Mauritius, a sparkling crystal in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, will captivate and delight you. Just a tiny island, East of Madagascar (which you might not even notice looking at a world map!), provides a wonderful contrast of colours, cultures, and tastes which makes the island so charming that the scene is set for an unforgettable trip. Although small, the island boasts good infrastructure and beautiful white, sandy beaches.
It's also a world-class kitesurfing destination - the main reason why we visited. We spent three weeks visiting Mauritius DIY style over July / August 2017 and found the island to be perfectly suited for self-exploration, despite the abundance of all-inclusive resorts and package deals usually associated with this tropical paradise.
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MAURITIUS QUICK FACTS
- Currency: Mauritian Rupee (MUR). Current conversion rate here.
- Electricity: 240V AC electricity. Power outlets are both round two-prong sockets (type C) and three-prong sockets (type G). Be sure to pack a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic gadgets.
- Visa: Traveling to Mauritius is easy; for citizens of most countries you won’t need to apply for a visa beforehand. There are a handful of countries who will receive either a 14 or 60-day visa stamp upon arrival, but most countries are visa-exempt for 90-days. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your entry. The latest entry requirements are available here.
- Safety: Most parts of Mauritius are incredibly safe to travel in. Although low, petty crime can increase after dark, especially at the beach or in secluded areas, so make sure you stay vigilant and keep your valuables close to you or in your accommodation. Keep in mind that the main season for cyclones is from November to May. There is a well-structured system of phased warnings though. Whatever you do, don’t travel without travel insurance! We would suggest checking out World Nomads, for travel insurance as they have the best coverage for active travellers.
- Language: The official language of Mauritius is English, which is spoken by most in the vast majority of the country. French, Mauritian Creole, French-based Creole, and a few other ethnic languages are also spoken around the island.
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MAURITIUS PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
1 February, Abolition Day
12 March, National Day
1 May, Labour Day
15 August, Assumption
2 November, Arrival of Indentured Labourers
Also, Chinese New Year, Thaipusam Cavadee, Maha Shivaratri, Ugadi, Eid al-Fitr, and Ganesh Chaturthi (Siddha Vinayak Chaturthi).
FESTIVALS IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a very small country but with a population of over 1.2 million it has many different cultures, religions and festivals. It is fascinating to discover the diverse Mauritian cultures, each with its own traditions, beliefs and festivals.
- Cavadee: Celebrated in January/February, Cavadee is dedicated to Lord Murugam and is one of the most spectacular Tamil events. For a ten-day period the Tamil people fast, offer prayers and refrain from all kinds of worldly pleasures. Afterwards, magnificent celebrations are held in the Hindu temples everywhere.
- Chinese Spring Festival: As a celebration of the Chinese New Year (January/February), red, the symbol of happiness, is the dominant colour of this festival. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits and food is piled up to ensure abundance during the year and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends.
- Divali: The most jovial of all Hindu festivals, Divali marks the victory of righteousness over evil in the Hindu mythology. Traditionally, oil lamps made from clay were placed in front of every home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights. These days mostly decorative electric lights are used. (October/November).
- Ganesh Chathurti: Celebrated on the 4th day of the waxing moon period of the Hindu calendar (September). It marks the birthday of the Indian elephant Lord Ganesha, the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles, according to Hindu mythology.
- Holi: The festival of colours celebrates the beginning of spring and people of the Hindu faith enjoy themselves by squirting coloured water and powder on one another. It is a time for rejoicing and bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi festival. This is the most colourful amongst all festivals in Mauritius.
- Maha Shivaratree: Celebrated in honour of Hindu God, Siva. Hindu devotees, clad in white, carry the "kanwar" (wooden arches covered with flowers) on a pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole scene is reminiscent of similar rituals on the banks of the Ganges in India. (February).
BEST TIME TO VISIT MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a tropical island, with only two seasons, winter and summer. That being said, there is not much temperature difference between the two seasons of the year. All year-round, the climate on the central plateau is relatively cooler than on the coastal areas.
The Peak summer season is considered to be from November to April, with December to February the hottest months of the year. This is also the time when most tropical cyclones occur from the end of December until March. Expect hot, wet, and humid weather with afternoon rain showers.
Winter is considered the off-peak season, with the coolest months from June to August, but is actually a very pleasant time to visit, especially if you want to kitesurf. From May to November, the southeast trade winds dominate and although there will still be the odd downpour, October said to be the driest month of the year.
In summer the water temperature is about 28 C compared to 22 C during winter. For the best diving conditions visit anytime during October, November, and December. March and April are also good for diving in Mauritius but try to miss the peak cyclone months of January and February.
