One of the most beautiful islands in the world, Mauritius is the sort of multi-dimensional destination that’s as perfect for families as it is for couples on honeymoon, and just about anyone in between. 

Part of its considerable charm is entirely natural: Mauritius rises from the Indian Ocean like a vision. You can easily imagine how early seafarers must have felt when spotting its beaches and palm trees, forests and mountains, reefs and wild horizons.

Mauritius was also a prototype for multifaceted island tourism, combining the escapist notion of a luxury resort by the sea with rich cultural depth beyond the resort gates. As well as the beaches, you can dive into Mauritius' intriguing historical back-story, unique conservation success stories and sizzling hot culinary experiences.

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Dive the West Coast

A stunning lagoon surrounds Mauritius, and these shallow waters are beautifully picturesque in their own right and offer spectacular diving at the reefs on the lagoon rim. Along Mauritius’ west coast, the waves break out near the horizon and the drop-off where the lagoon meets the open ocean is a world of underwater cliffs, populated by an astonishing array of marine life. Flic en Flac is the starting point for many of the best dives, including La Cathédrale, a fine spot to see scuttling lobsters.

Live in the moment on Rodrigues

One of Mauritius' most remote quarters, Rodrigues feels like it occupies a different time and space from the mainland. Life here is focused on the pleasure of day-to-day living and connecting with the land and the people who live full-time in this peaceful outpost. Spend your days taking boat trips to outlying islands, communing with giant tortoises, perusing the Saturday market at Port Mathurin, or diving and snorkeling off the south coast or around La Passe St François. While there’s plenty to do here, a big part of Rodrigues’s charm comes from something altogether simpler: the joy of just being here.

View of green hills at Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius
The color scheme shifts from turquoise and gold on the beaches to a lush green at Black River Gorges National Park © Getty Images / AWL Images RM

Hike the Black River Gorges

In the forested interior of Mauritius, Black River Gorges National Park is a precious and protected wilderness barely half an hour from the beach. Its dense forest is home to many native species of flora and fauna, including three endangered bird species: the Mauritius kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon. As you hike through forests and past waterfalls, watch out for white-tailed tropicbirds flying high above the gorges or pink pigeons by the trail.

Head to the mountains of Chamarel

Of all the excursions away from the coast, a trip to Chamarel is one of the most rewarding days out in Mauritius. High in the hills and with glorious views down towards the coast in places, Chamarel has an emerging culinary reputation thanks to a growing number of casual family-run dining rooms and fine-dining restaurants hidden away among the trees. Other reasons to come include the famous colored sands of Terres de 7 Couleurs, Mauritius’ quirky museum of illusions and the Rhumerie de Chamarel, a fascinating, eco-friendly rum distillery.

Explore an untouched wilderness on Île aux Aigrettes

On the edge of the lagoon just off Mauritius’ pristine southeastern coast, Île aux Aigrettes offers a vision of the ancient and wild Mauritius that greeted early explorers. The old-growth ebony forest here is a reminder of how the whole of the main island appeared before the arrival of European colonists in the 16th century. Restored as part of a government-backed conservation project, the forest today shelters all manner of endangered bird and other wildlife species – be careful not to trip over a Mauritian giant tortoise! 

Free diver girl swims with school of fishes in Mauritius
The lagoon around Mauritius is as beautiful under the water as it is from the island's stunning beaches © Getty Images / iStockphoto / Nuture

Relax on the beautiful beaches

The beaches for which Mauritius is famed encircle the island like a garland. All of the resorts have them, but there's so much sand around that you’re never far from a peaceful public beach where you can share the sea with picnicking local families rather than hordes of visiting tourists. The richest choices lie along the east coast, but southern beaches are quieter and wilder and the west coast is far better for those looking for activity out on the water.

Sample Mauritian Creole cooking

Diversity is a defining feature of Mauritian life, and the island's cultural melting pot really comes alive in the island’s culinary story. Indian, Chinese, Franco-Mauritian and Creole influences come together in Mauritian kitchens – dining here is at once a genuine pleasure and a globe-trotting adventure. The island boasts world-renowned chefs and endless places to sample local delicacies and staples. If we had to pick one place to try, it would be the stellar home-style cooking of chef Marie-Ange at informal Restaurant Le Barbizon in Chamarel.

