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Travel guide Mauritius island - Africa, 15 activities beyond beaches & paradise

Mauritius is not your average ‘boring’ paradise island, yet very diverse, known for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, but also rich heritage and vibrant cuisine, which I will show you in this Mauritius travel guide with many unique activities and experiences beyond beaches and paradise.

Gabriel Island north Mauritius catamaran trip
Gabriel Island north Mauritius catamaran trip

As it has been colonized by the Dutch, French and subsequently the British in the past, this African island is renowned for its remarkable blend of cultures, interesting history and cuisine. Its cultural diversity is reflected in the island's language, food and traditions, with influences from India, Africa, Europe and China, creating a vibrant and harmonious society.

Cooking class at Kot Marie-Michelle - Midlands Mauritius
Cooking class with Marie-Michelle, pic credits:

From pristine beaches and coral reefs to lush forests and volcanic mountains, Mauritius offers stunning landscapes for nature lovers and adventurers to explore and great beaches and hotels to relax for Honeymooners and rest seekers.

Its rich history, shaped by colonization, slavery, and immigration, is evident in Mauritius' historic sites, museums, and cultural attractions, providing insights into its multicultural identity.

View over south Mauritius at Le Chamarel restaurant
View over south Mauritius at Le Chamarel restaurant, pic credits:

The genuine warmth and hospitality of the Mauritian people will make you feel welcome and at home. The unique diversity that this island has to offer truly surprised me, even while I had been there 15 years ago already. And I managed to explore even more last month, which I will happily share with you in this blog.

But first, how to get there?

From the Netherlands, you can reach Mauritius via flights with various airlines like KLM, Air France, Air Mauritius and Emirates, with layovers in Paris or Dubai, for example. Including transfer time, this will take you about 15-16 hours in total. The good thing is however, that there's only a 2 hour time difference, which means no jetlag!

Cap Malheureux view at red roof church - north Mauritius
Cap Malheureux view at red roof church - north Mauritius

It does take some effort to get there from northern Europe, USA and such, but it will be so worth it for all the unique activities you can enjoy on this paradise island near South Africa.

Travel guide Mauritius island: 15 activities beyond beaches & paradise

While lying by the pool or on the beach and soaking in the sun is one of my pastimes too, it would be a shame not to explore more of this diverse island. With a nice beach hotel and a rental car, a 1-2 week trip is perfect to combine relaxing with exploring, like I did half April with a fun group of journalists.

Cooking class at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel
Our lovely press trip group at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel cooking class

Here's a little breakdown of all of my favourite activities on Mauritius, in order of our trip, including many of my own pictures:

1. Cooking Class & Massages at Zilwa Attitude Hotel

This was our first stay and we dove right into Mauritian cuisine through a cooking class for lunch at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel. Followed by relaxation at the Spa with hammam and rejuvenating treatments by highly skilled massage therapists at this affordable luxury hotel, which I can highly recommend!

Read more about where to stay on Mauritius in my hotel blog coming up soon, and find all info about this beachfront hotel already: Zilwa Attitude Hotel

2. Nightlife & Restaurants Grand Baie

Located on Mauritius' northern coast, this lively coastal town is renowned for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and diverse attractions. The town has nice boutiques and craft markets offering everything from designer clothing to local handicrafts.

At night, Grand Baie comes alive with a bustling party scene, featuring bars, nightclubs, and beach clubs with live music and exotic cocktails. The restaurants here serve a variety of cuisines, from Mauritian delicacies to international dishes, which we sampled at Njoy.

Popular for its delicious food, great music and cocktails, with DJ's on the weekends.

Grand Baie also serves as a gateway to nearby island excursions, including Coin de Mire, Flat Island, and Gabriel Island, accessible via catamaran cruises and yacht charters.

3. Catamaran Trip to the Northern Islands

We visited Gabriel island on a day trip from Grand Baie by catamaran, something that should not be missed. Sailing across the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, soaking in panoramic views of the coastline and surrounding islands is pure delight. To end up at secluded paradises like Ile Gabriel, with pristine white sands and extensive coral reefs.

