Of course, you probably know Mauritius has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with a tropical climate and outstanding hotels. However, as someone who prefers mountains to beaches and would rather push her way through the local food market than lie by a pool, when my husband suggested Mauritius as our next family holiday destination I wasn’t entirely what I’d spend my time doing.
I didn’t need to worry - not only did I fall in love with the scenery, people, food and culture (and yes I’ll admit even the beaches) but I would even consider going back in the next few years. Considering I always try to go somewhere new; this is high praise indeed!
Here are my top 5 things to do, beyond lying on the powdery white sand watching the waves creep towards your toes (which certainly isn’t bad for a day or two).
This is my best tip for your trip to Mauritius. Even if you are travelling solo it is good value but with two or more people it’s a no-brainer. The cost is similar to a group day tour for one person, but you have so many benefits. From choosing what sites you see and how long you have there to spending the day with a local to give you lots of information and tips.
We were lucky to have a fabulous driver who was more than happy to chat about everything from food to global politics, religion to how Manchester United are doing this season. We ended up hiring him for 4 more days and by the end of our holiday he’d put up with our little girl singing in the car constantly without complaint, we’d watched videos of his children’s school performance and there was big hugs and tears at the airport when we left.
Our driver took us on a tour of the south of the island, including a visit to the seven-coloured earth at Chamarel. Heads up on this one – you’ll see something very different if the weather has been very dry compared to in rainy season. We didn’t see a huge range of colour but the unique land formation and views plus the giant tortoises that live nearby and the lovely coffee they produce on site made it worth a visit. Nearby you also have a short but steepish climb which takes you to a platform with lovely views to the Chamarel waterfall.
We trusted our driver to suggest where to go in between and for lunch and we weren’t disappointed. We took in quiet viewpoints and a local lunch stop with a detour drive around some of the most expensive houses (who doesn’t love to have a nose at what £10million can buy you on a paradise island?)
We met with our guide Adrien from Taste Buddies at the iconic Caudan Waterfront with the plan to spend a few hours wandering around the capital Port Louis. We wanted to learn a little something along the way, eat a lot of great food and hopefully try something new. After seeing some important buildings around the city and banyan trees full of fruit bats, our first stop was a roti stall. It had the longest queue at a small market (no better way to decide where to eat than where all the locals are queuing!)
From here, we indulged in more and more delicious food, as well as meeting some lovely locals. There was the dhal puri served by a man with a bike who was up at 4am to make them, like his father and grandfather before him. Also the dumpling soup which was so good that our little girl had 3 bowls!
We enjoyed fresh lychees, spices and juice squeezed fresh in front of us as we explored the Central Market before heading to China Town for some yummy Char Sui pork.I was slightly worried about our last stop as we turned down a back alley towards a tiny red door slightly ajar but when a lovely lady appeared with a tray of red bean paste buns I knew the guys at Taste Buddies knew where to find all the best tasting treats in the city.
Along the way we learned a lot about Mauritius’s rich history and diverse culture from our knowledgeable guide - I honestly don’t think there is a better way to understand a place than by meeting local people and tasting their delicious food.
There are so many options for boat trips in Mauritius and a variety of activities depending on which side of the island you are staying. We decided to take a catamaran day trip to Ile Aux Cerfs, which included snorkelling stops, a visit to Grand River Waterfalls and a beautiful BBQ lunch. The colour of the water was unbelievable - we saw plenty of pink and orange fish and coral when snorkelling.
As a family it felt really safe with our 3-year-old - the staff couldn’t do enough to make sure she was enjoying herself and had enough to eat and drink. However, if you were a couple enjoying a relaxing break or honeymoon the boat was big enough to have your own space to enjoy your time together.
In the South West, you can take a morning trip to see dolphins and even have the chance to swim with them. If you’d want to see this magical underwater world but want to keep your hair dry there is a submarine which takes you 35m deep. Or how about a sumptuous 3 course dinner served by your own private waiter served on a floated pontoon on the sea? The possibilities are endless – if you want to add one of these experiences to your trip, just ask us and we can arrange everything.
