Tried and tested: our pick of where to stay in Vilanculos

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 8 May 2015

In search of a family holiday, professional reviewer Pippa de Bruyn scoured for the perfect accommodation in Vilanculos. Using Tripadvisor as a base, she took a trip there to personally check out 21 of the top-ranked options in the Hotel, B&B/Inn and Speciality Lodgings categories, plus used the assistance of two locals, Scott Walsh and Emidio Bobbo. The result? You won’t find a better, tried and tested guide to the best properties in Vilanculos.

Bahia Mar
‘Simply the best’ or ‘nothing can compare’, reads many a TripAdvisor review. But unless the reviewer is both well travelled and has personally inspected every accommodation option, these kinds of superlative claims are meaningless. The lack of a comparative and specific voice where each property is viewed according to a criteria by the same individual is where public review sites, useful as they undoubtedly are, can fall short for the traveller needing to make the choice.

Why Vilanculos is an excellent choice for a holiday:

  • Startlingly beautiful views
  • Easy access to Bazaruto Archipelago islands
  • Affordability
  • Close to swanky new airport
  • Direct SA Airlink flights five days a week

 

1. Bahia Mar

Bahia Mar
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 2 of 7 (B&B/Inns)
Our ranking : Best for romance

If you’re looking to get lucky, celebrate or rekindle an old flame, look no further than this boutique hotel. Bizarrely, Bahia Mar is currently rated under B&B/Inn on TripAdvisor when it should be under Hotels, where I’d personally rate it number one. It’s new (less than a year old), and the fittings and finishes are modern – in fact, the clean geometry of the rooms is a welcome contrast to the thatch and timber that dominates elsewhere in town.

Charming staff, great location (also walking distance along the beach to Cas Bar), barefoot-chic public spaces and rooms. Entry-level rooms are perfect but if you have the cash, splash out on the suites for more space and your own private plunge pool.

Cost: B&B from $140 (R1 534) single occupancy and $210 (R2 303) double occupancy. Includes taxes and airport transfers.
Contact: bahiamarclub.com

 

2. Casa Babi

Casa Babi
TripAdvisor ranking No. 1 of 7 (B&B/Inns)
Our ranking : Best for divers

You don’t have to be a diver to stay here, but as this is home to the Odyssey Dive Centre, diving is on the cards daily. With just four rooms in a separate block, with uncluttered décor to make the most of the stunning sea views (just up the road from Varanda), the atmosphere is intimate; strangers tend to leave as friends, according to French owner Denis Dujardin. There’s also a simple single self-catering unit in the garden (sleeps four).

Cost: B&B from $175 (R1920) per room per night (sleeps two); self-catering house from $150 per couple (R1645), $38 per extra person (R416).
Contact: casababi.com

 

3. Zombie Cucumber, Casa Jules & Casa Cabana cottage

Zombie cucumber, Casa Jules & Casa Cabana Cottage
TripAdvisor ranking Zombie Cucumber No. 6 of 19 (Speciality Lodgings); Casa Jules No. 3 of 7 (B&B/Inns); Casa Cabana No. 2 of 9 (Hotels)
Our ranking : Best budget rooms

Zombie Cucumber and Casa Jules are rated separately on TripAdvisor, but they are part of the same complex, located a short stroll from the same beach as Varanda and Palmeiras. Zombie Cucumber is slightly cheaper and comprises small rondavels painted in funky colours with an outside shower and toilet. There’s also a dorm. Casa Jules is built behind the pool bar and comprises a row of en-suite rooms, simply furnished with partial sea views. It’s a well-maintained operation and offers good value if you’re travelling as a couple or triple. Casa Cabana is on the other side of town and is home to the kite-surfing centre.

Of the accommodation options here, the cottage is the best value – it’s tiny and basic, but metres from the beach and is the best value of the Casa Cabana options, which include two simple double rooms, two self-catering units (can sleep four with bunk bed, but this back bedroom is tiny) and one ‘manor house’ which looks charming from the outside, but unless you like your living room to be taken up by a pool table it is not quite so successful inside.

Cost: Zombie Cucumber B&B from R794 per double room; Casa Jules B&B from R902 per double (R1082 triple); Casa Cabana cottage from $120 (R1314) per night.
Contact: zombiecucumber.com; casajules.com; casacabanabeach.com

 

4. Vila Do Paraiso

Vila Do Paraiso
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 4 of 19 (Speciality Lodging)
Our ranking : Best-value family villa

This offers six private sea-view villas set in lush tropical gardens, each finished and fitted to a relatively high standard, sleeping 10 (eight adults in four en-suite bedrooms, and an additional two children on a mezzanine level), and it’s located in the centre of Vilanculos’ main swimming beach. It’s fully equipped for self-catering, but there’s also a restaurant-cocktail bar (open 7.30am-10pm daily) next to the rim flow pool right on the beach.

The popular Cas Bar is strolling distance along the beach. The management couple is available 24/7 to arrange boat trips, snorkelling and diving. Each cottage is serviced daily and comes with its own well-trained butler/sous chef, included in the price. Unbelievable.

Cost: From $350 (R3920) per villa per night in low season (sleeping eight plus children at $15 per child extra). Rates negotiable for smaller groups. High season in Vilanculos is Christmas, New Year and Easter.
Contact: viladoparaiso.com

 

5. Marimba Secret Garden

Marimba Secret Garden
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 1 of 19 (Speciality Lodging)
Our ranking : Best eco-friendly

Located 20 kilometres north of Vilanculos on a remote beach, this is a real Robinson Crusoe experience – a place to completely unwind, with just six simply constructed circular huts on stilts surrounded by forest. There is limited electricity, and no cellphone reception – just the lullaby of the birds and the ocean. Ablutions are shared but the bathhouse is spacious and well maintained.

A 200-metre path leads you to the cliff where a beautifully constructed staircase winds down to a deserted beach. At night solar balls are hung in the trees and owner-managers Marcelle and Isobelle play chilled lounge tunes and serve simple delicious meals. This is a great place to take over as a group – it’s isolated and intimate, so whoever’s here creates the vibe. Caveat: there is no air-conditioning or fans.

Cost: From MZN1 600 (R577) per double; MZN1 700 for a twin and MZN2 400 (R866) to sleep three.
Contact: marimba.ch

 

6. Archipelago Resort

Archipelago Resort
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 5 of 19 (Speciality Lodging)
Our ranking : Best budget resort

This old-fashioned resort is an absolute bargain for families and/or friends together. Located seven kilometres south of town (the road is bad; once here you’ll want to stay put) the lodge has been built on a ridge overlooking the ocean. It’s also where Vilanculos’ famous rescue horses are stabled, with daily outrides on the beach departing from here, and one of the best dive sites is easily accessed from here.

The 18 large thatched chalets provide three bedrooms (two bathrooms); interiors are a little dark, and finishes are rustic, but it’s scrupulously clean and the atmosphere authentic old-style. The charming restaurant-bar makes the most of the incredible views, and there is a large pool. Be sure to bag one of the nine sea-view villas – strangely they cost the same as the garden-view villas that hunker behind.

Cost: From R1650 per chalet (sleeps six, self-catering).
Contact: archipelago-resort.com

 

7. Varanda

Varanda
TripAdvisor ranking: No. 5 of 7 (B&B/Inns)
Our ranking :Best-value sea view

Owner-manager Toni Manna did a great job when he decided to augment his restaurant-bar income by building five rooms above the courtyard. Every room has a high window to make the most of the ocean views, and a door leading out to a small private veranda to toast the sunset. Simply furnished in a Mediterranean style, the décor is comfortable – nothing detracts from the eye-candy views. Walking distance from Kuvuka (also right on the beach, and one of the best places to lunch in Vilanculos).

Cost: Double B&B from MZN3500 (R1214); additional bed MZN1500 (R517)
Contact: [email protected]

Worth a mention

  • Casa Rex (No.1 Hotel) has wonderful views and superb service levels, but with B&B rates starting at $150 (R1 644) per person per night, it’s relatively pricey. Its two-bedroom, self-catering.
  • Golden Sands (No.8 Speciality) is worth considering from $260 (R2 849) per night.
  • Dona Ana (No.4 Hotel) is the best business hotel in town and could be worth booking if the other options are full – from $120 (R1 315) per person per night sharing.
  • Pescador (No.5 Hotel) doesn’t make the most of its location – better to just eat here. Costs MZN4 000 (R1 379) per double per night (I preferred sister outfit Aguia Negra.
  • Aguia Negra, No. 6 B&B/Inns – from R700 per person per night – has a beachside location.
  • I did love Palmeiras – if there was space, I’d review it as Best Small Resort, with en-suite cottages starting from MZN2 150 (R741) per person per night sharing.
  • Rio Azul (No. 2 Speciality, from R2 250 per person per night) is indeed fabulous but it’s 130km from Vilanculos.
  • Villa Santorini (No. 3 Speciality) is a beautiful villa … from $450 (R4 931) per person per night.

NOTE Vilanculos Beach Lodge closed the week before I arrived. A month after closing, it was still ranked No.4 Hotel, which just goes to show…

 
This article first appeared in the January 2015 issue of Getaway magazine. All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at the establishments’ discretion. Please confirm with them before travelling.

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