sunrise on the southwestern tip of mauritius with an empty red white and blue boat in the foreground
There’s no shortage of places to catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the island. | Anton Petrus/Moment/Getty Images
There’s no shortage of places to catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the island. | Anton Petrus/Moment/Getty Images

Come to Mauritius for the Beaches, Stay for the Best Cuisine You’ve Never Heard Of

It’s a food paradise in the Indian Ocean with its own style of both rum and dim sum.

Mauritius might be small in size, but it punches above its weight in the island paradise stakes. This country, located in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off the eastern coast of Africa, consists of the main island and several smaller ones, such as the tourist-friendly Rodrigues. Mauritius has been a Dutch, French, and British colony throughout the years, and though it's been independent since the ‘60s, its cultural landscape is still marked by a myriad of influences, which also include Arab, Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, and Creole.

Obviously, there are all the draws that accompany the world’s warmest ocean: white sand, turquoise waters, cocktails, and sunsets that look like they come with a built-in Instagram filter. Nobody has ever complained about Mauritius not being pretty enough. But when you step away from the swaying palms and sun-soaked beaches, even just for a day, it's clear that it’s so much more than just another tropical getaway. Come for the unforgettable scenery, sure, but then definitely stay for the immersive art installations, fruit wine, and dim sum.

overhead shot of central market in port louis, mauritius, where vendors sell colorful produces out of baskets
In the capital of Port Louis, vendors sell fresh produce in open-air markets. | Walter Bibiko/Stone/Getty Images

Best places for first timers to visit in Mauritius

For such a small island, there’s a lot of debate about which part of Mauritius has the best coastline, most reliable weather, safest swimming beaches, and so on. The truth is, every part of Mauritius has something unique to offer. It just depends on what your preferences are. Call it cliché if you want, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Starting at the top of the island, the northern coast is home to the village of Grand Baie. It’s one of the most tourist-friendly areas of Mauritius since it’s highly developed with plenty of nightlife and shopping options. Plus, it's one of the hottest and sunniest regions of the island, even during winter. So if you’re looking for a beach vacation, the coastline from Pointe aux Piments to Grand Gaube is a great choice—especially if you want to get some sunshine in the cooler months between May and July.

Meanwhile, the eastern coast of Mauritius is less developed than other regions but has plenty of beautiful lagoons and white sand beaches. It’s not as touristy as the north and west coasts, making it a good choice for those who prefer a more local experience. Keep in mind that it can get quite windy there, which is great for either sailing during the winter or staying cool in the summer.

That brings us to western Mauritius, which is where you will get the most incredible sunsets. This coast also includes the capital city of Port Louis, along with the more luxury-focused suburb of Balaclava, which is where you’ll find plenty of upscale hotels. If you want the quintessential white beaches and sunny weather that the island is known for, then the west coast is the safest bet. It’s considered to be one of the most picturesque areas of the island while also being fairly developed, so you won’t be short of options for shopping, transport, or places to stay. It’s also near most of the museums, so it’s the ideal spot for travelers who also want to understand the roots and history of the country they're visiting.

close up photo of dim sum in mauritius that looks like shu mai
Due to Chinese influence, Mauritius is home to its own version of dim sum. | Coeur de Ville Flacq

Where to eat and drink like a local in Mauritius

Mauritian food is one of the best cuisines you’ve never heard of. Naturally, it’s seafood-forward. But it certainly isn’t one-dimensional. Chinese traders and merchants introduced Cantonese dishes, especially noodles and fried rice. The French, of course, were responsible for developing Creole cuisine and are to thank for pastries and traditional dishes like bouillon. Indian influences are also very apparent in Mauritian food—perhaps even more so than French—due to the island being a British colony from the early 19th century to its independence in 1968. After slavery was abolished by the British, indentured Indian laborers arrived to work in the sugarcane fields. These days, nearly 70% of the Mauritian population is of Indian origin.

Mahebourg Market is a bit of a one-stop shop if you want to try local street foods without having to travel from place to place. Make sure you try the dholl puri (flatbread with curried split peas) and alouda, a refreshing drink made from algae as well as almond essence and condensed milk. Don’t forget to leave room for space for boulet—the Mauritian version of dim sum.

