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
… But, Really, It’s Hot Right Now
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
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
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
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
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.