Mauritius is the Coolest Island Destination You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Most Americans would be forgiven for having no idea where Mauritius is. It’s small, halfway around the world, and flies blissfully under the radar of every CNN news cycle. However, the tropical island nation just east of Madagascar is a bit like Africa’s version of Hawaii. It’s a place of stunning beaches, (almost) perfect year-round weather, and a vibrant melting pot of culture and cuisine. Here are seven reasons why it should on your travel bucket list for 2018.

It’s Hot Right Now

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Sofitel So Mauritius/Flickr

We’re not talking about the weather. Mauritius earned a coveted spot on all the right “must-travel-to-in-2018” lists worth reading because everyone — including Lonely Planet — is or will be talking about it this year. This is due in large part to the island flying so neatly under the radar for most travelers, so it still feels well off-the-beaten-path, particularly for Americans. There are few chain restaurants or shops on the island; the culture remains largely as authentic as it’s been for the last few decades; and, once you’ve made it there, a vacation is surprisingly affordable.

… But, Really, It’s Hot Right Now

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Natesh Ramasamy/Flickr

In fact, it’s always hot or, at the very least, quite warm. Aside from the island’s brief though predictable cyclone season, the weather is just beautiful throughout the year. October is the best time to go for a long list of reasons, including: cyclones are rare; temperatures are still high, but not too high; the water is crystal clear for the best diving and snorkeling; and hotel rooms are more plentiful and affordable thanks to the shoulder season.

The Sand, Sun, and Surf is Second to None

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Sofitel So Mauritius/Flickr

Of the island, Mark Twain once said, “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius.” The beaches of Mauritius rival — and in some cases, best — even the most famous beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean. For no-frills relaxation, head to the west or northwest where locals and tourists agree that the impossibly turquoise waters of Pereybere and Flic en Flac never disappoint. For more active pursuits, look to the powder-white beaches of Belle Mare on the island’s windier east side where sea kayaking, surfing, kitesurfing, and sport fishing are all on offer.

Get Lost in the Southern Jungle

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Sofitel So Mauritius/Flickr

The island’s wealth of beach-centric opportunities is no surprise. However, Mauritius’ rugged interior offers plenty of beautiful and challenging land-based activities as well. Head to the lush and less-developed southern reaches where the resorts and tourist influence have yet to venture. Black River Gorges National Park is the island’s biggest and undoubtedly best. The park’s ecosystem is critical to the survival of endemic flora and fauna including macaque monkeys, wild boar, 300 flowering plant species, and unique tropical birds like the echo parakeet and pink pigeon. If you can peel yourself away from the eye-popping beaches for just one inland journey, head here.

It’s Never Been Easier to Get There

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Ashwin CM/Flickr

It may seem daunting to travel halfway around the world for any destination. However, new routes from KLM and Air France make it easier than ever to get to Mauritius. The island is reachable is less than 24 hours (including connections) from many major U.S. cities through Amsterdam and Paris. Plus, Americans don’t need a travel visa for stays of less than 90 days, so a visit requires no more paperwork than traveling to, say, Jamaica.

Eat Your Way Around the Eastern Hemisphere

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L’atelier de Kristel/Flickr

In the last few hundred years, Mauritius has fallen under the rule of the Arabs, the British, the French, and the Dutch. It was once known as the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean” for its prime position along colonial trade routes. Add to that several hundred years of immigration (some voluntary, some not) from Asia, India, and the African continent, and the result is an island with more cultural and culinary influences than any destination you’ll find in the Western Hemisphere. It’s heaven for foodies — a place to eat your way around the Eastern Hemisphere. You’ll find fantastic curries, coq au vin, chutney, and rougaille (a popular tomato paste usually served over fish). A single Mauritian dish can deftly blend Indian, Chinese, French, Creole, African, and other cuisines in a way that just works.

Celebrate 50 Years of Independence in 2018

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Judith/Flickr

March 12, 2018, marks 50 years since Mauritius bid adieu to Britain. While that single day is likely to be a nonstop party, the island will be celebrating all year with festivals, events, concerts, and plenty of amazing food and Phoenix lager. The nation has also partnered with the BBC to debut two documentary films this year about its independence and to underscore what makes it such an amazing vacation destination.