Read our pocket guide to Mauritius
Mauritius: A pocket guide
Once the haunt of pirates, the island of Mauritius is now visited by some 100,000 British tourists per year, lured by 330 kilometers of coastline, azure waters, and colorful coral reefs—the attributes that led Mark Twain to comment after his 1896 visit (he was apparently paraphrasing an islander) that God built Mauritius and then used it as a model for Heaven. Human beings have embellished the model with world-class golf courses, luxury spas, and five-star holiday rentals.
The mountains of Mauritius are laced with hiking trails, and the countryside is sprinkled with Hindu temples, sugar factories, tea plantations, and local markets. One popular day trip is the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens, in the northern part of the island near Pamplemousses, where you can wander winding paths in search of tortoise, stags, and pre-Raphaelite lily ponds. Another is Grand Baie, the most developed area of the island, where art galleries and boutiques are concentrated. In the wilder south are quad biking and nature trails to explore; the pounding surf and exhilarating activities attract a youthful crowd in search of fun. Families tend to favor the west coast, where the white-sand beaches line much calmer waters. Mauritius is just 20 degrees south of the equator and has a comfortable climate year-round; May through September are warmer and a lot less humid than other months, with a 50 percent reduction in mosquitoes. The island has fine British and French colonial architecture, and there are beautiful private mansions available for rent.