How to plan a Mauritius holiday for first-time visitors
Mark Twain once wrote: ‘Heaven was copied after Mauritius’.
If you’re planning a Mauritius holiday, here’s a quick, two-part guide to all you need to know before you go. The first part includes practical travel tips and useful facts, the second part is an accommodation guide of where to stay. I hope the beautiful photos from this post will inspire you to book that Mauritius holiday you’ve been dreaming about.
Part one: Practical travel tips for your first Mauritius holiday
1. You can visit Mauritius year round. Mauritius enjoys a mild tropical maritime climate throughout the year. It has two seasons: a hot, humid summer (with average temperatures between 25°C and 30°C between November and April) and a dry winter (with average temperatures of around 20°C, between June and September). The best time of year to plan your Mauritius holiday for is during October and November. And here’s a calendar of events of interesting things happening on the island.
2. Air Mauritius and South African Airways have a direct, four-hour flight
to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport from Johannesburg
. They also operate daily flights from Durban
and Cape Town
, which means that planning a Mauritius holiday from South Africa is really quite easy. All of the world’s top airlines fly to Mauritius from around the world. The airport is 48km, or a 45-minute drive, from the capital city of Port Louis, where I stayed during my second trip.
3. South Africans do NOT require a visa
, which makes planning a Mauritius holiday quicker and cheaper. You will be given immigration and health forms to fill out in the airplane and hand in at the immigration desk. In fact only citizens of 21 countries, mostly in Asia and the Middle East, require a visa
prior to arrival.
4. English is widely spoken in Mauritius, especially in the hospitality sector, alongside Creole and French. During my visit I had the opportunity to practice a little bit of French and almost everyone we came across spoke English. If not, they called a friend who could.
5. Affordability and budget: Mauritius is much more affordable when compared to its nearby neighbouring Indian Ocean islands of the Seychelles and Reunion. Mauritius uses the Mauritian Ruppee, which at the time of writing was Rs34.02 to the US dollar, Rs48.03 to the British pound, and Rs2.84 to the South African rand, which makes a Mauritius holiday much more affordable than other tropical island destinations.
There’s accommodation for every budget (more about that in part two) and it’s recommended that you budget around between $100-$200 (around R1 200-R2 400 or Rs3 300-Rs6 800) per day (inclusive of accommodation, meals, transport and activities) for a comfortable stay. Your budget should obviously be adjusted based on the kind of traveller you are.
6. Venture beyond the resorts: I think that one of the biggest mistakes that first-time travellers make is that they remain in their resorts during their Mauritius holiday. Don’t get me wrong it’s a marvelous idea if you’re looking to chill out and just be. But I feel that there is so much more to the island than at a fully-inclusive resort. Read my other post about Mauritius beyond the resorts for inspiration of where to go and what to do.
7. Explore the coast by car. Rent a car, either online ahead of arrival or from the airport – where you’ll find a selection of car rental companies, such as Hertz and Avis, as well as local alternatives. Take to the road to get a real sense of the coast from eat to west and north to south. Though Mauritius’ population is 1.2 million, there are 3 million cars on the island. Just note that traffic can get a little congested, especially during peak hours and on weekends and public holidays, as everyone heads back home from the beach. Mauritius recognises the Geneva Road Traffic Convention of 1949, which means you’ll be able to drive using your driving licence from your own country for up to four weeks.
While there’s no uber or e-hailing taxi services such as Taxify in Mauritius, there are metred taxis – just ask at your hotel’s reception. All legitimate taxis have a taxi sign on top as well as a yellow square box indicating their route on their doors.
Otherwise if you’re on a low-cost budget, why not use public transport, it’s a great way to get around, especially if you’re planning a budget Mauritius holiday. I found that it was inexpensive, reliable and the routes were serviced regularly. A number of bus companies operate across the island from Port Louis to the north, south and the main towns in the central region. In the urban regions, buses run between 05:30 and 20:00, while in rural areas between 06:30 and 18:30. We took the public red-and-white TBS (Triolet Bus Service) bus from Port Louis bus terminal, in the north-west, to Mont Choisy public beach in the north. It took us 45 minutes during peak hour traffic and around 35 minutes on the way back, and probably on 5-10 minutes longer than it would have in a hired taxi. It only cost Rs34 (R12 or $1) one way. The buses were in a good condition and arrived every 8-10 minutes, which was convenient.
8. Get an epic guide: I’m all for independent travel, however if you want to learn about the intricacies of this island nation, its history, people and culture from a local, hire the services of a professional guide, even if is only for a day or two. I highly recommend Connections DMC: www.connections.mu. Vina was our knowledgeable guide, while our driver/guided Dhaneswar (Danesh) Tataree has a sharp sense of humor.
9. Family vs. couples? Both! There are family discounts and many stimulating activities and clubs for children at hotels and resorts. If you’re looking for peaceful and romantic down time with your significant other choose an adult-only resort to ensure a relaxing Mauritius holiday.
10. If you’re a cultural traveller choose visit during a religious or cultural festival. Ganesh Chathuri happens every single month, however the most important edition of the festival is held each September.
