Considered a part of the African continent but located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, is the drop-dead gorgeous island of Mauritius. Stunning coral reefs, deep lagoons, and white sand beaches have thrust Mauritius into the spotlight and made it a top destination for luxury getaways.
Mark Twain even wrote that “Heaven was copied after Mauritius.”
Alo! Ki Manière – Welcome to Mauritius
While the Heaven-like qualities of Mauritius have made the island famous, there is more to explore beyond the pristine beaches and palm lined coast. On the island’s interior, there are dramatic waterfalls and dense rainforests open for exploration. It is in these remote landscapes that visitors can observe unique wildlife like Rodrigues flying foxes and green panther chameleons.
Amongst the natural landscape, Mauritius also boasts a widespread cultural diversity that is derived from its historical connections to Africa, China, India, Malaysia, and Madagascar. Together, these people were brought, migrated, or colonized Mauritius, where they began to develop a unique culture as each group of people left their stamp on the island. The best places to explore the real Mauritius are not the resort beaches, but in the hidden nooks and crannies where sleepy fishing villages groove to their own beat.
Directly contrasting the white sand beaches and resort areas is Port Louis, which is Mauritius’ bustling capital city. Also, the largest city on the island, Port Louis directly clashes with the laid-back lifestyle that has made Mauritius famous. The city streets are buzzing with life and they are a perfect representation of the country’s cultural diversity. With elements from Africa, Asia, and Europe blending in the streets, Port Louis can’t be missed.
- Culture and Language
- Visa Requirements
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Originally, Mauritius was discovered by the Moors who were Muslim inhabitants living in the Iberian Peninsula. However, the Portuguese often claim the title as discoverers of the island because they included Mauritius on their map in the early 1500s. The Portuguese greatly influenced Mauritius and considered it to be an important part of their trade routes from Africa to South Asia.
By 1598, the Dutch East India Trading Company expanded to Mauritius after a group of eight ships were caught in bad weather and separated. Five of the lost ships sailed to Mauritius and found shelter in a bay. The accidental discovery of Mauritius by the Dutch led them to colonize the island where they began to establish permanent settlements. They also introduced and began planting sugar cane.
Under Dutch rule, slaves were introduced to Mauritius and the natural resources were heavily harvested from the island. However, frequent storms and bad crops led to the Dutch abandoning the island. This paved the way for the French to claim Mauritius and begin their reign over the people.
Not much changed under French rule and eventually, the island was given to Great Britain as a part of the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The British abolished slavery in 1835 and under their rule, the island’s social and economic standing prospered. While the island prospered, Mauritius still wanted to be independent. With hints from Britain that they would grant the island independence and self-rule, people began to campaign for Mauritius to separate from their colonizers.
In 1968, Mauritius became independent with Queen Elizabeth II remaining as the head of state. Since 1992, Mauritius has been a republic with a prime minister at the helm. With a stable government and mostly peaceful elections, the island’s popularity has grown with their reputation as a safe destination, which has paved the way for curious visitors.
Another aspect that makes the country safe is the local people known as Mauritians. With an amazing attitude and look at life, Mauritians are known for their joie de vivre. Happy smiles and warm embraces await you in Mauritius where polite manners go a long way. Visitors can relax and feel comfortable in Mauritius knowing that they are more than welcome and eagerly awaited by the local people.
While the people are welcoming, you may have to communicate with gestures. English is the official language in Mauritius, but most of the local people don’t speak the language. Instead, English is used within the country’s Parliament with some members of the government still speaking French. The majority of the island speaks Mauritian Creole, which is a French-based language.
Unlike most African countries, entry into Mauritius is easy and no tourist visa is required for US travelers. All US citizens will be granted an entry stamp and tourist visa upon arrival, which gives them 60 days to visit and travel within the country. The requirements to be granted entry into Mauritius include having a US passport, evidence of return or onward travel, and proof of sufficient funds.
All US passports must remain valid for the duration of your stay in Mauritius and you will need one blank page to receive your stamp. Travelers should be cautious as most airlines will require that your passport has a remaining validity of at least 6 months.
Customs agents will also ask for a return or onward travel ticket that is dated 60 days or less from your date of entry into Mauritius. Proof of sufficient funds may also be requested. Prohibited items that are not allowed to be brought to Mauritius include drugs, spear fishing equipment, plants or fruits, mace, and guns. There are no currency restrictions for entering or exiting Mauritius.
If you are traveling from a Yellow Fever listed country, you will need to provide proof of a recent vaccine. Travelers will also want to ensure that their immunizations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid are up to date before traveling to Mauritius. If you are traveling with personal medication, you will need to carry the medication in its original packaging and provide a legal prescription.
