• ~ mins read

Kenya conjures up images of taking safari drives along vast golden plains scattered with herds of game or climbing the mighty snow-capped Mount Kenya. But this fascinating East African country has so much more to offer. You’ll find a diverse array of things to do in Kenya, from hiking through the dense Kakamega Forest and sailing along the coast of the Indian Ocean to taking to the air on a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara National Park and scuba diving in the Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape or an exhilarating adventure, a trip to Kenya won’t disappoint.

I really enjoyed the locations.
  • Mark Bromley
  • From USA
5 - Excellent
“I really enjoyed the locations. Especially the Roman ruins and the villages we staye...” Read More
View Incredible Tours in Kenya

1. Witness the Great Migration in Maasai Mara

Wildebeests crossing the Mara River, migrating from Tanzania to Kenya.
Witness the Great Wildebeest Migration crossing the Mara River to reach Kenya.

Witnessing this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon is undeniably one of the best things you can do in Kenya. Head to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, particularly between July and October, to see millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores migrate across the savannah in search of greener pastures. The Mara River becomes a dramatic stage for river crossings, where predators await, adding to the spectacle. You can experience the Great Migration on game drives, hot-air balloon flights, walking tours, or horseback safaris.

Alternative destinations:

  • The Grumeti River in the Western Corridor (Tanzania): In early June, the mega-herd heads towards the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor, where the riverine forest harbors lush vegetation and water for the migrating animals to drink. One of the most breathtaking sights of the Great Migration is when the herds gather to cross the Grumeti River.
  • Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo (Tanzania): The herd moves northwards in August, spreading across a broad front with some heading through Grumeti Reserve and Ikorongo. Others trek north through the heart of the Serengeti National Park in northern Serengeti, where they feast on the lush grasses.

Insider tip: For a real treat and the best views in the Maasai Mara, stay at the owner-managed and run Angama Mara. Perched on the edge of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, this lodge is as close to heaven as it comes.

2. Float above the Maasai Mara in a hot air balloon

Hot air balloon and wildebeests under the purple in Maasai Mara.
Hot air balloon and wildebeests under the purple in Maasai Mara.

Take a hot air balloon ride and soar above the vast savannah to spot iconic African animals such as elephants, giraffes, and lions from a unique vantage point. The Mara River, rolling hills, and acacia-dotted plains unfold beneath you. Many hot air balloon safaris include a champagne breakfast upon landing — a perfect end to this remarkable adventure.

Alternative destinations:

  • Amboseli National Park: Enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, as you ascend into the sky at sunrise. Witness the park's diverse wildlife, including elephants, lions, and giraffes, against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro. Tuck into a champagne breakfast upon landing.

Insider tip: Be prepared to be flexible. Your hot-air balloon ride depends entirely on the weather. You might have to wait for the best day, but it’s worth it.

3. Cycle through Hell’s Gate National Park

Cycling through Hell's Gate National Park is a unique experience that should not be missed while in Kenya. Pedal past towering cliffs, dramatic landscapes, geothermal hot springs, and geysers. Stop at the gorge and explore on foot, marveling at the sheer rock walls and striking scenery.

Alternative destinations:

  • Lake Naivasha: If you’re an avid birdwatcher, join a cycling tour around the shores of Lake Naivasha, which is abundant in birdlife. Navigate through acacia woodlands and wetland areas looking for birds, and take a boat to Crescent Island to see resident giraffes and zebras.
  • Nairobi: On a city-based cycling tour, explore the capital city on a two-wheeler. One of the top activities in Nairobi is a cycling tour that takes you through the city’s urban green spaces and past iconic cultural landmarks.

Insider tip: If you are a mountain biking purist, try some challenging single-track routes on Mt Kenya. If you prefer a more leisurely cycle, head to the coast and explore Diani, Malindi, and Watamu by bike.

4. Scuba dive in Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park

An empty boat spotted on the waters of Wasini Island.
Before heading south to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park, be sure to enjoy a boat ride in the mainland waters of Wasini Island.

Located along the southern Kenya coast, this marine park is a designated protected area renowned for its vibrant coral reefs, clear turquoise waters, and diverse marine life. During the right season, you’ll encounter colorful coral formations teeming with various fish species and larger marine creatures like dolphins, turtles, and whale sharks.

