Mauritius invokes thoughts of high-end tropical resorts and honeymooners, but of the three Mascarene islands , Mauritius is actually the most accessible for independent and budget travel.
I traveled to Mauritius solo recently and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Just beyond the resorts lies a laid-back local culture with guesthouses and tour options for the budget traveler. The best way to see the inland national parks and quiet undeveloped beaches is on a motorbike which can easily be rented throughout the island.
So why Mauritius? Traveling all the way from the United States to Mauritius is quite far for just one island, but fortunately I have been living in Asia, and I found a cheap flight on Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Mauritius. My flight left KL around 10 am, and with the time change, I arrived in Mauritius at 1:30 pm despite a nearly 8 hour flight. Once in Mauritius, it is very easy to get around on the local bus system. The website Mauritius Bus is quite helpful. The airport bus stop is just beyond the small parking lot in front of the main terminal.
I spent my first two nights in Flic En Flac which is a small beach town on Mauritius’s west coast. While the guidebooks say this is the “best” beach in Mauritius, I would beg to differ. The beach was nice, however Flic En Flac has an weird older European tourist vibe. I was not a big fan, but being exhausted from my flight, I was able to relax for two nights before my next destination: Mahebourg. Getting between the two towns is easy, but you must transfer buses in the capital, Port Louis. I spent a few hours roaming around the capital before Mahebourg, however there isn’t much there. The central market isn’t very remarkable, and the rest of the shops are only good if you need something specific like electronics.
Mahebourg, just a few kilometers from Blue Bay is the place to go in Mauritius. If I had done it over again, I would have spent all my time here. I stayed at Auberge La Saladier for four nights which is a small guesthouse in the town of Mahebourg set around a nice garden. The hotel is run by an Indian couple who couldn’t be nicer people. They serve a wonderful breakfast every morning, and they are both a wealth of local knowledge on the area. Mahebourg is a small Mauritian village just a few kilometers from the airport where you can see how the locals actually live.
If you do one thing in Mauritius: rent a motorbike. This is the best way to see the island and get away from the more crowded beaches. The folks at La Saladier helped me rent a bike from a local man in town. Motorbikes aren’t all that popular in Mauritius which is shocking considering how much easier they are than dealing with a car.
I headed south my first day on the bike visiting many of the less populated beaches along the coast. Most beaches are easily visible from the road, and you can decide where to stop for yourself. If you go on a weekday, you’ll probably have the beaches to yourself. But the one you shouldn’t miss is Gris Gris just south of the town of Souillac. This is where the reef surrounding Mauritius breaks and there is nothing but open Indian Ocean. It’s windy and the waves are pumping so it is not advised to swim, but it’s a great place to take in the scenery.
After Souillac, I continued along the coast making it all the way to La Morne which is a large picturesque volcanic mountain on the south western tip of the island. It’s possible to hike to the top of this mountain, and I would definitly recommend doing it. I was too tired to hike, but its the one thing I regret not doing in Mauritius.
On my second day with the bike, I decided to tack inward and check out Black River Gorges – the only national park in Mauritius. While a lot of Mauritius has been converted into sugar cane farms, this national park is one of the few places where natural forest still remains. There are several hiking trails throughout the park, and as I was walking on a few of them, I couldn’t help but imagine the wild dodos that used to live in the native Mauritian forest. The temperature drops significantly as you get higher into the mountains which makes for great hiking weather. Even if you’re not into hiking there are several view points and lookouts easily accessible from the main road with plenty of beautiful waterfalls to see from a distance (you’ll need to hike to get to them).
Check out the short video I made about my trip to Black River Gorges National Park:
Finally I spent my last day relaxing at La Saladier before heading off to Madagascar. Mahebourg is very close to the airport, and I was able to catch a local bus right from the hotel to the international terminal.
All in all, I would say Mauritius is a wonderful country to visit. If you’re traveling all the way from the United States, I might recommend tacking on a trip to Madagascar or elsewhere in Africa. I think five days is plenty for Mauritius. You would only stay longer if you’re specifically looking for a beach holiday, but then again you can always do that closer to home.
I think what really sets Mauritius apart and draws people to come from long distances is the fact that it feels like an independent country minding its own business but that happens to have amazing beaches. As a tourist, nobody bothers you here (at least where I was). I felt like most Mauritians have regular jobs outside of the tourism industry so when you come there you feel like you’re not a tourist, but rather just another Mauritian enjoying the beaches like the locals do when they have free time. Mauritius never had a native population until Europeans first established settlements on the islands. This means that everyone living there is an immigrant with a large majority of them coming from India. I think the sort of blending of immigrant populations also goes to give Mauritius a unique identity unlike many other tropical island destinations.
If you have questions on travel to Mauritius let me know in the comments below!