Close your eyes … relax … and think of a paradise island. You’re probably conjuring up an image remarkably like real-life Mauritius. This wonderful Indian Ocean destination, known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs, is the perfect embodiment of fantasy paradise as Mark Davidson from our Howard Street (Belfast) Portfolio Suite recently discovered when he lived the dream with destination experts, Lusso.
Flight time from London is a potentially daunting twelve hours but, with the prospect of paradise awaiting the journey’s end, that needn’t put you off, particularly if you opt to overnight in London or choose a relaxing airline upgrade.
Luxury is the theme in this destination and most holidaymakers want to kick back and relax, enjoying sandy white beaches and the warm Indian Ocean whose water temperature rarely drops below a delightful 23°C (73°F), but it’s also well worth connecting with some of the island’s other attractions.
The capitol, Port Louis, is small but vibrant and interesting to explore, noted for its lively Central Market and Craft Market, its lush Botanic Gardens and the thrilling Champ de Mars racecourse.
In 2017 CNN and The Telegraph voted Port Louis one of the greatest cities in the world for street food, so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a taste of local cuisine either going it alone or joining one of the excellent ‘foodie’ guided tours.
It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to hire a car and guide and this is a great way to get a feel for Mauritius or hire quadbikes for a memorable day in the island’s mountainous interior at Black River Gorges National Park, with its expanse of rainforest, dramatic waterfalls, hiking trails and wildlife.
Mauritius is fantastic for water sports and experiences, with snorkelling a major attraction. Timid in the water? See the stunning coral reefs teaming with sealife from the comfort of a glass bottom boat or don a diving helmet for a no-skills-needed underwater ‘sea walk’.
Visitors can choose from a wide selection of island ‘experiences’ and tours and most pick up direct from hotels. Some experiences even come to you, such as the Mauritius photography sessions which provide a talented professional snapper to record your magical Mauritius experiences.
Most visitors choose to spend a lot of time in their hotel complex so it is important to choose a hotel that suits your personality and taste as well as your budget. The hotels I visited all offered terrific watersports and activities, many of which are complimentary for guests.
The St. Regis Mauritius Resort at Le Morne Beach was one of my favourites, with elegant, airy suites. Upgrade for ocean views, 4-poster beds and/or separate living areas or choose a gorgeous 4-bedroom villa with private pool and garden. The hotel has 2 bars and 6 restaurants, spa, gym and kids' play area, as well as an outdoor pool, water sports and direct beach access. This is a relatively new hotel resort, but it has a wonderful aged colonial feel similar to Reid’s in Madeira. Public areas are spacious and immaculately maintained and the staff are very welcoming.
The Heritage Awali is a great choice for families and couples. Set on 2,500 beachfront hectares with a nature reserve, this luxe all-inclusive resort has well-equipped rooms with African accents and all mod cons. Upgraded rooms add ocean views or direct beach access, and beachfront suites have whirlpool tubs and sofabeds – or opt for a 3-bedroom villa with kitchen and private pool. There are 12 restaurants and 8 bars, plus 24/ room service, a stunning spa, beautifully landscaped pool and golf course.
Set on its own peninsula, the Constance Prince Maurice has a great get-away-from-it-all feel. Set on 60 hectares of gardens overlooking the ocean, the hotel facilities are artfully housed in buildings with thatched roofs. Villas add whirlpool tubs, and some have private pools while others stand on stilts over a fishing reserve. There are super al fresco dining options including a floating seafood restaurant and poolside bars. There's also a spa, an outdoor pool and a private beach, as well as 2 golf courses.
The wonderful Luxe Belle Mare is set on a beach; a stand-out family property, bright and welcoming and packed with facilities which include a spa, a heated outdoor pool with a kids' section, and a private beach, as well as play areas for young children and teenagers. The bright and welcoming hotel showcases the celebrated flair of its interiors designer, Kelly Hoppen and its excellent dining options include elegant Indian and Chinese restaurants, a cafe, bars and a beachfront eatery.
The fabulous One & Only Le Saint Geran is all about all-out luxury and no detail escapes its vigilant management team. Here, perfection is the name of the game and your only problem will be deciding which of the sumptuously presented rooms or suites to choose. The grounds are every bit as fabulous and every well-placed lounger seems to capoture a view straight out of a glossy travel magazine.
Compact and easily navigated, the resort successfully blends exclusivity with a friendly laid-back atmosphere. Dining options range from casual beach barbeques to stylish sushi, mouth-watering steaks and fabulously presented local cuisine.
Le Touessrok is situated on a white-sand beach along the Indian Ocean, just 10km from the beautiful Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club. Rooms and suites have ocean view balconies or terraces, while upgraded suites provide private pools, and extras such as complimentary breakfast and cocktails. Beach villas have infinity pools and butler service. Dining options include Japanese, Indian and beachfront eateries and the resort has its own friendly bar with a lively atmosphere. Having enjoyed my stay there my tip would be to book Hibiscus Wing which is sheltered from the prevailing breezes and opens onto a sizzling stretch of palm-fringed beach.
Every trip produces a hidden gem and for me it was 20 Degrees South (20 Degrès Sud) on the north of the island, just across the peninsula from Grand Baie with a free boat shuttle to the town. With only 36 rooms, this uniquely stylish and charming Relais & Chateaux property would be ideal for couples or honeymooners after something boutique and personal.