MAURITIUS WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Tropical, Modified By Southeast Trade Winds; Warm, Dry Winter (May To November); Hot, Wet, Humid Summer (November To May)
MAURITIUS TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN MAURITIUS
HIKING & CYCLING IN MAURITIUS
Most of the year is great for outdoor activities in Mauritius, with the exception of the wet cyclone season from January to March. There are so many stunning hiking trails and the best time is from April to October.
BEACH OPTIONS IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a beach paradise with white sandy beaches, tranquil blue lagoons and crystal clear coral reefs. Although the weather is good for enjoying the beaches almost all year round, the best months are November to December and April to May. January to March is the cyclone season and can be very wet.
SURFING IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius can be a surfers paradise with the most consistent surf from November till April. Some of the best surf spots are Tamarin Bay, Riviere des Galets, Le Morne, Black Rocks, Souillac, Darne, Graveyards, Maconde and Harbour Riviere Noire.
KITESURF IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a fantastic kitesurfing destination for beginners and professionals, for wave surfing and wakestyle riding. The windy season stretches from May to November and both the weather and water are very pleasant! Best kite spots are Le Morne, Bel Ombre and Prince Maurice.
For more details on kite surfing in Mauritius expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN MAURITIUS
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
MAURITIUS TRAVEL COSTS
Mauritius is not a budget destination. Much pricier than most other African countries, but still less than most European countries. If you’re happy with budget accommodation and eating street food, you can get by on $50 a day. If you want to splurge on a nicer hotel or a few western restaurant meals, you might want to budget up to $60 or $70 (or more if want the nice seaside resort experience).
If you want to get an idea of how much we spent around Mauritius see our Budget Report section.
MAURITIUS TRAVEL TIPS
Transport from one place to the next is fairly easy in Mauritius. There are a few public buses that serve the island as well as plenty of taxis and tour services. We recommend renting a car ahead of time if you would like to be able to explore the island independently. Skyscanner.com is a fantastic tool for finding great flight deals. For tips on airport transport or rentals have a look at our Guide to a DIY Mauritius Holiday.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF MAURITIUS
- Enjoy chambre d’hôte charm along the beach in Pointe d’Esny.
- Snorkel with dolphins in Tamarin.
- Dive the cavernous drop-offs at Flic en Flac.
- Hike through the forests of Black River Gorges National Park.
- Pause for lunch in the mountain village of Chamarel.
- Uncover the island’s plantation past at Eureka.
- Find weird-and-wonderful planet species at Pamplemousses.
- Discover how Mauritius once looked with a boat trip to Île aux Aigrettes.
- Snorkel on a boat trip from Grand Baie.
- Road trip along the azure lagoons along the rugged east-coast beaches.
Home to a large majority of Mauritians, the cool and rainy centre of the island feels, for the most part, like a continuation of the urban chaos in Port Louis. There’s very little to see in the corridor of towns that runs almost unbroken from the capital to Curepipe; in fact, it’s pretty much the opposite of that postcard your friends sent you from their trip here last year.
Mauritius’ tourism panache started in the north, and today there’s plenty on offer for visitors. Although most of the area’s spectacular beaches have been claimed by hotel construction, it’s never hard to get away from it all and discover the little nooks that remain largely untouched by development. Grand Baie is the eye of the tourist storm, boasting Mauritius’ best nightlife and some of the island’s best restaurants. The small beachside villages around Grand Baie – Trou aux Biches, Mont Choisy and Pereybère – are quickly developing in a similar fashion. The inland plain of sugar-cane fields is known as Pamplemousses and gently slopes towards the sea. Here you’ll find the wonderful Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens and the rightly popular L’Aventure du Sucre – a museum dedicated to Mauritius’ traditional colonial export.
A world away from the shores of the north, Mauritius’ western wonderland is the nation’s most diverse coast. The bustling tourist hub of Flic en Flac may not be to everyone’s taste, but the treasures that lie just beyond will satisfy even the pickiest holidaymaker. A veritable swatch book of lush greens and light browns, the area of Black River (Rivière Noire) has scalloping sandy bays that dimple the arable farmland. Then, further on, the tic-tac-toes of Tamarin’s shimmering salt flats perfectly reflect the beaming sun and soaring hills of fauna-filled Black River Gorges National Park. Next is bucolic Chamarel nestled in the highlands, followed by the last iteration of sky-reaching stone, Le Morne Brabant; an awesomely photogenic crag that caps the coastline’s southern tip. It all adds up to what could just be our favourite corner of the island.
