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Mauritius: best beaches, when and where to go

Sonya Schoeman and Kristina Stojiljkovic
26 May 2016

Mauritius is one of the most relaxing and restorative destinations in the world. Here's where (and when) to reap the benefits of the island's healing powers

This article was originally published online in June 2013 and updated on 26 May 2016

NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST: WHICH SIDE IS BEST?
Mauritius is small — just over 2,000km2 — and its population proportionately large, just over a million. Last year, just under a million tourists visited. And yet it takes very little effort to find that most desired of holiday fantasies there: the deserted beach. Each side of the island has different advantages.

THE NORTH
It has many pretty, sandy, windless beaches, but this is where most development has taken place and so is more populated. That said, a drive along the coastal road will reveal many a picturesque, blue nook to investigate. 
Temperature 31°C-16°C (water: 28°C-23.4°C)

THE SOUTH
The least developed and, many feel, the most lovely as a result. Mauritius used to be predominantly forest. Now only about two per cent of it is left, and this is to be found in the south. Beaches here tend to be less protected and some of the coastline is cliff, but it's the least populated and there are many pretty stretches of sand. 
Temperature 30°C-17.8°C (water: 27.5°C-23°C)

THE EAST
Until recently, developers turned up their noses at this side, no doubt because of the trade winds, rockier shores and prolific sea urchins. However, there are some beautiful beaches, with lava outcrops giving definition. Many prefer this side because the wind cools things down and makes for good windsurfing. Plus it blows the mosquitoes away. 
Temperature 29°C-17°C (water: 28°C-22°C)

THE WEST
No wind, calm seas and perfect, sandy beaches with palm trees, it's no wonder there are many established hotel complexes here, and families love it. Note: no wind allows the mozzies a high success rate. 
Temperature 30.5°C-17°C (water: 28°C-23.5°C)

BEST BEACH FOR... THE HIPSTER

LONG BEACH
Status private
The beach Part of one of the island's newest hotels, with clean lines and acres of garden set along a stretch of private beach over a kilometre long, hence ‘Long Beach'. The main section is lined with palm trees and thatched umbrellas spaced comfortably apart. This is the smart, hip set's ideal getaway — a pretty sea in shocks of blues and aquas in front, an eager-to-please, modern-minded hotel behind, shushing palm fronds and hot sun up above, and a cooling wind.
Share it with Well-to-do French, Brits and Germans, a South African or two and plenty families. However, the children tend to stick to the main swimming pool, leaving the beach to the adults.
Pack Hat, sunblock, rubber booties, and keep your room number handy to sign off on orders.
Up your beat To match its avant-garde sensibility, Long Beach has Hasu, an Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant. This is the concept of Michelin-star chef Moreno Cedroni. Try the Ugly Duckling, an ode to sous-vide cooking: swordfish, egg (the white is separated and infused with squid ink), pizzaiola sauce (450 Mauritian rupees/£9).
Experts say The sous-vide method is one of the healthiest ways to cook as it retains more vitamins and nutrients. Besides the fact that no water-soluble minerals are leached into the cooking water and less antioxidants are lost, no additional fat is used. Raw egg yolk has loads of calcium, essential fatty acids and vitamins — and there is only one, so no need to fret about cholesterol. And in terms of fish, just one of the many benefits of eating it is that omega-3 oils help fight depression. (Note: people with poor immune systems and pregnant women may want to avoid food cooked below 55°C.)

BEST BEACH FOR... THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS

ÎLE AUX CERFS 
Status public
The beach On the day we visited, a traditional sailing boat had thrown anchor in the turquoise just beyond the swimming barrier. It looked like paradise. And being on the south side of this islet, not a breath of wind. For this reason, it's a popular beach. Boats come from the Port Maurice jetty every 20 minutes or so (225 MUR/£5 for adults, 125 Mauritian rupees/£3 for kids). There are casuarina trees, under which are loungers. The water is blue, warm and flat, but watch the strong current from the flow between the islets. Amble east, and there's the wind again, but also many deserted beaches.
Share it with A varied crowd: teens looking for fun, families with children, foreigners from Le Touessrok and its sister hotels, locals on holiday. There's plenty of action on this beach. Paul & Virginie restaurant and the Sands Bar are run by Le Touessrok, and there are many activities — tubing, skiing, windsurfing, snorkelling and more. 
Pack Hat, sunblock, towel, rubber booties, sandals (the trees drop nasty little sharp kernels). 
Up your beat Wine and cocktails are available at Sands Bar.
Experts say According to research published in the British Medical Journal, these are just some of the health benefits of drinking alcohol (in moderation): a reduction in heart disease, reducing the chance of strokes and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Other studies show that alcohol relaxes one and reduces stress levels — it's recommended men have a maximum of two drinks a day and women one.

