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.