Opened nearly five decades ago, Peponi Hotel is something of an institution. It’s the most-well known place to stay on Kenya’s Lamu Island, and it’s easy to see why. While “boutique” has become a buzzword in the hotel industry, with bland establishments adopting the term for marketing, Peponi is the real deal. Owned by the same family since it opened, the hotel is quirky, laid back yet stylish, and the staff are warm, friendly and attentive – it’s the antithesis of a chain hotel. From the moment you arrive and are offered a complimentary house cocktail on the seafront deck, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place.
The hotel is spread out along Shela (Lamu’s best stretch of beach) with 29 rooms in whitewashed Swahili buildings set among fragrant frangipane trees and coconut palms. There’s a swimming pool under baobab trees, where you can while away hot afternoons while gazing out to sea. All the airy rooms come with ocean views, wooden beamed ceilings, four-poster beds, gorgeous furniture and stylish African art works. My room had a small outdoor deck with a cushioned swing chair – the perfect place for an afternoon nap.
At night, Peponi’s outdoor bar and restaurant is utterly romantic, drawing guests to candlelit tables overlooking the ocean. The food here is superb, with a menu focused on seafood like coconut crab and freshly caught fish, as well as delicious local dishes such as Swahili curry.
If you can drag yourself away from the pool during your stay, there’s Shela village behind the hotel to explore – a tiny, sleepy place of narrow streets, beautiful old buildings and lovely little shops and cafes. Shela Beach is perfect for long strolls, sunbathing and swimming, and the hotel can also organize snorkeling on an offshore reef. Don’t miss a sundowner sailing trip on a traditional dhow to watch the sun dip below the ocean horizon and see Peponi’s twinkling lights reflected on the sea at dusk when you make your way back to shore.