Mark Twain once said “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and heaven was copied after Mauritius” This tiny tropical island that I call home, is so small that sometimes it does not even appear on a world map.
Nestled in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is most famous for its warm turquoise waters, sugarcane fields, beautiful beaches, tropical rain forests and the now extinct dodo. Lesser known to many is its unique blend of cultures and ethnicities which stems from its rich multicultural heritage, that includes French, African, Indian, Chinese and British influence. Today that translates into a beautiful fusion of colour, flavours, people and languages with most Mauritians being trilingual and speaking French, English and Creole.
Mauritius is still classified as a developing nation and that is quite apparent when you start travelling the island. Old and new, rich and poor sit next to each other in a strange juxtaposition. The island is filled with unique quirks and charm, including old shop fronts that are full of character and nostalgia, local vendors selling goods on their bicycles or through colourful and eye-catching movable stands, Mauritius is not all beaches and cocktails, there is so much more to see and do. Here is my guide to experiencing Mauritius the authentic way, to get a real taste of this unique little island.
EAT & DRINK
The diverse background of this island makes Mauritius a haven for foodies, with everything from French patisseries to Indian curries or fresh grilled seafood caught by local fishermen.
There are some local dishes and snacks unique to Mauritius most of which you can taste by visiting local street vendors, I highly recommend that you do as these are the most authentic flavours you will try. These include boiled peanuts that are mostly sold on the beach, pineapple that has been marinated in salt, chilli and tamarind, gateau piment or chilli bites – the Mauritian version of falafels, dhal puris, faratas and rotis (my favourite).
Here are some of my favourite places to eat in Mauritius:
If you want an authentic Mauritian foodie experience it’s worth doing one of many of Taste Buddies tours that show you around some of the best street food and local restaurants on the island.
Delicious and fresh, Eat with fingers is a vegan restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, highlights include their smoothie bowl, pancakes and vegan ‘chicken wings’ – it’s a favourite.
A French bakery serving the most delicious pastries and freshly made breads. They have two locations, one in Grand Baie, Chemin 20 Pieds and in Pointes aux Canonniers, Royal Road. When in Mauritius, I pretty much exclusively buy from here.
Cute court-yard German cafe, perfect for Saturday brunch, coffee and cake – especially the strudel and crepes.
A tasty and healthier sweet treat, Gourmet pops use natural, fresh local produce to create their tropical popsicles.
Rustic and relaxed, Dalon revisits traditional Mauritian food in its own unique way. It’s shabby, simple and in the middle of the busy market area – a little taste of the bustling and sometimes chaotic Mauritian lifestyle.
A beachside boutique hotel that also has a restaurant and bar open to the public. Local and international flavours blend for a true Mauritian experience, cocktails are great and they also have an infinity pool that you are welcome to use if you have lunch.
A quaint little cafe that serves healthy, tasty homemade breakfast and lunch. From fresh fruit juices, smoothies to tasty salads or gluten-free meals, it’s the perfect spot for a bite to eat.
A little taste of Italy in the heart of Grand Baie, this pizzeria and pasta bar has a relaxed and friendly vibe.
A fine dining restaurant located in a beautiful colonial mansion, it is known as a gastronomic must while in Mauritius. Blending French cuisine with a touch of Mauritian spirit.
Part of my adolescent life and a nightlife icon in Grand Baie many a pre-drinks were held here! With its tropical setting, cocktails and live music, it’s a great taste of the flamboyant Mauritian lifestyle.
As the name suggests this beachside venue is both a restaurant and bar, overlooking the bay it offers casual dining and cocktails – perfect for drinks and bites.
A quick drive from the Botanical gardens, this authentic Mauritian restaurant serves Creole cuisine in an idyllic setting. The owner of the restaurant is also a vintage car collector, so as you enjoy the food and the surrounding orchards, make sure you admire his collection of beautiful cars.
An old colonial house that has been transformed into a beer shop and cafe in the heart of Port Louis, they have the largest selection of beer on the island while the restaurant showcases local dishes and bistro classics like battered fish and chips. Lambic was also the first to open up a microbrewery in Mauritius – The Flying Dodo, the local craft beer.
Located at Caudan Waterfront – this is a great option for a quick bite to eat and if you need your coffee fix! Possibly the best coffee on the island, designed and created by the five-star LUX* hotel group.
The perfect pit stop whilst exploring the bustling city centre, this is Mauritius’ answer to a trendy cafe. From the outside, it looks like a small unassuming takeaway coffee shop, but as you climb the stairs you discover the cool cafe which serves simple yet tasty meals and drinks – and good coffee.
A boutique hotel with beachside views nestled on the West coast in Black River. A great spot to catch up with friends over lunch and drinks – it’s a favourite.
If you are on your way to Le Morne public beach and need a quick, simple, cheap and cheerful lunch, this is the spot.
With its shabby chic interior and boat front bar, this is a must if you are on the West Coast. The food is a mix of authentic and artisanal offerings showcasing the flavours of the island – I highly recommend this one.
With its iconic panoramic views of the West coast and refined Creole cuisine, this is one restaurant not to be missed. It’s the perfect way to end your adventures on the West coast after visiting Chamarel Seven-Coloured Earth, the Chamarel Falls and the Black River Gorges National Park.
