Mauritius was made for romantic holidays thanks to its sensational white sands, honeymoon-worthy hotels and divine sunsets. For couples looking to go beyond the paradise beach to experience culture, authenticity and adventure, the Indian Ocean island offers a wealth of activities and places to visit for a romantic getaway with a difference.
We visited Mauritius with long-haul holiday specialist Southall Travel for a true taste of the island's delights while lapping up the luxury and serenity at its most iconic hotel, Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, and discovered that you really can have it all on this far-flung island.
Romantic couples looking to travel in the utmost comfort will adore flying with Turkish Airlines from London to Mauritius via Istanbul in the fantastic business class cabin, where you can experience delicious Turkish and international cuisine served by a 'flying chef', massage chairs and an array of movies and in-flight entertainment. During your stop in Istanbul, a visit to the amazing airport lounge is a must to sip on another glass of bubbly before you rest up on the second, longer leg of your journey to arrive in Mauritius without the jet.
A five-star beauty on the east coast of the island, Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa offers all the privacy and exclusivity every couple seeks on a dream holiday. The highlight of this chic resort is its own pristine island, Ilot Mangénie, which is only open to guests and complete with butlers (they'll even polish your sunglasses and spray your face with a refreshing mist on arrival), a trendy beach club and the most gorgeous turquoise waters and coral sands for an unforgettable day of relaxation and tranquillity. Back at the hotel, the sophisticated decor is inspired by the natural island setting, while the toes-in-sand rooms and suites are contemporary, stylish and fit for VIPs. Book the Junior Suite Frangipani Beach Access for its sprawling bathroom and preferential privileges, such as sunset cocktails and a complimentary mini-bar. The restaurants take you on a culinary tour of the island, with dim sum, noodles and seafood served in Le Bazar, while refined Indian and Mauritian dining can be experienced in elegant Safran. Don't miss the diverse selection of Mauritian rums and live music at the beautiful Sega bar.
Get your hike on
Exploring the natural scenery of the island is one of the first things you should do and the best place to start is the Black River National Park, where you can discover a lush, unspoilt setting teeming with exotic birds, plants and trees. On a romantic hike 200 metres up to the Plateau Remousse viewpoint, you'll witness the sheer beauty and verdant landscapes Mauritius has to offer as you reach the top and take in the far-reaching views, while keeping an eye out for the Mauritian flying fox and the island's nine endemic birds, which include the kestrel and fody.
Sample the exciting street food
With its Indian, Chinese, African and Arabic communities, the food in Mauritius is as diverse as its people and the best way to experience it like the locals is by hitting the streets of the capital city Port Louis to try the tropical fruits topped with chilli salt or pickled in tamarind as confit, dhal puri and ghajak served from glass boxes on the backs of motorbikes or at food stalls. Most street food specialities can be found in and around the bustling Central Market, where you can browse the array of fruit and vegetables on display, from lychees to cho-cho. Here, you'll also find alouda sellers persuading thirsty passers-by to stop for the sweet, milky drink, along with freshly-pressed sugar cane, pineapple and watermelon juice on offer. Once you've tried the culinary delights, be sure to stop at Fort Adelaide before leaving the city. Built by the British, the fortress offers superb views of the capital and the harbour - it's a terrific spot to watch the sunset together.
Explore the natural wonders
Nothing takes you further away from bustling Port Louis than the breathtaking sight of the crashing flow of water at Mauritius' best waterfall, located in the southwest of the island. Watching from the viewpoint, you can take in the magnificent 95-metre Chamarel Waterfall surrounded by the dramatic Black River Gorge. Thrill-seekers can get up close to the tumbling water by abseiling down into the pool below for a romantic adventure you'll never forget. The village of Chamarel is also home to the Seven Coloured Earths, a unique geological phenomenon featuring seven colours of earth swirling in surreal dunes.