Although a newcomer to the golf scene Mauritius offers some of the best and most scenic golf in the world. Where else could you tee off on a course designed by Ernie Els or Bernhard Langer with the Morne Mountains or sloping tea plantations behind you?
Most of the golf courses are attached to a hotel, so if you are really keen to play on a specific course then it’s usually best value to stay at that hotel as well. However, most allow passes to go and play for the day so you can definitely enjoy a few different courses throughout your stay on the island.
One of our stops with our private driver was Black River Gorge National Park and if I went back I’d make sure I had time to spend a good few days to explore this park on foot. There are so many places on the island to enjoy a walk whether you want a stroll with time to enjoy the ever-changing scenery Mauritius has to offer or a strenuous, challenging climb. For the more adventurous, you could climb the famous Le Morne rock (you’ll need a guide to get to the true summit) or tackle the highest mountain in Mauritius Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire. Alternatively, ask your driver to stop at a few of the many viewpoints in Black River Gorge National Park and you’ll have a range of shorter walks to choose from.
This was perfect for us as a family as we could do a bit of exploring but it wasn’t too much with a little one in tow. Even just walking 10 – 15 minutes away from the viewpoints meant avoiding the crowds and entering a world where monkeys appeared to look down at you from the trees and often the only sound was the waterfall in the distance. There is a lovely half day tour which includes a 3 – 4 hour walk through the National Park plus a picnic lunch. I’d especially recommend this if you are interested in the flora and fauna of a country or birdwatching as you can spot the island's 9 endemic birds in this area.
Mauritius is the perfect size if you want a two or even three-centre holiday. It is only about 2 hours from one end to the other (slightly shorter going across) so we choose to start with a few days in the South West in Flic en Flac before a couple of days at Pointe aux Biches and ending our holiday at the outstanding 5-star LUX* Grande Gaube.
From the moment you turn down the sweeping driveway and approach the light and airy reception with views of the sparkling ocean ahead of you, you know your stay will be special. I adored the fact all rooms were sea facing - we had spectacular sunset views over the landscaped gardens leading to the beach from our terrace.
There are more than enough free activities to keep you busy, from stand-up paddling boarding and yoga to a glass-bottom boat ride over the reef. Personally, I love the more unique activities the LUX* properties offer whether you want to join a local artist for a painting class or get behind the coffee bar with their baristas and learn to make the perfect cup of coffee.
The breakfast is a truly fabulous affair which you enjoy whilst overlooking the pool and beach. Think fresh fruit, smoothies, continental meats and cheese followed by the cooked breakfast possibly via the dim sum and/or waffle stand. Of course, you’ll have to finish with a couple of scoops of their own brand ice cream before you head to the pool.
I do want to give a special mention to the Kid’s Club which was just amazing. The staff are very well trained with an itinerary of daily activities from swimming to t-shirt making and cake decorating and even an evening masquerade ball. One huge benefit is that they will happily take little ones to dinner so as a rare treat my husband and I choose to dine in the adult-only area under the lantern-lit banyan trees with the Whatsapp updates about our little girl completely reassuring us all was fine. We even had time for an after-dinner cocktail on the beach.
It really is the small details which make the Lux* Grande Gaube perfect for a special stay. Things like the messages in bottles they hide around the resort - if you find one a free spa treatment, activity or even private dinner on the beach will be yours. My favourite was the wish tree where you write a wish and tie it to the branches. Once a year one wish is picked to win a free stay at the hotel - who wouldn’t wish for a few extra nights in paradise?
I was blown away by Mauritius – beautiful beaches, lush mountains and national parks just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re looking for a family holiday or a luxurious honeymoon, this island paradise is sure to fit the bill. If you would like to plan a trip to Mauritius, give me a call on +44 1273320580 or request a quote. We are experts in planning tailor-made holidays and round the world flights, so we can work together with you until we’ve created your perfect trip.