How to Plan a Lifetime Trip to Kenya

By Ruru Zhou | Updated Apr. 16, 2024
kenya visa-free

Kenya will abolish visa requirements for global visitors starting in January 2024, guaranteeing a smooth and expedited entry process.

Kenya, with its thrilling wildlife and warm beaches, is a perfect destination for family vacations, romantic getaways, and bucket list expeditions.

However, planning a trip to Kenya can be overwhelming when it comes to selecting the perfect safari parks and deciding on accommodation. Any wrong decision may ruin your trip. For instance, you wouldn't want to find yourself amidst a swarm of vehicles in a park on a honeymoon tour.

So, we are here to help you plan your Kenya trip, whether you are a family seeking unforgettable adventures, a couple looking for a romantic getaway, or bucket list travelers wanting to scratch that one significant trip off your list.

1. Choose the Best Time to Go

While most guidebooks might tell you the best time to visit Kenya is during its dry season. In reality, the best time depends largely on your personal preferences, whether that's going on a safari, relaxing on a beach vacation, or enjoying a quiet trip. We've experienced Kenya's diverse attractions in different seasons and we provide you with our top recommendations below.

a) For a Thrilling Safari Trip

Kenya Safari Trip

The best times for a safari trip weather-wise are from June to October and from January to March during the dry season in Kenya. During these periods, you will have the chance to see the animals as they gather around the water sources. Also, you'll encounter the most comfortable weather, with warm days and cool nights.

If you want to see the migration of the wildebeest in Maasai Mara, the best time to travel is from July to September (consider September if you are flexible in travel dates) as July and August typically see the most crowds due to the summer holidays.

b) For a Beach Vacation

Most travelers want to combine their safari experience with a relaxing beach vacation at Kenya's inviting beaches, especially families and couples.

The best times for a beach getaway are from July to October and from January to February. Conveniently, these periods align with the best times for a safari. After busy game-viewing days, retreat to the warm beaches to unwind with your family.

c) For a Quieter Trip

Samburu safari

If you want to escape the crowds, we suggest you travel from November to December. This period falls in the short rainy season, which doesn't usually see heavy rainfall but still offers good opportunities to encounter various wildlife. It's also a prime time for visiting Kenya's beaches.

According to our experience, if your travel dates are flexible, we suggest you travel from January to March. The weather during this period is dry and there are fewer tourists compared to the rest of the dry season.

Don't worry if you cannot visit Kenya during the best seasons, as you can have a great safari trip during the rainy season if you make good preparations with a well-planned itinerary. We have traveled during the rainy season. The experience of having no crowds around you when you spot a big cat is exceptional.

2. Choose What to Do and Where to Go

hot air balloon, Masai Mara

You may know Kenya mainly for its incredible wildlife and warm beaches. There are many other things worth your time if you want to explore the country further, such as engaging with diverse local cultures, going on short hikes, and more. Even within safaris, the options are plentiful.

It can be challenging to choose where to go. We are experts and especially excel at helping families and couples to tailor-make a suitable itinerary by combining their needs with the best of this country. Here, we have detailed the top things to do and where to do them.

a) Embark on a Safari Experience: Which Game Reserve Would Suit You?

maasai mara safari

You have probably heard of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. However, if you want to have a quiet safari experience, Maasai Mara may be not the best choice for you.

  • If you want to have a luxury safari and see the most animals, Maasai Mara National Reserve is the best choice. The park offers private game lodges for couples.
  • If you want to have family-friendly game-viewing, go to Maasai Mara, Lake Naivasha, or Tsavo National Park. These parks are easy to access and have children-friendly lodges.
  • You may want to drive yourself, in which case Tsavo National Park is a great choice.
  • Do you hate having crowds around you? If so, a quieter safari destination, such as Samburu National Reserve or Meru National Park, is a good choice.

Let us know your interests and requirements, and our experts will recommend the reserves that are best suited to your needs.

Insider's tip: For the best wildlife viewing experience, book your safari for the morning when there are more animals out.

b) Relax on a Warm Beach

Diani Beach in Kenya

After a few days of game viewing, we suggest you relax at Kenya's Indian Ocean beaches, which are some of the best in Africa.

Relax on the beach or by the pool with your family. If your family is up for more activity, consider a snorkeling or diving excursion. Kenya's most renowned beaches include Diani, Lamu Island, and Watamu. Let us help you decide which one to pick.

Diani Beach: For a family trip, we recommend you choose Diani Beach. It is the most famous beach in Kenya. The area offers numerous family-friendly activities, such as camel rides, watersports, and snorkeling. There is also a range of accommodations from budget hotels to luxurious resorts.

Lamu Island beaches: Couples may prefer the romantic atmosphere at one of Lamu's beaches. Whether you are traveling for an anniversary or honeymoon, you can enjoy each other's company in this serene and romantic setting. Lamu Island also hosts numerous private villas and luxurious resorts, offering unforgettable accommodation experiences for couples.

