17 of the best things to see and do in Mauritius

Beautiful beaches, colourful sands and mountain caves... there are so many unforgettable things to see and do on the tranquil Indian Ocean paradise of Mauritius.

By Kieran Meeke

Published 4 May 2024

There are a whole host of amazing experiences to be had on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, from visiting the seven-coloured sands (yes, seven: red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow) of Chamarel to the wildlife at La Vallée de Ferney.

A refreshing blend of different cultures, Mauritius is a warm, inviting island with a heart of gold… Most people choose a holiday to Mauritius due to its beautiful beaches and tranquil setting, but there’s so much more to discover on Mauritius…

The capital of Mauritius is a modern city that will surprise any visitor expecting a sleepy tropical island. Its skyscrapers and busy streets reflect the strength of the local economy, even if its nightlife does encourage that sleepy image.

For visitors, however, Port Louis is more about Le Caudan Waterfront (see “Shopping” below), where cruise ships dock, or such sights as the elegant French colonial buildings and English Saint James Cathedral.

The city’s Chinatown is also a must-see, dominated by its pagoda and best understood by visiting the China Heritage Museum.

Other museums include the Blue Penny Museum, focusing on the history of Mauritius, and the Natural History Museum with its dodo exhibits.

The Champ de Mars Racecourse is the home of the second oldest Turf Club in the world. During the season from March to December it attracts up to 100,000 spectators.

The “Grand Bay” name perfectly describes this northern expanse of beach and sea, attractions that have made it the tourism centre of Mauritius.

Hotels, guesthouses and private villas and apartments have spread around the bay to take advantage of its scenic appeal.

Visitors can find everything they might need to enjoy a beach vacation, from sailing and snorkelling to superb diving and a varied nightlife.

Shopping is equally varied, from small handcraft shops that have been in the same family for generations to modern malls.

Built in 1830, the colonial Eureka House is a now museum showing what life was like for the aristocrats who lived here. It is one of only a few such wooden houses in Mauritius.

The shady veranda overlooks beautiful gardens, filled with palm and fruit trees, and there are a number of waterfalls to add to the charm of a walk in the grounds.

Caves in this rugged but scenic peninsular of Le Morne Brabant were used by runaway slaves as hideouts until the early 19th century.

Le Morne Brabant has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the history associated with these “maroons” who eventually formed small settlements.

This lake in the crater of a caldera has been a place of Hindu pilgrimage since the late 19th century.

The Grand Bassin is the holiest site in Mauritius for Indians and is considered to be linked to the River Ganges, hence its proper name of Ganga Talao.

It’s traditional for pilgrims to walk in bare feet to the lake, where they can pray in the temples dedicated to Hindu gods and drink its holy waters. A 108-ft tall statue of Shiva is a major sight.

Named for the rocks that sent many ships to their doom, this “Unfortunate Cape” at the northern tip of Mauritius is also where British invaders defeated the French in 1810.

However, it is now better known for its beachside red-roofed church, Notre Dame Auxiliatrice, which is a striking contrast to the rich blue sea behind it.

Most people come for the photo op, but it’s worth lingering to enjoy some of the nearby beaches.

The Chamarel area is well supplied with attractions, of which Terres des Sept Couleurs is the most striking.

The weathering of the basalt that underlies Mauritius, along with the formation of iron oxides, has produced a small expanse of sand dunes in subdued variations of red, brown, grey, and purple.

The rain and wind have also eroded gullies into the sand, where the shadows add even more variation. A glass tube filled with layers of the sand is a popular Mauritius souvenir.

Souillac on the southernmost tip of Mauritius is the centre for a number of historic sights. These include the Batelage port, once a centre for sugar cane exports, and the marine cemetery, with some graves dating to the 18th century.

La Nef, former home of Mauritian poet Robert Edward Hart, is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. His house was built of coral and has recently been rebuilt to the original design.

Other sights of interest nearby include the must-see Rochester Falls on the Savanne River and the Gris-Gris “Roche Qui Pleure” sea cliff, where continually crashing waves create a blanket of tears.

