The mountainous island of Mauritius just east of Madagascar is an unspoiled island destination for those looking for privacy and uncomprimising solitude.
The majority of tourists visit Mauritius between the summer months of October and April, the island has amazing weather all year round, with temperatures looming around 30°C but the rains which usually appear during January to March will cool things off.
If you’re not keen on this steamy, humid weather, then Mauritius between July and September is ideal with temperatures hovering around 25°C, perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking.
Set on Mauritius’ wilder, less developed southern coastline, Bel Ombre is the perfect destination for nature-loving travellers who prefer unspoilt beauty to shops restaurants and bars. Beaches here are some of the most picturesque on the whole island, and the backdrop of Le Morne Brabant lends a touch of drama to an idyllic peninsula. Attractions and activities in the area around Bel Ombre are wonderfully varied, so there really is something for everyone, including windsurfing, surfing and kite surfing in Le Morne, horse riding along the beach, hiking up to the top of Le Morne Brabant, interesting tours of tea and sugar estates, and an animal park which has loads to keep kids of all ages entertained.
To the west of Bel Ombre, the Le Morne Peninsula is where you’ll find the most photogenic and least developed stretch of coast on the entire island, with luxury resorts spread out idyllic stretches of white sand under Le Morne Brabant, a looming green mountain. You’ll find your mecca if you’re into water sports: this one of best areas in Mauritius for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and apart from the resorts, there are a few operators in the area where you can rent equipment and take some lessons. Beginners should make a beeline to the Kite Lagoon, on the western side of the peninsula, which is a great place to start off with calm, flat water. Le Morne is also home to One Eye, which is regarded as the top surf spot on the island – it’s only for experienced surfers though (beginners should stick to Kite Lagoon).
For incredible views over the southern coastline, hike up to the top of the 556-metre-high Le Morne Brabant, which takes a few hours. Along the way you’ll pass through indigenous forest and see the Mauritian national flower (boucle d’oreille) – the only place on the island where you can find the blooms. Le Morne Brabant is not just about panoramas though: the mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important cultural place for Mauritians. According to a legend, in the early 19th century, escaped slaves hid out in the mountain’s caves only to leap to their deaths when they saw a police expedition (which had come to tell them that slavery had been abolished) approach the mountain.
One of the best ways of exploring Mauritius’ wild southern coastline is going on a horse ride, which will take you over postcard-perfect beaches and through patches of beautiful forest.
A short drive away from Bel Ombre you’ll find the start of La Route du Thé, a road tripping route that connects three of Mauritius’ last colonial estates: Domaine des Aubineaux (near the town of Curepipe), the Bois Chéri tea estate and St Aubin. A factory tour of Bois Chéri takes you into the world of Mauritian tea, and highlights of a visit include getting to sample the fragrant brews and eating lunch in the superb restaurant, which offers scenic views over the emerald-green plantation and dishes that incorporate tea, from chicken with green tea to tea sorbet. St Aubin is also about food, drink and history: the two-centuries-old sugar estate is home to a vanilla plantation and an artisanal rum distillery where you can see how sugar is turned into the spirit. After the tour, the rum tasting is a must, as is lunch in the atmospheric restaurant inside the old mansion. Try the speciality of chicken cooked with vanilla from the estate.
La Vanille Nature Park, half an hour from Bel Ombre, is a wonderful attraction for families, with lots to keep children entertained. The giant tortoises (part of a conservation breeding programme) are the star attraction – and for an extra fee kids can feed them themselves – but there’s plenty more to see and do, including their collection of more than 20 000 insects, feeding times at the Nile crocodile farm, meeting Oscar the iguana, the museum dedicated to extinct Mauritian wildlife, pony rides, and doing a feeding at the nursery for baby tortoises.
It’s best to hire a car if you’re going to be staying in Bel Ombre and want to explore the southern coastline, as many places are not connected by bus routes. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can also charter taxis by the day.
You need to be fairly fit to hike right to the top of Le Morne Brabant. If you don’t think you’re up to the 500-metre climb, there’s a half-way viewing point which also has wonderful views. You don’t have to hike with a guide, but the last part of the hike is challenging and can be potentially dangerous especially for inexperienced hikers. Going with a guide will be the safest option, and you’ll get to learn about the plants and birds you see along the way.
Bel Ombre is perfect for couples looking for a romantic beach break: the luxury resorts on the beautiful stretch of coast are romantic fantasies come true. There’s plenty to do at the resorts to fill relaxing days, but if you want to get out and explore, the coastline around Bel Ombre is wild and beautiful – perfect for nature lovers who like to escape the crowds.
Adventure travellers who love water sports will enjoy Bel Ombre because of the kitesurfing, windsurfing and surfing opportunities.
Curepipe, Mauritius’ second biggest town, lies inland just south of the centre of the island, is a great day trip destination if you want a break from the beach. Beautiful colonial architecture lends the town a lot of charm, while its attractions are varied, from peaceful botanical gardens to a colonial mansion-turned museum. The town is also known for its shops: if you’re looking for something special to take home, this is where to come for pashminas, jewellery, jade, antique porcelain, silk, carpets and model ships.
Just outside of town there’s lots of nature to explore, including a volcanic crater with the best views of the island, an indigenous forest reserve with scenic walking trails and a challenging waterfall hike.
One kilometre outside of town, the Trou aux Cerfs is a 100-metre-deep dormant volcanic crater – one of the oldest on the island – that makes for a great walking spot. Paths lead down into the forested crater and up the summit, which is easily reachable and offers fantastic views: from some points you can see the entire island and on clear days you can see as far as the neighbouring island of Reunion.
