While in many destinations famed for cobalt-blue seas, white sandy beaches and luxury hotels, you may eventually find yourself wishing for something to do besides sunbathing and swimming, it’s often hard to know what to do next in Mauritius. The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.
Mauritius is the most developed of the Mascarene Islands, but with a bit of effort and resourcefulness you can escape the crowds and find your own patch. The smells, noises and bustle of the mercantile capital Port Louis, Africa’s wealthiest city, are never far away, while the busy garment markets in the Central Plateau towns of Quatre Bornes and Curepipe and Black River Gorges National Park's dramatic virgin forests give the lie to Mauritius being just another beach destination. But what beaches! From the stunning sand-rimmed lagoons and popular wide public beaches to the picturesque islands off the country’s coastline, there’s truly something for everyone here. Add to this the joys of Chinese, Indian, French and African cuisine, the rousing beat of séga music and the infectious party spirit of the locals, and you soon understand why Mauritius really is so many people’s idea of paradise on earth.
A world away from the shores of the north, Mauritius' western wonderland is the nation's most diverse coast. The bustling tourist hub of Flic en Flac may be an inauspicious welcome mat, but the treasures that lie just beyond will satisfy even the pickiest holidaymaker. A veritable swatch book of lush greens and light browns, the area of Black River has scalloping sandy bays that dimple the arable farmland. Development is rampant here as expats arrive in droves to build their dream villa amid sleepy fishing villages. Then, further on, the tic-tac-toes of Tamarin's shimmering salt flats perfectly reflect the beaming sun and soaring hills of fauna-filled Black River Gorges National Park. Next is bucolic Chamarel nestled in the highlands, followed by the last iteration of sky-reaching stone, Le Morne Brabant; an awesomely photogenic crag that caps the coastline's southern tip.
With brilliant flashes of India, Ireland and the Caribbean, the wild unfolding south is an undeniable favourite for many. Long considered too harsh to develop due to its steep, wind-battered cliffs, the south coast has managed to stave off the encroaching hands of developers until quite recently. A few luxury resorts have popped up over the last few years, but the area remains mostly rugged, with a plantation estate or two hidden among the towering cane.
The jagged southern cliffs taper off at the shimmering reefs in Blue Bay, and just beyond you'll uncover the gorgeous beach of Pointe d'Esny with its cluster of homey chambres d'hôtes. The gritty gridiron of Mahébourg anchors the southeast, providing an interesting perspective on local life that starkly contrasts the unfurling streamers of sand stretching beyond the sleepy commercial centre. Then, the coastal road cuts north, passing endless forests of green – the stomping ground of the island's first settlers some 400 years ago.