The island nation is set to reopen completely to fully vaccinated visitors this October, meaning it’s time to step outside the hotel lobby and explore.
“Mauritius was made first… and heaven was copied,” novelist Mark Twain famously said of the island. Situated along the southeast coast of Africa, Mauritius is a favourite of those seeking a tropical escape with a difference. There’s natural beauty, historic towns, cities full of culture, and picture-perfect beaches promising marine adventures.
And when the second phase of the country’s reopening commences on October 1, tourists will be able to explore everything it has to offer; previous regulations saw them confined to their resorts for 14 days. So, considering it takes all but 90 minutes to drive across the island, there’s no reason why you can’t go beyond the four walls of your resort and explore every corner. But where to start?
Best for: Museum visits and history tours
Where better to start than the capital city? Like most capitals, Port Louis is Mauritius’s economic, cultural and political hub, not to mention the most populated area. Meaning a day trip or weekend visit offers up a glimpse into how the locals live, work and play. As its name might giveaway, Port Louis is rich with influence from its colonial powers of the past – its namesake was the French king, Louis XV, while colonial British and Dutch influences are pervading, too. If you really want to get to grips with the history of this tropical island, Port Louis is the place to start.
While in town…
Take a trip to the past
If you’re going to sign up for a tour anywhere while travelling the country, do it in the capital. Options are plentiful, and by general consensus, each includes iconic landmarks that play a part in the Mauritian story. There’s the Citadel Fort Adelaide, known as an architectural feat with striking city views. There’s The Saint Louis Cathedral built in 1814, making it one of the oldest in the country. And then there’s the SSR Memorial Centre For Culture, the hub of all things national history.
The Blue Penny Museum
Unless you’re a philatelist, you might not be drawn to The Blue Penny Museum based on its name alone. But don’t strike it from your list too soon, as it displays intriguing artefacts that showcase the nation’s cultural diversity; think historical maps, old-time photographs, and works of local art. As its moniker promises, it’s home to the Blue Penny and Red Penny stamps, two of the rarest in the world. Issued in 1847 by the British Colony Mauritius, they have become (very valuable) collectors’ items due to their historical significance. Keen to catch a glimpse? Be warned, the vivid stamps are only on display for 10 minutes per hour every day to preserve their hues.
Day trip to Champ de Mars Racecourse
The largest in the Southern Hemisphere and second largest in the world, Champ de Mars has been hosting competitions for almost 200 years. Race enthusiasts and history geeks alike will be satisfied with a day trip – think gorgeous surroundings, enticing restaurants and towering monuments ready to enjoy alongside the action.
Best for: Beach days and bustling nights
A village in northern Mauritius, this is the place to be if you’re dreaming of idyllic beaches for your next vacation. With plenty of gorgeous beach in this beautiful seaside location, it’s no wonder this is the most popular tourist spot on the island. Aquatic adventurers will enjoy exploring the sparkling blue waters, while the sun-seekers can unwind on the golden sands. But Grand Baie is also known for its nightlife, with bars, beach clubs and restaurants noted among the best of the island.
While in town…
Partake in watersport adventures
Being an island, coastline adventures aren’t hard to come by. But the place to really get your watersports on is this beachside location – think diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, parasailing, cave diving and even embarking on a submarine safari. Visitors can expect calm and clear waters filled with awe-inducing sea life such as lionfish, stingrays, eels, turtles and more. Head to Pereybere Beach for everything you need throughout the day, from a spectacular shore-side setup to places to grab a bite.
Spend a night on the town
When it comes to nightlife, this is the place to be. Grand Baie is known for its vibrancy, with many beach clubs, bars and restaurants to host you of an evening. Tick off the long-established Banana Beach Club first, loved by locals and tourists, before enjoying the varied musical offerings of BARaBAR. And if you want to see what the local mixologists can put together, a night at the Avant Garde bar it is.
Stop at Surya Oudaya Sangam Temple
It might be the destination for bars and beaches, but you can still embark on a cultural exploration when in town. Spend a morning exploring Tamil Surya Oudaya Sangam Temple, the Hindu temple standing tall in the southern part of Grand Baie. After you’ve removed your shoes and paid your fee, you’ll be privy to the colourful painting and sculptures enriched with spiritual significance that resides within. It’s small in size, but you can make your way to the top to see the beach views from above.
Best for: Hiking and outdoor adventures
Hikers, here’s your rugged paradise. Just travel to the southwestern tip of the island and discover Le Morne Brabant. So remarkable is the mountainscape it has been named one of only two UNESCO world heritage sites in the country. But the name of the Indian Ocean facing peak shares its name with the small village below. Le Morne is one of the best places to learn the stories of slavery and resistance so ingrained in the country’s history, as nothing is shied away from, making it a must-visit when it comes to understanding Mauritius’s foundation.
While in town…
Trek the Le Morne Brabant peninsula
Pack your hiking boots for this trip because it would be audacious to visit Le Morne and not elevate your status, quite literally. The eponymous peak, formed of basaltic rock, stands 1,824 ft above sea level and covers 30 acres of ground space. Guided tours are widely available across different paths and time frames, or you can go it alone across the 7 km stretch. Be warned, with its own micro-climate, temperatures can change at any time.
