So you’re going to Mauritius

Local-recommended things to do.

Most of the travel guides I’ve seen for Mauritius are written by non-locals. So here’s my recommendations as a Mauritian.

Weather/micro-climates.

  • The south and south east areas are generally more on the windy and chilly side.
  • Everywhere else on the coast is predictably sunny and warm (or hot) pretty much all year, with occasional showers.
  • The central plateau is cooler than the coast. The further south you go, usually the colder it gets. Lots of drizzles and showers.
  • In recent years, Mauritius has experienced increasing flash floods. If one occurs while you’re out, avoid underground passageways and parking lots until it’s safe.
  • If you happen to be there during a cyclone, follow the instructions of the hotel staff or host. Not doing so could put you and the staff in danger.

Good to know

  • Most Mauritians are at least tri-lingual and can understand English and French. However, some may have trouble understanding you at first if you speak North American English too fast.
  • The Mauritian accent does not to rely as much on syllable emphasis, so that might throw you off if you speak North American English.
  • Getting a local SIM card might be a good idea if your phone plan doesn’t have international roaming for free, because it’s usually really expensive just to use your data plan for the map. You can get pay-as-you-go SIM cards.
  • Many of the small businesses that cater to locals will not have websites or any online presence. You might get lucky with a facebook page, but your best bet is to ask locals for their recommendations.
  • Tipping is increasingly common and always appreciated.
  • Remember that this is not New York City. Things can be a little slow sometimes. If you’re always in a rush, you might get frustrated very quickly. Get into island mode!

Getting around

  • There is no uber or lyft.
  • Many tour packages will already provide transportation, but if you would like your own wheels, several rental car companies exist too.
  • As a former British colony, we still drive on the left. It takes some getting used to, especially with jet lag, but it’s not too hard.
  • If you get easily stressed driving in busy cities with small streets, maybe choose another mode of transportation. You can expect motorcycles to weave in between cars in heavy traffic. People will honk if you don’t step on the gas as soon as the light turns green, especially during commute hours. There’s often ditches on both sides of the small roads for rainwater drainage.
  • We have lots of roundabouts. Always yield to the cars coming on your left.
  • The island may be small but do not underestimate traffic jams.
  • There’s a new metro line that connects the major towns.
  • Buses go pretty much everywhere but they are quite slow!
  • Taxis can be hard to come by if you’re not near a touristy area or busy hub.
  • Unfortunately, accessibility is still not a thing, and most older buildings, sidewalks, intersections etc are not wheelchair accessible.

Health & Safety

  • In case of emergency, call 114 for SAMU, not 911.
  • Some people get sick from drinking tap water, so I would advise tourists to stick to boiled or bottled water. Order bottled water in restaurants, as the default is tap water.
  • Remember that we drive on the left. So when crossing the street, look right, left, right.
  • In Mauritius, there are public hospitals where all services are free to residents, and private ones where you have to pay. As a tourist, you will have to pay for services but it is likely much cheaper than it would have been in the U.S.
  • The mosquitoes are tiny but mighty and omnipresent. They are usually most active at dusk, but I seem to attract them 24/7. If you’re like me, get some insect repellant, and wear loose clothing that covers up your skin as much as possible.
  • Unless you’re accompanied by locals, I would not advise venturing out at night outside of well-lit touristy areas.
  • If you’re renting a car, never leave your car unlocked. Also never leave any bags or valuables visible in the car. Store everything in your trunk.
  • When in crowded places like the markets, be sure to keep your valuables in a hard-to-reach pocket.