With flashes of India, Ireland and the Caribbean, the wild unfolding south is an undeniable favourite for many. Long considered too harsh to develop due to its steep, wind-battered cliffs, the south coast has managed to stave off the encroaching hands of developers until quite recently. A few luxury resorts have popped up over the last few years, but the area remains mostly rugged, with a plantation estate or two hidden among the towering cane. The jagged southern cliffs taper off at the shimmering reefs in Blue Bay, and just beyond you’ll uncover the gorgeous beach of Pointe d’Esny with its cluster of homely chambres d’hôtes . The gritty gridiron of Mahébourg anchors the southeast, providing an interesting perspective on local life that starkly contrasts with the unfurling streamers of sand stretching beyond the sleepy commercial centre. Then, the coastal road cuts north, passing endless forests of green – the stomping ground of the island’s first settlers some 400 years ago.
Known by the rather romantic sobriquet of La Côte Sauvage (The Wild Coast), the island’s east coast is a world away from the touts, nightclubs and souvenir shacks of Flic en Flac in the west and Grand Baie in the north. It does have its resorts, yes, but the east face of Mauritius feels blissfully untouched by mass tourism. Best of all, some of the island’s very best beaches line this quiet coast. Not surprisingly, this is the most exclusive side of the island, and the congregation of luxury hotels attracts the kind of crowd likely to take a helicopter transfer from the airport when they arrive. The closest the east comes to a resort is Trou d’Eau Douce, which has retained the feel of a sleepy fishing village despite rubbing shoulders with the grand hotels next door. It’s the jumping-off point for the wildly popular Île aux Cerfs.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
- Horse Racing - The Mauritius horse racing club, the Champ de Mars, was founded in 1812, making it the oldest horse-racing club in the Southern Hemisphere. Horse racing is an extremely popular sport in Mauritius, and on race days up to 30,000 people will make their way to the famous racetrack. The horse racing season usually starts in April and ends in late November. It is one of the highlights of a visit to Mauritius and you should definitely experience the incredible atmosphere of this popular activity. Although these types of activities can be controversial, we had a fantastic experience swimming with the dolphins. You can make up your own mind or read our Swimming with the Dolphins in Tamarin Bay Blog Post. If you are based in the south of the island you can book a boat trip into Tamerin Bay here. If you feel like spoiling yourself book a trip on a 60ft catamaran for a day cruise around the best snorkelling spots and watch dolphins play in their natural habitat.
- Scuba Diving - Diving in Mauritius is spectacular. Most of the dive sites are located in the North, with dive boats launching from Pereybere, Cap Malhereux, Grand Gaube, and Trou aux Biches. There are also dive sites at Flic en Flac in the West, in Bel Mare in the East, and Blue Bay in the South. Marine life is colourful and varied and around the Island, there are shipwrecks dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, or some ships sunk more recently which create beautiful artificial reefs. Diving is good all year round, with very good visibility and a water temperature between 24 and 29 degrees. Read about our diving experience from Bain Boeu here. Try something new and learn to scuba dive in the tropical waters of Grand Baie! A Half Day Scuba Discovery course will open your eyes to a fantastic new world of marine life and shipwrecks.
- Grand Baie - The undisputed mecca for watersport activities such as parasailing, submarine, and semi-submersible scooters.
- Seven Colored Earth and Chamarel Waterfall - Follow the winding road from Case Noyale village to the coloured earth of Chamarel with its undulating landscape of different and contrasting shades of colours. The different shades of blue, green, red, and yellow are apparently the result of the erosion of the volcanic ash. The neighbouring waterfalls of Chamarel are just as beautiful. If you don't have a rental car it's easy enough to arrange a full-day private tour of the southern parts of Mauritius with transport and a guide included.
- The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens - This is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Founded in 1770, it contains some flora unique to Mauritius and covers an area of around 37 hectares. It also houses some animals, being especially famous for the fish, deer, and tortoises.
- Port Louis Central Market - Here you will find a variety of local snacks and tropical fruits, as well as numerous shops that sell well made traditional crafted objects such as the "goni" basket. A full-day guided tour of Port Louis will include not only the Central Market, Botanical Garden but also some of the best northern beaches.
- Pereybere - The wonderful Pereybere public beach - voted World's Most Beautiful Beach in 2010 - is popular because of its shopping facilities, restaurants, and pubs surrounding it. Although the beach-front area is not very big this is one of the best beaches for swimming in the north. You will also find no shortage of activities on offer - such as glass-bottomed boat trips, mangrove forest visits, water skiing, and tubing.
WHAT TO PACK FOR MAURITIUS
First things first, pack your bikini! Ok, not necessarily your bikini, but definitely your swimming attire. The coastline of Mauritius is jam-packed with stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters, filled with colourful tropical fish, such that you will definitely be spending some time in the water. Of course, this is also a good destination to shop for some new beachwear!