After a visit to the island and some snorkeling a local lunch was waiting for us on board before sailing back. The perfect way to enjoy secluded beaches and crystal-clear waters during a fun filled day, which you can book here: Catamaran Trip Northern Islands

4. Marine Discovery Center & Glass Bottom Boat Trip

While staying at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel, you can easily visit the nearby sustainable Lagoon Attitude Hotel as well to see its unique Marine Discovery Center and use this hotel's facilities for free.

At the Marine Center expert guides and marine biologists provide insights into the ecosystem's biodiversity through interactive experiences, including VR.

Here you can explore the mangrove nursery and the lagoon through a glass-bottom boat excursion while snorkeling the underwater trail, several times a week, free of charge.

This way you can see how they contribute to preserving and protecting the coral reefs and marine life in the Zilwa lagoon. Find out more: Marine Discovery Centre

5. Red Roof Church at Cap Malheureux

This little church at the northern tip of the island, stands as a symbol of Mauritius' cultural and historical heritage. Its distinctive red roof contrasts beautifully against the blue sky and turquoise sea.

Originally built in the 19th century, the church has a sense of serenity and charm, offering picturesque panoramic views of the surrounding coastline and nearby islands.

6. Sacred Grand Bassin & Hindu temples

This crater lake is an important Hindu site, as it is said to hold water of the holy Ganges river.

It's also known as Ganga Tala and is located amidst lush greenery and serene surroundings of the southwest.

Surrounded by temples, shrines, and statues dedicated to various Hindu gods and goddesses, Grand Bassin is a spiritual sanctuary where devotees gather to offer prayers and seek blessings. It's also an important pilgrimage site during the Maha Shivaratree festival, once a year.

Since almost half of the Mauritian population is Hindu you will find many colorful temples around the island, which are interesting to visit as well.

7. Day Trip to Ile aux Cerfs

An excursion to this little island in the east will offer a combination of relaxation and adventure. Accessible by boat from various points along the coast, including Grand Baie and Trou d'Eau Douce, see more: Ile aux Cerfs

With its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush tropical vegetation you can spend the day lounging in the sand, swimming in the turquoise lagoon, or go snorkeling, parasailing, or join a banana boat ride.

Unfortunately I was unable to visit this time, due to bad weather, but I went there 15 years ago to enjoy the stunning white sand, and lush settings.

With its nice beachside restaurants and unique spots like: Bubble Lodges, a day trip to Ile aux Cerfs is a must.

8. Street Food Tour Port Louis

A street food tour in the capital is the perfect way to experience the culinary heritage of the island and all its local delicacies.

Mauritius' cuisine is a fusion of flavors and traditions, with Creole, Indian, Chinese, and French influences creating a diverse and unique experience.

We had this gastronomic adventure with Taste Buddies and sampled many traditional snacks like dholl puri (split pea flatbread), samosas, pickled fruits and roti's with different curries from street food stalls lining the city's streets.

Don't miss Chinatown with its photogenic Manga street for the best murals and authentic Chinese-Mauritian dishes, like noodles, dumplings, and fried rice. Although the whole of Port Louis is photogenic and interesting in my opinion. Get an impression through this gallery:

We ended our tour at the buzzing Central Market with alouda, a refreshing drink made with milk, agar agar jelly, and flavored syrup. The perfect place to buy some souvenirs, local delicacies and spices to take home with you!

Find all info about this tour, which I can highly recommend: Taste Buddies

9. Explore heritage at Domaine de Labourdonnais

This historic estate is located in Mapou, offering a glimpse into the island's rich heritage and natural beauty. The estate is famous for its beautifully restored colonial mansion, with lovely historic rooms to visit, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and orchards.

You can explore the estate's grounds with or without a guide to discover the exotic fruit trees and sugar cane factory tower. 

