Seeing Rodrigues at its most beautiful involves getting active – hiking, diving, snorkelling, birdwatching, kitesurfing or taking a boat excursion to one of the lagoon's islands.

Hiking

Hiking is the best way to uncover the island's natural treasures – most notably, its wild, undeveloped beaches. The difficult-to-find Carte Verte de Rodrigues, published by the Association Rodrigues Entreprendre Au Féminin, charts the island's eight most popular hikes and provides detailed information on how to access each trailhead using public transport.

When we last checked, the Carte Verte was available for purchase (Rs 100) at a kiosk in central Port Mathurin outside the Rodrigues Regional Library. If you find it closed (which is often) or it's run out of stock (ditto), call 876 9170 and staff should be able to find you a copy of the map. Some hotels might also have one.

Feature: The Northeastern Coastal Walk

The island's most famous walk (No 4 on the Carte Verte map) is the classic, roughly two-hour coastal trail from Graviers to St François in the island's east. On the way you'll pass Rodrigues' most stunning stretches of sand, including Trou d'Argent, one of the Indian Ocean's prettiest cove beaches, almost completely enclosed by low cliffs and the supposed location of a pirate's hidden booty.

If you're relying on public transport, we recommend beginning in Graviers – buses run to Graviers in the morning but are extremely scarce in the afternoon, when you're likely to have far better luck in St François.

Diving

Rodrigues' marine environment is remarkably well preserved. The best sites for divers lie off the eastern and southern coasts.

The main dive centres are all based in hotels, but nonguests are always welcome – just ring ahead. Figure on around Rs 1800 for a dive, including equipment.

As a general rule the best season for diving coincides with high season on the island. From October to December expect clear visibility, smooth seas, the possibility of whales, and water temperatures above 28°C. January and February are similar, but with the danger of cyclones. From March to September winds are generally stronger (though they usually ease in September) and water temperatures fall as low as 23°C.

The pick of the dive sites on Rodrigues:

  • La Passe St François Rodrigues' signature dive, La Passe St François is a 1km-long channel teeming with tuna, unicorn fish, groupers, turtles, rays and jacks (of the Caranx ignobilis variety) the size of small cars.
  • La Basilique If surreal scenery is what makes you tick, don't miss this dive – it's like exploring a medieval castle carved into the reef, full of galleries, faults and archways (but no coral). Depths of 25m; off the northeastern coast.
  • Le Canyon This is a truly atmospheric dive site – you'll dive in a canyon that runs under the reef, with openings that allow beams of sunlight to pass through. Off the eastern coast.
  • La Grande Passe Many dive instructors consider La Grande Passe to be one of the very best medium-depth reefs in this area. To say it's fishy is an understatement, and you don't need to go below 20m to admire the full gamut of reef species.
  • Karlanne A hot favourite, offering dense marine life and healthy coral formations, especially those of the Acropora and Porites genuses. Depths of 23m; off St François.

Snorkelling

There's plenty of good snorkelling around the lagoon, but it's usually an add-on to boat excursions, or something you arrange through your hotel by renting snorkelling gear. The most popular spots are on the boat excursion to Île aux Chats, as well as offshore at St François, Anse aux Anglais and Port Sud-Est.

Kitesurfing

All the pros agree: Rodrigues is one of the best places in the world to kitesurf. Nest Kitesurfing School and Tryst Kiteboarding School are the pick of the island's places. You could also try Cotton Dive Centre.

Some of the world's best kitesurfers descend on Rodrigues in late June or early July for the Rodrigues International Kitesurfing Festival, which has been running since 2013.

Birdwatching

Rodrigues is surprisingly well known among bird-watchers, primarily for the continued presence of two species: the Rodrigues warbler (there are now more than 4000 warblers, having recovered from a low of 30 in the 1970s) and the Rodrigues fody (six pairs in 1968, 8000 individuals today). They can be seen across the island, but your best chance to see them is while hiking in the Grande Montagne Nature Reserve.