Mauritius’ pint-size proportions haven’t stopped it becoming a hulking heavyweight of Indian Ocean tourism. When you’ve got semi-deserted palm beaches, colourful cultural activities and every watersport under the sun, size simply doesn’t matter.
This majestic beauty lies in the southwest of the Indian Ocean and off the southeast coast of Africa. Situated around Mauritius are the smaller islands of Rodrigues, Cargados Carajos Shoals and Agalega Islands. Mauritius is only 60 km in length and 50 km across so it is possible to visit all four corners in one day.
The main airport of Mauritius is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU). It is located 48 km southeast of Port Louis.
A typical flight time from London to Mauritius is just under 12 hours. We have holidays with direct flights from London. You can also fly indirectly from other UK regional airports. Call us for other flying options.
There are two seasons in Mauritius: a balmy, humid summer (November to April) and a cool, dry winter (June to September). Climate-wise, many consider May to October the sweet spot. This is when humidity is lowest, mosquitos pack their bags and as the island’s low season, you’re more likely to find deals on flights and accommodation.
If the heat’s your priority, there’s really no bad time to come. Thanks to the island’s proximity to the equator, the average temperature difference between seasons is only around 4˚C. Visit in January or February for the warmest months, when you’ll sun yourself at highs of 29˚C, or pop over in July and August time for cooler, still pina colada weather with lows of 21˚C.
The coast also makes a difference to the climate. North and west are hit by stifling summer heat from November to April, and this is the season of tropical storms. Meanwhile the east and south see some serious winds in winter. If you’re a surfer, of course, this makes all the difference.
Mauritian cuisine is harder to categorise than it is to consume, with influences from four of the earth’s continents and everything from exquisite, Michelin menus to cheap'n'cheerful street foods.
The street grub’s perhaps the best way to get acquainted with local flavours and is served from market stalls or off the back of special motorbikes at beaches and on the roadside. If you try one thing, make it dholl puri, a curry-stuffed flatbread, smothered in chutneys and chilli pastes and costing less than a quid. But really, you don’t want to stop there. Less portable, but no less pleasing, boulette is the Mauritian take on Cantonese dim sum; dumplings and steamed buns in a salty broth you can find at the markets or one of the hundreds of Chinese restaurants. For deliciousness to grab on the go, gajak is your deep-fried solution - a snack of aubergine, potato and cassava fritters you'll spot being served off those motorbikes, or at the market stalls. Be warned, the chilli chutneys served along with pack some serious heat.
As for cuisine which requires cutlery, seafood naturally scores highly on this tropical island - grilled, fried, curried or slow-cooked to perfection. Standouts include the shrimp in red sauce, millionaire’s salad (an ocean of oysters, prawns and smoked marlin) and the well-loved tomato-sauced octopus rougaille. Top tip: locals say the rougaille at Chez Rosy’s in the south can’t be beaten.
This being the Indian Ocean, curries are another mainstay, with options from spicy Indian concoctions to mild tomato-based Mauritian versions. If you find yours isn’t hot enough, ask your server to pass the mazavaroo, a fiery chilli paste locals consume on everything.
And if the occasion calls for fine dining, the island’s gourmet, French and fusion foods have plenty of je ne sais quoi to fill you with joie de vivre. Many of the more glamorous resorts come with star-worthy chefs specialising in French cuisine (the Maritim’s Chateau Mon Desir) and the Grand Baie has more than a few fine French eateries. Alternatively, in the north of the island, La Table du Chateau, in the famed colonial mansion at Labourdonnais, sets the scene very nicely for a blow-out meal surrounded by fruit orchards.
The pirates cleared off from Mauritius a while back, but their favourite drink remains a Mauritian staple, with enough rum cocktails, rum arrangé and the ubiquitous Ti’ Punch to make you feel like hunting for buried treasure.
Mauritian rum has a way to go till it meets the gold Caribbean standard, but local brands Green Island and Pink Pigeon (vanilla-infused) are many cuts above the English average and can be purchased for a pittance. Rum buffs shouldn’t miss the tasting sessions at the Rhumerie de Chamarel in the south, where the spirit is double-distilled and aged in oak barrels, with a precision which has earned the distillery awards from those in the know.
Another award winner, Phoenix, the local lager, is crisp, refreshing and goes down well on a sunset beach or boat trip.