Visit Black River Gorges National Park
If you’re willing to jump in the car for 30 minutes, then plan a day trip to Black River Gorges National Park while down this end of the island. Covering a landmass of 16,690 acres, the dense rainforest is home to the likes of macaque monkeys and wild boars, a unique selection of flora and fauna, and a river lined with black stones – hence its moniker. Immerse yourself in nature by walking on the many paved paths, and bring a picnic to make a day of it.
Go whale and dolphin watching
The best place to spot these beautiful marine mammals is along the southwest coast, so pick your time in Le Morne to grab your binoculars and board a boat. On a day of calm waters, head out into the Indian Ocean to spot the likes of pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins and more.
Best for: Shopping trips and natural wonders
Although there’s no escaping outdoor adventure, sometimes you want to feel in the thick of the city – flashing lights, enticing restaurants, and shiny shops. Be sure to stop by Curepipe, the shopping district of Mauritius. Located in the middle of the island (hence, no coastal appeal) shopping comes out top trumps here, with malls, artisan stalls, factory outlets, and souvenir shops luring in global tourists. Just make sure you leave some extra room in your suitcase before arriving if you’re planning to spend the day here.
While in town…
Antique hunt in Beauté De Chine
Antique lovers, take note; if you’re making your way around the shops of Curepipe, don’t skip this gem tucked away in Les Currimjee Arcade. Beauté De Chine is the oldest running store in the city, and one of the oldest in the entire country. Take your time to walk around this family-run shop to discover the weird and wonderful, and make a day of it by checking out what the adjoining mall has to offer.
Jog around Trou Aux Cerfs
Trou Aux Cerfs is the biggest attraction of the cool-temperature city, as the dormant volcano crater is quite a sight. Only 1km from the hustle and bustle of the town, it only takes a brief walk to be greeted by the lush greenery. Immerse yourself within it, and you’ll soon spot the 100-metre deep crater. If you’re keen to stay fit during your vacation, you can enjoy a jog around the dedicated track, waving at the mountain ranges in view as you go.
Visit Taramand Falls
Yes, it’s another neighbouring spot of natural beauty, but there’s just too many demanding not to be missed from your list. This time, it’s Taramand Falls (also known as the 7 Cascades) calling all tourists. Head here for a hike that’s suitable for all levels, and see almost a dozen waterfalls, multiple jumps, deep ponds and, of course, colourful vegetation. Don’t want to go at it alone? There are plenty of groups operating all day hikes across the area.
Best for: Culture vultures ready to explore
Here’s another town prime for people who want to get stuck into the local culture – there’s a history museum, an old-timey church, and authentic street food markets to name a few. Even just walking through the traditional town alone is a feast for the eyes. Plus, Mahebourg is also along the coast, meaning visitors can break up knowledge-intensive days with carefree trips to the beach. Head to the waterfront (which is perfect for a long morning stroll), and you’ll also find a naval museum that tells the tales of the battles fought at sea.
While in town…
Eat the street food
Who doesn’t love to learn about the local cuisine when on vacation? And there are more ways to do so than simply tucking into second helpings at dinner. Enter the street food of Mahebourg, where Mauritius offers up flavours of the world – from Indian to French. Real foodies can sign up for the Mahebourg Village Food Tour and eat their way around the town’s most famous landmarks with a knowledgeable tour guide on hand.
Discover the Rault Biscuit Factory
Unless you have a special place in your heart for custard creams, this niche spot might not be the top of your vacation agenda. Yet there’s a reason why The Rault Biscuit Factory has been touted as one of the must-see tourist spots this end of the island. A family business first opened in 1870, the sweet treat factor hasn’t changed much since; everything is made almost entirely by hand with a century-old secret recipe. Visitors can watch the magic happen, taste different mixes, and of course, buy some to take home.
Zipline in Vallée des Couleurs
After you’re done with the museums and walking tour, why not amp up the adrenaline with a day trip to Vallée des Couleurs, a 45-minute drive. With a distance of 1.5km, it’s the third-longest zipline in the world, so defintely one to tick off your list. After you’ve flown over the nature reserve, you can explore it at ground level – with sights such as the naturally occurring 23-coloured earth area, the animal farm, rock garden, and waterfalls.
Where to stay? Three of our favourite hotels in Mauritius
Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita
Just in time for the travel updates, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita will reopen its newly renovated doors on October 1. Expect a completely new bar, revamped restaurants, luxury accommodation options complete with a private pool, and even three secluded beaches that stretch along the southeastern coast. Guests can explore the local treasures in Beau Champ and the closer-to-home sports and leisure options, such as golf and a luxe spa with treatment rooms overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Constance Prince Maurice
Setting up camp on the northeastern coast? Constance Prince Maurice, it is, then. This romantic hideaway is known for its stunning architectural design, which can be enjoyed from one of the 89 suites and villas. Travelling in numbers? The lavish Princely Villa sleeps six and boasts three individual terraces with different ocean views, a private heated pool, and a personal villa host. Be sure to enjoy dazzling sunsets from the Floating Bar,
Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas
On the southeastern coast, just a short drive from Mahebourg Waterfront, Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas is tucked away between tropical gardens and the golden sands of Le Chaland Beach. After exploring the nearby city and hiking spots, guests can return to enjoy rejuvenating hammam spa rituals and suitably indulgent dining experiences (the steaks cooked over Himalayan salt rocks at Sea Fire Salt are sublime).
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