History buffs shouldn’t miss a visit to the beautiful Domaine des Aubineaux, a colonial mansion built in 1872, where you can find out about colonial Mauritian family life in the 19th century and the history of tea on the island. Stroll in the lush garden, which is filled with camphor trees and indigenous exotic plants fill the lush garden, and don’t forget to have tea and scones in the house’s old billiards room.
If you’re looking for quiet time in nature with hardly any other people around, make a trip to Monvert Nature Park, which conserves 73 hectares of rehabilitated indigenous forest. Visit the arboretum to see endangered indigenous plant species before heading out on one of the walking trails that lead through the beautiful forest up to a viewing platform.
The 19th century Curepipe Botanic Gardens is a serene attraction with far fewer tourists than the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens. Explore two hectares of exotic and indigenous plants, including the national plant of the island, the Mauritius Trochetia, and the world’s rarest palm tree, the last remaining specimen of its species. There’s also a playground for kids.
Tamarind or Tamarin Falls is one of the island’s most spectacular waterfalls and is only a short drive out of Curepipe. Also known as the Seven Cascades, the seven waterfalls tumble down a lush forested canyon full of birds. It’s a wonderful hiking destination: take half a day to hike up four of the waterfalls, stopping to swim in the river on the way, or a full day trip to hike to the top of the seventh waterfall: a challenging but rewarding walk. You can also go canyoning, jumping and abseiling down the cascading falls.
Due to its altitude of 550 metres above sea level, Curepipe has cooler weather in the hot summer months than the rest of the island, so it’s a good place to visit if you want a break from the heat. It gets a lot of rain so pack a waterproof jacket.
Curepipe is well connected by bus to other towns on the island, so you can easily visit the town if you don’t have your own rental car. However, if you’d like to see some of the attractions near the town you’ll need to get taxis.
If you’d like to hike to Tamarind Falls you should only do it with a guide, as the trails are not easy to follow on your own. You can either book a guided tour before through your hotel or an operator, or hire a local guide in the village of Henrietta, close by to the waterfalls. The hike can get pretty challenging in parts, so it’s best to do it if you’re fairly fit. If you’re going on a guided trip, the minimum age is usually 12. For canyoning the minimum age is 10.
Families looking for a quieter side to the island and a break from beach activities will enjoy a day trip to Curepipe: the botanical gardens are small but peaceful, and walks along the volcanic crater are easy, while the Montvert Nature Park offers a serene escape into nature. If you have kids older than 12, a hike up the Tamarind Falls and swimming in the waterfalls is a real highlight of the area.
Solo travellers will enjoy browsing Curepipe’s shops and the historical Domaine des Aubineaux, while adventure travellers should definitely have hiking and canyoning Tamarind Falls in their must-do list.
After Grand Baie Flic en Flac is the most popular tourist area in Mauritius. The once small fishing area on the west of the island has developed into a hub of resorts, hotels, rental apartments, restaurants, bars, clubs and souvenir shops. The beach itself is one of the best on the island – a long 8km stretch of white sand where you can laze away days, have picnics under the shade of the casuarina trees, try out some street food, or take advantage of the array of water sports on offer, such as snorkelling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. A short drive to the south, beautiful Tamarin beach is one of the few places in Mauritius not protected by coral reef, which makes it a renowned surfing spot.
The west coast of Mauritius offers some of the best scuba diving on the island, with some fantastic wreck, reef and drift sites just off shore from Flic en Flac and nearby Tamarin. Suitable for beginner divers, La Cathédrale is one of the most popular sites in Mauritius for its stone arches, caverns and caves where you’ll be able to see a host of tropical fish species, while there’s also a cluster of other dive sites close by.
Water sports are the main activity on offer in Flic en Flac, and with such a huge choice, there’s something for everyone. Kids will love banana boating and paddle boating, while teenagers can try parasailing, water skiing and jet skiing. Then there’s deep-sea fishing for tuna and marlin, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing. Further down the coast, Tamarin has one of the best surf spots on the island (the best conditions are May to September), where you can do lessons at the local surf school.
Pods of dolphins can be found offshore from Flic en Flac and Tamarin, and swimming with these beautiful creatures is one of the most popular activities things to do on Mauritius’ west coast. However, the way this is done raises many ethical questions about how the dolphins are treated, as they’re crowded by boats and by people trying to get close to them. If you do choose to swim with dolphins, do some research on ethical operators and make sure that you keep your distance in the water and that your boat stays far away from the pod.
A 10-minute drive from the centre of Flic en Flac, Casela World of Adventures is one of the most popular attractions on the island. The 250-hectare nature park offers more activities than you could fit into a full day: everything from safari drives to see lions and Segway or quad bike safaris where you can spot zebra, deer, monkeys, ostriches and antelopes to rides on horses and camels, feeding giraffes, mud karting on an off-road track, ziplining and canyon swinging and canyoning in a river. There’s lots for children, including being a zookeeper for the day, pony rides, tilapia fishing, feeding giant tortoises and lorikeet birds and the petting farm.
If you’re not staying at a resort that offers diving, then be sure to pick a dive operator that has a good reputation (ask your hotel for advice or go with reviews). Some resorts also offer scuba diving lessons to non-guests.
If you don’t have a rental car, Flic en Flac is well connected by public buses to the capital of Port Louis (about half an hour’s drive away) as well as to Curepipe and Quatre Bornes. The airport is an hour’s drive away.
Flic en Flac is ideal for families: the beaches of western Mauritius are best for kids, as they are calm and sheltered. There’s also plenty of child-friendly resorts and other lodging options in Flic en Flac, as well as a wealth of activities for children of all ages.
Flic en Flac has a great choice of luxury hotels and resorts that are perfect for couples and honeymooners, with private villas with their own swimming pools, butler service, couples’ spa treatments and special pampering extras such as private dinners for two.