For a fancier affair, Le Fangourin Restaurant is in an incredible setting on a heritage site, surrounded by a century-old garden. Oh, and there’s also a giant and gorgeous pond (because Mauritians sure know how to do beautiful waterscapes), and a view of the mountains. It’s an upscale restaurant with refined dishes like lobster and chocolate parfaits, but which still celebrates local flavors—think smoked marlin, or fish cooked in a coconut sauce. Plus, the menu changes according to what’s in season, and features ingredients sourced from the nearby farm. What else could you want?

If you can, squeeze in a visit to Takamaka Wine Estate. Mauritius isn’t exactly prime grape-growing territory, thanks to the hot and humid climate, but why would that stop anyone? What it does have an abundance of is lychees, which the enterprising Alexander Oxenham has managed to turn into locally produce wines, including a surprisingly crisp Sauvignon-style white. And while you’re on the local booze train, it would practically be a sin not to sample the spirit of choice: Mauritian rum, which is distilled from locally grown sugarcane and molasses.

a man standing in a room with flames projected on the walls around him as part of an immersive installation
The House of Digital Art hosts a variety of immersive installations, as well as street art and sound sculptures. | House of Digital Art

Museums, art, and culture in Mauritius

If you find yourself craving a side of intellectual stimulation with your gorgeous beach sunsets, Mauritius has plenty on offer in that department as well.

L’Aventure du Sucre is in the same spot as Le Fangourin, so there’s double the reason to visit. Once you’ve eaten your fill at the restaurant, wander over to check out the museum. It’s dedicated to the history and importance of sugar in Mauritius, from its colonial origins to its modern production. Mauritius has a long history of producing sugar, dating back to the 17th century. Sugar currently accounts for less than 10% of the country’s overall exports, but it’s been a defining part of the culture and identity of the Mauritian people for a long time.

If you’re the type that appreciates the creative side of things, it’s also worth a visit to the House of Digital Art, which is in the heart of a heritage district in St. Louis. This is the first art expo of its kind in the Indian Ocean region and is more than just a gallery; it offers workshops and residencies in addition to shining a spotlight on local creators. If you decide to go, set aside about two hours to work your way through the immersive experiences, which encompass very modern digital, kinetic, and sound installations that are all housed in an 18th-century building.

Another stop worth making in Port Louis is the Blue Penny Museum. Think of it as the Smithsonian of Mauritius, but housed in a pretty colonial building and boasting a quainter name. It's home to two of the rarest and most famous stamps in the world, which were issued in 1847 by the British colony of Mauritius and are probably the most valuable objects there today. You can also spend half an hour in The Marine Room, a collection of models, paintings, and artifacts dedicated to telling the maritime history of Mauritius.

While you’re still in Port Louis, make a stop at the Aapravasi Ghat museum. This UNESCO World Heritage Site commemorates the arrival of the first indentured laborers from India to Mauritius, after the abolition of slavery in 1835. Take a walk through the Immigration Depot, where the laborers were processed and housed before being sent to the sugar plantations. You can also check out the Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre, a collection of exhibits that tell the history and impact of the indentured labor system in Mauritius.

purple and pink sand in a black river gorges national park
The colors of this geological feature are caused, in part, by the decomposition of volcanic rock. | Balate Dorin/iStock/Getty Images

Nature and outdoor experiences in Mauritius

The whole island is protected by a barrier reef, which makes for really calm swimming and clear waters around the shore. But it also has some of the best diving in the Indian Ocean. You can spot little fish, corals, octopuses, and even humpback whales. The island is something of a SCUBA paradise, too, given that there are around 100 registered wrecks in the area.

