Mauritius had no native population until it was discovered by European colonisers in the 16th century (although the dodo was resident). Since then, Hindus, Africans, Chinese and Europeans have made their mark on the island’s culture and cuisine. Historic towns and tropical forests await beyond the coastal resorts.
Port Louis has survived plague epidemics, fires and tropical storms since its
foundation in the 17th century. Today, the capital is divided between the
sanitised waterfront and more colourful old town – head here to bargain hard at
the Central Market, a feature of city life since Victorian times.
Black River Gorges National Park is best
explored by its trails. Look out for the pink pigeon – a bird unique to the island
that was rescued from extinction in the 1990s. Get advice on hiking routes from
the information centre at Le Pétrin (whc.unesco.org;
Claiming the island’s most beautiful
beaches, Le Morne Peninsula is named after a basalt rock that has a special
resonance. Folklore tells of escaped slaves hiding out on top of it. Unaware
slavery had been abolished since their escape, they panicked on seeing some
soldiers and jumped, believing they would be captured.
Rodrigues is a tiny mountainous island with
a fraction of the inhabitants of its bigger cousin. Its beaches count among the
best in the country, and development tends to be more sympathetic and
small-scale than back on the mainland (flights from Mauritius £170; airmauritius.com).
A preserved Creole mansion outside Moka,
Maison Euréka is a beacon of tropical construction. The name is said to have
been coined when the second owner won a bidding war to buy the place at auction
(maisoneureka.com; admission £7).
If the adage that the best Chinese restaurants are
busy with Chinese diners applies, First Restaurant is a winner. Full of local
families feasting on Cantonese cooking, it has a good range of dim sum (00 230
212 0685; corner of Royal and Corderie Sts; mains from £3).
Le Capitaine is an unpretentious and
popular harbourside restaurant. Try whole crab cooked in white wine or lobster
ravioli with mushroom and cucumber quenelles. Evening reservations are
Royal Rd; mains from £6).
Copains d’Abord looks out to the site of the Royal Navy’s biggest defeat in
the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon himself would be pleased to see this specialist
seafood restaurant mixing Med and Mauritian influences (Rue Shivananda; mains
Set in attractive gardens, La
Langouste Grisée (or ‘the tipsy lobster’) has an ambitious Franco-Mauritian
menu including pan-fried scallops with cream of asparagus and white truffle
foam. Steak with juniper berries also makes a surprising appearance for such a
seafood-centric island (lalangoustegrisee.com; Royal Rd; mains from £9).
With chic décor and a terrace overlooking
fishing boats bobbing in the waters off Trou aux Biches, Le Pescatore is often vaunted
as one of the best restaurants in northern Mauritius. Superior dishes include
lobster in ginger and sake sauce (00 230 265 6337; Mont Choisy; mains from
Auberge de la Montagne in Rodrigues is a much-loved
guesthouse where many rooms have balconies overlooking the countryside. The
host is an author of a Rodriguan cookbook; accordingly, dinners are a crash
course in Creole cooking. Try the octopus curry (aubergedelamontagne.net.tc;
A budget guesthouse that’s big on charm,
Chez Vaco is a real find and a welcome addition to Grand Baie’s accommodation
scene. The small, delightful rooms have an air of cosy minimalism and there’s a
garden decorated with local art. The hotel also offers a free speedboat
transfer across the lagoon to Grand Baie from a beach nearby (chez-vaco.hotels-in-mauritius.eu;
A charming family-run b&b, rooms at Les
Lataniers Bleus are divided between the main house and villas scattered around
verdant grounds. Evening meals (open to residents only) take in traditional
Mauritian dishes, while the beautiful lagoon in front of the hotel is perfect
for swimming (leslataniersbleus.com;
As well as being a historic attraction,
Maison Euréka has three cottages next to the main mansion. These are
individually decorated with mini-verandahs backing on to tidy gardens, and
chances are you’ll be the only people staying there (maisoneureka.com; from £140).
A Moroccan-style boutique hotel, La
Palmeraie is a somewhat incongruous, kasbah-like structure standing on a beach
in eastern Mauritius. The colourful rooms come decorated with all manner of
Arabesque arches, rugs and draped fabrics, and the Moorish theme extends to the
hotel spa (hotel-palmeraie.com;
Belle Mare; from £180).
Car hire is available at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam
International airport (from £37 per day; budget.com) and the island is served
by a bus network – the National Transport Authority has details of companies
and routes (gov.mu;
fares from £1).
Temperatures are high year round, but cyclones in
January and February can bring rain. Hardly a week goes by without a festival –
highlights include Hindu and Tamil firewalking ceremonies of Teemeedee in
December and January, and the Chinese New Year.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport is
mainland Mauritius’s only airport. BA flies from Gatwick (from £950) while Air
Mauritius flies from Heathrow (from £740). Island taxis are available from the
The article 'Mini guide to Mauritius' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.