While it’s not off the beaten track, Flic en Flac is a good choice for adventure travellers who want to spend their days diving, surfing, snorkelling and doing other exciting water sports.
On the northern end of the island, busy and buzzing Grand Baie is the centre for tourism in Mauritius. This is where all the action happens: the seaside town is packed with bars, nightclubs and restaurants, shops and expansive resorts. Ocean activities are the focus here, with an array of water sports and experiences to suit just about everyone, from the underwater sea walk – a wonderful alternative to scuba diving –
to deep-sea fishing. Grand Baie is also a great jumping off point for exploring the islands that lie to the north of the coast on day trips by catamaran or boat.
If you’d like to be close to Grand Baie without staying in the thick of things, nearby Pointe aux Cannoniers is a quieter alternative.
While Grand Baie’s main beach sees a lot of boat traffic and isn’t ideal for swimming, there are plenty of beautiful beaches a few kilometres away north and south of town. The firm favourites are La Cuvette, a pretty stretch of sand with some shade and some great street food options and Péreybère (a good snorkelling spot) to the north, and to the south: Mont Choisy – popular with locals on weekends – and Trou aux Biches, a two-kilometre stretch of perfect sand which is rated one of the best beaches on the island.
There’s a smorgasbord of water sports and ocean adventures on offer in and around Grand Baie with more than enough options to fill your entire holiday. Take your pick from water skiing, yachting, deep-sea fishing trips, windsurfing, catamaran cruises and sailing trips. The town is also an excellent place to organise some underwater activities: there are some excellent scuba dive sites just off the coast from Grand Baie such as the Aquarium and Whale Rock, where you may be able to spot hammerheads, and you can easily organise snorkelling trips to close by reefs. For something totally different there’s the Solar Undersea Walk – the next best thing to scuba diving – where you walk underwater for nearly half an hour in a diver’s helmet. It’s a great option for kids who can’t yet dive, as the minimum age limit is seven – just be sure to book a day ahead during the busy months. For children above the age of 16, there’s the underwater scooter: a motorised form of diving that doesn’t require any diving experience. One way to see the underwater life of the ocean without getting wet is on a semi-submarine: you’ll be submerged under the ocean to see the marine life of the reefs.
Exploring Mauritius’ offshore islands and islets is a top activity on the north coast, and it’s a super activity for both families and solo travellers. Boat and catamaran trips take you on half or full day excursions to visit Île Plate, which has a lovely beach to explore, Coin de Mire, a nature reserve with rare species, and Île Gabriel where you can go snorkelling. A bit further afield are Île Ronde and Île aux Serpents, which you can’t land on but can sail and snorkel around them.
Grand Baie has the best food scene on the island, and it’s an ideal place to go on a food safari to explore the island’s flavours and cuisines: restaurants offer everything from Mauritian Creole and seafood to Chinese, Indian and Italian food, while street vendors sell delicious (and cheap) snacks such as gateaux piments – fried chilli bites – fresh coconuts, spicy curries and sliced tropical fruit.
If you’re staying in a self-catering apartment or house, head to Grand Baie’s beach every day at 4pm to buy the catch of the day from local fishermen and cook up a fish feast at home.
Grand Baie is a great year-round destination, as the wind here is generally offshore, and the beaches in the area are sheltered from the wind – especially during the winter months of June to August.
If you’re not renting a car on your Mauritius holiday, then Grand Baie is a good place to base yourself, as there’s plenty on offer in the town in terms of restaurants and activities, and it’s well connected by buses to the rest of the island.
Grand Baie will appeal to almost all types of travellers: it’s great for families, with loads of child-friendly activities and family hotels; solo travellers looking to meet people and be part of a buzz will enjoy the lively dining and drinking scene, and adventure seekers have loads of exciting water sports and other outdoor adventures right on their doorstep.
If you prefer a quieter atmosphere and a less developed beachfront, Grand Baie is not going to be your ideal pick of destination in Mauritius: instead choose a resort or hotel on the east coast or southern coastline.
Lying inland in the mountains of the southwest of the island, Grand Bassin, or Ganga Talao, is a crater lake sacred to Hindus, who believe that it was formed when Shiva spilt drops of water from the Ganges River in India. The largest natural lake in Mauritius, Grand Bassin is surrounded by candy-coloured statues of gods and Hindu temples. During Maha Shivaratri, which takes place at the end of February or beginning of March each year, half a million Hindus make a pilgrimage to the lake, the most holy place on the island. If you travel to Mauritius during this time, don’t miss this spectacular festival, which is one of the biggest Hindu celebrations outside of India.
Grand Bassin is close to a lot of natural attractions and interesting places to visit, including the wildest place on the island, Black River Gorges National Park, which is a must for animal lovers, birders, hikers and adventure travellers, the lovely village of Chamarel – home to an award-winning rum distillery, excellent restaurants and the famous multi-coloured sand dunes, and the newly established Ebony Forest, a wonderful place to see indigenous trees and birds.
Grand Bassin is definitely worth exploring for a few hours: take a stroll around the pretty lake and up to the top of the peak for spectacular views, and take time to see the statues and temple. It’s a good idea to go with a guide who can give you a bit of background about all the gods depicted on the statues.
Black River Gorges National Park, the largest reserve on the island: a world of rolling hills, dense emerald-green rainforest that extends over 6000 hectares and conserves more than 300 species of native and endemic flowering plants and the bird species unique to Mauritius. Hiking is the best way of exploring this last corner of island rainforest, and there are 50 kilometres of trails which you can walk on your own or with a guide. Animals to look out for include the Mauritian flying fox and the island’s endangered birds: Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, Mauritius parakeet, Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, Mauritius fody, and the Mauritius grey white-eye. Adventure seekers can also do abseiling, climbing and canyoning in the park with guides.
