Uncover Secret Mauritius (And Avoid These Tourist Traps)
Heading to Mauritius? Before you leave the comfort of your resort, read this. Find out which tourist traps to avoid, which attractions are touristy but worth it and (for the adventurous) how to uncover secret Mauritius.
Mauritius must be one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. No photo can really do it justice. No matter where you find yourself along its 330 km of coastline, you are pretty much guaranteed to see spectacular sunsets over turquoise waters with your toes in the softest white sand.
It is easy to see why honeymooners and families alike choose this Indian Ocean paradise. Most visitors opt for an all-inclusive stay at one of Mauritius’ world-class resorts and you can’t really blame them – they have everything an island getaway fantasy should have:
Stretching out in the shadow of a palm tree with endless views. Check.
Magical sunsets as tiny fishing boats bob in the water. Check.
Pina coladas made by this guy and delivered to your beach real estate. Check.
But what happens when you get tired of SUP-ing around in the middle of the Indian Ocean?
Or cannot stand another mid-afternoon nap on this day bed?
And don’t want to spend another night dancing to island music with these Sega dancers?
First of all, what the hell is wrong with you? Let’s be honest – there isn’t really any reason why you should leave the comfort of your resort. Or is there?
When the mood strikes to be a bit more “cultural“, the friendly resort staff will most likely shuttle you into a taxi for a whirlwind tour to the island’s main tourist attractions.
But beware – they are not all created equal: some are purely tourist traps, while others are touristy but worth it. If you can bear scrolling through all these wanderlust-inspiring photos of Mauritius you will also find our tips to uncover secret Mauritius.
The Tourist Traps
L’Aventure du Sucre (The Sugar Museum)
Price: adult/child Rs 380/190 | Hours: 9am-5pm
You know that moment when you read “one of the best museums in Mauritius” in the Lonely Planet and add it to your itinerary. Well that’s how we ended up at L’Aventure du Sucre.
I should state that we are not museum people and were mostly swayed by the prospect of “videos and interactive displays” and a “sugar and rum tasting” waiting for us on the other side.
As it turns out the interactivity was largely limited to “peep holes” in displays that required you to get real low down to peer through, only to discover a hand-drawn moment in history on the other side. And sugar, it turns out, tastes pretty much the same no matter what color it is. Well we hope that the unmanned sugar bowls were for tasting and not just for show..
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens
Price: adult Rs200, guide per person Rs 50 | Hours: 8.30am-5.30pm
Another deceptively worded Lonely Planet description had us heading to what is commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden (you try to say the real name and let us know how that goes). Apparently “the world’s best botanical garden after London’s Kew Gardens“.
After reaffirming the fact that we are not museum people, we discovered that we are not botanical garden people either. So unless you know what Lonely Planet means with “horticultural espionage” we would suggest giving this a miss.
I would imagine this could be a great place to pack a picnic and just chill out (if you don’t mind being eaten alive by mosquitoes). But then again, you are in Mauritius – why not pack a picnic and chill out ON THE BEACH.
Terres de 7 Couleurs (Chamarel Coloured Earths)
Price: adult/child Rs 200/100 | Hours: 7am-6pm
After missing the turnoff twice and then driving the 3km along bumpy roads to view the “famous” Seven Coloured Earths, we were just happy to find a bathroom and coffee shop at the view point.
The sight itself is rather underwhelming especially after seeing really amazing photos of it on Pinterest. Created by the uneven cooling of molten rock, it seriously just looks like a (albeit pretty) pile of building sand.
Much more interesting (to me at least) were the giant tortoises. I am not 100% convinced they were alive but they made for great photos of “animals after a big night out”.
Touristy BUT Worth It
Port Louis Central Market
Price: Free | Hours: 5.30am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, to 11.30pm Sun
At the heart of the local economy since Victorian times and renovated in 2004, the Central Market retains a lot of character. Filled with hawkers selling everything from fruits and vegetables to spices and clothing – this is a great place to meet locals.
Tip: Head upstairs for a unique angle of the activity below.
Champ de Mars Racecourse
Price: Free admission to the grounds
Nothing says “holiday” like a spot of gambling. So why not head over to the second-oldest racecourse in the world, Champ de Mars Racecourse, for a day at the races.
We were lucky enough to be around for the Maiden Cup in September (the biggest race of the year) but you can catch races on most Saturdays and Sundays from April to November (for details check here).
Price: Free | Hours: Best for sunset
Located on the South West tip of Mauritius is Maconde Point. While most tourists seem to drop in for a quick selfie before shooting off to their buffet dinner, we stuck around and managed to see one of the best sunsets on our whole trip.
