Nairobi Off-the-Beaten Path: 24-Hour Action-Packed Itinerary

Nairobi or Nai-boring?

This 24-hour Nairobi off-the-beaten-path itinerary is part of our 4-Part Kickin' it in Kenya Series. Don't miss the others: The Ups and Downs of Backpacking in Kenya, Our 7 Favorite Foods and Experiences, and 3 Awesome Days of Things to Do in Lamu.

We don't like tourist traps. And we especially don't like expensive tourist traps. So, since Nairobi is tourist trap central, it may seem like a horrible place to visit.

At second and third glance too, probably.

But it doesn't have to be!

We dug deep, deftly avoided the traps, and managed to find enough adventurous and off-the-beaten-path things to do in Nairobi to make for an unforgettable 24 hours.


There’s no more fitting way to start a day in Nairobi than getting yourself stuck in chaotic traffic.

Do so by taking a rideshare to the epicenter of the chaos, the Central Business District (CBD). CBD is a fitting name for this part of town, because you could benefit from a heavy dose of CBD to keep you relaxed.

Tasty Breakfast at Swahili Plate

Use Swahili Plate to calm your nerves from the many near accidents you avoided on your way over and mentally prepare for more to come while enjoying a dose of decent Kenyan food.

Get the mbaazi combo. It includes a filling lentil stew along with a couple of subtly spiced Kenyan donuts and tea and costs 350 KSh.

Shop in Africa's Attic: the West African Market

About a fifteen minute walk (scurry, dodge, jump, and duck) across the CBD from Swahili Plates is the West African Market. It’s not marked on any map, nor is there any sign outside indicating its existence. To get there, plug in directions to the Safety Line Lodge, go up the dark flight of stairs beside it, and press the buzzer to be let through the locked gate.

Nairobi West Africa Market
This door and these stairs lead to something cool, we swear.

The West African Market isn’t your typical market. It’s a two-storey apartment block consisting of about fifteen studio apartments around an open courtyard. Each studio is occupied by a live-in vendor and crammed to the brim with an astonishing array of masks, statues, carvings, beads, and fabrics they’ve collected from across Africa. Their clients are mostly international dealers, not the very infrequent tourists who somehow find the place, but they’re happy to take your money, too.

When you’ve seen enough masks, statues, and voodoo dolls to give you nightmares for years to come, consider getting a view of the city from the KICC helipad, before escaping to calmer parts of the city.

West Africa Market Nairobi
Photos of the West African market's shops weren't allowed but I snuck a photo of this one. Don't miss this place!


When you’re finished with the CBD, take an Uber to Dennis Pritt Road. While not far geographically from the CBD, it feels like it’s a different world.

It’s peaceful, lush, and well-to-do. Nothing captures this contrast, and the inequality of Nairobi, better than the State House, the enormous residence of the Kenyan president that you will pass on your way.

Get Down to "Business" at Roadhouse Grill

Roadhouse Grill is an awesome place to get a taste of nyama choma (Kenyan BBQ) and observe a different type of “work” life in Kenya.

In the early afternoon the place takes on a vibe that’s similar to a barbecue at a friend’s house back home: boisterous and fuelled by excessive food and alcohol. The only difference is that here you’ll be with Kenyan businesspeople living it up in the middle of a workday, not your friends on a weekend.

What makes the party, of course, is the food. The meat (chicken, beef, or goat) is chopped and weighed in front of you, then charcoal grilled to perfection. Prices are as low as the quality is high (half a kilogram of beef costs 350 KSh and heaping side plates of fries, boiled greens are 100). The only downside is that it takes forever to cook (we waited 80 minutes!), but it’s worth it.

A Walk (or Run, or Obstacle Course) in the Park

Next up is trading your meat sweats for exercise sweat. Make a quick stopover at wherever you’re staying to change into some activewear and head to one of our favorite Nairobi parks, the Arboretum or Karura Forest.

Karura Forest Nairobi
Flipping tires at Karura Forest's obstacle course because, why not. Tip: don't be silly like Kim and wear white shoes.

Both parks are excellent for walking or jogging, but if you’re into some more intense fitness like us you might want to consider:

  • Fit Kenyan Bootcamp at the Arboretum (Tue and Thu, 5:30-6:30 pm). These drop-in group calisthenic workouts, which cost 600 KSh, are guaranteed to exhaust you, and a good way to meet locals.
  • The Obstacle Course in Karura Forest. Though it is somewhat dilapidated, Kim and I found plenty enough obstacles and tires to put together a solid workout at this workout area located just inside the Thigiri gate on the west side of the park.

 A Death-Defying Ride

If you aren’t sweating already from your workout, you will be after this next “activity.”

Since it will likely be rush hour by the time you leave the park, getting back to your accommodation for a shower and change could take an agonizingly long time. But it doesn’t have to. There’s an alternative most tourists (and even most locals) don’t dare consider:

Take a motorcycle taxi.