A short drive from Grand Bassin, the mountain village of Chamarel is a delightful place to visit and makes for a great alternative to coastal tourist towns. Surrounded by coffee, pineapple and sugar cane plantations, Chamarel has a varied range of things to do and see, from the Curious Corner of Chamarel, a mind-boggling interactive art gallery, to
the 95-metre-high Chamarel Waterfall, which you can see from a viewing platform, or for the adventurous, abseil all the way down to its base. A big highlight of Chamarel is its dining scene, and especially its tables d’hôtes – small, family-run restaurants that serve authentic Mauritian cuisine. On top of a towering hill overlooking the ocean far below, Le Chamarel Restaurant has one of the best panoramas on the whole island: a great view to go with delicious Mauritian eats such as gateau piments (the Mauritian version of falafel), fish curry and octopus vindaille (a flavourful curry).
A short distance on from the waterfall, the Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths (Terres de 7 Couleurs) is worth a stop for the famous multi-coloured sands – a natural phenomenon of sand dunes in beautiful shades of blues, purples and reds. With a playground and some giant tortoises to see, it’s a great family attraction. Right next to the Seven Coloured Earths is the newly opened Ebony Forest, a fifty-hectare conservation area that protects a pocket of indigenous forest and one of the last stands of original ebony trees. Explore the beautiful forest on safari jeep tours or guided walks, or take your own walk along marked trails and on raised walkways that take you into the canopy. Look out for fruit bats and the Mauritius bulbul and the Mauritius paradise flycatcher along the way. For the best views hike up to the top of Pitot Canot.
Mauritian artisanal rum making is a recent trend, and now there are several artisanal distilleries on the island producing some excellent rums. If you only have time to visit one distillery on your trip, then it should be Rhumerie de Chamarel, which has won multiple awards for its rums. Take an interesting tour of the distillery and then do a tasting of the oak-matured and fruit-infused rums before having lunch at the excellent restaurant, L’Alchimiste, where dishes (such as indulgently rich chocolate pudding) come laced with rum.
Be conscious that Grand Bassin is a holy site for Hindus: always be respectful in the temples by wearing modest clothing and removing your shoes before going inside.
There are two entrances to Black River Gorges National Park, and at each there’s a visitor centre where you can ask about trails and pick up maps. If you want to head off the main hiking trails in Black River Gorges National Park, it’s a good idea to hire a guide. The main trails take between three or four hours.
If you’re a botany nerd, plan your trip between September and January, when it’s flowering season in Black River Gorges National Park.
Because of its proximity to natural attractions such as Black River Gorges National Park, Grand Bassin is great for adventure travellers who would like to experience Mauritius’ wilder side by hiking, abseiling and canyoning in the region’s waterfalls, forests and rivers.
Family-friendly activities are also plentiful in the area around Grand Bassin, so if you’re travelling with kids you’ll find lots to do, from seeing the tortoises at the Seven Coloured Earths and the interactive displays at the Curious Corner of Chamarel to guided walks in Black River Gorges National Park and the canopy walkways in the Ebony Forest.
At the northern end of Mauritius, just to the east of Grand Baie, Grand Gaube is a lovely little fishing village with a good beach, rocky bays and a few upscale resorts – the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for beach time without the crowds. Resorts offer a smorgasbord of water sport activities such as scuba diving, kite surfing, boat and catamaran cruises and deep-sea fishing, while the offshore islands of Coin Mire, Île Ambre, Île Plate and Île Ronde – home to a wildlife sanctuary – can be explored by kayak and boat. The nearby village of Cap Malheureux is also worth a visit for its stunning views of the islands, lovely swimming beach and photogenic church.
Grand Gaube is a good base for exploring the beautiful islands that lie off Mauritius’ north coast. The closest, Île Ambre, can be reached by kayak on a guided trip where you’ll paddle amongst mangroves in the island’s calm lagoon and have a picnic lunch on the beach. The rugged Coin de Mire – or Gunner’s Quoin – which lies eight kilometres north of Cap Malheureux, is a sanctuary for birds and indigenous trees. While you can’t walk on the island itself, you can cruise to the island on a catamaran and then snorkel off the rocks and dive in crystal-clear water. Île Plate has a picturesque white sand beach an old lighthouse and lots of indigenous plants, and you can visit on a catamaran trip or boat cruise that includes snorkelling and a picnic lunch. You can’t set foot on Île Ronde, but you can cruise around the protected island to spot rare birds.
There are some fantastic scuba diving sites near Grand Gaube: three at Cap Malheureux and six around Coin de Mire island, which is ranked as one of the best dive spots in Mauritius. Further offshore, you can also explore the underwater world on the reefs around Île Plate, Île Ronde and Île aux Serpents. The lagoons around the islands are also perfect for snorkelling.
Just to the west of Grand Gaube, Cap Malheureux is an enchanting spot: a lovely bay offers dramatic views of the jutting peak of Coin de Mire, a pretty village and the photogenic church of La Notre Dame Auxiliatrice, one of the oldest churches on the island.
To get a taste of local life, browse the bustling Goodlands market where Mauritians shop for fresh produce, saris and other clothes, and tuck into delicious street food such as spicy samosas and coconut fritters.
A short drive inland brings you to Château de Labourdonnais, where history meets gourmet cuisine on a manicured estate. Explore the elegant 18th century plantation mansion for a glimpse into colonial life on the island, and then have a meal at the La Table du Château, one of the best restaurants on the island for Franco-Mauritian food. Tuck into dishes such as pan-fried dorado on steamed local vegetables, prawns with palm heart salad and spicy mango dip and crème brûlée made with Tahitian vanilla grown on the estate. Don’t miss a tasting of the Château’s delicious flavoured rums which are infused with fruits from their orchards.
