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Introducing The West

Welcome to Réunion's Sunshine Coast, or Réunion's Riviera, or the leeward coast. However you label it, say hello to this 45km-long string of seaside resorts and suburbs running from St-Paul to St-Louis. It has a wealth of developed tourist facilities and attractions, including the best of the island's beaches (which is not saying a lot).

Sea, sand and sun are not the only raison d'être on the west coast. There's also a superfluity of activities on land and sea. Steep drop-offs tempt divers, spectacular slopes beckon mountain bikers, while paragliders soar over the lagoon.

Despite the fact that tourist development has got a little out of hand to the south of St-Paul, there remain hidden corners of untouched wonder in this most populous, most visited region. It's easy to leave the Route des Tamarins that zips along the flanks of the mountains and explore the glorious hinterland and its bucolic offerings – think sugar-cane fields, lush orchards, geranium plantations and cryptomeria forests swathing the slopes of the mountains, studded with character-filled villages that retain a palpable rural air.

With the exception of St-Louis and the Hauts (Hills), this region is predominantly Zoreilles (mainland French) territory and feels closer to France than South Africa. Brush up on your French!