Wave down any motorcyclist in a brightly colored vest, negotiate your price (it shouldn’t be more than 250 KSh wherever you’re going), and hold on tight. Try not to scream as your driver breaks every single rule of the road (and sidewalk) to get you from point A to B as fast as possible.

It’s an exhilarating experience worth doing once, then never again.

Nairobi Motorcycle Taxis
Riding a motorcycle taxi is death-defying, but it beats sitting in Nairobi traffic. Photo credit:


A Different Kind of Kenyan Dinner at Nyama Mama

Nyama Mama is a restaurant that serves modern, creative, and tasty interpretations of traditionally bland Kenyan dishes. Though it’s a higher-end place, the prices are reasonable, especially the vegetarian dishes (about 650 KSh each). Be sure to get the ugali fries and chapati quesadilla as starters to share.

Kim and I so enjoyed Nyama Mama that we returned for a second go-around as our final meal in Kenya.

Nairobi Nyama Mama
Nyama Mama charcoal coconut vodka cocktail / The must-try Ugali fries. Photo credit: Nyama Mama's Instagram

A Nightcap to 24 Hours in Nairobi

If somehow you’re not yet exhausted, hit up J’s or The Alchemist to experience a bit of the Nairobi nightlife. The crowd at both of these popular, casual nightspots is an interesting blend of younger well-off Kenyans, expats, and world travelers.

Nairobi Off-the-Beaten Path 24-Hour Itinerary Map

All the highlights of this Nairobi 24 hour itinerary are on the Google map at this link

To save it to Google Maps on your phone, here are our easy instructions.

24 Hours in Nairobi is Enough…

If you follow this itinerary, you might have such a good time you’ll consider spending more than a day in Nairobi.


Get out of Naiboring, go to Lamu or one of the national parks and don’t look back.

…Then What Next in Kenya?

We found it SUPER DIFFICULT to plan a backpacking trip in Kenya, so please learn from the lessons we learned the hard way and shared in the rest of our 4-part Kickin' it in Kenya Series:

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we'd be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy.

6 thoughts on “Nairobi Off-the-Beaten Path: 24-Hour Action-Packed Itinerary”

  1. I live in Nairobi and its soooo not boring. Some of hte obvious tourist things to do are amazing such as the giraffe centre, national park and elephant orphanage. just because they are touristy doesnt mean they arent work a visit. I live here and still visit all the time. nairobi is all about being outside in nature and your blog doesnt touch on that at all,.. Having said that – good on you for getting off the beaten track

    • Hey Nadine. You're totally right. Isn't there a saying like, "There are no boring places, only boring people"? We just fell into the word "boring" as a play on words with Nairobi. That said, even our friends who enjoy living in Nairobi—and maybe you too?—can't argue many other cities have a lot more to offer than Nairobi does. And don't you think if you want to be outside in nature you're better off leaving the city?

  2. Hi guys,
    we went to the west african market,
    it’s really worth it!
    we will do all our gift shopping for the family and friends there at the end of the trip.
    Thank you for sharing this great location.
    Note : speaking French with the sellers is better than English as they are from Cameroon and Congo.

    • Glad you guys found the place, JB! They all spoke English fine, but good to know about the French. You think you managed to negotiate better prices in French than in English? Happy travels.

      • +1 with Nadine’s comment earlier. I found your blog because I wanted pictures of the West African Market and it was one of the first search results. Many others might read this post and take it at face value, I’d like to contribute to nuance what you are saying. “Many cities have more to offer than Nairobi does” – I hear this sometimes from Western visitors, I’d love to know what criteria you are refering to.

        There’s a lot more to Nairobi than what you recommend here, and as a matter of fact – none of your tips are “off the beaten path”.

        Some of the things I’d encourage your readers to explore: the eclectic food scene (authentic Sichuan, Pakistani, South Indian cuisines – after all this is a cornerstone of Indian Ocean culture!) ; the nightlife, for instance in one of the many “car wash” beer gardens or catch an afrohouse dj set (please, venture beyond the expat bars you mention).
        -The National Park is awesome, in what other city on earth can you grab breakfast while watching rhinos and lions, before heading to work?
        -Nairobi CBD has a great history, get a guided tour of its landmarks, for instance check out the McMillan Library and finish with a cup of tea + cake at Westminster house, a 1928 gem that now houses a trendy Artcaffe
        – Oh, did I mention the dynamic art scene? Visit artists’ studios or an exhibit at Kuona artist’s collective. More and more Kenyan artist find an echo and an audience at the biggest international art fairs from Venice to Miami. Catch them here before they make it big at Basel.
        – Also go see a play at the National Theater or a reading of East African poetry at one of the many bookstores this wonderful city has to offer (also, there are now great tours of the Nairobi public libraries).

        • Awesome comment, Elsa! Thanks. Now I want to go back to Nairobi to check these things out.

          Please, more people take umbrage to this post and add more comments with great tips to fill a whole week in Nairobi with good times!


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