If you find yourself in the middle of a scorcher, nothing beats milky “alouda”, a milkshake-like local beverage flavoured with the syrup of your choice. If you’re in the area, everyone says the best can be found at the Port Louis Central Market.
Though if you’re of the school of thought that hot drinks are a better way to cool down (a thing, honest!), the thriving Bois Cherie tea estate in the south has just the ticket. This grows black tea, mixed with Ceylon from Sri Lanka and vanilla from South Africa, and can be drunk anywhere on the island (including a flight with Air Mauritius). That said, you won’t regret a trip to the estate in person, which makes sorbets, jellies and desserts from the tea leaves and lets you eat with sweeping views over the plantation.
Traditional sega music first struck a chord in Mauritius at the nightly gatherings of sugar plantation slaves, and its rhythm soon caught on in the Seychelles, Reunion and other surrounding Creolean islands. Known as the “blues of the Indian Ocean”, Sega is a huge source of national pride, today coming in various forms like seggae (a fusion of sega and reggae). We still think the original’s the best. You’ll soon come to know the sound - rhythm built upon the ravanne (a drum of goat skin), lyrics sung in Creole and renditions usually accompanied by close dancing. If you’re staying in a resort, chances are it will hold after dinner sega performances, with dancers in flowing skirts and petticoats. If not, a nightly stroll along the busier beaches can sometimes turn up sega parties at weekends.
A close second to sega in popularity, the live jazz scene in Mauritius offers plenty of fun for enthusiasts. In the north and west, you’ll find performances throughout the week at venues like Lakaz Cascavelle and Kenzi Bar. Several jazz festivals throughout the year ramp things up further, the most notable the Ernest Wiehe Jazz Festival, which draws international artists.
For the island’s other musical tastes, the categories for local radio stations’ song of the year are a good indication - “international” and “Bollywood”. You’ll catch RnB, pop and chart-toppers in the club and bar strips of Grand Baie and Flic en Flac and even big names like Afrojack have even been drawn across the seas to the bigger resorts.
Finally, this is the Indian Ocean and so there’s plenty of Indian music on the Mauritian soundtrack. Lots of Bollywood movies have been filmed in Mauritius, using it as a stand-in for Goa. Bollywood soundtracks as well as more traditional Indian musical forms, like Bhojipuri, resonate across the island. At the many Hindu festivals, this really comes alive.
For a tropical island, Mauritius’s national sport is a surprising one. Since 1812, horse racing has captured Mauritians’ hearts, minds and spare cash from the Champ de Mars racecourse in Port Louis. This is, in fact, the oldest track in the Southern Hemisphere. To this day it draws crowds of up to 10,000 for races like the Maiden Cup, Barbé Cup and Coupe d’Or. If you’re here during race season (likely, as this runs from March to December), you can join islanders betting on lucky horses, munching on grilled peanuts (“pistaches bouies”) and having a right old time.
As an island of tropical waters and sheltered lagoons, it’s no surprise watersports are also big business here - if you don’t arrive a water baby, you’ll probably leave one. Options for water adventure include the thrilling (parasailing, water skiing), the intrepid (cave kayaking) and the downright unusual (underwater scooters, anyone?).
With huge, internationally branded malls at every point on the compass, serious shoppers in Mauritius needn’t worry about where the next retail therapy’s going to come from. Between Cascavelle in Flic en Flac, Ruisseau Creole in southern Black River, Bagatelle in central Moka and La Croisette in Grand Baie, there are scores of racks and rails and brands like Mango, Nike, Adidas and L’Occitane.
But before you max out the credit card, be sure to check out some of the more local boutiques and markets. The trinkets on Port Louis’ Le Caudan waterfront are handcrafted and make for excellent souvenirs and this city’s Central Market, in a vast old colonial storeroom, gives the Harrods food hall a run for its money in the looks department. If you can’t make it to Port Louis, an hour at any of the markets in Mahebourg, Goodlands, Central Flacq or the Grand Baie’s Bazaar is likely to turn up treasure.
For the miniature enthusiast in your life, Mauritius’ booming model ship business is sure to excite. Head to the workshops in Curepipe or Floreal Square and you can watch master craftsmen painstakingly piece them together.
Those who prefer cutting to the chase to pottering about should look for operators who offer tours of the island’s trades – model ships, delicate glassware and diamonds.