When it comes to outlining and estimating your spending budget for a trip to Mauritius, most travelers will notice that the prices range from affordable to dramatic. This island nation has become a hotspot because of its beach resort vacations and the increase in popularity has led to a drastic change in prices.
The most expensive times to visit Mauritius will be around the winter holidays and school breaks. This is when most travelers will visit Mauritius, which means that the resorts inflate their prices. Travelers who are looking to stay on a limited budget should look at traveling to Mauritius in the off season. You can also estimate your costs by creating a spending budget outline, which should cover the expenses like your airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Flights to Mauritius are very expensive and the average cost is about $1,300 US dollars for a plane ticket from the United States. A decently priced plane ticket would cost about $800 US dollars, but it can be difficult to find deals to this little island. If you do find a deal, you will want to reserve your seat quickly before the airlines change their price.
Plane tickets will be the most expensive from November to April, which is considered to be summer in Mauritius. The absolutely most expensive times to visit the island are around Christmas and New Year’s, which is when many families will travel to the island for a much-needed vacation.
During the peak tourist season, accommodation prices are also at an all-time high. A budget room in a hotel or hostel in Mauritius will cost about $47 US dollars per night, but don’t be surprised if you have to pay up to $90 US dollars per night. Mid-range accommodation options will charge $120-$240 US dollars per night of your stay. There are also plenty of luxury hotels in Mauritius and their nightly rates start at $250 US dollars per night. The most expensive places to stay on the island will cost $600-$800+ US dollars per night.
While the prices of hotels may seem extravagant, many of the mid-range and luxury options will include half-board with your nightly rate. This means that breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner will be served at no extra charge. A hotel should provide details of whether half-board is included in the price, so you know exactly what your accommodation package includes. Some resorts also offer all-inclusive packages, which would include the cost of your meals with your nightly rate.
For travelers who are on a limited budget or anyone who wants to go out and explore the town, you will need to include the price of food in your spending budget. As an island nation, influenced by the world around it, the cuisine in Mauritius is as diverse as its people. With influences from Asia and Africa, popular dishes in Mauritius include meals made from seafood, meat, chicken, rice, and vegetables.
Bol renversé is one of the most famous dishes on the island, which is translated as “upside down bowl”. The meal consists of a rice bed that has been topped with a stir-fry sauce and strips of chicken. An egg is added as the final touch. With an Asian influence thrown into the mix of dishes, boulettes are Mauritius’ take on dim sum. These small dumplings are stuffed with meat, tofu, or fish and deep fried to perfection. Boulettes are served on their own or sometimes added to stew.
In every major town in Mauritius, you will be able to find briyani, which is one of the island’s favorite dishes. With a mix of basmati rice and flavorful spices, the meal is topped off with an array of beef, chicken, or seafood. Everything is slow cooked, which gives briyani an intense flavor that can’t be beat. India’s influence can’t be ignored, and Mauritians have turned dholl puri and roti into a popular street food. Many vendors will have a variety of fillings, so you can pick and choose your flavors.
Alongside these popular dishes are dozens more that are waiting for you to try. From light snacks to hearty meals, you won’t struggle to find a delicious meal in Mauritius. However, if the price of food is not included with your accommodation as a part of half-board or an all-inclusive package, you will want to be cautious of how much you spend when dining out on the island.
Street food is the most affordable dining option in Mauritius and travelers can purchase meals for about $6 US dollars. Meals in restaurants will be more expensive and in mid-range establishments, you should expect to pay about $30 US dollars. The best restaurants will be expensive, and you will most likely spend up to $60 US dollars for a meal.
The price of your meal will drastically increase if you choose to drink alcohol. On average, alcoholic drinks cost about $7 US dollars, but in some locations, you may be charged up to $12 US dollars for a cocktail. With steep prices, budget travelers will need to be mindful of how much they drink as the cost will quickly add up.
When you add up all the categories of your spending budget, you can get a clear picture of how much a vacation will cost by day in Mauritius. Budget travelers should expect to spend about $100 US dollars per day while traveling around the island. A mid-range budget would be more expensive with the average daily cost hovering around $120-$240 US dollars. A larger budget would allow you to choose a decent hotel and eat out at local restaurants.
Luxury vacations in Mauritius will cost more than $240 US dollars per day. There is not an exact range because you can easily spend $300 US dollars per day or up to $800 US dollars per day. A luxury budget would also allow you to participate in more activities and hire private transportation.
How to Get Around
Mauritius is a small island, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to get around. Limited road infrastructure means that you could spend more than a couple hours traveling to your next destination or hotel. There are two main roads in Mauritius called the M1 and M2. Anything outside of those two highways will only be accessed by unpaved roads.
