Not everyone knows about the wonderful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, but for those who do it’s a paradise. For those who are just hearing about it now, put it on your bucket list since the Europeans have known about this high-end travel destination for years. This past summer I took a trip to Mauritius and found it to be the kind of place that will enchant your soul. First and foremost take note of the many colors and tastes on the island because as you lounge by the ocean and enjoy the breeze you will also have the chance to take in the many nationalities living there, it’s a melting pot of culture with a history that promises an excellent story.
Three different hotels hosted me on my grand tour and all were unique, defining the Mauritius experience in its own way.
I would also be remiss not to mention that Mauritius is where the darling little dodo bird hauled from many years ago. The bird has been extinct now for about 300 years, but you can learn all about it at the country’s National History Museum, where one of the few remaining skeletons can still be seen.
The capital of Mauritius is Port Louis and it is located on the northwest coast where you will find it is just like any other booming city. In the evening, you will want to head to the Caudan Waterfront to enjoy the local scene. The Central Market is a great way to find some local wares and see the way the natives live. The Central Market has been around since Victorian times and was renovated about 10 years ago. You can buy your souvenirs at the market and stock up on fruits and vegetables for the trip around the island. Take note that since there is a large Chinese population, Chinese medicines and aphrodisiacs are also plentiful.
For racehorse enthusiasts there is the Champ de Mars, the oldest course in the Indian Ocean region. Finally, head to the Citadel built between 1834 and 1840 under the direction of William IV. The Citadel is 240-feet above the sea and called officially Fort Adelaide. It is a great place to visit and the only fort that is not currently in ruins in Port Louis.
There are great views at the top since the vantage point is spectacular. The north part of the island is where you will find the most development having taken place on the island, but even so it is more than charming and there is plenty to keep the visitor busy.
The first stop on my itinerary was the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa in the northwest of the island in the Balaclava area. It is here that the ocean and sugar cane provide the perfect backdrop.
When entering the property you find a colonial charm surrounded by the local teak and lava rocks flowing nicely into the Westin-style brand. There are two pools, plenty of outdoor activities to choose from and several dining choices depending on your mood from Indian to Mauritian to a beach grill experience.
The spa is also well worth a visit because while it is the Heavenly Spa that travelers love, there is also a blend of the island spirit and they use products and incorporate treatments that tell the local culture and history of the island.
In the south of the island you will find a bit more a dramatic landscape. It is different here than the other parts of the island since there are high cliffs and a rugged coastline that reminds the tourist of the power of the Indian Ocean. Of course, this is a wonderful area to visit and you can bet there are stunning beaches and excellent resorts dotting the area too.
In the southwest part of the island the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort is a stop you will want to make for several nights. It is located just 45 minutes from Mauritius International Airport so it’s a convenient location with a laid back vibe coupled with high-end luxury and class.
The property offers 181 rooms that face the ocean enticing the visitors to sit back and relax. In addition to the turquoise waters the resort is located in the nature reserve of Bel Ombre and you get the feel of a an early 18th century Mauritian sugar cane plantation alongside a thoroughly modern blend of relaxing indulgence and activity.
At the Navasana wellness spa I spent a bit of time with the Spa Director who is very well versed in treatments that range from opening the chakras to healing the aura or just a good massage. The name of the spa, Navasana comes from two Sanskrit words, nava meaning boat and asana meaning posture in yoga. When entering the spa you truly will feel a peace and calm enter your soul and there are also complimentary group yoga classes offered on certain days.
Even if you don’t stay at the Outrigger do make a reservation for a meal at the Plantation Club. The architecture is French Colonial and there is a wine room that allows for wine tastings and a tea library if you want to know more about Mauritius’ tea culture. Whatever your holiday desires, the Outrigger can make it happen in a relaxing and ultra chic, albeit laid back vibe.
If you head east in Mauritius it’s a gentle coastline with lagoons and a breeze off the ocean that plays in well with the vibe that is more reminiscent of fishing and lounging. You will want to visit some of the little villages in this area and find your perfect beach like the Belle Mare for day of taking it easy.
Onward to the west and southwest on the island of Mauritius there is Tamarin Bay and the lucky guests might even see dolphins frolicking in the distance. Inland is the Chamarel rum distillery where you can learn and taste about this authentic Mauritius product.
Must Stops on the Island
Additional highlights of the trip as you drive around the island of Mauritius should most definitely include the La Maison Eureka House. A colonial house and museum, you can tour the house, stroll the gardens and even have a Mauritian lunch on the property.
The museum is worth a visit, a quaint stop along the way as you discover the island. Built in 1830, the house is a Créole residence that was owned by British and French aristocrats in the 19th century and one of the largest houses on the island with 109 doors and windows. The museum offers glimpses of music, art, antique maps, Chinese and Indian house wares and even a colonial-era shower.
At Chateau de Labourdonnais I had a lovely lunch right in the heart of the magnificent estate that is a snapshot of 19th century Mauritian life. The home is beautifully restored and is an excellent peek at the island’s history during the colonial era.
For the last night of the trip I headed back to the Turtle Bay/Balaclava area to the Maritim Resort & Spa. There is much going on at this property with more white sandy beaches that bring to mind romance, a Tropical Flower Spa with 13 treatment rooms and five restaurants including the charming Château Mon Désir.
The Chateau Mon Désir is special because it has been integrated within what is left of an old pirate’s hideaway located on the hotel grounds known as the Balaclava Ruins. The style is colonial and inside the dining area is colorful and old world -think the European sugar barons and their manors. Overall, the blend of tropical and colonial architecture gives guests the feeling of elegance and relaxation. The local staff do their best to make sure your every wish is met.
For one of the last stops before heading home I toured Sugar World and had lunch on the premises. Sugar is an important part of the island of Mauritius’ past and present. At Sugar World you will visit an ancient sugar factory that is now a wonderful historical museum. The museum is also called L´Aventure du Sucre Museum and it is the old mill at the Beau Plan sugar estate. At the end of the tour you get to wash all the knowledge down with a free rum and special sugar tasting.
So much to see and do in Mauritius. For visitors from the United States it’s an easy trip, with nonstop flights from many gateway cities in Europe to Mauritius daily.