The brightest jewel in Malawi’s crown, Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and one of the deepest in the world! The waters’ bounty provides locals with a means for survival, and 94 kilometers of designated protected area now make up the world’s first freshwater marine reserve.
Fun activities abound on the lake’s shores and in its deep blue waters. Outdoorspeople can enjoy snorkeling, diving, camping, kayaking, hiking, and more. Here are the best hotels around lake Malawi!
Many of these opportunities take place in Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is comprised of the Cape Maclear peninsula, 12 islands, sandy beaches, swamps and lagoons. To make organizing your trip as painless as possible, please see below for my comprehensive list of the lake’s best hotels.
Chintheche Inn is an intimate escape located along one of Lake Malawi’s scenic stretches of beach. Since being incorporated into the Wilderness Safaris’ brand it has been considered one of the lake’s top accommodations. Wooden masks and local crafts add to the inn’s character, and the welcoming ambiance is perfect for both couples and families with young children.
Rooms feature modern furnishings, a bright color scheme, and direct beach access where, on select nights, guests will have the opportunity to indulge in waterfront dining accompanied by live music. The staff are more than willing to assist in the arrangement of activities, including boating excursions with local fishermen and visits to the local crafts markets.
Price range: $165 – $245
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway with stunning lake views and exceptional service, look no further than Makuzi Beach Lodge. This jewel is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Boutique-style accommodations and one of the most unique stretches of beach along the lake make Makuzi Beach Lodge an oasis for families and couples alike. Stylish, comfortable chalets open up to a sandy private beach dotted with inviting lounge chairs and thatched umbrellas. The property is home to hundreds of flowering plants, nesting weavers and fruit trees. At night guests can enjoy their meals on the beach then head up to the bar area for cocktails. Gracious hosts Lauren and Richard Slater will ensure your stay is more than satisfying.
Price range: $70 – 130 per person, per night (price depends on room type and whether you would like bed and breakfast or full board)
Owners Howard and Michelle have mastered the art of tropical living and they happily share their lakeside oasis with each of their guests. Located in Cape Maclear, Danforth Lodge and Yacht Charters is a fantastic boutique hotel with eight guestrooms that open out onto a sprawling green lawn offering gorgeous lake views. With a quiet stretch of sandy beach, swaying palm trees and all the comforts of a well equipped home, Danforth Lodge is a unique experience. Just beyond the beach is where Howard anchors the Mufasa, a 38-foot catamaran that sleeps six. This elegant vessel takes guests on sunset cruises, sailing safaris, and snorkeling and diving adventures. One-, five-, seven- and eight-night cruises are available. When you book with Danforth, you’ll be treated like a guest in their home!
Price range: $150 – $190 per person, per night (includes meals, laundry service and all non-motorized water sports)
Stylish cottages, beachfront villas and a stunning setting make the Makokola Retreat irresistible to the discerning traveler. Charming paths lead guests through verdant gardens filled with flowers and fruit trees. A peaceful stretch of pristine lake shoreline spans the length of the property. Great care and foresight was taken when planning the estate. Local artisans crafted much of the materials used to build and furnish guest villas. A long-standing commitment to the local community has produced a ladies embroidery group and fabric painting team.
Their beautiful creations are available for sale in the hotel gift shop. With luxury amenities, a passionate dedication to the welfare of the local community, and a striking location, Makokola Retreat is nothing short of brilliant. I guarantee you’ll want to come back again and again.
Price range: $194 – $251 per person, per night (rates are based on double occupancy and include meals and access to the swimming pool, non-motorized water sports, business center and beach)
Undoubtedly one of the world’s most unique hotels, Mumbo Island Camp is an escape to paradise. Located within Lake Malawi National Park, about 10 kilometers from Cape Maclear, this is the epitome of luxury camping. The island has an area of just one square kilometer and can accommodate up to 14 guests at one time. Keeping with its commitment to conservation and staying “green,” the camp was constructed entirely out of timber, thatch and canvas. In lieu of running water and electricity, the camp uses large water buckets and solar powered lanterns to make sure guests don’t rough it too much.
Tents are spacious and comfortable, each with a private restroom and its own Robinson Crusoe-style deck overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Malawi. Island residents include water monitors, otters and cormorants. A private beach, a plethora of water sports to keep you busy and gourmet meals complete the experience on this private island. Remember to bring a solar-powered charger and tell loved ones you’ll be off the grid for a couple of days. We promise that you’ll love going “back to the basics.”
Price range: $225 per person, per night (includes boat transfers, all meals, kayaking and snorkeling, and all national park fees and taxes)
If you’re looking for absolute luxury amidst natural splendor, Pumulani is the most exclusive beach lodge in Malawi. This “boutique resort” has 10 stunning villas overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach in Lake Malawi National Park. As part of the elite Robin Pope Safaris group, Pumulani guests enjoy lavish comfort and indulgent extras like sunset cocktails, fine dining and an infinity swimming pool. The name Pumulani means “rest well” in the local Chichewa language, which is exactly how you can choose to spend your time while soaking up the sun by the lakeshore.
For those seeking a little more adventure, Pumulani offers activities such as water skiing and tubing. Villas vary in size, each with a large bedroom, and spacious bathroom with double shower and his and hers sinks. Something not to miss is a sunset cruise on the dhow boat — a traditional African wooden sailboat. Snacks and cocktails are served as you sail into the sunset. World Travel Awards (WTA) voted Pumulani Malawi’s Leading Hotel in 2011 and 2012.
Price range: $347 – $459, depending on the season (includes non-motorized water sports, road transfer to and from Monkey Bay airstrip, alcoholic beverages, meals and sunset dhow boat cruises)
A special thanks to the Malawi Tourism Board for hosting us.
Have you visited Lake Malawi? What did you think of the best hotels around Lake Malawi? Leave a comment below!