If you happen to find yourself in this region of Mauritius, it’s definitely worth visiting this beautiful colonial house and its gardens for lunch. As you sit on the terrace and enjoy locally made ice teas and authentic Mauritian dishes.
One of the first zero waste grocery stores in Mauritius, this rustic little location now has a cafe which serves delicious pastries and tasty lunch options including pizza.
Rustic and relaxed, this little eatery is perfect for a casual lunch. From delicious burgers to baguettes or smaller bites, it’s a great spot to catch-up.
With its pretty interiors and delightful range of sweet treats, this is the perfect spot if you are looking for something delicious. A favourite is their classic red velvet cupcake.
A new boutique hotel which will make you feel like you are in Morocco rather than Mauritius, but it’s their restaurant that is high on the must-do list. Their motto is ‘food is the heart and soul of any place’ and they pride themselves on fresh, local, and tasty produce and supporting local growers, farmers and fishermen. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Mauritian flavours all play a part on the menu – it’s a favourite.
SEE & DO
The perfect way to discover the REAL Mauritius, in an original, cultural and playful way with electric power-assisted bikes. They have several different routes, along each one you will get to taste local specialities, learn about the history and lesser-known facts about the island, meet some local legends and visit unknown and unexpected areas in wild and unspoilt nature. Electro bikes also aim to inform and educate tourists and Mauritians alike about important historical places and facts that are slowly being forgotten about or being destroyed, as unfortunately, the government is trying to eradicate much of the past. Their guides are extremely knowledgable about the history of the island and local areas and provide great insight into this diverse little country.
We decided to book the Grand Port trail, in the South West of the island because it holds a great cultural and historical significance, as this was where the first fleets arrived and many of the great battles between the French and British took place. We started our journey riding through the back streets of local villages and past endless sugar cane fields under the gaze of Lion Mountain, visiting key historical spots and local icons, including Pop one of the very last “ranzer pirog” or pirogue boat carpenters of the island. As he explains, with the Westernisation of the island and the younger generation dismissing their heritage and traditions, a lot of the artisanal work and craftsmanship is being lost – he sadly mentioned that his own son will not be taking over his business when he retires. We were very fortunate we got to meet him and see his incredible work.
Next, we went to visit the incredible ladies who are continuing the 200-year-old tradition of vacoas weaving, another trade which is slowly dwindling but that is now being supported and promoted by ventures like Electro bikes. We were lucky enough to learn a basic weave and no surprise, left with many treasures to bring back home. While I could keep writing about this incredible experience, I think it is best your discover and experience it yourself – I can’t recommend it highly enough. The great thing about this activity is that no matter your fitness level you can participate, as the electric function of the bike helps support you when you need a little boost.
Put this experience at the top of your to-do list in Mauritius.
La Plage is a Beach Club located on the beautiful and tranquil beach of Trou-aux-Biches. It is the ideal spot to spend a relaxed and lazy day, start with a lovely traditional Mauritian meal (the octopus salad and grilled fish are fantastic) followed by the afternoon spent at the beach and end with sunset cocktails that take you late into the night.
The red church of Cap Malheureux
Notre Dame Auxiliatrice Chapel, or the ‘Red Church’ as it is more commonly referred to, is one of the most iconic churches in Mauritius, famed for its flaming red roof that beautifully contrasts against the azure blue ocean and sky behind it. It is located in the small fishing village of Cap Malheureux, translated as ‘cape of bad luck’ due to the defeat of the French by the British at this very point. It’s a beautiful spot to sit back and watch the fishermen come in and admire the view of Coin de Mire.
Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens
One of the oldest botanical gardens in the Southern Hemisphere, the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens stretches over 30 hectares and houses a number of rare and endangered endemic species. While you stroll through the lush gardens you will discover over 85 different varieties of palm trees, the iconic long pond of giant water lilies as well as giant tortoises, stags and much more.
A day on a catamaran is the perfect way to sit back, relax, see Mauritius from a different perspective – with a cocktail in hand and discover the smaller islands scattered off the coast. The most iconic cruises leave from Grand Baie, the touristic hub situated in the north of the island and journey to Coin de Mire, Flat Island and Gabriel Island. With an open bar, a Mauritian feast (think grilled fish and prawns, and a panoply of salads) and all snorkelling equipment on board, this is an opportunity to discover the pristine beaches and marine life away from the main island. We highly recommend booking with Topcat cruises they are fantastic hosts and we’ve always had a great experience – if you are travelling with a large group we recommend booking a private cruise as we did.
Founded in 1774, this incredible estate spans over 540 hectares with beautiful orchards, surrounding green sugar cane fields and one of Mauritius’ most beautiful Colonial houses – and also our wedding venue! Decorated in the original Victorian style, the mansion was converted into a museum and is a testament to the lifestyle and families who lived in the chateau during the nineteenth century. Whether you take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, visit the museum, do some rum tastings or have an authentic Mauritian lunch, this should be high on your list of places to visit in Mauritius.