Even if you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort in Grand Gaube, it’s worth leaving the confines of the resort to eat out in some of the restaurants in the village, such as At Linda’s Place, where you can try home-cooked Mauritian food such as fried fish with saffron rice and pickles, and chicken curry.
Grand Gaube is good for couples looking for a low-key romantic break in luxury resorts and prefer a quieter pace than the hustle and bustle of Grand Baie.
With its easy access to dive sites and great snorkelling spots, Grand Gaube is great for underwater adventurers.
A sleepy colonial city on the southwest coast with a pretty waterfront, Mahébourg hasn’t seen large-scale tourist development so it retains lots of authentic charm. It’s a great place to get a taste of real Mauritian life of fishermen heading out on their wooden boats and lively local markets alongside an interesting museum, local eateries and street food stalls, where you can chat to vendors while sipping on fresh coconuts and snacking on gato merveille (fried crispy dough served with tomato chutney).
Mahébourg is the jumping off point for boat excursions to nearby islands, while just outside of the city, Pointe D’Esny and Blue Bay are two of the most attractive beaches in southern Mauritius. Both offer wildlife attractions: offshore from Pointe D’Esny is an island nature reserve which is a must-visit for people who want to get a glimpse into what wild Mauritius would have looked like before humans arrived, and the coral reef in front of Blue Bay is the top snorkelling spot on the island.
Mainly home to small guesthouses and no grand resorts, Mahébourg is best for low-key travellers who’re looking for budget-friendly lodging away from the crowds.
The top activity in Mahébourg is a boat trip to explore the idyllic islands that lie just offshore – the perennially popular Île aux Cerfs to the north, as well as Île aux Aigrettes, Île aux Vacoas, Île aux au Phare and Île aux de la Passe. The boat trips take a half or whole day and include stops for swimming and snorkelling and a barbecue lunch.
Visit the Monday Market for an authentic Mauritian shopping experience and for the tasty, fresh street food: try the unofficial national dish of dholl puri (flatbreads topped with curried split peas and chutney), gateaux piments (fried chilli bites) and samosas filled with spicy potatoes.
Learn about Mauritius’ fascinating past at the National History Museum, which houses artefacts rescued from old shipwrecks and a mixture of interesting treasures, from pirate swords to centuries-old maps.
Just south of the city centre, Pointe D’Esny is a picturesque sugary-white kilometre of sand flanked by calm turquoise water. If you want peace and quiet, it’s a good place for beach lazing, but nature lovers should definitely not miss doing a tour of the offshore Île aux Aigrettes, an island nature reserve that protects endangered indigenous species such as pink pigeons and Aldabra giant tortoises, as well as Mauritian fruit bats – the only native mammal on the island.
Pointe D’Esny leads onto Blue Bay, where you can experience the best snorkelling on the island in the protected Blue Bay Marine Reserve, which is home to the island’s biggest coral reef. Just a few metres from the beach you’ll be able to spot up to 72 species of tropical fish, including surgeonfish, parrotfish, clownfish and trumpetfish, and, if you’re lucky, sea turtles too. You can also sail on a glass-bottomed boat to explore the reserve and the islet of Deux Cocos, which lies within the park.
With many beachfront properties closing off access to the beautiful Pointe d’Esny beach, finding the way to the sand can be tricky if you’re not staying in a hotel or resort. There is a public path that heads to the beach from the road – look for it in the middle of Pointe d’Esny.
If you go snorkelling in Blue Bay, remember to wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect the coral reefs from further damage. You don’t need to do a boat trip to go snorkelling in the reserve – you can enter from the shore. The best spot to go into the water is to the western edge of the public beach.
With family-friendly boat trips and wonderful snorkelling in Blue Bay, Mahébourg is a great destination for kids.
Mahébourg is ideal for travellers on a budget, with lots of affordable lodging options such as small family-run guesthouses. It’s a good base for solo travellers who prefer a quiet ambience rather than buzzing nightlife.
Mauritius’ capital city of Port Louis is the best place to explore the cultural diversity of the island and see a very different side of Mauritius far removed from the idyllic beachfront resorts. The city encapsulates the island’s melting pot of cultures – Indian, African, French, Chinese and British – with bustling markets, an historic Chinatown (where the Mauritian-Chinese street food is excellent) and fascinating museums that tell the stories behind the island’s chequered history. Just outside of town, the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens is one of the most popular attractions on the island for its more than 600 species plants and the famous giant water lilies.
The Central Market is a wonderful foodie experience: browse the stalls to see the best of the island’s fresh produce, from jewel-like chillies, shiny aubergines, glowing pommes d’amour (small tomatoes) and bundles of aromatic herbs. Stop for refreshments at the food hall, where you can snack on dholl puris (delicious flatbreads wrapped around curried split peas) and sip on tangy tamarind juice or alouda (a sweet milky drink).
The UNESCO site of Aapravasi Ghat is a fascinating historical visit (we recommend booking in advance for a guided tour) where you can learn about the island’s colonial history and the immigration of Indian indentured labourers to Mauritius.
The Blue Penny Museum is a must for history buffs who want to learn about the story of Port Louis, and see two of the rarest stamps in the world: the famous Mauritian 19th century penny stamps.
Take time out of exploring the busy city to stroll through the tranquil Jardins de la Compagnie, an 18th century garden full of towering banyan trees, statues, fountains and benches.
A short drive from the city centre, the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens is a must for travellers who love plants and botany. The lush, beautiful gardens are filled with 650 indigenous and exotic species of plants and trees including baobabs and spice trees. The highlights are the 85 different kinds of palm trees and a pond of giant water lilies. If you want to get the most out of your visit, it’s a good idea to hire a guide to learn about the garden’s fascinating flora.
The Central Market gets very busy – try to get there before 10am to avoid the crowds.
