Map from Google - Kenya

Kenya is an African country, bisected by the Equator, yet it has three types of climate: hot and humid along the coast (zone 1 on the map), temperate in the west and south-west, where there are mountains and plateaus (zone 2 on the map), and finally hot and dry in the north and east (zone 3 on the map).

Climates in Kenya

In general, the warmest period in Kenya goes from February to March, while the coolest goes from July to August, although the seasonal variations in temperature are small. Both temperature and rainfall vary according to the prevailing winds, which produce two seasons: from October to March, the hot and originally dry winds coming from Arabia (called kaskazi) prevail, while from April to September, the prevailing winds are cooler and wetter and come from the Indian Ocean (called Kuzi). At the beginning of the two periods, and in correspondence with the two passages of the sun at its zenith, there are the two rainy seasons: the "long rains" from March to May, and the less intense "short rains" from October to December, while in the western highlands it rains a lot even between June and September. The rainfall is more abundant along the coast and in the south-west (zone 1 and 2), where it typically ranges from 800 to 2,000 millimetres (31 to 79 inches) per year, while in the arid zone (3 on the map) it drops below 500 mm (20 in). The rains occur mainly in the form of downpour or thunderstorm in the afternoon or evening, and are pretty irregular: on the one hand, with the global warming the rainfall in some areas is declining, on the other hand, during the years of El Niño, the probability of heavy rains increases.

On the coast, it's hot from November to March, with average highs around 31/32 °C (88/90 °F), but with peaks of 36/37 °C (97/99 °F), and high humidity. The period from June to August is more pleasant, when the maximum temperature goes down to around 28 °C (82 °F).
Here are the average temperatures in Malindi.
Average temperatures - Malindi
Min (°C)232424242323222222222323
Max (°C)313132312928272728303131
Min (°F)737575757373727272727373
Max (°F)888890888482818182868888

In January and February there is little rain, while in March and December, some showers may occur in the southern part of the coast (see Mombasa). The long rains season here occurs later than in the rest of Kenya, and runs from April to June, with May as the wettest month. The best months are August and September, being the coolest ones, and also sunny and with not abundant rains, the latter occurring in the form of brief showers, which are soon replaced by the sun. The short rains season is not pronounced in the northern part of the coast (see Lamu), and it's a little more evident in Malindi and Mombasa, with some showers in October and November, usually not intense. However, it must be said that it depends on the years: sometimes it can rain heavily even between October and December, and especially in November. However, rainfall on the coast amounts to 1,000/1,100 millimetres (40/43 inches) per year on average.
Here is the average precipitation in Malindi.
Average precipitation - Malindi
Prec. (mm)1015351653001559065457075351060

In Malindi the sun shines all year round, though a little less from April to July.
Sunshine - Malindi
Sun (hours)999878899999

The sea in Malindi (and throughout the coast of Kenya) is warm enough for swimming all year round: the water temperature goes from 25 °C (77 °F) in August, to 29 °C (84 °F) in March and April.
Sea temperature - Malindi
Sea (°C)282829292827262526262828
Sea (°F)828284848281797779798282


In the plateau, the climate is generally is mild or pleasantly warm. Temperature and rainfall vary according to altitude and slope exposure, in general, however, the mountains make easier the formation of thunderclouds, so the higher the altitude, the higher the chance of rain, and even in dry seasons, some thunderstorms may break out. At the highest elevations, above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), night temperatures can drop below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), and occasionally this can also happen above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft).

The capital Nairobi is located near the Equator, at 1,600 metres (5,250 feet) above sea level. The altitude makes the temperature pleasant, while nights are cool; highs hover around 21/22 °C (70/72 °F) in the coolest months (June, July and August), and around 25/26 °C (77/79 °F) in the warmest months (January, February and March), while lows drop to around 10/11 °C (50/52 °F) from June to September, and go up to 12/14 °C (54/57 °F) from January to April. In July and August, the sky is often cloudy, even though there is little rain, sometimes at night and it can be even cold, in fact the temperature can drop to around 5 °C (41 °F).
Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Nairobi
Min (°C)121213141311101011131313
Max (°C)252626242322212124252323
Min (°F)545455575552505052555555
Max (°F)777979757372707075777373

The average annual rainfall in Nairobi amounts to 1,000 mm (40 in). During the two rainy seasons, from March to May and October to December, it often rains, though even here the rains come in the form of showers, not affecting too much the sunshine hours. The sunniest months are January and February, although there can be a few showers even in this period.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Nairobi
Prec. (mm)65559522017535202530551551001025

