one sunbathed down at that end! It was fantastic to swim to at the end of the day to watch the sun go down. The bars were shaped in a circle with a bridge crossing into them. During the evening there were comfortable chairs inside and this became our favourite place to spend the evenings watching the entertainment from a bit further away!
Alex really enjoyed finishing the evenings at the beach bar which was at the end of the complex nearest to the beach. It was very windy in the evenings but just wonderful to look out at the sea and really get the holiday feeling! On the last night we actually went to sit on the beach with a few drinks and even surrounded by crabs it was just so peaceful and relaxing.
Drinks were reasonable but this was the one time where we wished we were all-inclusive! We generally had a couple of soft drinks and waters throughout the day at the pool bar and any alcohol in the evenings was still not too expensive. All-inclusive guests could have whatever they wanted which included cocktails, bottled water and bottles of Coke and beer. This may seem ordinary but compared to last year's all-inclusive in Egypt, I was very impressed! 8/10
The staff were all very friendly from the first day and couldn't do enough for the guests. The cleaner we never saw but she left Chocolate Eclairs on the pillow each night and housekeeping was always immaculate! There were also guards who stood outside the blocks of accommodation which I actually found quite intimidating, however they were always very friendly with a 'Jambo' every time we walked past! The waiters and bar tenders were all lovely but as we found out at the end of the holiday, they don't have contracts at the resort and sometimes do not get paid. I was shocked that this could go on in such a nice place but apparently it is common in these resorts in Mombasa. They rely heavily on tips and they would do anything for you to earn a bit more. The man who worked most days at the pool bar noticed where we sat and put beach towels on our sunbeds every morning for us in case they were taken. He also presented our drinks beautifully and would always come over for a chat. We tipped him well at the end of the holiday and he was very appreciative, as all of the staff were when they were tipped.
The daytime entertainment included aqua aerobics and water volleyball as mentioned earlier and both of these were very popular. There was also a daily aerobics class which took place in 'the dome' which also housed two ping pong tables which always seemed to be in use! I would have been too embarrassed to join the aerobics class as the people generally did it in their swimwear in front of everyone eating by the pool, but the attendees seemed to love it! There was also beach volleyball which was right outside the hotel grounds, only 10 metres away from the pool!
The evening entertainment was excellent and well attended. After last year's hotel in Egypt I feared the worst but was pleasantly surprised with the variety of entertainment and how good it was. We had a fashion show, singing, an African market and traditional African dancing. The evenings always ended up with the guests getting up and dancing until around 11.30 p.m. when it finished and everything quietened down. This was the time where everyone would naturally return to their rooms but a few of the bars served through the night.
As mentioned earlier, Southern Palms at Diani Beach was a two hour transfer from the airport. The roads in Mombasa are very busy and in places not very easy to drive on which can cause delays on journeys. This plus the fact that cars need to take a ferry over the river to get to Diani Beach make the journey much longer than it should be.
Diani Beach is an area of hotels, both budget and luxury, along the stunning white sand Diani Beach. Outside the grounds of these hotels it is a very poor area with many locals begging and selling small objects on the streets to earn some money. The beach boys outside the resort would pounce the second a westerner walked onto the beach trying to sell something, whether a souvenir, a safari tour or a sarong. We bought a couple of bits and pieces during the time we were there at very reasonable prices. It is easy to barter the beach boys down but I always felt bad doing this when the price different made much more of a difference to them than me. On the advice of GillMN who recently visited Mombasa, we decided to wait until the holiday to book our safari. This was the best thing we could have done! Instead of the prices we were quoted on the internet and via email of 3 days for £349 each, we managed to get a 2 day safari for less than £150 each by going through WT Safaris who were based outside our resort on the beach. We heard a few horror stories from other residents about the problems you can face by booking through the beach boys but we were quite confident that by reading some of the references from other holiday makers that we were in safe hands.
The hotel was perfectly placed along the beach but the fact that it wasn't easy to get to from the airport was quite annoying which means it loses a few marks. 6/10
Overall we had an absolutely fantastic holiday at the Southern Palms Beach Resort and agreed that it was one of the nicest hotels that we have every stayed in. The wonderful food and pools and the stunning beach right next to us kept us very happy for the week and I would have happily stayed a few more! I loved that it was so quiet and relaxed but that there was still so much to do to keep the guests entertained. I would recommend this hotel to absolutely anyone as it really has something for everyone. There is a pool suitable for children even though there weren't many there during our stay. It is perfect for couples or groups of friends looking for a relaxing holiday with things to do during the day and in the evening. There were a lot of middle aged couples who had been there for a month and some who we found out had been coming back for 10 years! 100% recommended!