This is a bit of a mixed review, I hope not to discourage people from staying at Watano, it’s in a gorgeous setting and a way better option than any of the faceless package tour 'holiday villages' with 300+ apartment style rooms that are dotted along Diani beach.
First, the good. Watano is a large compound situated in the northernmost third of Diani's beach road. The popular 40 Thieves Beach Bar is a short 20 minute walk south along the beach. Just up the track from the compound on the main road there are two decent supermarkets and the Tropicana Bar. When I visited it was just at the end of the low season and the bar staff were chatty and friendly - I'd recommend the bbq'd beef skewers.
The walled Watano complex consists of a number of cottages of different styles spaced irregularly in lush tropical gardens. The front of the compound has the main large colonial style 'Watano House’ and the gardens extend right onto the white sandy beach, a large grove of shady palms and a decent sized pool. There are picnic tables, double sun loungers, thatched sitting areas and quite possibly the comfiest padded sun loungers I've ever sat on! Its spacious and really quite idyllic. If you have kids, they'll have lots of (safe) fun rampaging around the gardens looking for monkeys - its definitely a family friendly location.
The staff are friendly (you'll be "jambo'd" constantly) and helpful - my housekeeper Mohammed pretty much grabbed any chance he could to make sure everything was ok, and completely surprised me one day by not only washing some clothes i'd left out specifically but pretty much everything washable!
Security is 24/7 and they'll also stop for a quick friendly hello and a chat.
So all good right? Convenient location, gorgeous setting, great staff and security. Well no - I was staying at the budget "Dolly House", which on the outside looks quite charming, with a large veranda, table and chairs and big outdoor carved African sofa. Get close though and the dirty, grubby front door gives an indication of what’s in store.
The inside was filthy, I don't mean surface dirt, I mean battered furniture, walls covered in scrapes and marks, and a shower area that was more mold than tiles. The only saving grace was the giant mosquito netted four poster bed that took up 50% of the space. Along one wall is a battered shelf with a calor gas two ring stove and sink, as well as a fridge, toaster, plates, cups and kitchen equipment. The entire interior needs gutting and repainting. Every day the bathroom sink was full of dirt, I'm guessing from termites in the roof.
The Dolly House is the smallest and cheapest at Watano. I've stayed in lots of budget accommodation all around the world, I know not to expect 5*, and I wasn't expecting air con, hot water, etc. I don't mind a few bugs and occasional gecko turd - it’s the tropics and to be expected. But the interior really was utterly horrible, and a real shame as it could have been great if it was just even a little bit better maintained, had fresh paint and the dirt, bathroom mold, and general grubbiness removed.
The Dolly House is only one of the cottages at Watano, the others are all larger and looked better maintained - the big house in particular looked fantastic, I was briefly in the kitchen and it was modern and spotless. If I come back I would definitely consider staying again but only in one of the other cottages. My advice if you are planning a stay here would be to ask for some recent interior photos of your cottage first, other than that the location and beachfront setting is way better than staying in one of the main resorts.
The dirty accommodation was a bit of a let down but I've given a 'very good' rating mainly for the brilliant location and great staff.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Watano Beach House is a large 8 bedroom beachfront villa with a private swimming pool. Behind the beach house are several smaller guesthouses with beach access. The property is centrally situated on Kenya's most beautiful beach, walking distance from shops and restaurants. All houses are fully furnished and fully staffed with well equipped kitchens. The rest of the world simply fades away as you gaze out at the vast Indian ocean from the lush palm filled gardens. ... more less
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