The EA guide to Mauritius holidays
The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is an awesome place to visit for that dreamy sun, sea and sand holiday. The expansive coastline, of course, means abundant water sports and activities. Snorkelling and diving are highlights along with fishing, parasailing and an undersea walk giving guests the chance to walk suspended metres below the surface amongst colourful marine residents.
If the weather isn’t ideal for beach adventure or pool leisure, head to the shopping precincts, museums or entertainment areas. Port Louis has a number of museums, galleries and interesting churches, temples and a citadel. The town also boasts one of the top sunset spots on Signal Hill. Grand Baie is the hub of the island and what was once a sleepy fishing village is now a bustling tourist mecca with shops and entertainment. Kids love the Mauritius aquarium where you can feed the fish and see sharks up close. Mauritius has a fascinating history that comes to life in art, museums and galleries not to mention island architecture.
Tea is a major export and you can visit one of the tea plantations up winding roads often enveloped in fog. It’s wonderful to see tea pickers in the plantation and dine at the restaurant tasting the tea of course. Another export is sugarcane and you can visit the plantations and visit the sugar museum to learn about its fascinating history. One of the estates, Domaine de La Etoile has turned eco-playground with quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding on offer plus segways and buggy trips. Explore the slopes of Bambous Mountains where deer roam freely among the forest. There are trekking trails and zipline circuits plus karting for kids.
Mauritius is also a secret rum paradise and delightful distilleries offer you the opportunity to see the process and taste the product.
Mainland Mauritius offers hiking trails through mountains at the Black River Gorges National Park where a rare bird species resides – the Mauritian Pink Pigeon.
Chamarel is a village in the south with a wonderful geographical formation called the Coloured Earth. Here, purples, yellows, reds and oranges form an uneven volcanic surface, quite a sight to behold. Just to get here the drive is fascinating and beautiful with gorges, mountains and waterfalls.
If you enjoy visiting stately homes. Eureka is a French colonial mansion not to miss. Once owned by the island’s biggest sugar baron, there are 109 doors, a verandah that wraps completely around the house all with a stunning Moka Mountain backdrop. You can walk through the gardens to a swimming hole beneath the waterfall, a beautiful and leisurely experience.
One of the hidden gems of Mauritius holidays is Mahebourg, the site where the Dutch landed in 1598. It’s an ancient capital with a calm character and charm to it. Here you can sit at a rustic restaurant, stroll along the pink paved waterfront to the bay where the British battled the French for the island and visit the National History Museum.
For Mauritius bird lovers, you can head over to Isle aux Aigrettes (Egret Island) which is thought to have been the last resting place of the dodo. It is a small coral outcrop surrounded by water with tortoises still resident and endangered pink pigeons too. Easy to get to, a daily guided tour is really insightful.
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Top five Mauritius highlights
- You set the pace in your ideal island paradise. Relax, swim, walk along beautiful beaches or simply laze by your resort pool.
- Marine wildlife is always an attraction and here you can head out to snorkel or dive. Fishing in Mauritius is also phenomenally popular.
- Take the historical trail around Mauritius and learn about its fascinating history through architecture, museums, galleries right down to food, tea and sugar cane plantations.
- Rugged adventure is also here with mountains to climb, quad bikes to ride, forests to explore and so much more.
- Food and shopping go hand in hand as you get out and about around Mauritius. Soak up French flavours, exotic Indian and Arabic spices and colourful markets.
North Mauritius and especially northwest is where the major tourist hubs can be found. There are the greatest concentrations of restaurants, cafes and shops plus ample marinas for boating activities. Some of the great experiences in the north include:
- Grand Baie
- Port Louis Central market
- L’Adventure du Sucre Sugar Museum and factory
- Chine Town
- Mauritius aquarium
- Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden
Grand Baie is a lively coastal village and the real hub where you’ll find all the bars, restaurants and endless resorts bordering expansive white sandy beaches. From here you can head out on glass-bottom boats, snorkel and kayak in clear waters or take off on a catamaran cruise. Deep sea fishing and boat trips to the northern islets of Mauritius is a real highlight.
