When it comes to tropical Indian Ocean paradises, you probably can’t get much better than the Maldives or Mauritius. However due to their remote nature, visiting either is costly and the airplane journey long. So making the right choice between the Maldives or Mauritius for your dream getaway is vitally important.
However other than their remoteness and stunning beaches, these islands are vastly different. Having spent time in both, we compare Maldives vs Mauritius below, showing you what to expect in each, and some of the best places to check out.
Maldives vs Mauritius: Stunning Indian Ocean paradises
For beach lovers, you will find spectacular beaches and turquoise swimming waters in both the Maldives and Mauritius – we tell you some of our favorites further on in this article. Although the Maldives – made up of over 1000 different islands and cays – has the better beaches of the two.
However many islands in the Maldives are privately owned by a resort complex, and so activities on the island revolve around the resort and what it offers. That also means that many of the beaches in the Maldives are not public.
That’s not the case in Mauritius where all beaches are public. So you have the right to sunbathe and swim on them all. Mauritius therefore tends to give you a more local experience where you can explore the country, go for picnics on the beach, and interact within the community.
There are also many accommodation options in Mauritius – from guest houses through to five-star hotels. That makes it a far more affordable destination than the Maldives, which is focused on high-end resorts. Although as it specializes in this, the resorts tend to be exceptionally well run with great service.
Mauritius, as a volcanic lush green island, also has many different excursion possibilities. Be that swimming in waterfalls, hiking up mountains, or going monkey spotting in jungles. In contrast, the Maldives is very much a beach-focused holiday, although it also has some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving spots, so expect a lot of underwater fun in the Maldives too.
Below we look at some of the sights you must see in both countries, before comparing the culture in this battle between Maldives vs Mauritius. Spoiler alert – they’re very different!
Ever seen pictures of crystal clear turquoise water, with those stunning wooden hotel huts sitting over it? That’s what you should expect throughout the Maldives, a country that specializes in up-scale resorts and honeymoon vacations.
Some of the world’s best beaches happen to be in this nation too. One of our favorites is the powder white coastline at Lhaviyani Atoll where the palm tree lined beaches look like a computer screensaver. We’ve found that the west side of the atoll has wider beaches and softer sand, so is perfect for a day’s sunbathing.
As many of the islands are privately owned by resorts, you may be limited as to where you can go on each island in the Maldives. That’s not an issue in Mauritius though.
However what this means is that if you’re staying at a Maldives resort you are pretty much guaranteed to have a spectacular beach, and a coral reef for snorkeling, right beside your room. When it comes to high-end beach vacations, this country really does excel.
It also excels when it comes to snorkeling, with a spectacular colorful underwater life that can be seen easily thanks to the gin-clear water. However most snorkeling is done with a resort, due to the privately owned nature of many islands in the Maldives.
One of the best snorkeling spots is Manta Point, which is home to Manta Rays! Also known as Emas Thila, this is probably one of the best places in the world to swim alongside these gentle giants, just make sure you take a great underwater camera with you – like this one.
For a burst of color, Banana Reef is another great spot to snorkel and dive. Here you’ll see rays, sharks, and many different types of reef fish including Royal Blue Tangs. You might not have heard that name before, but you will recognize the fish if you’ve seen ‘Finding Nemo’ – ‘Dory’ was a Blue Tang!
Mauritius is home to many spectacular beaches, all with their own quirks. However with a local population of 1.4 million, the most popular beaches tend to be busy – particularly at the weekend.
You can find a huge stretch of beach at Flic en Flac, which is perfect for dipping your toes in the water as you walk the coastline. With bars and food stalls lining the beach, this is a fun and lively place to visit, especially at the weekend. Unlike the Maldives – where drinking alcohol on public beaches is banned – you can drink a beer on any beach in Mauritius.
One of the best swimming beaches can be found at Pereybere. The fine white sand here continues into the sea for dozens of meters, making it the perfect place to swim without fear of stepping on rocks or sharp coral. Grab a coconut from one of the friendly sellers at the beach edge, and settle down for the day. However this is probably the most popular swimming beach in Mauritius – and is one of the smallest too – so it can get very busy.
Just off the west coast is the beautiful little Ile aux Cerf. This private island can be reached by boat from the little fishing village of Trou d’Eau Deuce, and is also a great swimming spot that is quieter than popular and easy to reach Pereybere.
Mauritius also happens to have some of the best snorkeling spots in the Indian Ocean. Ile aux Cerf is a fantastic snorkeling spot, as is Blue Bay in the south of Mauritius where you can see countless colorful fish living among the coral. Locals often bring bread to feed the fish when snorkeling – try it out and you will be surrounded by fish within minutes!
This island is far more than just sun, sea, and sand though. The dramatic Le Morne mountain is a national heritage site and climbing it will bring spectacular panoramic views of the island and ocean.
