If you’re researching where to stay in Rwanda for your next trip, the good news is that you’ll find solid options that fit a range of budgets. The list I’ve compiled is based on my recent travels to the Land of a Thousand Hills, at the invitation of the Rwanda Development Board.
From Kigali to the west, north and east of Rwanda, each of these hotels reflected the destination with authenticity through their food, art, clientele and atmosphere, while offering a blend of adventure and proper relaxation. I’ve only included only the ones I loved experiencing based on the cultural immersion they offer, their natural environment and care for it, and the overall staff friendliness and service.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Kigali
Located directly across the convention center, in a gated compound, the rooms at the Radisson Blu attract locals as much as it does tourists. That gives it a nice international vibe that makes this property worth choosing as a base.
I’m generally not a fan of chain hotels but this was my first time experiencing the Radisson Blu brand and I was impressed. It felt like a boutique hotel — my room was modern, spacious yet cozy, with an equally spacious bathroom and balcony overlooking the pool.
The lush grounds are immaculate and the main restaurant buffet is a highlight, whether at breakfast or lunch (the lunch spread was delicious, from local dishes and stews to salad bars and more. Eat poolside and enjoy the live music on the weekends. The wi-fi was also working adequately on my phone.
One drawback: The only ATMs available, located inside the convention center just steps away, can be faulty—I withdrew $100 worth and the machine only dispensed $80 and I had no recourse because it was a weekend. I’m told this is a common issue in Kigali that travelers have reported.
The Retreat, Kigali
It’s no secret I’m a fan of luxury boutique hotels that care about social and environmental sustainability and show it, True to its name, the The Retreat is a 20-room hotel—some suites enjoy private plunge pools—that feels like an oasis in a big city, close to sights but removed enough to escape the bustle.
The Retreat is entirely solar-powered and uses sustainably crafted furniture made of teak for its collection of cabanas that circle around a pool with city views in the distance that light up at night.
It’s a cozy atmosphere that attracts locals, as well as tourists and business travelers. The owners of The Retreat are Americans who decided to make Rwanda their home some years ago and it shows. There’s a push for more immersive experiences in their choice of tours and the tips they share with guests. I also loved small details like a spacious bathroom with both an indoor or outdoor shower (some had a private plunge pool), and a bathrobe made of local fabric.
I can’t say I’ve experienced the food here, but I learned the property owners also run Heaven Restaurant, offering modern African cuisine using homegrown ingredients.
Akagera Game Lodge, Eastern Rwanda
Akagera National Park is the only national park in Rwanda that’s home to the Big 5 — so a trip here is well worth your time, but not just for the land safari but also for a boat safari on Lake Ihema, where you’ll be able to spot birds, hippos, zebras cooling off by the water, and the splendor of this body of water.
Akagera Game Lodge is a perfect base for these nature adventures, and you’ll feel a world away from the city as soon as you check in and take in these views from your balcony or from the main hotel terrace. It’s an older lodge but the rooms are perfectly comfortable and the highlight here is the delicious buffet food variety, all of it fresh and tasty. Tip: It’s worth catching the sun rising over Lake Ihema and there’s a path that leads to its edges for better views—ask the staff how to get there; I watched it from the pool deck.
Below: Sunrise over Lake Ihema from the poolside terrace.
Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Northern Rwanda
A boutique hotel tucked away in this beautiful scenic part of Rwanda, home to the Five Volcanoes National Park. It’s a good base for your gorilla mountain trekking adventure if you’re planning to go on one, and for exploring the community tourism experiences in these parts, such as Red Rocks Rwanda’s banana beer making experience, among others. Red Rocks also offers its own inn as well as camping accommodations.
Cleo Lake Kivu, Western Rwanda
The views over Lake Kivu are the showstopper at Cleo — where the suites feel more like a friend’s exclusive vacation villa than a hotel. The restaurant’s fresh local and international dishes are super tasty (frankly every place I ate in Rwanda was excellent) and the atmosphere delightful. It’s remote in this western edge of Lake Kivu, and I could see how it might be ideal for local staycations — unless it’s your second or third visit to Rwanda or you’re traveling slow here for several weeks. It’s well worth a pit stop.
Rushel Kivu Lodge, Western Rwanda
A long but beautiful journey across Lake Kivu brought us to the shores of Rushel Kivu Lodge—a delightful retreat that’s easier to access by water than by the bumpy, rocky road that leads to it. I didn’t get to overnight here, but the grounds were beautiful, and the beach delightful for quiet escape on the water far from the hustle and bustle of the countryside.