Take a walk through a tropical paradise
For a mesmerising day out that you'll never forget, head for one of Mauritius' most splendid attractions, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, founded over 300 years ago by French botanist Pierre Poivre. From the moment you walk through the majestic wrought-iron gates which were inspired by the railings at Buckingham Palace, you'll be blown away by the incredible plant, spice and tree species at the 37-hectare site. The 225-year-old baobab, the twisted baobab amoureux (baobab in love) and the king, bottle and talipot palms are truly impressive. One of the most picturesque sites in the garden is the 90-metre giant water lily pond and those in search of fauna can meet the giant tortoises. Once you've explored the exotic wonders, enjoy a delightful lunch in the town of Pamplemousse at the lovely Chez Tante Athalie, with its vintage cars from colonial times displayed for diners. The 19th-century farmhouse serves traditional Creole cuisine in a beautiful rural setting.
Head north for beach bliss
When it comes to experiencing some of the clearest waters and powder-white sands loved by locals and tourists, you should hit the beach at Trou aux Biches for a fantastic day of sunbathing, stand-up paddle boarding or snorkelling in the shallow sea. Considered by many as the best beach on the island, Trou aux Biches has the swaying palm trees, picture postcard views and glorious sunsets you expect in Mauritius. Further north, the fishing village of Cap Malheureux offers culture and history, being the place where the British defeated the French in 1810 and took over the island. The pretty red-roofed church and view of the island of Coin de Mire make it the perfect spot for a romantic picnic.
Book it: Jet off on a seven-night holiday with Southall Travel staying at Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort and Spa from just £1,289 per person, including return economy flights (£2,485 for business class) with Turkish Airlines from London Gatwick Airport and seven nights' accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis. Visit southalltravel.co.uk or call on 0208 705 0086.
Best beach holiday destinations for 2018
Best beach holiday destinations for 2018
If you're planning to head to the beach for your 2018 holiday, you'll want to know the best places to go for sun, sea and sand. We've picked the top beach destinations to visit in 2018, from the ones with the hottest new flight routes to the locations with the most exciting hotel openings.
Whether you're looking to stay in the UK, fly to the Med or travel to somewhere more exotic, you'll want to browse our 2018 beach holiday hit list...
One of the world's most desirable holiday destinations will be more accessible to British travellers when British Airways launches the only direct flights from the UK to the Seychelles in March 2018. Popular among honeymooners and luxury sun-seekers, the Seychelles offer some of the best beaches on the planet, lush mountain peaks and colourful coral reefs to explore. Book it: British Airways' twice-weekly flights from Heathrow to Mahé start from £699 return.
Aqaba, Jordan's resort city by the Red Sea, is undergoing a major tourism development, which will be completed in early 2018. Visitors will be able to experience a number of beach clubs, a new-look marina and dive a Hercules bomber sunk in late 2017, plus visit a new shopping mall and many restaurants. Five-star hotel Al Manara Saraya Aqaba – part of Starwood's Luxury Collection – and four-star Marina Plaza Hotel by Swiss-Belhotel are set to open before the end of 2018 and Hyatt is planning to open a hotel too. Book it: BA Holidays offers four-night holidays at five-star hotels from £681 per person, including flights and transfers.
A slightly poorer cousin of the glitzy Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Corfu is set to receive a luxurious makeover in 2018 when two new glamorous hotels open. The first, Ikos Dassia, will open in May and offer dazzling views across the turquoise sea, sophisticated dining and elegant suites. New adults-only hotel MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas opens its doors in May, bringing upscale romance, private villas and exceptional dining to the south-east corner of Corfu. Comedy series The Durrells will also return to screens for a third series, making the Mediterranean isle one of the hottest TV locations for a holiday in 2018. Book it: Sovereign offers seven-night all-inclusive holidays to Corfu, staying at the five-star Ikos Dassia, from £1,070 per person, including flights, transfers and airport lounge access.