11. When you arrive at your hotel you may be given a welcome drink of Ti punch, which is the tropical island’s most popular rum-based cocktail. It’s really easy to make when you are back home to remind you of your Mauritius holiday – rum with a squeeze of lemon or lime and a dash of cane syrup or sugar, served on the rocks.
12. Like South Africa, Mauritius is very multi-cultural. This island nation has influences from around the world. Arab seafarers beached their boats on the shores, while Portuguese navigators sailed these waters and stopped to repair their ships. The Dutch, French and British colonised the island. Plantation owners made use of slaves from Mozambique and Madagascar,as well as low-cost labourers from India. With time the migrant Chinese also made Mauritius their new home, as they opened shops on the island to cater to the growing population.
13. Mauritius is a very proud nation. During my second visit in early 2018, I celebrated the 50th anniversary of independence alongside the locals. The bloodless transition from British colony to independent state was headed by Dr Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who campaigned for an evolution rather than a revolution. The Mauritian flag was first raised at 12:00pm on 12 March 1968 at Champs de Mars, which is the second oldest racecourse track in the southern hemisphere, and it was only fitting that the celebrations were held there. They consisted of a synchronised air show, cultural performances of song and dance that highlighted Mauritius’ various cultures, as well as performances by governmental and societal organisations.
Part Two: Accommodation guide to Mauritius
I spent a week exploring Mauritus (<— read more about the Indian Ocean Island there) during my first trip in late 2016, and for three and a half days during my second visit in early 2018. I stayed at three World Leisure Holidays-affiliated resorts the first time and in the capital city, Port Louis, the second time. This resort life was a first for me, though that’s one of the reasons why people come to Mauritius on holiday, so I wanted to share my experiences with you and suggest alternative accommodation options on this Indian Ocean island.
Sugar Beach Golf and Resort Spa (West coast)
Sun Resorts’ Sugar Beach and La Pirogue Resort and Spa, which neighbour each other on the western coast of the island, are blanketed in palm trees and indigenous vegetation to give them that tropical paradise vibe you’re after on an island getaway holiday. This plantation-style resort is sandwiched between a lagoon and the ocean and while it welcomes families and honeymooners, there are sections that are solely reserved for love birds. All guests receive complimentary access to the 18-hole Tamarina golf course, which is only an eight-minute drive away.
La Pirogue Resort and Spa (West coast)
La Pirogue captures the genuine spirit of Mauritius with its newly renovated thatch-roofed bungalows along the sunset coast, in the shape of the billowing sails of a pirogue. This was my favourite resort, by far. It feels very authentic and the rooms are set in a circular shape within tropical gardens, each with an ocean view. La Pirogue is asked for by name when it comes to its al fresco seafood grill on the beach, accompanied by sensual sega dance performances. We indulged in everything seafood, from a sushi and crab soup starter to grilled juicy langoustines, line fish and calamari stew boiled in a traditional Creole sauce.
Ambre Resort and Spa (East coast)
This all-inclusive, adults-only resort is attractive to honeymooners and couples for its relaxing atmosphere. The infinity pool beckons you to take a dip on arrival, unless you prefer the various water sports on offer or want to work out at the fully-equipped gym instead. Sun Resorts’ leisure island Île aux Cerfs – a short drive and boat ride from Ambre and nearby Long Beach – is one of the most visited attractions in Mauritius. Here you can tee off at one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses, an 18-hole, 72-par course designed by Bernhard Langer, or go parasailing, tubing and test the horsepower on a speed boat. Later, eat at one of the three restaurants or two bars.
Long Beach Golf and Spa Resort (East coast)
This resort is situated along the famous Belle Mare beach and is ideal for those looking to re-energise with its many sports, activities and water sports on offer. It’s perfect for younger travellers or families wanting an active holiday that offers something for everyone. The kiddies and teens clubs will keep the youngsters busy with stimulating activities while mom and dad get some downtime. With five restaurants that offer a selection of Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Mauritian cuisine alongside cosmopolitan flavours you’ll barely have enough time to work up an appetite.
Le Suffren Hotel and Spa (Port Louis, north-west coast)
This business hotel in the capital city of Port Louis in the north-west part of the island is located just across the waterway from the La Caudan Waterfront, which has an industrial look at feel. The hotel offers a free water taxi to the waterfront for its guests. The spa – with its gym, steam room and hydro pool – was by far my highlight. Though there’s no beach here to swim there is an outdoor pool with loungers on beach sand beneath parasoles, facing the harbour and waterfront. When booking ask for a room on the second floor facing the water. I found that throughout our stay it took a long time for the food to be served, much longer than usual, and perhaps it was the fact that we were a group of 11, but the food often arrived at different times, so make sure you order well ahead of time.
Airbnb and holiday rentals
There are more than 300 Airbnb rentals across the island for all budget types that you can explore when planning your Mauritius holiday. You’ll find private apartments with stunning sea views to tree houses and standalone rooms. Also do a search engine search for holidays rentals and villas in Mauritius.
I was hosted by The Mauritius Tourism Board on occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Independence from Britain in early March 2018. My 2016 trip to the Sun Resorts properties was hosted as part of my freelance work. As always I retain full editorial control of everything published on this website, but you already know that. ;) Some photographs are used with permission from Sun Resorts.