Port Louis Central Market is best visited early morning literally at sunrise because the fresh vegetables and seasonal fruits come from local farms and you can stroll through and take in the colours, scents and sounds. There’s also a craft market section for textiles and artisan products.
The L’Adventure du Sucre Sugar Museum and factory show the history of the industry and you can tour through to learn the story and its impact on the island. China Town is also a must and it’s located at the heart of the sity in Port Louis, the capital. It’s filled with shops selling Chinese and Far East goods plus it’s the apothecary of the island with traditional herbs, spices and plants.
If you’ve got kids, the aquarium is a must. It’s located in a small village in the northwest of Mauritius and is home to over 200 species of fish, invertebrates, coral and sponges from the waters around the island. There are daily feeding sessions, usually 11h00 and 15h00.
Finally the most visited attraction on the island – The Pamplemousses Botanic Garden (formally known as Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam). It’s located in the town of Pamplemousses just outside Port Louis and stretches over endless acres of land. There are over 650 varieties of plants among them the famous Baobab, Bottle Palm, Giant Waterlilies and endless medicinal plants plus an enormous spice garden. There are also 85 different palm tree varieties from different corners of the world.
There’s a saying in Mauritius – west is best. The east coast gets hammered by the trade winds which doesn’t make for a great beach holiday unless you’re a kite or windsurfing enthusiast. It’s less busy than elsewhere on the island and yet the powdery beaches stretch for miles. Our top places to visit include:
- Ile aux Cerfs
- Belle Mare
- Flacq region
- Bambous Mountains
- Lion Mountain
There’s traditional sleepy fishing villages dotted all along the coastline and one of the most picture-perfect places of paradise is Ile aux Cerfs. Its white sandbars stretch into turquoise waters and attract visitors from all over the world. Perhaps the most charming village is called Trou d’Eau Douce, the east coast’s largest resort by virtue of its location across from Ile aux Cerfs.
Nearby is Belle Mare, a ten kilometre stretch of white sand bordered by casuarina trees. From here you can also access one of the top dive sites called The Pass.
The east is also home to the Flacq region – dutch for flat land. Imagine acres of sugar cane plantations peppered with Hindu temples and abandoned lime kilns.
The Bambous Mountains in the sleepy Grand Port district offer so much – the islands best eco-parks, kayaking, glamping on the banks of Grande Riviere Sud Est whose pretty gorge waterfall is a common pause for the cruise ships. Then you hit the island’s first settlement at Vieux Grand Port where the Dutch changed the course of island history.
Lion Mountain is last on the list, standing sentinel over Grand Port Bay. Here, the British fought the French for sovereignty over the strategic island.
The south region of Mauritius is home to the international airport and some other wild landscapes, in particular some unusual rock formations. You’ll also discover small fishing villages and ports and then cane fields and tea plantations. Our favourites to explore are:
- Bel Ombre, nestled in the foothills of the Black River Gorges National Park
- La Vanille Reserve des Mascareignes to see Darwin’s Aldabra tortoises
- Riviere des Anguilles and the unusual Tookay Temple
- Gris Gris Beach and the small port of Souillac
- The sleepy fishing village where time has stood still, Baie du Cap
Insider Mauritius holiday tips
- Always chat with holiday specialists because Mauritius has so many hotels and accommodations to choose from. It’s about knowing where to go based on your criteria – whether it’s a honeymoon, adults only retreat, family holiday or thrill-seeking adventure.
- Ask for full board or fully inclusive. Drinks in Mauritius are really expensive and unless you’re in the tourist honey trap of Grand Baie, finding a decent restaurant can be problematic.
- Get out and about. So many people head to Mauritius and never leave the hotel. While it may mean a relaxing break from every day life, you miss so much of the Mauritius beauty.
- Rent a car. The island is so easy to drive around, it only takes 1.5 hours from top to bottom! You could hire a scooter or ride the local bus – both scare us to death so we always prefer to rent a car.
- Savour the seafood. If you like seafood, you’ll love Mauritius. Prawns are huge here, smoked marlin is a staple and you’ll always be rewarded with fresh and fantastic seafood.