South of Ambodifotatra
The area between Ambodifotatra and the airport contains most of the island’s hotels, making it access a variety of restaurants. The beach is narrow on this western shore, but on the other side, facing the Ilots aux Sables (Isles of Sand), lies a beautiful unspoiled stretch of tropical coastline. Walk across the small hill to the east of the airport.
If you look at the map of Saint Marie, you’ll see a long narrow bay on the east side of the island, and a peninsula to match. Baie d’Ampanihy is a wild and untouristed place, where village life goes on as it has for centuries. It makes for a great day trip, or even an overnight, assuming you have hired a vehicle.
North of Ambodifotatra
Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but north of Ambodifotatra lies three-quarters of the island. In terms of accommodation, almost all is on the west coast, which is more sheltered from cyclones. There is a good paved road to the northern tip, after which the road down the eastern side gets rough, and the real adventure begins.
Île aux Nattes (Nosy Nato)
What a lovely place this is. Île aux Nattes is a classic tropical island, with curving white beaches and overhanging palms, a turquoise sea with waves breaking over the reef, a gentle breeze, and a lush green interior. While only a brief pirogue ride (Ar5000 return) from the tip of Sainte Marie, or a mere walk at low tide, there’s a palpable sense of isolation and adventure.