Giant water lilies at Pamplemousses' botanical gardens
The famous giant water lilies at Pamplemousses' botanical gardens © Arnaud Bertrande /Getty Images

Learn about unusual botany at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens

There are times in Mauritius when it seems as if the wild tangle of tropical vegetation is visibly growing larger before your very eyes. Nowhere is this truer than in the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses, originally founded as the vegetable garden for the nearby Mon Plaisir Château in 1735. The garden has expanded considerably from its original footprint – the stars of this gargantuan show are the giant Victoria amazonica water lilies and soulful giant tortoises, but there is so much unusual botany to turn the head that you'll need a few hours to explore.

Imagine the past at Mauritius' historic mansions

Uninhabited until the Dutch took possession of the islands in 1598, Mauritius was at various times, a colony of the Dutch, French and British, before gaining independence in 1968. Under European rule, giant sugar and tea estates filled every available pasture of the Mauritian interior, and watching over these prized plantations were French-style colonial mansions, which today are some of the Indian Ocean's greatest architectural treasures.

Like mini chateaux adapted to the tropics, these stately homes have gorgeous gardens, high ceilings, ornate verandas and cantilevered windows to catch the breeze. Check out the Eureka Mansion in Moka or Château Labourdonnais near Pamplemousses, for fine examples of the style.

Sunbathers on a beach in northern Mauritius
Mauritius' beaches are the full Indian Ocean package © Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Have the ultimate resort experience

If the main reason you’re traveling here is for some relaxing downtime by the water, the beach resorts of Mauritius have few peers. Some resorts are the height of exclusivity – if you’re staying at one of these lavish properties on a honeymoon or luxury break, you may never want to leave the resort grounds. Other resorts cater wonderfully well for families, with kids clubs, water sports and more. It doesn’t matter which secluded corner of the island you head to, there'll be abundant resorts to choose from. Expect large and luxurious rooms, multiple swimming pools, ample gardens, world-class restaurants, organized activities and perhaps a no-indulgence-spared spa.

Meander the Rodrigues Coastal Walk

Rodrigues already feels like the end of the earth, but the coastal walk from Graviers to St François just confirms it. There’s nothing to interrupt the views over the ocean to the distant horizon, save for the occasional cloud or passing seabirds and the silence has to be experienced to be believed. Best of all, it’s the only way to reach Trou d'Argent, which surely must be Mauritius prettiest beach.

Look for whales & dolphins

If east coast Mauritius is known for its resorts, the west coast is all about getting out on and under the water. Spinner or bottlenose dolphins are frequently sighted in the lagoon off Tamarin, and you can avoid the free-for-all by going to see them with Dolswim, who follow strict rules to ensure the dolphins are not disturbed. From July to October or November, humpback whales migrate down through the open ocean off the west coast and can be spotted breaching beyond the lagoon.

Sample seafood by the sand

Global culinary influences and celebrity resort chefs are one thing, but there’s no finer dining experience in Mauritius than grabbing a table at a beachfront shack in Trou aux Biches on the north coast or St Francois in Rodrigues, and ordering the freshest Indian Ocean seafood imaginable. Take your pick from lobster, prawns, octopus, grilled fish, calamari and more, and decide whether you want it served grilled or smothered in a red Creole sauce, then sit back and enjoy your seafood feast with a view.

Aerial view of Le Morne Brabant mountain on Mauritius
Dramatic Le Morne Brabant is flanked by lavish luxury resorts © Myroslava Bozhko / Shutterstock

Explore by boat for epic views from the water

Mauritius and remote Rodrigues may get all the attention, but there’s an often-missed archipelago of inner islands within a day’s boat trip of the main island. To the east are Île aux Deux Cocos and Île aux Cerfs – crowded in parts, but offering some gorgeous quiet corners. Pretty Île aux Bénitiers lies off the west coast, and away to the north, there’s even more choice – Coin de Mire, Île Plate and Îlot Gabriel are all delightful. Combine exploring with time spent snorkeling and a picnic lunch, and you have one fine Mauritius day.  

Climbing Le Morne Brabant

Le Morne Brabant, the dramatic peak rising abruptly from the southwest shore of Mauritius, is a Unesco World Heritage-listed site. It served as a home for a group of people dubbed the Maroons, who escaped from slavery and took refuge on this once remote peninsula. Upon learning that a group of officers was heading to their camp, the Maroons leaped to their deaths rather than be captured again; legend has it that the officers were dispatched to inform the Maroons that slavery had been abolished. The tough but thrilling climb up this poignant peak offers views of most of Mauritius and a humbling monument commemorating the people who died.

Mauritius is on our 2022 Best in Travel list. For more stories from some of the world’s most exciting destinations click here.

Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before traveling during COVID-19.

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