In Nairobi the sunniest period runs from December to March, while in winter, although it is the dry season, the sky is often cloudy.
Sunshine - Nairobi
Sun (hours)999765446778

The Masai Mara National Reserve, which borders the Serengeti in Tanzania, is located at an average altitude of around 1,500 metres (5,000 feet). Here, more than 100 mm (4 in) of rain per month fall from March to May and from October to December, and April is the rainiest month with 200 mm (8 in). However, there is no completely dry season, although July is the driest month with about 60 mm (2.4 in).
Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Masai Mara
Masai MaraJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)121212131312111112121212
Max (°C)282827262525252527282727
Min (°F)545454555554525254545454
Max (°F)828281797777777781828181

Lions in Masai Mara

The parks of the south-east of the country are generally warmer and more arid than the heart of the plateau. The Amboseli National Park is located in the south, at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) above sea level, and a short distance from the border with Tanzania, beyond which lies the Kilimanjaro, looming huge on the horizon. Here there's a dry savannah, where elephants roam freely among many other animal species such as lions, cheetahs, impalas, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, and in which you can find Masai villages as well.
A similar situation is found in the huge Tsavo National Park, which lies to the east, and is divided into two. Here, the altitude varies from 500 to 1,700 metres (1,600 to 5,600 feet) in the western park, and from 200 to 800 metres (600 to 2,600 feet) in the eastern park. Here are the average temperatures of Voi, located in this area, at 580 metres (1,900 ft) above sea level.
Average temperatures - Voi
Min (°C)202021202018181718192020
Max (°C)323333323029282829313131
Min (°F)686870686864646364666868
Max (°F)909191908684828284888888

As you can see from the average rainfall, in this area and at these medium or low altitudes, rainfall is not abundant, since it amounts to 550 mm (21.5 in) per year.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Voi
Prec. (mm)3530801003055101525105120555

In Voi, the dry season is the least sunny as well, although the sun is slightly more frequent than in Nairobi.
Sunshine - Voi
Sun (hours)999766668898

The Chyulu Hills National Park is located at a higher elevation, ranging from 900 to 2,100 metres (2,900 to 6,900 ft): above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) there is a montane forest, but also a series of volcanic peaks and lava tunnels that make the landscape lunar.

In the highlands north-west of Nairobi, above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), the rain pattern is different than in the rest of the country: in July and August, which are typically not too rainy in the rest of Kenya, the rains are plentiful, so much so that they go from 100 to 200 mm (4 to 8 in) per month, mostly in the form of thunderstorm in the afternoon or evening. In this area (see Eldoret, Nakuru, or parks like Kakamega, South Nandi, Mount Elgon, Mau Forest), there's a peak in rainfall from April to September, while the relatively dry season goes from October to March.
Here is the average rainfall in Eldoret, at 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) above sea level.
Average precipitation - Eldoret
Prec. (mm)35406515512095160175805055451080

And here is the average temperature.
Average temperatures - Eldoret
Min (°C)910111211910109101110
Max (°C)252626242423222223242324
Min (°F)485052545248505048505250
Max (°F)777979757573727273757375

Lake Nakuru, where you can see pink flamingos, is located at 1,750 metres (5,750 feet). Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Nakuru
Min (°C)9910121110101099109
Max (°C)272828262524242426252426
Min (°F)484850545250505048485048
Max (°F)818282797775757579777579

Lake Nakuru, rhino and flamingos

The highest peak in the country is Mount Kenya, 5,199 metres (17,057 ft) high, which has different climatic zones according to altitude and slope exposure (the south-eastern slope is the most humid): above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) the montane forest is found, around 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) the bamboo on the north side which is more arid, above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) the heath, and above 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) the high altitude desert. Above 4,700 metres (15,400 ft) there are also some glaciers, the largest of which is the Lewis Glacier, unfortunately in retreat because of global warming.
West of Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Mountains reach 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). Mount Elgon is very high as well, reaching 4,321 metres (14,176 ft), however, its summit is located in Uganda.

