When it comes to tropical Indian Ocean vacations, you probably can’t get much better or remote than Mauritius or Reunion. However other than their location, these islands are very different.
Having spent time in both, we compare Mauritius vs Reunion below, showing you why they are different and what to expect in each.
Mauritius vs Reunion: Stunning Indian Ocean paradises
While both Mauritius and Reunion will provide you with an unforgettable vacation, they are geared towards very different types of holidaymakers.
For those seeking sun, sand, and swimming, Mauritius is by far the best choice. The island has gorgeous stretches of soft white sand and the calm water is perfect for swimming. While there are cheap accommodation options, the coastline is also dotted with upscale resorts that cater to high-end tourists and honeymooners.
Reunion’s coastline, on the other hand, is much more rocky, there’s far fewer beaches, and the water is less tempting for swimming. The island has also become known as a shark attack hot spot in recent years.
However for tourists looking for an adventure, rather than a beach holiday, Reunion is the best choice. While Mauritius does have mountains and hiking opportunities, this is where Reunion excels. This island has a stunning wild interior with sensational hiking trails, peaks to climb, waterfalls to swim in, and more. In fact Reunion’s highest peak is over 3x the height of Mauritius’ tallest mountain!
In essence, Reunion is an island for wild camping, hiking, canyoning, paragliding – i.e. adventure and excitement. Mauritius is an island for sunbathing, swimming, boat trips, and snorkeling – i.e. relaxing.
With a smaller population than Mauritius, and less tourists per year, the popular tourist hot spots in Reunion don’t get as busy as the popular spots in Mauritius too.
Below we show you some of the highlights each island has to offer tourists, before comparing the culture and food in both.
Mauritius is home to dozens of spectacular beaches, all with their own quirks. 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.
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! A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
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.
If you’re a walking or hiking enthusiast, this may be one of the best islands in the world for you. The hiking possibilities here are truly breathtaking, and with over 1000km of marked trails, you aren’t short of options either.
One of our favorites is at Dos d’Ane to Cap Noi. This short 3km trail isn’t an easy hike, but it brings you to one of the best viewpoints on Reunion, looking out across the jagged peaks that are situated in this region.
If you’ve traveled all the way to Reunion, you might as well tackle its highest peak – Piton des Neiges. This 3069m volcano is usually done in two days, so take your tent! The views are worth it though.
In fact Reunion’s geography is so unique, the small hamlet of La Nouvelle can only be reached by walking. The settlement has supplies sent in by helicopter, which means you can hike there, refuel, and hike back! You can find the route here.
After a tough day’s walking, the beach beckons. Reunion may not be a beach holiday destination, but it still has some decent stretches of coastline. One of the best beaches is at Boucan Canot where you can spend a day sunbathing on the golden sand. It’s also one of the best shore-accessible snorkeling spots in Reunion.
How about swimming in waterfalls? As can be expected from such a mountainous region, Reunion has stunning waterfalls scattered up and down the island. One of our favorites is Cascades de Saint Gilles – a group of three breathtaking waterfalls. Cascade des Aigrettes is the best for swimming in. If you go during the weekday mornings, it shouldn’t be busy either.
Mauritius vs Reunion: Experience paradise and island life
Both Mauritius and Reunion offer that laid back island life holidaymakers are seeking, and that’s famous in the Indian Ocean.
French is widely spoken in each, but the bilingual nature of most Mauritians (English/French) makes Mauritius easier to navigate for non-French speakers.
In Reunion, less English is spoken, and the culture feels very French. In fact Reunion certainly feels far less ‘touristy’ than Mauritius, and as such, when it comes to upscale hotels and service, expect better hotel standards in Mauritius.
Reunion – as a department of France – is also a more expensive island compared to Mauritius, which has a large local population on relatively small wages.
Mauritius is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country which makes it a unique and interesting nation to explore.
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.
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 of 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.
Multi-cultural Reunion is heavily French influenced, as you’d expect from an overseas department of France. It’s also a multi-religious society, so like Mauritius, expect to see churches, temples and mosques scattered around the island.
If you want to find out how this previously uninhabited island in the middle of the Indian Ocean became one of France’s most distant regions, a trip to the Musée de Villèle is a must.
Another museum worth visiting is the Musee des Musiques et Instruments de L’ocean Indien. Their collection of musical instruments from throughout the Indian Ocean is fascinating. However even better, is that this museum is located in one of Reunion’s most picturesque mountain villages, Hell-Bourg.
For something a bit more contemporary, head to Saint-Paul on a Friday or Saturday morning to visit the famous market. With hundreds of stalls selling street food, vegetables and fruits, crafts, art and more, it’s a great place to while away a morning.
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, the nightlife in Reunion tends to be quite decent. Saint-Denis and Saint-Pierre are the two best cities for drinking, dancing, and having fun.
Mauritius vs Reunion: A taste of the tropics
Both island nations have delicious seafood, and with a mixed population have a variety of different types of food on offer.
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.
Reunion, like Mauritius, has a sizable section of the population that is descended from India. Subsequently Indian food is common here. Try rougail sausage – a curry dish made with smoked sausages. Another Reunion specialty is cabri massalé, which is a spicy goat curry.
In terms of seafood, tuna and swordfish are both popular, and can be found in restaurants up and down the island.
As for what to drink, the beer enjoyed most by locals is Bourbon – although it’s known on the island as Dodo due to its branding.
Mauritius vs Reunion: Which should you choose?
Both of these islands will provide a fun and memorable vacation for holidaymakers. However if beaches are the most important thing to you, then Mauritius will suit you better. It’s home to some fantastic stretches of coastline, and calm turquoise swimming waters.
While Mauritius has some great excursions away from the beach, if sunbathing isn’t a priority and you are looking for a holiday that involves serious hiking, unbelievable mountain scenery, and a real sense of adventure, then Reunion should be your choice. This Indian Ocean island feels remote, looks spectacular, and is one-of-a-kind in the region.
Recommended for your trip to Mauritius or Reunion
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