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Spicy Zanzibar

With hiking poles and reef shoes, we splosh knee-deep in water along the reef to the surf break, careful to avoid spiny sea urchins.

We could be sipping ginger mojitos under shady palms on a blindingly white Zanzibar beach. But it’s low tide, and the Indian Ocean waves have rolled back almost a mile.

Now is the time for “reef walking.”

Occasionally, we stop to pick up shells and examine sea cucumbers. We even spot a small octopus.

Zanzibar beaches are beautiful.

We’re reef walking off Bwejuu Beach. On Zanzibar’s east coast, Bwejuu Beach is rated one of the world’s 30 most beautiful island beaches by Conde Nast Traveler. But it’s also one of the most unusual.

Along with reef walking, we watch local village women harvest seaweed offshore.The coral sand beach is firm, so you can take out hotel bikes and ride for miles along the hard-packed coral sand. And when the wind picks up, windsurfers and kite boarders fly through the white caps.

Splurge -worthy Hotels

Large big box hotels aren’t the norm on Zanzibar. Present-day tourism, beyond backpacker hostels and simple beach cottages, only started to sprout in the past decade. Before that, a bloody African/socialist revolution in the mid-1960s closed Zanzibar to the outside world for more than 20 years.

But Zanzibar is now a hot destination.

Honeymooners and international visitors who like a little luxe have discovered the island.

In Stone Town, the historic old part of Zanzibar’s capital, historic palaces have been converted into dreamy boutique hotels. Several new all-inclusive boutique beach resorts have also opened.

Like the hip new Baraza Resort & Spa, which resembles a gleaming white sultan’s palace. Welcoming both couples and families to its one- and two-bedroom villas with private plunge pools, it catapaulted onto Conde Nast Traveler’s 2012 “Hot List” of top 60 best new hotels in the world.

Its sister resort, The Palms, is a romantic, adults-only, all-inclusive escape on Bwejuu Beach with six thatched villas, offering exceptional service, gourmet food and your own private tented banda (bunglow) for lounging on the beach.

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