Also the eastern portion of Lake Victoria, located at 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) above sea level, belongs to Kenya. Here are the average temperatures of Kisumu.
Average temperatures - Kisumu
Min (°C)181919191817171717181818
Max (°C)292929272726272728282828
Min (°F)646666666463636363646464
Max (°F)848484818179818182828282

The north is the driest and hottest area of Kenya, especially the areas located at lower altitudes. Lake Turkana (or Rudolph) is located at 365 metres (1,200 feet) above sea level; here the landscape is semi-desert in the south part and desert in the north, where the annual precipitation drops below 100 mm (4 in) per year. In this area the weather is really hot all year round: in Lodwar, the daily average is around 30 °C (86 °F) in almost all months, except in July and August, when it drops to 28/29 °C (82/84 °F).
Average temperatures - Lodwar
Min (°C)222324252524242424252423
Max (°C)363636353534333435353535
Min (°F)727375777775757575777573
Max (°F)979797959593919395959595

The rains are sporadic and irregular, however it is more likely to see some showers in the two canonical rainy seasons of Kenya, from March to May and October to December. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Lodwar
Prec. (mm)852040258139381013162

In Lodwar the sun shines all year round.
Sunshine - Lodwar
Sun (hours)10109910109101010910

Lake Turkana

The north-east, near the border with Ethiopia and Somalia, is torrid and dry as well, and here too the poor and irregular rains occur during the two periods, from March to May and October to November. In this torrid area, July and August are the best months, because they are less hot, although not by much.

Being at the Equator, Kenya is not in the trajectory of tropical cyclones, however, the coast, which lies just south of the equator, especially in the southernmost part (see Malindi, Mombasa), could theoretically be affected, even though in fact this has never happened in the last decades, probably because the prevailing currents keep them at a distance. However, sometimes the coast can suffer the effects of a cyclone that passes at a distance, on the Indian Ocean, bringing heavy rains, as happened in April 2016 with Cyclone Fantala, which without reaching the coast has brought torrential rains in Mombasa. Cyclones are formed on the Southern Indian Ocean in the period from November to mid-May, and more frequently from late December to mid-April.

When to go

For a beach holiday, on the coast the best months are August and September, because they are cooler, and are quite sunny and with little rainfall. If you want, you can also choose January and February, which are the least rainy months of the year, but they are also hot and muggy; on the other hand, they are those in which the sea is calmer and clearer, therefore, most suitable for diving.
To visit the arid region, July and August are the least hot months, but in reality there is not much difference in comparison with the rest of the year: the heat is still intense.
For a safari in national parks and in the highlands, you can choose from two periods: June to September, and January-February. In the former period the risk of showers in the afternoon and evening is higher at high altitudes, in the latter the chance of intense heat at lower altitudes. However, it's better to dress in layers, because in the early hours of the day and at higher altitudes, it can be cool throughout the year.
It is worth while to recall that the equatorial sun is very strong, and is even stronger at high altitudes: the two months when the sun is strongest, because it passes directly overhead at noon, are March and September.
The days last about 12 hours throughout the year, so the sun rises at about 6:00 in the morning and sets at 6:00 p.m., and is used by the local population as a clock.
The least advisable period is that of the long rains, from March to May in the interior, and from April to June on the coast, being typically the rainiest and the one with the greatest risk of flooding, particularly April in inland areas and May on the coast.

What to pack

For the plateau, in general, spring/autumn clothes, in layers, warmer at higher altitude, sun hat, sunscreen, raincoat for showers in rainy periods, lighter in the warm season and at low altitudes. For parks and reserves, neutral-coloured clothes, comfortable canvas shoes. For mountain climbing, hiking shoes; for the summit of Mount Kenya, throughout the year, cold weather clothing, down jacket, Gore-Tex jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses, sunscreen.
For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.

In winter (June to August): on the coast (Malindi, Mombasa) and the Tsavo National Park, light clothing, a sweatshirt for the evening, a scarf for the sea breeze, light raincoat; for Lake Victoria, Nairobi, the Masai Mara and the plateau at intermediate altitudes, light clothes for the day, sweater and jacket for the evening, raincoat or umbrella; for the highlands above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), spring/autumn clothes; above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), warm jacket and hat. For the north and Lake Turkana, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing, light and long shirt and pants of natural fibres (cotton, linen), a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, desert turban, sun hat.

In summer (December to February): on the coast (Malindi, Mombasa) and the Tsavo National Park, light clothing of natural fibres, a light sweatshirt for the evening; for Lake Victoria, light clothing of natural fibres, sun hat, a light sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella; for Nairobi, the Masai Mara and the plateau at intermediate altitudes, light clothes for the day, jacket and sweater for the evening; for the highlands above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), spring/autumn clothes, raincoat or umbrella; above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), warm jacket and hat. For the north and Lake Turkana, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing, light and long shirt and pants of natural fibres (cotton, linen), a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, desert turban, sun hat.