Food

  • Gluten free, vegan and other specialty diets aren’t really a thing unless you’re in a hotel or fancy restaurant. Allergens aren’t listed on menus. However, if you’re vegetarian there’s plenty of options.
  • When it says “spicy” or “hot” or has 3 little chilli peppers next to it on the menu, it’s SPICY. If you can’t handle spice, make sure to ask whether things are hot.
  • Food is our love language. We going to offer it to you. A lot.
Food to try
  • Niouk yen/ Sao mai
  • Moon Kiaw
  • Mine bouilli satini
  • Mine frire special
  • Hakien
  • Briani
  • Dholl Puri
  • Gato pima (Chilli cakes – some of them aren’t spicy)
  • Shawarma/Kebab
  • Ti Puri
  • Roti/farata
  • Lentil soup
Fruits to try:
  • Mango
  • Lychee
  • Longan
  • Custard apple (Cherimoya)
  • Avocado (it’s different)
  • Papaya
  • Dragonfruit
  • Jackfruit
  • Nose fruit
  • Java plum

TLDR

See these on TripAdvisor

NORTH – Port Louis, Pamplemousses, Rivière du Rempart Districts

Port Louis, the capital, is a bustling city. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in Mauritian culture.

If you’re interested in history:

Learn about our famous Dodo bird at the Natural History Museum.

Appravasi Ghaat, a monument commemorating the arrival of indentured labourers from India under the British rule. Mauritius was the first experiment with indenture. The model was then replicated in the Carribean, South Africa, and other colonies in the Indian Ocean.

The Blue Penny Museum has one of the rarest and most expensive postal stamps in the world, purchased in 1993 for 2 million dollars. It also has an interesting display about the history of navigation in the Indian Ocean, as well as artifacts from ships.

Immerse yourself in Mauritian culture:

The Central Market (Bazaar Central) is always bustling with activity. This is where many shop for produce, medicinal herbs, clothes, meat, live chickens, handmade artisanal goods and more. Vendors constantly shout what they sell and their price to attract customers. Some tourist reviews on TripAdvisor find it unnerving and feel they’re being hassled, but it’s really just how they do business. Just smile and nod and move on if you’re not interested. They’re not trying to be aggressive.

The Caudan Waterfront is home to shopping, dining, movie theaters, business centers, hotels and more. There will sometimes be free outdoor concerts there.

Chinatown might disappoint you if you’re looking for something that looks like the one in San Francisco or some other big western city (see TripAdvisor reviews). Those chinatowns were built as a way to attract tourists and survive anti-asian hate in those cities. The Mauritian chinatown does not have that kind of dark history as far as I know. It’s simply where many Chinese-Mauritian-owned stores are located, probably because of its proximity to the harbour. It’s not meant to look like a caricature of the east and personally I like the fact that we didn’t artificially make it so.

One of the cool things about Mauritius is you’ll find mosques, churches, pagodas and temples quite close to each other.

Jummah Mosque was not open to the public when I was a kid, as far as I know, but seems to welcome tourists now. Please keep in mind that this is a place of worship and a modest dress code is implied. If you’re in the vicinity near prayer time, you’ll hear the prayers over the loud speakers.

There are several buddhist pagodas in Port Louis. My grandma most often goes to Fook Soo, which is near Signal Mountain. Oddly, I didn’t find any pagodas listed as points of interest on TripAdvisor…

Kaylasson Temple is a Tamil temple which you can visit. You will need to take your shoes off to enter. Its architectural detail is marvelous.

Kaylasson temple

Champs de Mars racetrack is believed to be the oldest hippodrome in the Indian Ocean. If you’re in Port-Louis on a Saturday morning during horse-racing season, you’ll be sure to hit some heavy traffic near this area.

Close to the racetrack is St Louis Cathedral. It’s the only catholic cathedral but there are many more churches.

City Orient, First Restaurant are pretty good for chinese food. We used to go there when I was a kid. Many of the places I used to go are not on TripAdvisor, some have closed, some have changed names. I’ll have too ask my relatives where the new spots are.

Nature & hikes
Le Pouce
  • Le Pouce is the 3rd highest peak in Mauritius. It’s a half day to a full day, depending on what time you start!
  • If you’re less ambitious, but still want to get a good workout, you’ll meet many Mauritians hiking up Signal Mountain to watch the sunrise at the top. It’s about an hour each way, and it’s paved.
  • Jardins de la Compagnie has a huge banyan tree that’s fun to take pictures with.
  • SSR Botanic Garden is outside the city, heading north.
Beaches

There are so many, so here’s where to go for what.