The wind of change blows on the so-called 'Nature Island' of the Caribbean and visiting 'alternative' Dominica sooner rather than later will offer a more authentic beach experience. The first large-scale chain hotels, Cabrits Resort Kempinski and Tranquility Beach Resort Dominica (part of the Curio Collection by Hilton), are scheduled to debut in 2018, with construction starting on a third luxury development, the Silver Beach Resort & Spa. 2018 will also see the arrival of the first phase of the 'new' Jungle Bay Resort, destroyed by tropical storm Erika. It will relocate to a new site that will allow it to more than quadruple in size and go more upmarket. Book it: World Expeditions offers a 12-day Trek the Waitukubuli National Trail holiday from £2,490 per person.
Summer 2018 will see holidaymakers lust over Vis, when the remote and sleepy Croatian island takes a starring role as Greece in new Mamma Mia sequel, Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again. The original cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Colin Firth, will reunite to continue their story. Vis is reached by catamaran from Split in under 90 minutes and offers a small island community feel, pretty fishing villages, coastal caves and smooth pebble beaches. Book it: Prestige Holidays offers seven-night escapes to the island, staying at the ten-room Hotel San Giorgio, with flights, ferry and transfers included, from £769 per person.
The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018, when the LifeCycles and Landscapes project will place large-scale outdoor artistic and heritage works on sites along the ancient 400-mile Icknield Way from Dorset to the Norfolk Coast AONB, culminating with events at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival (11 to 27 May). 2018 will also see the third tranche of coastal access in Norfolk being opened within the Norfolk Coast AONB, from Weybourne to Hunstanton, making most of Norfolk’s coast accessible on foot. Book it: The Globe Inn at Wells-Next-the-Sea is a seven-room boutique hotel with rooms starting from £120 per night.
Known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, Barbados promises authentic flavour and spice. 2018 will celebrate the culinary finesse of the island, with a great focus on quirky and wonderful food experiences like no other as new direct flight routes from Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook, plus new hotels, launch. Socialise with the locals on a Friday night or fish your own lobster and cook it up on a BBQ on the beach that evening. Visitors to Barbados can enjoy the best of Caribbean cuisine and rum, Bajan culture and festivals, along with dramatic stretches of crystal clear waters that frame coastlines of pristine sand. Book it: Virgin Atlantic's new service from London to Barbados launches in December 2017 and operates until April 2018, with fares from £1,213 per return.
The largest of the Canary Islands and a classic winter sun destination for UK travellers, Tenerife will become even more accessible in 2018 when British Airways launches its first direct route from Heathrow for winter 2017/18. The island will also host the launch of the respected Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal in November and for families visiting Tenerife, animal paradise Loro Parque was recently awarded the best zoological park in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travellers’ Choice Awards. Book it: British Airways' new flights from Heathrow to Tenerife start at £98 return.
Australia’s playground for entertainment and adventure steps into the international spotlight for 2018 as teh Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games. One of the host city's most exciting projects for the occasion is the Gold Coast Cultural precinct, catering for festivals, cinemas, concerts and events. Providing revellers a backdrop of surf, sand and sun, the Gold Coast is an up-and-coming hotspot for travellers with quirky bars and stylish restaurants popping up along the coastline. Book it: Austravel offers ten-night holidays to Queensland from £1,589 per person, including four-star accommodation, car hire and flights.
2018 marks 50 years since Mauritius proclaimed independence from the UK. The island's celebrations are set to include ceremonies, live music and performances on the national day, 12th March. As part of wider celebrations throughout the year, you can explore all four corners of the island - from the bustling and vibrant city of Port Louis in the north to the Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths and beautiful site of Le Morne Brabant in the south. The cultural and historical sites will really come to life during these celebrations and visitors will be able to see what a melting pot of cultures Mauritius really is. Book it: Hayes & Jarvis offers seven-night holidays to Mauritius from £1,318 per person, staying at the LUX* Belle Mare with airport transfers and return flights.