There are some destinations that just sound expensive.
You hear the name and think, ‘Oh, isn’t that where such and such with the yacht went last summer? I’m not sure that’s in my budget.’
Mauritius is one of those places, and with good reason: beaches, mountains, waterfalls and enough luxury resorts to host a gathering of Hollywood A-listers.
But if your bank account isn’t quite in-line with your dream destination, you needn’t fear — your own slice of Indian Ocean paradise is within reach.
Far from a millionaire’s playground, Mauritius has plenty to offer to those unwilling to part with a kidney or their firstborn. Here’s how to see it all without giving up either…
It’s not every day you find yourself on an island like Mauritius. While many tropical destinations will have beaches to die for, how many have a national park with mountains and waterfalls to boot?
If you’re after one of the best views on the island without putting in too much work, it’s hard to beat the Gorges viewpoint. After taking in the sublime view, the spot is great for a packed lunch and some souvenir shopping from the market sellers nearby. If you’re lucky you might even spot a macaque monkey.
Entry to Black River Gorges National Park is free, making the only barrier to entry actually getting there. Since the park is in the south-western part of the island, visitors making the journey from elsewhere should consider pairing the trek with a trip to Chamarel’s local rum distillery (but more on that later).
If you’re keen to do more than just take in the views consider a guided hike to Tamarind Falls where you discover the waterfalls of Tamarind. At £25 per person (lunch not included) the hike is one of the best value activities on the island and an amazing way to explore the dense tropical forests.
True thrillseekers and people with an aversion to sleep should definitely consider a hiking trip to Le Morne mountain. Not too far from Chamarel and down the coast from Tamarin, Le Morne is one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island (the second being Aapravasi Ghat in Port Louis).
If you’re not staying nearby you might find yourself missing out on this experience unless you’re willing to get up in the middle of the night. Hikes can start at 6am depending on the season and you need to arrive on time and ready to climb with water and probably a snack (ask your hotel if they’ll prepare a breakfast box for you).
While you will be cursing your adventurous nature in the taxi ride there, once you see the sun start to rise you will know you made the right decision.
The hike can be challenging if, like this writer, your exercise routine consists of climbing escalators at train stations, but the sense of accomplishment you feel and the views you see more than make up for the tired legs you have for the rest of the day.
Become one with the sea
If you prefer to stay a bit closer to sea level you can always swap mountains and waterfalls for paddleboarding and surfing to get your kick of adrenaline.
Staying at the Veranda Tamarin we had easy access to the Tamarin Bay Surf School which has everything you need to transform into Patrick Swayze from Point Break (minus all the bank robbery).
Those in pursuit of a more serene (and dry) experience should try a stand-up paddleboard trip up and down Riviere Tamarin. The water is so calm beginners should find it easy to find their balance and confidence on the board before braving the waves and wind of the sea.
If you’ve always wanted to give surfing a try it’s hard to pick a better spot than Tamarin, one of Mauritius’ best locations for catching waves. For around £30 you can get a one hour beginner’s lesson (including board rental). Just make sure you’re prepared to fall in and drink a lot of sea water as you do.
It’s hard work pulling yourself up on the board in the Mauritian heat (expect to have a hell of a tan along with tired abs and arms) but after nearly an hour of being fish food you catch your first wave and the bug.
Indulge your taste buds
If you do decide to make the journey to Black River Gorges National Park it is essential to visit the local rum distillery, Rhumerie de Chamarel.
A tour will set you back around £9 and includes plenty of rum tasting — make sure you don’t have plans for operating heavy machinery after. The real gem, however, is the restaurant.
From the palm heart salad to the pork braised with (you guessed it) Chamarel rum, the £32 a la carte menu offers great value for the quality and flavour on offer. We only wish more Mauritian inspiration was present in what were predominantly European dishes.
Should you fancy sampling the local rum there are plenty of cocktails available for no more than £2 each which makes them all the more tempting. Be warned, these aren’t your one shot and lots of ice beverages — they are poured high and strong.
Souvenir shoppers should take advantage of the gift shop, while there is plenty of rum you will also find lots of local herbs, spices and jams that have eye-watering prices in the departure lounge home (so take advantage while you can).
Voted one of the best cities for street food, capital Port Louis is a hotbed of flavour with influences from India, China, Africa and France. Expect fresh seafood, rotis and as much spice as you’re willing to handle. Tours (including all the food) can be booked for £33 each and are a superb way of getting a taste of the island’s capital.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home, the Veranda Tamarin offers classes in traditional Mauritian cooking — you even get a certificate at the end
Where to stay in Mauritius and how to get there
If you seek a chilled spot not too far away from the action it would be tough to find a more suitable location than the Veranda Tamarin, on Mauritius’ west coast.
With the hotel practically on the beach itself, transitioning from sandy and sun-kissed to showered and sipping something strong takes no time at all.
Keen surfers will know the spot from the 1974 surfing documentary The Forgotten Island of Santosha, but if you’re new to the scene the local surf school offers lessons at reasonable prices.
Nearby, Flic En Flac offers more bars and restaurants than you could possibly need, but be prepared to sacrifice Tamarin’s authentic vibe. It is possible to walk but those less energetic can take a quick taxi to save roasting in the sun.
For those looking for more adventure, Le Morne mountain and Black River Gorges National Park are 30-45 minutes by car.
With an almost beach hut design, the journey from the beach to your room is almost seamless.
Rates at the Veranda Tamarin start at £70.00 per person per night, based on two sharing a Comfort Room on a Bed & Breakfast basis. Privilege Rooms start at £125.00 per person per night on a Bed & Breakfast basis.
For reservations, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +230 483 3100 or visit https://www.veranda-resorts.com/en/mauritius-hotel-tamarin
Although getting to Mauritius takes some time (12 hours direct, 15-18 hours if you stop over in Dubai), you can save a bit if you fly direct. Air Mauritius fly direct non-stop from London Heathrow, with economy fares starting from £729 per person. The airline will be introducing new Airbus A330-900neo aircraft into their fleet to make the journey that little bit more comfortable.
For more information: Go to www.airmauritius.com / Call 0207 434 4375 or see your Tour Operator or Travel Agent.