While the Jardins de la Compagnie is safe to visit during the day, it’s best not to walk there at night.
Solo travellers will find plenty to explore on their own in Port Louis, while the city also offers child-friendly attractions such as the botanical gardens. Foodies will love the street stalls of Chinatown and the fresh produce in the Central Market.
January is the hottest and wettest month in Mauritius, with an average maximum temperature of 30C. Although it rains often, it mostly doesn’t rain for long, and the sun soon comes out again. There is a chance of cyclones in January, but they don’t occur very often – typically Mauritius gets hit by a cyclone twice in a decade.
Highlights of the month/disadvantage + advantages
January is a very busy month for tourism Mauritius and flights and hotel prices are at their highest.
A wonderful event to experience in Mauritius is Chinese New Year, which takes place at the end of January or early February each year and is celebrated with fireworks, feasts and festivities.
February is a hot and humid month in Mauritius, and it’s the second rainiest (after January). There is still a chance of cyclones in February although they aren’t that common.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
The weather in February isn’t ideal for a beach holiday, but the skies do tend to clear up after a rain shower and there are fewer people this month after the holiday crowds of December and January.
The Maha Shivaratri pilgrimage takes place each February, when half a million Hindu people making a pilgrimage to the holy lake of Grand Bassin, in the south west of the island.
The beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere heralds the celebration of Holi Festival in India, which also takes place in Mauritius in late February or early March: there’s music and festivities but the main event is when people throw coloured powder and water at one another in the streets.
The month of March has warm temperatures and some rain, although less rainfall than earlier in the year. This month there is a chance of cyclones, although they aren’t that common – Mauritius typically gets hit with a cyclone once every five years.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
March is a popular time to visit Mauritius as it’s warm but not rainy or too busy. It’s an ideal time for scuba diving.
May sees a big decrease in rainfall and humidity, and a slight drop in temperatures (although with an average minimum of 19C, it’s far from chilly).
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
May is an excellent month to visit Mauritius as it’s not busy, the temperatures are mild and there’s not much rain. It’s low season, which means that you may be able to get discounts at resorts and hotels.
May marks the start of the best period of the year for wind conditions for kite surfers and surfers.
Although it’s technically winter in Mauritius, June is still pleasantly warm, with day time temperatures of 24C and not much rain.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
June is low season in Mauritius and you can find discounted prices at some hotels and resorts. It’s a great month to visit the island if you’re a kite surfer or surfer because of the ideal wind conditions.
August is one of the driest months in Mauritius. Combined with mild temperatures, the lack of rain this month means it’s a perfect time to travel if you want sunny days without intense heat. Nights are cool, so bring along some warmer clothing for evenings.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
It’s best to stay on the west or north coast in August where the beaches are more sheltered from the winds. August is a great month for water sports such as kite surfing and surfing.
September has the lowest rainfall of any month in Mauritius which means plenty of sunshine for long beach days. Day time temperatures are in the low 20s and night time temperatures drop to about 18C – bring along a sweater or jacket for nights.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
September is still low season in Mauritius, so it’s a great time to travel for quiet beaches, good prices on flights and discounts on hotels. It’s a good month for kite surfing and surfing.
Père Laval Feast Day is on the 9th of September, a Christian holy day when pilgrims travel to the shrine of Ste-Croix in Port Louis to ask for miracles.
In September or October, the festival Ganesh Chathurti see Mauritian Hindus celebrating the god Ganesh with elaborate feasts.
Low rainfall and warmer temperatures (maximum average of 26C) make October an ideal month weather-wise for Mauritius.
Highlights of the month/disadvantage + advantages
October sees an uptick in tourist numbers but it’s still not yet one of the busiest months, so it’s a wonderful time to travel to Mauritius. It’s the last good month of the year for surfing and it’s also a great time to go scuba diving.
Taking place in late October or early November, the Hindu festival of lights – Diwali – is sees a spectacular display of fireworks and lanterns as well as delicious festival foods.
In November, warm weather (with highs of 28C) and not much rain make for an ideal beach holiday climate.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
November is one of the best months of the year to visit Mauritius because of the ideal weather and because it’s not yet too busy. November is a great month for scuba diving – especially if you’d like to see seasonal turtles.
In early December, the weather is warm and dry, but as the month progresses so does the rainfall and humidity.
Highlights of the Month/Disadvantage + Advantages
December is one of the two busiest months in Mauritius and there’s a big spike in hotel prices and flights, especially around the Christmas and New Year holiday period. It’s one of the best months of the year to explore the island’s underwater life on scuba dives.
Mauritius is famous for its beach holiday resorts, incredible snorkelling areas, unforgettable yacht adventures, fantastic deep-sea fishing spots, and, of course, the famed Chamarel plains with their seven colours.
The fact that this picturesque island is only a few hours away from South Africa is a huge plus!
From May to December, when the weather is cool, dry, and sunny, is the best time to visit Mauritius.
Mauritius’ resorts – many of which are in the mid-range category – offer excellent all-inclusive packages that cover lodging, meals and activities on your Mauritius holiday. While an affordable alternative to a resort stay is renting a self-catering house or apartment near the beach for your affordable Mauritius holiday.
Mauritius is all about activities, and the costs of these can add up, especially if you’re travelling as a family. However, there are many things to do that don’t cost very much, such as hiking in Black River Gorges National Park and to the top of Le Morne Brabant, buying your own snorkelling gear and exploring the underwater world of Mauritius’ coral reefs, visiting tea plantations and artisanal rum distilleries, and walking around lush botanical gardens on your affordable Mauritius holiday.
Renting a car or scooter in Mauritius is not expensive and it’s the best way of getting around the island (and better value than taking private taxis).