Read all about it on: Domaine de Labourdonnais

It also features a distillery where traditional production methods are showcased to learn more about the island's rum-making process. And Domaine de Labourdonnais has a charming restaurant serving Mauritian cuisine as well.

10. Creole Cooking Class at Kot Marie-Michelle

At the home of Marie-Michelle you can join an authentic Creole cooking class, a unique hands-on experience in mastering the flavors of Mauritius.

Under the guidance of Marie-Michelle and her team of skilled local chefs, we learned how to prepare traditional Creole dishes using fresh, local ingredients, some even from her own garden.

And after the cooking session we enjoyed the lunch together on the terrace of her quaint local house in Midlands.

A unique activity and a must if you truly want to experience Mauritian hospitality, cuisine and culture.

11. Discover Mauritian history at l'Aventure du Sucre Museum

In the heart of sugarcane country, this museum's exhibits explain the evolution of sugarcane cultivation and its important role in shaping the island's economy and culture.

Located in an old sugar factory on a lovely estate with impressive trees and lush vegetation.

Discover the fascinating sustainable process of sugar production, from harvesting and milling to refining and exportation, through interactive displays and multimedia presentations.

Perfect for history enthusiasts and for a tasting of the different types of sugars and rums produced locally.

Find all info here: Aventure du Sucre


12. Helicopter Flight with Corail Helicopters

If you're up for an exhilarating adventure and have a bigger budget, a 15-30 minute flight with Corail Helicopters is not to be missed.

This will give you a bird's-eye view of Mauritius' breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders. From their base in the southeast, Corail Helicopters offers a range of scenic flights, including tours over the iconic landmarks Chamarel and the famed Underwater Waterfall. 


Prices start from €180 p.p. for a 15-minute flight, find all info and their rates: Corail Helicopters

13. Chamarel 7 Colored Earth GeoPark

At this park you can see the giant tortoises, native to Mauritius, and the 7-colored earths, a geological phenomenon in the southwest.

This unique attraction with multi colored sand dunes of 7 distinct colors: red, brown, violet, blue, green, yellow, and purple, forms an interesting sight.

The colors come from the weathering of volcanic rock, which has undergone oxidation and mineral leaching over time, creating vibrant hues due to the presence of iron and aluminum oxides.

Find all info about the park, opening times and rates: Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth

14. Black River Gorges National Park

This spectacular natural reserve is located in Chamarel as well, with dense forests, rugged terrain, and stunning landscapes.

At Mauritius' largest national park you can really experience the pristine wilderness and endemic flora and fauna of the island. The gorge has many hiking trails of different levels, leading you through lush forests, past cascading waterfalls, and along scenic viewpoints.

One of the park's highlights is the Alexandra Falls, a majestic waterfall plunging into the gorge below. Get the best view from the viewing platform, accessible just 5 minutes up the steps from the parking.

15. Le Chamarel Restaurant

While here don't miss this restaurant with a breathtaking view, offering Mauritian and Creole cuisine amidst stunning surroundings. See for yourself: Le Chamarel Restaurant

This island has so much more to offer though, which I would love to come back for again.

On my previous trip, 15 years ago, I also visited La Vanille Nature Park, Le Morne and Gris Gris in the south and Bel Ombre Nature Reserve for a wildlife adventure, which were all so worth it too.

But kayaking with dolphins is a unique activity I would love to do next time as well: Lokal Adventure Kayaking

And the Botanical Gardens in Pamplemousses, spread out over 33 hectares, should be very interesting and photogenic too. Find all details for the Botanical Gardens here.

Besides pure paradise this African island is the perfect place to immerse yourself in local cultural activities, cuisine and artisan craft shopping to get a feel of that vibrant Mauritian culture.

It's big enough to explore for several weeks, yet small enough to drive around by car or through a few day tours. I hope this travel guide can help you with that, so you can also experience everything that Mauritius island has to offer with ease.

Find all the info you need to plan your own trip, where to stay, and much more in my next blog or on Mauritius Now, and follow me on social media for daily tips, videos and inspiration.


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