Watamu Beach: If you prefer nature and adventure activities, Watamu Beach is a great choice. The nearby Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve is a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. Watamu Beach is also less crowded, offering a peaceful vacation.

c) Going for a Short Hike

Walking SafariWaking safari around Lake Naivasha

If you like nature and adventures, you may add some hiking activities to your itinerary. The ideal route for families and couples in Kenya is through Karura Forest. This spot is a paradise for nature lovers, featuring marshland, a rich diversity of tree species, and abundant birdlife.

d)Explore Local Culture

Masai people

It is recommended to learn a bit about the local culture and its people in Kenya. We suggest visiting a local village in Masai Mara.

Tell our travel advisors what you want to do in Kenya. They will tailor-make a personal itinerary for you.

3. Decide How Many Days to Stay

see wildlife in Kenya

For first-time visitors, 2 weeks is an ideal time for a trip to Kenya to discover the highlights of the country. With a 2-week vacation, you could go on a safari trip in Maasai Mara and have a few relaxing days on Kenya's best beaches.

If you are tight on time, a short trip of about 7–8 days is also possible if you concentrate your safari experience on smaller parks near Nairobi, such as Amboseli National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, or Lake Naivasha to maximize your time. Don't worry about missing out on lots of animals as these parks also boast a great variety of wildlife.

If it is your bucket list trip and you wish to explore Kenya more extensively, you may consider a longer stay of about 3 weeks. This duration would allow for seeing wildlife, exploring Kenyan culture, and hiking in the mountainous regions.

It is also very easy to combine a Kenya trip with a visit to Tanzania for a comprehensive East Africa experience. This enables you to explore diverse landscapes, wildlife, and cultures in one trip. You could, for instance, we can arrange your trip to start with a safari in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve, then cross the border to visit Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.

You might want to contact a travel specialist to meet your requirements, including the length of your vacation, and design a fulfilling tour that's uniquely planned for you.

4. Consider Your Budget

Kenya tour

Kenya offers a cost-effective travel experience when compared with destinations in the United States and Europe. Accommodation in Kenya is widely known for its reasonable pricing, offering fantastic value for money.

Hotel costs: For a truly luxurious experience, high-end resorts in Nairobi and beach locations charge US$200 to US$500 per night. However, there are also mid-range hotels available that range from US$150 to US$250 per night.

Safari costs: Most of your budget for a trip to Kenya will likely be allocated to safari experiences. Luxury safari lodges and camps, such as Governors' Camp in Maasai Mara, charge about US$750–1,500 per night. These prices often include meals, game drives, and other activities or services. Lodges and camps in other national parks are a bit cheaper than in Maasai Mara.

Air ticket costs: When planning a trip to Kenya, you should be aware that international flight tickets can represent a significant portion of your budget.

However, in Kenya, domestic flights are sometimes the most convenient way to travel long distances, especially to remote areas or game reserves. A round-trip flight between Nairobi and Mombasa can run from about US$60 to US$150. Flights to Maasai Mara National Reserve can cost significantly more (expect to pay from US$200 to US$400 for a return ticket).

Taking a private tour is the best way to travel across Kenya even though it may be a bit more expensive. You may not want to be stuck with many strangers around you when game viewing. A private tour is often the perfect solution to fully savor a trip to Kenya, making it a particularly good option for families and couples.

Please feel free to contact us and we will be delighted to create a customized itinerary and provide you with a personalized quote.

5. Getting To and Getting Around Kenya

Kenya transportation

The major gateway to Kenya is the capital of the country: Nairobi. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) is the primary point of entry, with flights originating from various locations across America and Europe. For example:

  • For travelers from the United States: Delta Air Lines provides a direct flight service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO)
  • If you're traveling from Europe, British Airways offers a non-stop flight from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO).

Best Ways to Traveling from Nairobi to Safari Destinations

Upon landing in Nairobi, numerous flights are available from the city's Wilson Airport to most safari destinations. Taking a flight is the most comfortable way to reach your safari destinations. There are several flights each day, so you won't need to worry about missing one. Take Maasai Mara, for example. There are multiple flights per day from Wilson Airport to Maasai Mara National Reserve each day by different providers.

Please note that these routes typically use small, light aircraft with 12 to 50 seats.

You may consider using a private transfer by land, but we don't recommend it. Traveling by land in Kenya is challenging because of the long journey on bumpy and dusty roads. Your comfort and enjoyment of the safari experience are our priorities, and we believe air travel provides the best solution for these long distances.

There are also flights between different Safari destinations. By taking a private tour with us, your guide and private car will transfer you to the airport for your flight to the next destination. It will save you a lot of hassles.

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