Like every coastal town, fishing is one of the historical economic activities. With time, the town has slowly been transforming from a fishing village to basic industrial and service.
The growth of the town was mainly fuelled by the cashew nut milling factory between 1976 and 1990. The town almost became a ghost town when the factory was closed due to decline in nuts supply, mismanagement of the factory and increased global competition. Other industrial activities include milk processing at Kilifi Plantations.
Since 2008 with the transformation of the Kilifi institute of Agriculture into a University(Pwani University). There has been substantial expansion of the service sector as a result of this. Banking activity has been growing with about 4 banks (KCB, Barclays, Postbank, Imperial and Equity) as well as micro finance institutions. Retail business and hotels have historically been significant economic activities. 3 to 4 star hotels you will find here are like Sea Horse Hotel, Mnarani Club, Kilifi Bay Hotel and Baobab Lodge. Others are privately owned beach villas