The capital of the island, the business district, a working port and a melting pot of sights, sounds and smells where old sits alongside new. Wander the streets, explore and experience the hustle and bustle of the city, see the ageing Colonial buildings and get a glimpse of the island’s quirks and charm.
In the markets, see the weird and wonderful array of fruits, vegetables, spices and local specialities on offer including Chinese herbal remedies, traditional salted fish and much more. Eat like a local, whether it’s dhal puri, a roti, Chinese dumplings or pineapple covered chilli and salt, the best food is street food.
If a spot of shopping is what you are after, I would suggest visiting Le Caudan Waterfront – there are many international and local brands and shops, including my sister’s fashion and lifestyle boutique Saskia. Inspired by the tropical and carefree Mauritian lifestyle, the resort wear collections are made-up of effortlessly elegant pieces infused with bohemian charm that can easily transition from day to night. I would also recommend visiting the craft market, where you can find Yvette – she is a vacos basket weaver, the local market baskets you will see most Mauritians using – also a great gift and souvenir to bring back for your loved ones.
Located in the heart of the island and nestled at the crest of Mount Ory, Maison Eureka is one of the island’s largest creole mansions built in the 1830s. Now a museum and restaurant, it provides a beautiful glimpse into Mauritius’ rich colonial life and a taste of its traditional flavours.
THE WEST COAST
Hike Le Morne Brabant
Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2008, Le Morne Brabant is an imposing Mountain in the south-west of the island that has a huge cultural and patrimonial significance to Mauritians, as it once served as a sanctuary for runaway slaves.
Today, with a guide (we suggest Yannature) you are able to hike this incredible site and discover the breathtaking panoramic views of the west and south-west of the island. Not for the faint-hearted, the hike takes between 3-4 hours all round and requires some hand scaling and rock climbing but is more than worth it, when you reach the top. A few tips: bring lots of water, sunscreen, mosquito spray and snacks!
Black River Gorges National Park
The Black River Gorges National Park is an expansive nature reserve which spans 67.54 km² and is home to most of the island’s remaining rainforest, native species and a variety of wildlife. Perfect for those wanting to explore this is the best area for hiking and trekking. Key things to visit when you are in the area include the Chamarel Waterfall & Chamarel View Point.
La Vallee de Ferney
It is a wildlife reserve which spans 200-hectares, it is made up of partially rehabilitated rainforests, with a large number of plant species, most of which are endangered or vulnerable. It is also the natural habitat of the rare Mauritius Kestrel and other endangered species. Hiking circuits run through the indigenous forests of the valley and it’s the perfect opportunity to discover the flora and fauna of Mauritius.
Perched in a beautiful setting, right on the cliff of the south-eastern coast – which gives a panoramic view on Grand Port Bay, la Falaise Rouge offers a delicious selection of traditional Mauritian cuisine. It’s the perfect spot for lunch after your trek through la Vallee de Ferney.
The history of tea in Mauritius dates back to 1890, it is one of the main exports other than sugarcane and rum. Bois Cheri is one of my favourite tea manufactures – the vanilla and coconut flavour being my go-to. Bois Cheri allows you to visit the factory, so that you can see the process, visit the plantation and later enjoy their wide selection of teas over lunch or some desserts.
MEET & SUPPORT THE LOCALS
There is no better way to discover Mauritius and experience its hospitality and charm than to meet its people. As the island relies mostly on tourism and there is still a great disparity between rich and poor, by supporting the street vendors and local artisans you are supporting the local community and are helping to conserve traditional trades like basket weaving.
DOS AND DON’TS
- Do tip: Local Mauritian wages are very low, so gratuity is always encouraged – 10-15%.
- Do be vigilant: Mauritius is a developing country, so many people are very poor and some more opportunistic than others.
- Do be prepared for the insects: Make sure you have bug spray at the ready, you will find MANY a mosquito on the island.
- Do be careful driving: They say if you can drive in Mauritius, you can drive anywhere! Road rules are merely a guide on the island for certain drivers, so it is very important to be highly aware and alert for the many motorcycles, bikes, stray dogs that may cross your path.
- Do manage your waste: As a small island, waste is becoming an increasing issue. Do your bit and where possible do not use plastic bags, rather get some reusable ones, buy glass bottles instead of plastic ones (these are returnable) and opt for dining in, instead of takeaways.
- Do try: As mentioned above, there are lots of local specialities unique to Mauritius, make sure you try them if you get the opportunity.
- Don’t drink and drive: Mauritius has a zero alcohol tolerance policy, not even one beer or glass of wine. If you know you are going to have a drink – make sure you make arrangements with a taxi to pick you up.
- Don’t drink the water: Mauritius is a third world country, so avoid drinking water from the tap – stick to bottled water.
- Don’t use non-reef-safe sunscreen before snorkelling: Most sunscreens have chemicals that damage and kill the reef, Mauritius’ reef is already in peril so make sure when you are going for a snorkel that you either use reef-safe sunscreen or avoid using any with chemicals in it.
- Don’t remove any shells/starfish from the ocean and beach: You might come across a nice little shell that you want to keep as a souvenir, however, they are very important to the coastal ecosystem so admire them and put them back.
Enjoy discovering Mauritius.