  • Instagram travel bloggers will love visiting this quaint little red church perched on the beach with tug boats and the turquoise waters in the background.
  • If you like the walkable town vibe of Waikiki, then Grand Baie is for you. Shopping and restaurants are very close by and within walking distance at Sunset Boulevard and La Croisette.
  • If you’d like to go to a locals’ beach, try Bain Boeuf, Choisy, Pereybere, Trou Aux Biches on the north west. There are many more along the coast as you drive around the island. All beaches are public, even if they are part of a hotel. Beaches are pretty busy during weekends, although the last time I was there in the “winter” months (April – Sept ish), the beaches were less crowded. Many locals don’t go swimming as often in those months.
  • Surfers, parasailers, I believe Tamarin is the spot.
  • For the best picnic spot, our family loves to go to La Preneuse beach, which seems to still be undiscovered by the TripAdvisors. This is the beach for introverts.

EAST & SOUTH EAST – Grand Port District

Blue Bay Marine Park is great for snorkeling. Unfortunately, the high boat traffic has caused many of our precious corals to die off, but efforts are being made to help save them. Please respect all the guidelines and respect our coral reefs. Our entire ecosystem depends on these reefs. The impacts of little infractions will affect the Mauritian people long after tourists have gone home, so please be mindful. If they tell you not to stand on the corals or not to touch the turtles, please don’t.

Ile Aux Aigrettes (isle of the egrets) is a short boat ride and is a wonderful, easy docent-led tour of the islet on foot. You’ll see giant tortoises, rare endemic birds such as the Pink Pigeon and Mauritius Parakeet, as well as a few endemic species of skinks and lizards. The tours help fund the conservation program for these animals

Giant tortoise.

La Vanille Nature Park is famous for its giant tortoises and its crocodiles. It also is home to one of the largest collections of insects with more than 26 000 species and about 30 000 specimens from 5 continents. Last time I went, crocodile was also on the menu. Yes, it tastes like chicken.

Ile Aux Cerfs is a short boat ride and is fun for families. The water is so shallow that you can walk quite far out without it going higher than your knee. If kids aren’t your cup of tea, maybe skip that one or go really early.

Sagar Shiv Mandir is a Hindu temple located on the eastern coast.

Le Barachois is a floating restaurant inside the 5 star hotel, Le Prince Maurice.

Nearby Belle Mare Plage hotel is home to Blue Penny Cellar, which has one of the largest wine collections in the Indian Ocean.

During my visit to the Blue Penny Cellar

SOUTH – Savanne District

Heading south, we get into Savanne District. The weather in this area is generally cool and windy. Expect occasional drizzles. While most of Mauritius’ coastline is flat sandy beaches surrounded by coral reefs, the south has some exceptions. Instead of the calm lagoons, you’ll find cliffs and rough waters in quite a few spots.

Gris Gris and Le Souffleur are famous spots. If you’ve driven the California coastline, these spots are somewhat similar to the cliffs near Malibu, minus the beach mansions. The ocean color is also a much more saturated blue. One of the things I miss the most about Mauritius’ landscape is the vibrant color palette of the Indian Ocean.

Rochester Falls is a relatively large waterfall on the island, but it is probably as small compared to Niagara Falls as Mauritius is to Canada. What sets this waterfall apart are the geometric, vertical columns of crystallized lava from thousands of years ago. It’s a good spot to hike and very instagrammable, but beware mosquitoes!

Bois Chéri tea factory offers beautiful views, and tours of one of the last tea factories in Mauritius. Their lunch menu offers a taste of some Mauritian flavors. Although tea was introduced during the British occupation as a major export, it is now mostly a local affair. Mauritians love their tea and they’ll swear no other tea compares. The vanilla tea from Bois Chéri is almost ubiquitous in Mauritian households. Personally, I am partial to the coconut one.