Alternative destinations:

  • Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve: This is one of the best places in Kenya to swim with green turtles who lay their eggs on Watamu’s sandy beaches. On a dive, expect brightly colored corals and hundreds of fish species. You can also dive into a mangrove forest, under overhangs, and into a wreck.
  • Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve: Located around Kenya’s second-largest city, this massive marine park is a short boat ride from the shore and offers a top-notch diving experience. Here, you can encounter everything from octopuses to dolphins and turtles.

Insider tip: Book a night dive around Mombasa's shipwrecks, the MV Dania and MV Tamarind, if you want a thrilling adventure.

5. See the Big Five on a safari in Lake Nakuru National Park

A rhino and its baby spotted by tourists on a game drive.
Spot the big five, including rhinos, on a game drive safari in Lake Nakuru National Park.

Guided safaris are one of Kenya's top tourist attractions. Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the best spots to encounter the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, and elephant). The park has forest-clad escarpments and flamingo-lined lakes in the Great Rift Valley. Explore acacia woodlands and open grasslands for big game, and take advantage of Baboon Cliff for panoramic lake views.

Alternative destinations:

  • Samburu National Reserve: In northern Kenya, Samburu National Reserve offers a unique safari experience with its distinct arid landscape. Here, you can encounter the Big Five and the ‘Samburu Special Five,’ — Beisa oryx, long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, and Somali ostrich.
  • Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks: Collectively known as Tsavo, these parks form one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in the world. Tsavo East is famous for its large herds of red elephants, while both parks offer diverse landscapes and excellent chances of encountering the Big Five.

Insider tip: If you're on a Nairobi tour, check out Nairobi National Park on the capital's outskirts. Kenya’s first game reserve boasts abundant wildlife, from lions and leopards to the endangered black rhino. It’s one of the best things to do in Nairobi and a great safari option if you’re on a budget.

6. Climb the mighty Mount Kenya

View of Mount Kenya from Shipton Camp.
Climb Mount Kenya from Shipton Camp for the most scenic view on your way to the top.

Embark on a challenging and rewarding adventure by climbing Mount Kenya. Standing over 17,000 feet, Mount Kenya is the second-highest peak in Africa. This extinct stratovolcanic mountain offers various climbing routes, with Point Lenana being the most accessible peak. The Sirimon and Chogoria routes are popular for unique landscapes and wildlife sightings.

Alternative destinations:

  • The Mathews Range (Lenkiyio Hills): Located in northern Kenya, the Mathews Range, also known as the Lenkiyio Hills, offers a less-explored climbing destination. The range features unique landscapes, including highland forests and rugged peaks, providing an off-the-beaten-path adventure.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak): While most of Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, its highest peak, Uhuru Peak, is situated on the Kenya-Tanzania border. Climbing this peak can be a great addition to your combined Kenya and Tanzania trip. The ascent from the Kenyan side, known as the Chogoria Route, provides a unique perspective.

Insider tip: Before attempting a high-altitude climb like Mount Kenya or Mount Kilimanjaro, spend a few days acclimatizing to the altitude. This helps your body adjust to lower oxygen levels, reducing the risk of altitude-related illnesses, which can quickly stop your climb.

7. Set sail on a dhow in the Kenyan Coast

Dhow sailing during sunset in Kenya.
Set sail on a dhow during sunset on the Kenyan waters.

Sailing on a traditional dhow is a delightful experience in Kenya and a relaxing way to explore its coastal beauty. The Lamu Archipelago, consisting of Lamu, Manda, Pate, and Kiwayu islands, is an idyllic setting for dhow sailing. Lamu Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a starting point for dhow cruises. Explore the archipelago's historic towns, pristine beaches, and vibrant marine life.

Alternative destinations:

  • Malindi and Watamu: The coastal towns of Malindi and Watamu, located north of Mombasa, offer dhow sailing experiences along the Indian Ocean. Sail around the Malindi Marine National Park, explore coral reefs, and enjoy the serene waters of Watamu.
  • Funzi Island: Located on the Kenyan south coast, Funzi Island offers secluded dhow sailing experiences. Cruise along peaceful waterways, witness mangrove forests, and enjoy the tranquility of these off-the-beaten-path destinations.

Insider tip: Many dhows still engage in traditional fishing practices. Ask your dhow guide to show you how to fish off the boat and catch your own lunch.