If you have your own transport, there are plenty of attractions to visit, such as the island’s many public beaches and bustling food markets that won’t cost you anything on your affordable Mauritius holiday.
To get discounts on hotel rates and flights, travel during the low season of May to September, which has slightly cooler temperatures than in summer but more sunshine and daytime temperatures in the 20s.
The top tip for budget travel in Mauritius is to travel during the off-peak season (May to September) to get discounted rates on flights and lodging.
The best lodging option for a budget-conscious trip is a self-catering apartment (Flic en Flac has the best selection) if you’re travelling solo or as a couple, or a house if you’re a family or group of friends. Shop for fresh produce at village markets and for the catch of the day from fishermen on the beach.
In terms of transport, hiring a rental car can be cost-effective if you’re travelling in a group, while solo travellers can take advantage of public buses to get around the island on a budget.
There are many attractions in Mauritius and things to do that are either free or cost very little such as hiking to the top of Le Morne Brabant. Public beaches are free and there are plenty of budget-conscious refreshments to eat and drink, from fresh coconuts to cut-up pineapple to eat like a lollipop. Buy yourself a snorkel and pair of goggles and pay nothing to explore the underwater life of the island.
Luxury travellers are really spoilt for choice in Mauritius: the island has a wealth of superb high-end resorts scattered across its northern, southern, western and eastern coasts. These luxury properties are what island dreams are made of: expansive gardens full of trees and tropical plants, beautiful rooms, spacious suites and exclusive villas with private gardens and swimming pools, idyllic resort-only beaches, gourmet food in several on-site restaurants, beach bars, wonderful spas, 24-hour butler services, and more activities than you could fit into one trip, including all the water sports you can think of, as well as yoga, massage and Creole cooking lessons and some memorable authentic experiences such as a sunrise sail with a local fisherman or a home-cooked meal in a family home.
Most people choose to just stay at one luxury resort on their trip, and many resorts offer packages that include everything from food, poolside cocktails and spa treatments to water sports lessons, but if you want to explore the island rather than spend your whole holiday on the resort grounds, there are some lovely boutique hotels which are more geared for travellers who’ll be eating out and doing activities in other parts of the island.
Mauritius is one of the most popular destinations in southern Africa for romantic holidays and honeymoons, and it’s easy to see why.
There’s not much that can top a tropical beach holiday for couples wanting a romantic break, and Mauritius’ exquisite beaches and islets offer the perfect combination of sugary white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and crystal-clear calm sea for endless hours of swimming and snorkelling on your Mauritius Honeymoon.
The island’s huge number of luxury resorts are particularly geared up for honeymooners and couples looking for romance: some resorts are adults-only, and many have suites and villas that are designed with privacy in mind (think private terraces, gardens and infinity pools).
Many properties offer special couples or Mauritius honeymooners packages including special touches and pampering such as sparkling wine, in-room spa treatments, round-the-clock butler service and romantic candlelit dinners for two.
Adventurous couples are spoiled for choice on their Mauritius honeymoon, with endless outdoor activities to pick from, such as hiking and canyoning in Black River Gorges National Park, scuba diving at fantastic sites all over the island, windsurfing and kite surfing lessons, catamaran trips to offshore islands and multi-day kayaking trips to uninhabited islets where you camp on the beach at night.
Each side of the island has a different character, but all have resorts and hotels where couples can find an idyllic place to stay. If you love a buzz of nightlife and restaurants, stay in Grand Baie on the northern end of the island or Flic en Flac on the west coast.
For a quieter ambience, pick the east coast, and for the wildest, least developed stretch of coast, head to southern Mauritius.
Mauritius is an ideal family holiday destination and is great for kids of any age. The island offers great value for money on family holidays, with the choice of all-inclusive resorts and self-catering apartments and houses. Many resorts and hotels are child-friendly, offering children’s swimming pools and play areas, kids’ clubs and programmes packed with fun activities and services such as babysitting.
Whatever part of the island you’re in, you’re never far from a family-friendly activity: there’s snorkelling and diving just about everywhere, water sports such as water skiing, paddle boating, kayaking and kite surfing, and animal parks where kids can feed giant tortoises, as well as amazing natural attractions such as Black River Gorges National Park and Tamarind Falls where you can hike in beautiful forests, go abseiling and canyoning and swim in rivers.
While there are child-friendly resorts on each side of the island, the western coast of the island is particularly popular with families because of the sheltered calm ocean. Look out for special deals at resorts for families, where they offer discounted rates for kids under the age of 12.
While Mauritius is known as a romantic destination for honeymooners and a great family holiday destination, the island is also perfect for solo travellers: it’s safe, easy to travel around and offers a lot of activities that you could do on your own, with a guide or instructor or join up with a group to do. Highlights include scuba diving, snorkelling, hiking in Black River Gorges National Park, abseiling, canyoning and island kayaking, horse riding and stand-up paddle boarding.
For a buzz and the chance to meet other travellers, pick a popular seaside town such as Grand Baie or Flic en Flac, where you’ll find tons of options for lodging, lots of restaurants and great nightlife options.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, stay on the southern end of the island, which has the least developed coastline and good access to some great natural attractions, such as Black River Gorges National Park.
Mark Twain once said: “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” This paradise on Earth is the kind of tropical island fantasies are made of: powdery icing-sugar white sandy beaches shaded by swaying palm trees, crystal-clear turquoise ocean, year-round sunshine, lush forests and volcanic mountain backdrops – and some of Africa’s best beach resorts. Lying off the coast of East Africa, Mauritius has something to offer just about everyone, from couples looking for romantic experiences, families in search of outdoors activities for kids, and adventure seekers who want to have an active, exciting holiday.