The Frederica Nature Reserve near Bel Ombre rises from the coast to the mountains, taking in differing landscapes and the highest waterfall on Mauritius.

The resulting biodiversity makes for a fascinating place to discover the flora and fauna of the island.

Visitors can take guided tours by quad bikes or FWD vehicles, enjoying such sights as the deer, boars and another animals of the reserve, and birds such as the endangered Mauritian parakeet.

Indigenous plants and trees are less exciting but vital to the survival of indigenous mammals such as the reserve’s large colony of bats.

Around 500 acres of native forest and its wildlife are preserved in La Vallée de Ferney nature park, set up to counter a plan to drive a highway through the valley.

It is a great place to hike and see giant tortoises, re-introduced to help restore the island’s natural diversity.

There are around a dozen top class golf courses in Mauritius, of which the most spectacular is the Bernhard Langer designed one on Ile aux Cerfs.

Few, if any, other golf courses can boast of being on their own tropical island.

Close runners-up are the nearby Anahita, designed for Four Seasons by South Africa’s Ernie Els, and Heritage Awali at Domaine de Bel Ombre estate in the southwest.

The warm Indian Ocean waters, made calm by the protective coral reef, make Mauritius an ideal spot for all sorts of water sports.

Sailing, kitesurfing and snorkelling are among the activities above water, with diving being a great way to see the life of a coral reef closer up.

More unusual activities include swimming with dolphins at Black River or sailing by catamaran to small desert islands for a picnic lunch and snorkel tour.

Activities on land include everything from hiking in the Black River Gorges national park, to quad bike tours and mountain biking.

The island’s peaks make for some tough climbs, but there are also much gentler coastal walks or equally gentle, if sweatier, ones in the forests and parklands.

Another way to see lots of scenery quickly is by zipline and there are some spectacular ones. They will take you though tree canopies and over rivers where a cooling dip afterwards is tempting.

One of the best ways to see Mauritius is by helicopter, when the tropical colours of blue sea, white sand and green interior create a wonderful picture of paradise.

Most hotels can organise a tour, but do remember that you will need your photo ID with you to take any flight.

Le Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis is the best place for shopping in Mauritius, featuring all the major international brands.

There is a market nearby for more local options in crafts and jewellery, and several other towns have colourful craft and/or food markets.

Local products to look out for include rum, vanilla tea and jams or chutneys made from tropical fruit. Woven bags and baskets are another common souvenir.

A small factory on the island produces exquisite but expensive model ships which can be, er, shipped worldwide.

Many visitors on holiday in Mauritius come to stay in all-inclusive resorts but it is well worth making the effort to explore the island’s many restaurants.

Many restaurants are distant from resorts, although the north is an exception in the wide choice available nearby.

However, the street food is one of the secret treasures of Mauritius and is found almost everywhere. Any excursion is a chance to try at least a snack from a local vendor.

Typical foods sold from roadside stalls include curries, with flatbread puri or stuffed roti. Curries here are fiery and you should beware of adding extra hot sauce until you have tasted your “cari poule” (chicken curry) or other dish.

Gateau piment (deep-fried chilli cakes), another common street food, are also served very hot both in temperature and in spiciness.

Chinese food is as popular as Indian dishes. Chop suey, served “upside down” and topped with an egg, or dim sum are go-to favourites, and stir-fried noodles are the island’s comfort food.

Every February Grand Bassin is the focus of the Maha Shivaratree festival which draws around 250,000 pilgrims, the biggest Hindu festival outside India.

Dressed in white, they walk for up to three days from all over the island to the lake with many carrying colourful “Kanwar” altars on their shoulders. They return home with pots of holy water.

Other Hindu festivals such as Holiday and Diwali are also celebrated enthusiastically. The large Catholic population also means that events such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated in traditional fashion.

The Creole International Festival in November/December celebrates creole culture with food, sega dance and song as well as crafts and film. A highlight is the late-night Gran Konzer that brings bands from throughout Africa.

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