Besides being a great spot to see giant turtles (we didn’t see any), it is also a great spot to do some long exposure night photography (though I would recommend bringing some insect repellant to fight off the army of mosquitos).
Uncover Secret Mauritius
Spend a Day in Port Louis
There is no better way to get acquainted with both Mauritian history or its presently thriving economy than spending a day in Port Louis. Tours of Port Louis will usually include stops at the Central Market, the Natural History Museum and the Blue Penny Museum.
If, like us, you are not museum people, then we would definitely recommend spending a day in Port Louis exploring the city on foot.
Within walking distance of the Central Market and located between two “friendship gates” on Royal Street is Port Louis’ Chinatown. It is perfect for street photography. Capture street scenes on busy streets as locals go about their business with textured and colorful old buildings as the backdrop.
And when you get hungry? Head down to Canton Restaurant. It doesn’t look like much but serves up delicious Chinese food for a steal.
For the brave – there are loads of street food options.
And for the not-so-brave – there are plenty of great food options at the Port Louis Waterfront. We had some amazing Indian food at Tandoori Express.
Signal Mountain Road
Definitely more of a local attraction than a tourist spot, Signal Mountain Road is a relatively steep tarred road that curves up Le Pouce for amazing views of Port Louis’ city center, waterfront and harbor.
The walk itself definitely gets the heart going but you are on holiday, so there is no need to rush. It is 3km with a rise of 323 meters. We took about 40 minutes to the top but there are exercise stations along the way if you feel like turning this into a more complete workout.
While most walkers and joggers seemed to wrap things up before sunset, we stuck around and managed to snap some night time shots over the city.
Take a Hike
Looking for a way to burn off some of those buffet calories? A hike is great way to get away from the beach for a day and see the island from a brand new perspective.
Though guided tours are offered, most of the hikes are well signposted and not too difficult – so we would recommend going at it alone. Pack some snacks and remember to bring plenty of water and insect repellant.
Hike Le Pouce
Price: Free | Hours: N/A
Our very kind Airbnb host, Devina, offered to accompany us on a hike up Le Pouce – Mauritius’ third highest mountain, peaking at 812m. The mountain is named “Le Pouce” (French: “The Thumb”) because of its thumb-shaped peak.
The hike itself is not too difficult and you could comfortably reach the summit in 1 hour. You should beware though that it can be quite slippery on the way down (especially after rain). The only real scrambling occurs right at the end of the hike, as you are about to ascend the peak.
For detailed information about getting there (and not getting lost on the mountain) check out Fitsy.com
Hike Black River Gorges
Price: Free | Hours: Western entrance 7am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat & Sun, Eastern entrance roughly 8am-3.15pm Mon-Fri
Located in the hilly south-western part of Mauritius lies the 67.54 km² of Black River Gorges National Park. It offers over 60km of hiking trails. Though the signposts seemed a bit cryptic at times, the paths were well-maintained and the route not too difficult.
Head to the Macchabée Viewpoint – where a few paths cross. This a great place to plan a little lunch break – sit under the gazebo to escape the sun while enjoying the view of Mauritius below.
A Taste of Local Industry
Instead of reading about Mauritian history and industry in museums, why not head out and experience it for yourself. Unlike the Sugar Museum’s double-dipped sugar bowls, these experiences give you a real taste of Mauritius.
La Route du sel
Price: Free | Hours: Currently closed (see below)
Driving along the main road past Tamarin (located in the West), you will come across the Tamarin Salt Pans known as La Route du sel. Built in the 18th century to process salt, these glistening pans appear quite magical in the early morning light.
UPDATE: Since visiting Mauritius in September 2015 it appears that La Route du sel has been closed down. It is right next to the main road though – so definitely worth driving by to see if they have reopened.
Bois Chéri Tea Plantation
Price: without/with restaurant set menu Rs 400/700 | Hours: 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, restaurant 10.30am-3.30pm
I have four words for you: “Unlimited tea and biscuits“. I literally have never had that much tea in one sitting, but seriously did not want to leave. With a view of a small dam and surrounded by tea and sugar cane plantations, Bois Chéri Tea Plantation is definitely worth a visit.
Join an hour-long tour of the tea processing facility which still functions today, enjoy sampling some interesting flavored teas or stick around for lunch made with locally sourced produce.
Not to be missed
Even if your holiday to Mauritius is purely cocktail-related we would highly recommend making a point of heading out of the resort. Rent a car and drive around for the day – that is really the only way to uncover secret Mauritius.
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