The roads are the easiest way to get around Mauritius because there are no domestic flights available. The only flights available on the island are by helicopter tours, which cost $500-$1,500 US dollars for an excursion. Most travelers will take a bus, taxi, or hire a private car to get around Mauritius.
For backpackers, the bus is the most affordable transportation option. Short rides will cost about $0.50 US cents. If you are traveling for longer distances or need to bring a large bag the fare will be more expensive. However, most people do not have to pay more than $5 US dollars for a bus ride in Mauritius.
Taxis are another reliable way to get around if you are traveling at night or longer distances. Most taxi rides will cost less than $5 US dollars for short distances, but you may be able to hire a taxi for an all-day long excursion. It is important to negotiate the fare before you get in the taxi. For full-day taxi hires, you should expect to pay $60-$120 US dollars.
Private drivers are also an option, if you don’t want to negotiate with the taxis. Many companies offer private driving services and their rates start at $50 US dollars per day. For large groups of people, you should expect to pay up to $120 US dollars per day.
Top Cities to Visit
While the capital, Port Louis, is considered to be the only city on the island, there are dozens of little towns that visitors can explore on Mauritius’ tropical shores. Aside from Port Louis, here are the best towns to visit in Mauritius.
Resting on the waterfront, Porlwi (as the locals call it) is the picturesque capital of Mauritius. While the city doesn’t evoke the laidback island vibe that most people would imagine of a tropical getaway, it is one of the best places to experience the island’s unique culture. From Le Caudan to the Natural History Museum and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, there is plenty to explore in this busy capital. The high energy levels and bright lights are the perfect introduction to Mauritius before you head out to the island’s more remote areas.
Away from the beaches and tucked into the rainforests is Curepipe. This small city is one of the must-see destinations in Mauritius, which was named after people climbed up the lush hills to escape a malarial plague in the lowlands. Now, the drizzly and foggy climate of Curepipe has become a top destination in Mauritus.
Visitors can explore the nearby rainforests or stay in town to learn more about the local history. The Botanical Garden and Domaine Dex Aubineaux Historical Building are highlights in the area. A recently dormant volcano has also become a hotspot as visitors trek to its crater.
For those who are looking for the white sand beaches, the most well-known resort area in Mauritius is called Grand Baie. The town originally colonized by the Dutch before it grew to become the perfect beach destination. Long gone are the days of a quaint village and in its place are luxury accommodation, eateries, and a casino. Grand Bay Public Beach and La Curvette Beach are the two most popular beaches in the area, which are perfect for relaxing or participating in an aquatic adventure.
Flic en Flac
Another sleepy town turned tourist destination is Flic en Flac. This 5-mile long beach is one of the most visited areas in the country because of the magnificent lagoon and coral reefs. Flic en Flac is the best place for scuba divers and snorkelers who are eager to explore the aquatic wildlife. The town has been expanded and now there are luxury hotels and restaurants waiting to service their guests.
Points of Interest
Other places that you might want to explore in Mauritius may not be tied to a town or city. Out in the jungle or in remote areas on the coast, here are the island’s top points of interest.
Black River Gorges National Park
Ideal for exploring the island’s mountains and waterfalls, the Black River Gorges National Park has become a main attraction in Mauritius. The calm walking paths and information centers provide guests the ideal chance to view the local wildlife and fauna. The park is open every day but is closed for the nighttime.
Le Morne Brabant
Le Morne Brabant is a large monolith that sits at the tip of the southwest end of the island. Made of basalt, the monolith is a popular destination because of the nearby caves and overhangs. A beautiful lagoon sits at the base of La Morne Brabant, where visitors can take a dip after exploring the monolith’s steep slopes.
Chamarel Seven Colored Earth Geopark
Multi-colored dunes await guests at the Chamarel Seven Colored Earth Geopark, which have become the area’s main highlight. The dunes are shifted and carved by the wind or sand, which means that their colors are constantly changing to create new patterns. A visitor center will educate guests about the dunes and give you more information about what makes this geopark special.
Le Pouce is the third highest mountain in Mauritius and it is famous for its jagged and thumb-like shape. While the village of La Laura-Malenga is the closest civilized area to the peak, the mountain can be viewed from Port Louis. The mountain can be hiked, many visitors are eager to reach its summit for an exceptional view of the island and Port Louis, the capital city.
Get Out and Go
Mauritius is a sight to behold and it is no wonder why it has become a popular tourist destination in Africa. As one of the wealthier countries on the continent, Mauritius consistently draws large crowds of tourists like couples and families who are eager to set out on an island adventure. The crystalline water has made Mauritius famous, while the lush fauna only adds to the island’s beauty. With world class resorts, Mauritius is one of Mother Earth’s hidden gems.