Mauritius has more than 300 kilometres of coastline, and much of it is covered in picture-perfect beaches. However, there’s far more to the island than just sun loungers and sand. Underwater adventures are a big draw, with snorkelling and scuba diving spots all over the island to explore two-centuries-old shipwrecks, beautiful caves and caverns, hundreds of coral species and more than 400 marine animals, including deep-sea fish, dolphins, turtles and humpback whales. Mauritius also offers more water sports than you can shake a water ski at everything from water skiing and kite surfing to kayaking to offshore islets.
The island’s interior boasts beautiful landscapes and is packed with things to do, giving you plenty of reason to explore Mauritius beyond the beach. Think pretty hilltop villages, tea plantations, colonial houses, interesting museums, Hindu temples, artisanal rum distilleries, superb restaurants and botanical gardens for a start, and then there are the natural landscapes and wildlife: national parks and reserves where you hike through indigenous forest to spot rare birds, animal parks for kids of all ages and enough adventures to kick start your adrenaline, from horse riding and quad biking to canyoning down waterfalls.
The most popular part of the island is the northern coast around the town of Grand Baie, which is a tourist hub for hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops and bars. The west coast of the island, with its magnificent beaches, calm ocean and languid sunsets is most popular with families, while the east coast has some of the top luxury resorts and best beaches. The southern coastline is the least developed on the island, with a wild beauty that will appeal to nature lovers.
What Makes Mauritius Unique?
While Mauritius has some of Africa’s best beaches, the island has far more to offer beyond its beautiful stretches of sand, and the sheer diversity of experiences makes this island very special. In terms of ocean activities, your days will be filled with everything from stand-up paddle boarding and surfing to scuba diving and yachting. Meanwhile, the island’s lush interior provides endless opportunities for exploring the natural world: walk around a volcanic crater, go canyoning in dramatic gorges, abseil down waterfalls, hike in the hills of a national park to spot birds and in reserves of indigenous forest, feed giant tortoises and go horse riding through the trees. And though Mauritius isn’t known for its wildlife, the island has several species that have been saved from extinction, making a visit to one of its animal sanctuaries a fascinating and unique experience.
Unlike other East African island nations such as the Seychelles, Mauritius is a great value-for money destination. The island is also home to many budget-friendly lodging options, from self-catering apartments to small family-run guesthouses, while the luxury resorts offer some surprisingly affordable packages. And if you’re not on a budget, the best resorts on the island are truly world-class: think stylish and spacious villas, exclusive private beaches, manicured grounds, superb spas, award-winning golf courses and Michelin-quality food at a choice of multiple restaurants.
Out of all the Indian Ocean islands, Mauritius boasts the best gourmet cuisine: its food is a mixture of the island’s rich cultural influences, and the wide array of excellent restaurants spanning Mauritian and international fare will delight foodies. Resorts offer plenty of fine dining experiences, while excellent restaurants are tucked away in some of the most beautiful corners of the island, from hilltops to the gardens of old colonial mansions. A particular highlight are the tables d’hôtes – small family-run eateries – which are great for trying authentic Mauritian cuisine. Even the cheap eats in Mauritius are delicious: the street food sold in markets and on the side of the beach is something to write home about.
Mauritius is a unique mix of French, British, Indian, Chinese and Creole people and has a fascinating history spanning centuries. Throughout the year there are festivals celebrating the religions and cultural traditions of the island’s myriad inhabitants, while excellent museums and historical houses preserve stories from the past.
Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs which teem with more than 400 marine species, including pinner and bottlenose dolphins, a variety of shark species (although these are rarely venture beyond the reefs and into the lagoon around the island that people swim in), sperm and humpback whales, colourful tropical fish and deep-sea fish such as tuna and marlin.
On land, the fruit bat is Mauritius’ only native mammal, while the island is home to several introduced species. While Mauritian giant tortoises have gone extinct, giant tortoises from the Seychelles have been introduced to the island and there are several places where you can see them (and feed them). More than 100 species of birds have been recorded on Mauritius, including seven endemic species: the Mauritius grey white-eye, Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, olive white eye, Mauritian fody, Mauritius parakeet and Mascarene paradise flycatcher.
The best place to see endemic Mauritian species (some of which were saved from the brink of extinction) is Île aux Aigrettes, a small island reserve which is being returned to its pre-human state, and which protects birds such as pink pigeons and Mauritian fodies, as well as Mauritian fruit bats, two Mauritian native reptiles (day geckos and Telfair’s skink), giant Aldabran tortoises from the Seychelles and a stand of old ebony trees. The lush forests of Black River Gorges National Park, in the south west of the island, are also a great place to go bird spotting.
In terms of plants, Mauritius has remarkable biodiversity for its size, with nearly 1000 species, around 300 of which are endemic. While the island has lost nearly all of its trees, Black River Gorges National Park protects the largest tract of native forest on the island, and there are other reserves where you can find native species as well as projects that are rehabilitating forest areas. The national park and the smaller reserves are the best places to immerse yourself in Mauritian plant life, while the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens is an excellent place to learn about rare and endangered species.
Because Mauritius offers something for everyone, people return again and again for different kinds of holidays: as romantic couples and adventure seekers and as families looking for child-friendly ocean fun.
With the diversity of attractions and experiences that Mauritius has to offer, you wouldn’t be able to fit them all into one trip and you’ll be planning the next holiday before you leave. Foodie travellers could spend their entire holiday exploring the island’s gastronomic delights and never have time to go snorkelling, whilst surfers may be in the ocean every day and miss out on exploring the island’s beautiful natural attractions in the interior.
The island varies a lot from coast to coast, from the northern end which buzzes with nightlife and restaurants, to the wild south coast which is largely undeveloped and boasts extraordinary natural beauty. It definitely makes sense to return to Mauritius on repeated trips and stay on each four coasts to fully experience all sides of the island.