Black River Gorges National Park is a huge expense of jungle-covered interior with spectacular waterfalls, hiking trails, and friendly monkeys. The village of Chamarel is nestled beside it at high altitude, and the drive from here down towards Black River will expose you to some of the island’s best views.
Maldives vs Mauritius: Experience paradise and island life
As the Maldives is more focused on resort-based holidays, interaction with the local community and culture tends to be limited. That’s unless you make a trip away from the private island resorts, and into the population centers.
Hotels and guest houses in Mauritius are far more integrated into the community, so a Mauritius vacation will have more of a ‘local’ feel than one in the Maldives. That also opens up opportunities for excursions away from the hotel, as well as the opportunity to try street food – which is very cheap!
The infrastructure in Mauritius is also well developed, however buses can be slow between cities and areas. Although within cities and towns they are effective and cheap, as we’ve written about before.
In both countries, English is widely spoken and understood. In Mauritius much of the population speaks English and French.
As a majority Muslim country, the Maldives is a conservative nation, although within resort complexes you are free to act as you would in any liberal Western country. However if you plan to make any excursions into population centers – like the capital Malé or public beaches – then be sure to dress conservatively, and avoid things such as alcohol.
The culture in the Maldives is vibrant, interesting, and definitely worth discovering though.
Bodu Beru is a traditional rhythmic dance performed by upwards of 15-20 people, and was introduced to the Maldives around 1000 years ago. It’s been a tradition here ever since, and many resorts have cultural nights where dancers perform.
If venturing into Malé, a visit to the Maldives National Museum is a must. Not only does it give an insight into the history of this nation, but it also has a great collection of historical artifacts from the region, some several centuries old.
Mauritius is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country which makes it a unique and interesting country to explore. It’s a country where people enjoy themselves and live for picnics at the seaside!
There’s a strong Indian influence here due to many Mauritians being descendants of indentured Indian workers brought here by the British in the 19th century. Indentured work was a form of forced work which was increasingly used after the abolition of slavery in the colonies.
Over half a million indentured workers passed through Mauritius’ capital of Port Louis, and the immigration depot where they were brought, Aapravasi Ghat, now serves as a museum and is worth visiting.
The UNESCO World Heritage site, Le Morne, should also be visited to understand Mauritius’ turbulent history. The mountain was used as hiding place for slaves that managed to escape.
Out of that history came Sega – the rhythmic dance and music that’s heard on beaches up and down the island. It originated as the songs and dances of slaves, and is heritage as much as it is a form of dance. You can often see people enjoying Sega at the weekend on popular beaches such as Flic-en-Flac.
For something a little different, head to the Botanical Gardens in Pamplemousses to walk in the shade among an incredible variety of colorful plants and exotic trees.
Mauritius also has a significant Chinese population, and subsequently the capital – Port Louis – has its own China Town. Situated in the city center, look out for the colorful murals and numerous Chinese restaurants to try out.
Maldives vs Mauritius: A taste of the tropics
Both island nations have delicious seafood, and have been influenced strongly by Indian cuisine.
Considering the first settlers to the Maldives came from India and Sri Lanka, it’s no surprise that the food here has an Indian twist.
Curry is therefore one of the most popular dishes. We recommend trying Mas Riha. Made with freshly caught tuna, coconut, and a good number of chilies, this is a truly unique and delicious Maldivian dish.
Seafood is also popular and traditional dishes include Garudhiya (a type of fish soup) and Kulhi boakiba, which is a fish cake made from smoked tuna, coconut, ginger and rice.
As for what to drink, resorts in the Maldives have countless number of cocktails to try. However the coconut water in the Maldives is delicious and refreshing – especially when drunk direct with a straw.
The Indian influence shines through in Mauritius where popular street food includes dholl puri, which is a wrap made from yellow split peas garnished with different curries or lentils.
Another popular street food worth trying – and a personal favorite of ours – is boulette. This is a dumpling usually filled with either chicken, lamb, fish, or Chayote (chouchou in Mauritius), served hot with soup and chili. It’s delicious.
Fried noodles, and fried rice are also popular here – a hat tip to the Chinese population in Mauritius.
To wash it all down, try the local beer of Mauritius, Phoenix. Of course rum is also very popular. Many different kinds are made on the island, but La Rhumerie de Chamarel has some of the best – they also do tours and tastings.
Maldives vs Mauritius: Which should you choose?
Both Maldives and Mauritius will provide an unforgettable experience, but also very different holidays.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort holiday where you’re guaranteed great beaches and world-class snorkeling, then the Maldives may suit you better. Resorts are what this country excels in, however the prices are expensive, and excursions can be limited.
Mauritius, on the other hand, will provide a vacation with great beaches and swimming waters, but also other excursion possibilities. Tourists and locals intermingle throughout the island, so a Mauritian holiday will be more of a cultural and local experience than one in the Maldives. Accommodation and food options in Mauritius are far cheaper than the Maldives too.
Recommended for your trip to Maldives or Mauritius
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