If you’re more into land adventures than water ones, Black River Gorges National Park covers about 2% of the island’s surface. Located in the southwestern part of the Mauritius, it's a proper tropical paradise with lush green forests, waterfalls, rivers, as well as plenty of diverse wildlife. That includes everything from monkeys to the giant bat-like Mauritian flying foxes, which are now an endangered species. One can’t-miss site in the park is the Seven Colored Earth, where sand dunes make a rainbow of colors from brown to green and purple. The colors are caused by the decomposition of volcanic rock and the variation of temperature during the cooling process.

a brightly lit hotel lobby with lounge chairs and couches and greenery visible through the back windows
The Ravenala is one of the many properties owned by the Attitude Hotels group. | Hotels Attitude

Mauritius hotels and other great places to stay

Mauritius certainly isn’t short of places to rest your head at night. In fact, the options can be pretty overwhelming—there’s a wide variety of Airbnbs, luxury hotels, and all-inclusive resorts. If you’re finding yourself with decision fatigue, then it’s hard to go wrong with using Attitude Hotels as a jumping-off point.

It's family-owned and the people there pride themselves on offering an experience that's more authentic than what's on offer at a big chain. It's a sustainability-minded hotel group run by locals who have done away with single-use plastics and work almost exclusively with small suppliers. Each of Attitude's eight properties offers something slightly different.

If you don’t believe all-inclusive properties should skimp on food, The Ravenala is probably going to be one of your top picks, although Lagoon Attitude might come in at a close second. Regardless of what you choose, the Attitude Hotels all offer the "dine around" concept, which means you’re not limited to buffets or one boring main restaurant. In fact, their flagship hotel has a staggering 17 bars and restaurants alone. There’s a poolside Indonesian-Chinese fusion restaurant with incredible noodles, a buffet with everything from pastries to paella, a riverside restaurant based on a Mauritian family home, and an adults-only Japanese spot right in the sand, to name but a few.

If all-inclusive isn’t your vibe, there are plenty of other options—Mauritius has attractive immigration laws, and as a result, has attracted plenty foreign investment in property. Many of these properties are available as really modern and well-equipped holiday rentals, which are great for big groups or longer holidays. It should be said though, that unless you’re based centrally in Grand Baie or have your own rental car to get to and from restaurants and grocery stores, all-inclusive is usually the better option. After all, what’s a beach view without a snack and piña coladas on tap?

Mauritius is known for its beautiful waterscapes—including waterfalls. | Kestreloculus/500px/Getty Images

What to know before you go to Mauritius

Best times of year to visit

Before you book that island trip, there are a few things you’ll want to take note of. Mauritius is a fairly year-round destination, but it does have a tropical climate. And you know what that means: hot, humid, and sometimes rainy. December is peak season (especially thanks to South Africans hopping across the ocean for a tropical getaway), but the weather is hot and can be wet. So when’s the best time to go if you’re hoping for sun and blue skies?

In summer (November to April), the temperature can hover anywhere from 77 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit, but keep in mind that it’s also very humid! This is also the rainfall season, and there can be heavy rainstorms from December to February. Often these are short lived—but if dry weather is a priority, it’s not the best time of year for you to visit.

On the opposite end of the seasonal scale, there’s winter (May to October), during which temperatures can range from 64 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but the weather is generally dry with blue skies. The east coast can be windy, but the west coast generally offers good winter weather.

As with plenty of tropical destinations, spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) offer great weather and fewer crowds. If you had to pick, a great time to visit is around October and March, when the weather is warm but the risk of rain is fairly low.

Mauritius time zone

One of the reasons Mauritius is so popular with French and South African tourists is the time zone. Mauritius Time (MUT) is nine hours ahead of New York and 12 ahead of California.

The weather and climate

Typically, the temperatures float between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the exact month. The rainfall is also fairly low, and the winds are gentle.

Languages

Mauritians generally speak very good English, as it’s one of the languages spoken in schools and used on government forms. French is also accepted, and many Mauritians also speak Creole, which has its origins in French.

How to get around

Taxis, buses, and rental cars are common. Most tourists use transfer services and taxis to get about. If you want to hire a car, keep in mind that Mauritians drive on the left side of the road.

The currency

Mauritius uses the Mauritian rupee (MUR). As of February 2024, a US dollar exchanges for 45.32 MUR. Some tourist spots will accept US dollars or British pounds, but Mauritian rupees are the preferred currency. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.

International adapters you'll need

Mauritius has both Type C (two round pins, like you find in most of Europe) and Type G power outlets, which are the three-pronged rectangular ones you’ll find in the UK. If you’re coming from the US, bring a Europlug adapter.

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Sophie Baker is a contributor for Thrillist.