If you have space, already have your own gear, and depending on your holiday duration, be sure to pack any snorkelling, diving, and kitesurfing gear. These can of course also be rented on the island at reasonable rates.
Even though you are most likely planning a summer holiday, in addition to the sunblock, also pack a lightweight jacket and travel umbrella. Not only will you use it when it rains but it comes in handy to shield yourself from the sun too.
Don’t forget that you are visiting a tropical island, so bring mosquito repellant!
WHAT TO EAT IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius is a paradise for the senses, reaching from the scenic nature to the diverse cuisine. You will find a variety of flavours and aromas inherited from different culinary traditions such as France, India, China and Africa. The extensive use of spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and herbs like thyme, basil, and curry leaves are the common ingredients resulting in subtle, yet distinct flavours. You can buy many snacks from street-side vendors for really cheap.
Places to enjoy eats on the run are in plentiful supply in Mauritius. Street vendors are at every bus station and town square, and takeaway shops can be found in numerous shopping centres and markets; both offer inexpensive local treats, including Indian, French and Chinese delicacies. Almost all restaurants, except the most upmarket, will do takeaway. Roadside food stalls serving dinner dishes such as biryani (curried rice), Indian rotis and farattas (unleavened flaky flour pancakes) are popular. Street eats cost around Rs 5 to Rs 10 for snacks like rotis, dhal puris (Indian snacks) and boulettes (meatballs) served at markets, along public beaches and in the capital. The atmospheric markets are worth visiting for the popular gâteaux piments (deep-fried balls of lentils and chilli), which are cooked on the spot. You should also try the delicious dhal puris , rotis, samosas and bhajas (fried balls of besan dough with herbs or onion). Indian and Chinese restaurants offer quick and inexpensive meals and snacks. Remember to buy some Indian savouries such as caca pigeon (an Indian nibble) or the famous Chinese char siu (barbecue pork).
Keep an eye out for the following must-try foods:
- Dholl Puri / Dhal Poori - The most famous Mauritius food is ‘dholl puri’ or ‘dhal poori’. It's a thin soft pancake made with grounded yellow split pea flour filled with all sorts of tasty fillings of your choice.
- Roti / Paratha - Depending on the region, a variety of flatbread called chapatti, roti, or farata / paratha by the local people, is traditionally eaten with curries.
- Biryani - Biryani has a long history and is mostly prepared by the Muslim community, with meat mixed with spiced rice and potatoes.
- Rougaille - This tomato and onion based dish is a variation of the French ragoût. The dish usually consists of meat or seafood (corned beef and salted snoek fish rougaille are very popular with the locals) and is a regular staple for all Mauritians.
- Mauritian Rum - Mauritius produces a wide range of cane rum. Often served with coconut water with a dash of lime over ice. Visiting one of the local distilleries for a rum tasting is good fun and informative.
LGBTQ IN MAURITIUS
Mauritius has a paradoxical relationship to homosexuality. While gay and lesbian rights are legally guaranteed and much of the population is young and progressive, there remains a rigidly conservative streak to the Mauritian character. As a result gay life remains fairly secretive – mainly existing on the internet, in private and at the occasional party. For gay and lesbian travellers there’s little to worry about. You’re still best to avoid public displays of affection outside your hotel and generally to be aware that what might be entirely normal at home may not be viewed in the same light in Mauritius.
WHERE TO STAY IN MAURITIUS
From really expensive and all-inclusive beachside resorts to very humble Airbnb homestays, there is a wide variety of accommodation available in Mauritius. Out of peak season, competition can be fierce and if your dates are flexible, you can find plenty of bargain packages available. Alternatively, you can book self-catering accommodation and holiday DIY style, the choice is yours!
We spent 3 weeks in Mauritius over July / August 2017 staying at a combination of a self-catering apartment for most of our stay as well as a budget resort and guesthouse and ended up spending an average of $44 per night. To read more about this and where around the island is most suitable, read our blog post How to Plan your Mauritius DIY Holiday. If you’re travelling during peak season or holidays, you should book your accommodation well in advance.
We recommend checking sites like Booking.com or Agoda or Airbnb. f you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort, keep an eye out for great package deals. But don’t forget that an AirBnB stay could save you money and allow you to explore more of this amazing island!
Airbnb Travel Tip: If you prefer to stay in your own apartments or villas, we recommend Airbnb in Mauritius. Check out our full article on how to get $65 coupon code for your booking or simply click here to get our coupon code to apply on your next booking.
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