8. Hike in the Chyulu Hills

Maasai men spotted in Chyulu Hills.
On your hike to the top of Chyulu Hills you may get lucky and interreact with the locals including the famous Maasai tribe.

Characterized by lava flows, caves, and lush greenery, the Chyulu Hills promise a unique hiking experience. Tucked between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks, this volcanic range features scenic trails that meander through dense forests, open grasslands, and volcanic landscapes. Explore fascinating volcanic caves like the Leviathan Cave and the Kisula Caves to witness the Shetani Lava Flow.

Alternative destinations:

  • Aberdare Range: The Aberdare Range, part of the Eastern branch of the East African Rift System, provides excellent hiking opportunities. Trails in Aberdare National Park lead through lush forests, waterfalls, and open moorlands, offering a rich natural experience.
  • Aberdare National Park: Aberdare National Park offers various hiking trails amidst its diverse landscapes, including moorlands and dense forests. The park is home to various wildlife, allowing one to spot elephants, buffaloes, and colobus monkeys.

Insider tip: If you’re craving greenery in Nairobi, head to the Karura Forest. This lush oasis features 30 miles of trails around a waterfall, caves, rivers, and wetland.

9. Surf in the Diani Beach

Empty camel rides on the sandy shores of the Diani Beach.
After an adrenaline-pumping surf, ride the camels in Diani Beach.

Kenya is fast becoming a hot spot on the surfing scene, and between June and October, the coast has some incredible waves. Diani Beach on the south coast is one of the best places to surf. It is a long, sandy beach with consistent waves suitable for beginners and more experienced surfers. If the wind is up and the waves are flat, you can also try kite-surfing and windsurfing.

Alternative destinations:

  • Watamu: Watamu, north of Mombasa, is another hot spot for surfing. The Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve provides a scenic backdrop for surfing.
  • Malindi: Malindi, known for its coral reefs and vibrant marine life, also has surfable waves. It’s an excellent spot to enjoy both water activities and cultural experiences.

Insider tip: If you’re a first-time surfer in Kenya, take a few lessons from the locals to learn about the currents, waves, and wind.

10. Meet Kenya’s Local People

Traditional kitchens of the local tribes in Kenya.
Visit a traditional village hut in Kenya to witness how the local tribes have been living for centuries.

Visit a Maasai cultural village near the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Interact with the Maasai people, learn about their traditional lifestyle, participate in dances, and purchase authentic Maasai crafts. Visit a Maasai cultural village near the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Interact with the Maasai people, learn about their traditional lifestyle, participate in dances, and purchase authentic Maasai crafts.

Alternative destinations: 

  • Kisumu Impala Sanctuary: Visit the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary to explore Luo culture. The sanctuary combines wildlife conservation with cultural experiences, offering a chance to see impalas and learn about the traditions of the Luo people.
  • Kakamega Forest Cultural Center: Discover the Luhya culture at the Kakamega Forest Cultural Center. This center showcases the traditions of the Luhya people, including their music, dance and folklore. It's an opportunity to learn about the region's cultural heritage.

Insider tip: A fantastic way to interact with the locals is to attend one of the many cultural festivals throughout the year. The Turkana Festival and the Marsabit Lake Turkana Cultural Festival are highly recommended!

From wildlife safaris in the Maasai Mara to immersing in diverse tribal cultures, Kenya offers a range of experiences for all types of travelers. Whether you're trekking in the Chyulu Hills, cycling in Hell's Gate Park, or enjoying the simplicity of Swahili cuisine, this incredible country promises the adventure of a lifetime. To experience these incredible destinations in Kenya and more, contact one of our experts, who will help you with a customized trip to Kenya.

Published by Supriya Rayamajhi, updated on February 19, 2024
Plan a trip to KenyaWe offer different tour types. You can also chat with a local travel specialist if you want a customized tour to Kenya.
  • Thea Gillingham
    Thea GillinghamTravel Expert in Kenya & Tanzania
  • Leonie Taylor
    Leonie TaylorTravel Expert in Kenya & Tanzania
  • Victoria Erskine
    Victoria ErskineTravel Expert in Kenya & South Africa
Our travel experts are recommended by:
  • BBC
  • Independent
  • Lonely Planet
0 COMMENTSWe welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours.