I’ve been travelling regularly to The Gambia for over eighteen years. During that time I’ve stayed in a range of hotels and visited many more. Here is my guide to the best hotels and resorts in The Gambia. Whether you are looking for a touch of luxury or are on a tighter budget, seeking tranquillity or looking to party, there’s a hotel for you!
Disclaimer: I have visited The Gambia many times both for work, volunteering and on holiday while working for The Gambia Experience. I now work freelance and recently visited on a press trip, funded by The Gambia Experience. Please note, that it may have been some time since I visited or stayed at some of the following hotels but I have updated this article in December 2022 to the best of my knowledge. All the photography is my own and I have only included hotels I have visited myself (unless otherwise clearly stated)
My guide to the best hotels and resorts in The Gambia
Starting with the largest and liveliest coastal resort, Kololi, and ending upcountry by Baboon Island, here is my guide to the hotels and tourist resorts of The Gambia. From luxurious beachside spa hotels such as Coco Ocean to the unique river lodges of Mandina and from the budget-friendly, African Village to the family-friendly, Senegambia, there’s a wide range to choose from. I hope my guide helps you find the one that is right for you. You’ll find a map showing the location of the hotels and resorts at the end of this post.
Table of Contents
Kololi Beach Resort
First, let’s head to the main tourist resorts along the coast, the most established of which is Kololi, also known as The Strip. There are a few large hotels here right by the sea.
The Kairaba and the Senegambia are two of the most popular Gambian hotels in Kololi. They have extensive gardens with spacious lawns leading down to the sea. It’s worth noting that due to erosion, the sandy beach here has had to be protected by large boulders with steps leading down to the sea at low tide. Throughout the gardens at both hotels there are plenty of shade-giving palm trees and you can easily find your own quiet spot, yet step outside of your hotel and you’ll find the liveliest couple of streets in The Gambia, full of restaurants, and bars.
The biggest advantage of staying in Kololi, is the great choice of restaurants, selling every kind of cuisine, including English, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Chinese and African, right on your doorstep. You’ll find shops selling anything you might need on holiday, including a pharmacy, a few exchange bureaux (which will give you a better rate of exchange than your hotel) and a bank with an occasionally working ATM. There are also a couple of nightclubs, a casino and a couple of internet cafes.
Further shops, restaurants and a children’s playground can be found in the Village complex, just a few minutes walk up the road.
Kololi Beach Resort is the liveliest resort in The Gambia, perfect for those who want to soak up the sun during the day and party at night as well as for those looking for a wide choice of restaurants within easy walking distance.
Official local hotel rating: 3 stars | Transfers 40 minutes | Best for families and couples
Set in spacious tropical gardens, most of the accommodation at the Senegambia Hotel is arranged in small two-storey blocks of apartments. There are two swimming pools one by the beach with an additional children’s pool and a quieter one set back in the grounds. Wildlife including green vervet monkeys and Little Egrets are regular visitors to the hotel gardens. Don’t miss the daily vulture feeding around 11.30 am each day – it’s quite a spectacular sight.
The Senegambia hotel is a lively hotel with plenty of organised activities in the winter months and a myriad of restaurants on your doorstep.
Kotu Beach Resort
Nearby Kotu, is a smaller version of Kololi with some great restaurants but little nightlife and just a couple of shops, a craft market and an exchange bureau but no bank or pharmacy. Essentials including bottled water as well as a range of snacks and alcoholic drinks are available in several mini-markets.
The long sandy beach in Kotu is really lovely with plenty of palm trees for those seeking a little shade. The sunsets are spectacular, perfect for a romantic stroll by the water’s edge. If the local lads bother you take off your shoes and paddle in the water – they won’t follow as they won’t want to get their trainers wet!
Despite the seeming lack of nightlife, I’ve had some great evenings in Kotu, dancing to the beat of the local drummers in the beach bar Dominos, which you’ll find by walking through the craft market and turning left as you face the sea. The larger resort of Kololi is only a short taxi ride away if you fancy a livelier scene. I actually prefer Kotu as it’s a little quieter.
I’ve stayed at the Sunset Beach Hotel and Kombo Beach Hotel in Kotu and would happily recommend either of them.
Kotu Beach Resort in The Gambia has a smaller choice of restaurants and is a little quieter than Kololi. The golden sand palm-fringed beach is particularly beautiful.
Kombo Beach Hotel
Official local hotel rating: 4 stars | Transfers 45 minutes | Best for families, couples or solo travellers
I’ve stayed at Kombo Beach Hotel so many times it almost feels like home! It has a couple of restaurants and plenty going on. There are a few organised activities during the day, and most evenings there is some kind of entertainment – if you’ve not seen an African drumming troupe before be sure not to miss them here. The entertainment staff are excellent with kids – I’ve regularly seen them playing table tennis and organising other activities to keep them entertained. Plus the Kombo Beach Hotel has been awarded the Travelife Gold Award three years in a row for its commitment to sustainable tourism.
The only thing I’m not so keen on at Kombo is the rooms overlooking the pool as the music in the evenings I found very intrusive. All the other rooms, in my experience, however, are lovely and quiet.
There’s a lovely swimming pool (featured image) but one of the best features is the wonderful sandy beach (pictured above).
Above left: Kombo Beach standard room, above right: Kombo Beach pool at dusk, below: A suite at Kombo Beach Hotel
Kombo Beach Hotel is perfect for families, couples and solo travellers with plenty of activities and entertainment and a beautful sandy beach. There’s a small choice of restaurants all within a few mintues walk.
Official local hotel rating unknown | Transfers 45 minutes | Best for birdwatchers
Set in pretty gardens overlooking Kotu Creek, this is a popular hotel with birdwatchers (including BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham). There is a great birdwatching platform in the hotel garden. It is one of the few hotels listed here that doesn’t have direct access to the beach, which is a short walk away through the local craft market.
Bakotu is a great choice for birdwatchers being located a short walk from the beach by Kotu Stream.
Bungalow Beach Hotel
Official local hotel rating :3 stars | Transfers 45 minutes | Best for self-catering or solo travellers
Bungalow Beach has self-catering apartments including a few smaller single-occupancy apartments for which you won’t have to pay a single supplement. A welcome pack of milk, fruit juice, tea/coffee, cheese and jam is provided in each apartment plus daily fresh bread. There’s an onsite mini-market. With its own restaurant and a few more just outside the hotel, there are several options for eating out too.
There’s a limited range of activities within the hotel and occasional evening entertainment but, if you are after more things to do, there is plenty going on around the resort of Kotu within a few minutes’ walk.
Bungalow Beach is a great choice for a self-catering holiday
South Kotu Resort
South Kotu resort consists of just a couple of hotels and self catering-apartments and some restaurants all on one street leading down to the beach. There are two restaurants I particularly liked, Shiraz, which will give you delicious home cooking from Lebanon and the Italian restaurant Luigi’s (which serves excellent steak).
There is a relatively new hotel in South Kotu, African Princess Beach Hotel, that looks lovely with swim-up pool rooms but I have never stayed or even visited this hotel so I didn’t feel I could include it in this guide.
In Bijilo there are just a couple of hotels by a long stretch of sandy beach, a few beach bars and little else. Perfect for a quiet, relaxing holiday and again if you fancy a change of pace, the nightlife of Kololi is just a 5-minute taxi ride away. Nearby Bijilio Forest is a popular place for seeing monkeys.
Coco Ocean Resort and Spa
Official local hotel rating 4.5 stars | Transfers 40 minutes | Best for luxury
Coco Ocean Resort and Spa in Bijilo is, without a doubt, the most luxurious hotel in The Gambia. Moroccan-influenced architecture and decor have been used to great effect to create a serene atmosphere in this large, sumptuous hotel. I have never stayed here but I have visited the lovely spa and eaten in the restaurants many times. I’ve also looked around several different room and suite types all of which were fabulous.
I most recently visited in December 2022 and found it just as charming and relaxing as ever.
Find out more about Coco Ocean, the room types I’d recommend and read my review of Coco Ocean’s Spa here.
Coco Ocean Resort & Spa is a tranquil, elegant hotel by a lovely beach and boosts a world-class spa
A little further south still you’ll find the village of Brufut, well away from the main tourist areas with little here other than a smattering of local stalls and a few hotels spread out amongst the village.
Official local hotel rating: 4 stars | Transfers 35 minutes | Best for luxury, couples and sustainability (adults only)
This stylish, contemporary hotel is in a stunning location overlooking a secluded golden sand beach. With just five double rooms, one suite and an adult-only policy, Leo’s Beach Hotel is a tranquil haven.
The Austrian owners, Nina and Alois, left their careers in publishing to build their dream home with a small, family-run hotel attached. I loved the calm atmosphere here and the views out to sea. Nina and Alois are charming and, together with their staff, will work hard to make sure that you have the perfect holiday.
Each of the five double bedrooms is spacious and light. They are simply furnished yet with all the usual modern conveniences you would expect to find. Each room has a balcony looking out across the pool to the gardens and ocean beyond.
The Suite has a large living area and a separate bedroom. However, the balcony does not directly face the sea.
The pool is the focal point of the garden. One of my favourite touches is the Jacuzzi corner in the pool. There’s a tabletop in the middle with two buttons. One turns on the Jacuzzi and the other summons a waiter – my kind of pool!
The restaurant at Leo’s Beach Hotel offers just a small choice of beautifully prepared dishes, made with fresh, local produce. It’s popular with the local ex-pat community.
There’s a spacious garden with sunbeds under shade-giving palm trees. Steps lead down to a short sandy path that will guide you through more palm trees to the beach. It’s a vast expanse of sand with barely a soul in sight and the perfect setting for a romantic walk at sunset.
When designing their dream hotel, sustainability and the impact they might have on the environment and the local community was of utmost importance. Under the guidance of the young Austrian architect Angelika Mitterer, Leo’s Beach Hotel was planned to make the most of natural ventilation and shading. All the energy requirements of the hotel, including the air-conditioning, are met using a photovoltaic solar power system.
Local carpenters, including those from the SOS-Children’s Village training centre, made all the wooden furniture found throughout the hotel.
Leo’s is located in a quiet area of Brufut. The country’s busiest tourist resort, Kololi, however, with its many restaurants, nightlife and shops is just a ten-minute taxi ride away. The nearby fishing village of Tanji is well worth visiting to watch the colourful pirogues returning with their catch. Tanji Bird Reserve, a popular site for birdwatchers, is just a ten-minute drive away.
Heading back north along the coast, past Bijilo, Kololi and Kotu you’ll next reach Fajara. This is a residential area popular with expats as well as Gambians with just a couple of hotels.
Official local hotel rating: 5 stars | Transfer times 55 minutes | Best for couples (adults only hotel)
This quirky, boutique hotel on a cliff-top position is one of the few hotels in The Gambia that can boast a private beach as it is pretty much inaccessible other than through the hotel grounds. It also has two relatively small swimming pools.
I’ve stayed here many times including on my honeymoon and with its excellent restaurant and peaceful gardens, it is another firm favourite of mine. For a choice of further restaurants, however, you’ll need to hop in a taxi.
I’d highly recommend upgrading to a first-floor Atlantic Suite or the Macondo Suites.
The Atlantic Suites are very spacious and each one has a private Jacuzzi on a large terrace, overlooking the garden to the ocean. The newer Macondo Suites are spacious light and modern and all have wonderful sea views. The ground-floor Macondo suites enjoy the added bonus of their own private plunge pools.
I most recently stayed here in December 2022 and found it as wonderful as ever.
Above: Ngala Lodge restaurant, below: Macondo Pool Suite
Ngala Lodge is the perfect choice for a tranquil holiday and fine dining. It has been voted by Trip Advisor users as one of the most romantic hotels in Africa.
Just north of Fajara, you will come to Bakau, a great area to stay in if you want to experience a slightly more authentic Africa. The fish market is a must-see as is the Kachikally Crocodile Pool but you’ll also find a craft market and banks, supermarkets, and plenty of restaurants selling local cuisine as well as international dishes.
Official local hotel rating 2 stars | Transfer time 55 minutes | Best suited for couples on a budget
I’ve not stayed here but I have visited African Village several times and found it to be a basic but pleasant hotel, with friendly, helpful staff.
While there is no beach here it does overlook the ocean and there is a sand-covered, man-made sunbathing area, with sunloungers and parasols. This is reached via steep steps and offers access to the beach at low tide.
African village is a great budget-friendly choice, popular with educational groups as the location offers the opportunity to discover more about the Gambian way of life.
Cape Point Beach Resort
The resort of Cape Point, on the mouth of the River Gambia, is by one of the largest beaches in the country – a huge expanse of sand, great for watching the sunrise, and at one end you’ll find, Calypso, my favourite bar come restaurant, perfect for a quiet lunch under a thatched cabana, a romantic evening meal or perhaps a cocktail as the sun goes down, in a wonderful setting that feels as if you really are in the middle of nowhere.
There are a few restaurants and crafts stalls in the area, as well as a mini-supermarket and the larger village of Bakau, is only a relatively short walk away.
Cape Point is one of the best beach reosrts in The Gambia. It is similar to Kotu in terms of restaurants but a little more spread out. It has one of the most beautiful beaches in The Gambia from where you can watch the sunrise.
Ocean Bay Hotel
Official local hotel rating 5 stars | Transfer time 60 minutes | Best for families
While I’ve not stayed at Ocean Bay Hotel, it looks lovely and is set in spacious grounds by a beautiful beach. Although personally I usually prefer something smaller, I would be happy to stay here. It is a lively hotel with plenty of organised activities.
Official local hotel rating 4 stars | Transfer time 60 minutes | Best for families, all-inclusive only
This all-inclusive hotel is just next door to the Ocean Bay Hotel overlooking the same beach. With two swimming pools and plenty of organised activities, it is well suited to families. When I stayed here I found the staff to be very helpful and friendly. My favourite time of day was early in the morning watching the sun come up across the sea or at sunset as pictured below.
Sunbeach is a good choice for a lively, all-inclusive holday
Banjul & Serrakunda
The capital of The Gambia is Banjul but it has little geared towards tourism. It is one of the smallest capitals in Africa being on an island without room for expansion. Nearby Serrakunda is a far bigger city but again it is not known for its hotels. Banjul’s Albert Market and Serrekunda Market are both very interesting and colourful places to visit.
Official local hotel rating unknown | Transfer time 45 to 60 minutes | Best for birdwatchers and couples
One of my favourite places in the world has to be Mandina Lodges tucked away on a tributary of the River Gambia, in Makasutu Forest. If caring about your carbon footprint is important to you and you are looking for something a little different, well away from the main tourist resorts in The Gambia, surrounded by wildlife, with no WiFi, yet not too far from the airport, Mandina Lodges is the hotel for you.
I’ve been lucky enough to have stayed here three times, including on my honeymoon, and have visited for the day several times more. My first experience of waking up looking out over the river from my four-poster bed on a floating lodge and listening to the forest awake was a magical moment that I will never forget. As was the look of wonder on my husband’s face when I returned with him on honeymoon and the baboons walked straight by him a few feet away, just after we arrived.
Mandaina Lodges is the perfect choice for a relaxing escape in nature, perfect for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
You can find out more in the following articles on ‘Travel with Kat’:
Upcountry, Baboon Islands
Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project’s Camp
Official local hotel rating unknown | Transfer time about 5 hours | Best for wildlife and the adventurous
There are, of course, I’m sure, many other nice places to stay but the ones I have told you about here are the places that I have either stayed in or at least visited myself. There is one, however, that I’ve never stayed in, or even seen as yet that I do just want to tell you about and that is the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project’s camp. It’s a five-hour drive inland from the coastal resorts in the River Gambia National Park where two nights a week visitors are allowed to stay in the camp. I’m told staying here is an unforgettable experience and it’s the perfect place to get to know the real Gambia and its wonderful wildlife including the chimpanzees.
Map of hotels and resorts in The Gambia
There is a wide variety of places to stay in The Gambia. While the elegant tranquillity of Coco Ocean will be loved by many, myself included, others may find it too quiet preferring to stay in the bustling resort of Kololi. For something in between these two extremes, Kotu or Cape Point are slightly quieter resorts. For families, I would suggest Ocean Bay Hotel in Cape Point or Kombo Beach Hotel in Kotu. For wildlife lovers, I’d couldn’t recommend Mandina Lodges more highly. Birdwatchers should also consider Bakotu. For fine dining, Ngala Lodge is a great option, but if you want to have the greatest choice of restaurants and facilities close to hand Senegambia or The Kairaba might suit you better.
Sadly, few hotels in The Gambia are owned by Gambians, however, they do all employ plenty of local staff, often enabling each of them to support a large extended family. Many hotels also shop locally through initiatives such as Gambia is Good, supporting local small-scale farmers.
A note about bumsters
The young men who hang around resort areas hoping to make a little money from the tourists are known as bumsters. They are common in Kololi and to a lesser extent other resort areas too. As a woman, I’ve found walking back to my hotel can be like running the gauntlet, as I ward off one cheesy chat-up line after another, Most of the time I just treat this as all part of the fun but it can get a little wearing at times. Just remember, they mean you no harm and are merely hoping to make a little money by acting as your guide or escort. While travelling on my own, I have always felt safe in The Gambia, however, I much prefer visiting with my husband. The bumsters still come over for a chat but there are fewer misunderstandings.
If you don’t want to talk to someone always be polite but firm. Never say “Maybe later “as they’ll just hear later and not the maybe. Keep an open mind, but don’t automatically believe everything you are told. There’s very little work in The Gambia and sadly, for example, someone with a broken drum can earn more by asking for the money to get it fixed than he can by playing a fixed drum. If however, you want to avoid the bumsters entirely, avoid the beach resorts of Kololi, Kotu and Cape Point and you’ll be just fine. While staying at Ngala Lodge or Mandina Lodges, for example, you could easily spend a few weeks in The Gambia and never encounter a bumster.
When travelling in The Gambia, I take the same precautions as I would anywhere in the world. I have always felt safe in The Gambia, even when travelling on my own.
For more information and to book
For more information on all the above hotels and more please visit The Gambia Experience’s website.
Wherever you decide to stay, we do, of course, all have different preferences – one person’s dream holiday might be another person’s nightmare. It is worth doing your homework to find the best hotel in The Gambia that is right for you.
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