Grand Bassin (a.k.a Ganga Talao) is a crater lake that is considered sacred by the Hindu population. Since 1866, pilgrims from all over the island walk from their home to Grand Bassin for Maha Shivaratri. Some non-Hindus also participate in this pilgrimage with their Hindu friends, and many Mauritians offer food and drinks along the way. There are several temples and statues of deities. You will be required to take off your shoes to enter the temples. Dressing modestly is advised.

Pilgrims on their way to Grand Bassin.

World of Seashells is the only seashell museum in Mauritius, and the largest one in Africa and the South Hemisphere. Its collection consists of 8,000 pieces. Very kid-friendly.

Robert Edward Hart museum is the late poet’s house.

WEST – Black River District

Black River Gorges National Park is in both Savanne and Black River districts. It offers a pretty good hike. I’ve done an overnight camp/hike there when I was in scouts. It can be quite slippery, so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and have a first aid kit. The hike offers some of the best views of the lush mountain ranges and the ocean. It can be a full day or even a two-day hike, or you can just go for a short walk if that’s what you prefer. There are multiple entrances to the park and some tours will drop you off in one spot and pick you up at another entrance. You might encounter some monkeys who would love to steal your ice cream. Do not feed them.

Chamarel Seven Coloured Earth is also a popular attraction. I would recommend getting there early when it’s less busy. Beware ice-cream stealing monkeys! When the crowd starts to fill in, that’s your cue to escape and go rum tasting!

For families, the Curious Chamarel might be fun. It’s full of optical illusions and great for funny pictures.

Le Morne Brabant is a world heritage site. There is a beach, a slave route monument across from the beach, and a hike to the top. The view from this peak is breathtaking. This place holds a lot of history. In colonial times, this mountain range was where some slaves escaped to. The rugged terrain made it difficult to track them down. Hundreds of slaves have jumped off of this peak, choosing to die rather than to be subjugated to slavery again.

There is a “safari” in this area, but since it’s more of a zoo, I’m not keen to promote it. Instead, I would suggest visiting the Ebony Forest, which is actively trying to protect endangered species. They have birdwatching tours, amazing views at sunset, and you can even help plant new trees!

7 cascades/Tamarind Falls is also in this area. It’s a must for hikers and Instagrammers, but as always in the wooded areas, beware mosquitoes!

CENTRAL PLATEAU – Moka & Plaine Wilhems Districts

Be sure to bring a light jacket/umbrella. The central plateau is notorious for its drizzles and showers.

Trou Aux Cerfs is a dormant volcano crater. It is now covered in lush vegetation and locals jog and exercise here often. There are great views as you walk around the ~1000ft wide crater. It’s usually very windy.

Quatre Bornes Bazaar is a flea market that has been a part of Mauritian life for longer than I’ve been alive. Locals come here to buy anything from the week’s groceries to clothes and home essentials. I’m not sure if they have had to scale it down since COVID though. It is boisterous, crowded and full of life. You’ll be sure to find local vendors of dholl puri and gato piments (a.k.a chilli cakes, similar to falafel). Both are must-haves during your trip and are made primarily of yellow split peas.

Jewish Detainee Museum & Jewish Cemetery – this one is completely news to me! In 1940, over 1500 Jews fleeing the Nazis in Europe were deported to Mauritius, a British colony at the time. They were imprisoned in Mauritius for nearly five years. I had never heard of this from any of my history classes, but the goal of opening of this museum in 2014 is to ensure this part of history isn’t erased.

Bagatelle Mall – Due to its convenient central location and easy access via public transit, it has quickly usurped the title of the most popular hangout spot for locals. Quite a variety of restaurant choices are available. There’s often live entertainment on the weekends as well.

In Vacoas, you can taste some lychee wine at the Takamaka Winery. I can’t believe I’ve never had this. It’s on my bucket list for my next trip.

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