BEST BEACH FOR... THE EVERYMAN

PALMAR
Status public
The beach This is actually a series of beaches that run alongside Palmar village. Between Royal Road and the beach is a grassy park with trees that runs almost to the shore, which is separated into coves by lava rock. There's plenty of shade, and the water has both calm bays and a bit of movement to it. Each cove offers something different. If not quiet enough, just keep walking.
Share it with Locals, who frequent this area on weekends and public holidays. Come on a weekday and you'll have it mostly to yourself. There are bins for rubbish and it's kept clean, but there are also stray dogs that occasionally up-end the bins.
Pack Hat, sunblock, towel, sarong, rubber booties, snacks and water — there are fruit sellers, but it's best to take supplies.
Up your beat Grab a fresh coconut on the way (60 MUR/£1).
Experts say Coconut water (that's from the green coconut) is full of electrolytes and will keep you nicely hydrated. It also has cytokinins, which research has found are great for anti-ageing. There are a host of other benefits too: it's great for digestion, has loads of vitamin B and minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. 

BEST BEACH FOR... THE ELITIST 

ÎLOT MANGÉNIE 
Status private
The beach We arrived by speedboat and docked at a wooden pier. At the end of this, we were spritzed with rose water and handed ice-cold hand towels. No one but Le Touessrok and sister hotel guests may use this islet's beach for free. There's a bar playing a soft selection of bossa nova and jazz, and a bevy of staff to attend to needs. The main bay is sizeable, and has a gradual decline, great for swimming. Fishermen come daily to remove some of the sea urchins.
Share it with Wealthy people from around the world.
Pack Hat, sunblock, rubber booties, sandals, credit card.
Up your beat There's a good à la carte menu here, with loads of fish. The lobster is grilled, and with a squeeze of lemon a healthy option (1,600 MUR/£33). The red snapper was also tasty (800 MUR/£16).
Experts say Seafood is rich in vitamins, minerals and good oils, and low in calories (if there's no rich, creamy sauce). It contains omega-3s, which have been found to help with a host of conditions, from keeping the heart healthy to helping to fight Alzheimer's. Shellfish is also packed with B12, a vitamin essential for a healthy mind. 

BEST BEACH FOR... THE LAID-BACK

MONT CHOISY 

Status public
The beach This is a popular beach but one will find it mostly deserted during the week, especially in the mornings. The sea is lovely and calm and has a nice, steady decline so one can soon swim feet off the sand but feel protected. It's a gentle bay and the water is alluringly blue-green. There's plenty of shade and space, and it's great for kids of all ages. There are many activities, too — tubing, skiing, walking along the sea bed wearing a diver's helmet. It's serviced by public buses, and there are loungers to hire.
Share it with Locals and foreigners. The side closer to the activities tends to have more of a bustle to it.
Pack Hat, sunblock, sandals, cash — you can buy water and snacks.
Up your beat Try the absolutely delicious fruit salad — pineapple, star fruit and cucumber with chilli and tamarind sauce (60 MUR/£1).
Experts say Pineapple, chilli and star fruit give a triple shot of vitamin C, a great antioxidant and essential for collagen synthesis. It'll also boost your immune system. What's special about pineapple in particular is that it's great for digestion, as it contains a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. It's apparently also a great antidote for morning sickness. 

BEST BEACH FOR... THE COLONIALS 

SUGAR BEACH AND THE WEST SIDE 
Status public and private
The beach(es) After the breeziness of the east, the west seems amazingly still. This stretch of beach is lined with hotels. The Sugar Beach resort has a very protected private beach, shallow and perfect for children. North is sister hotel La Pirogue, which offers more watersports action. Walk on to the public Flic-en-Flac, a lovely public swimming beach, fairly deep with soft waves (hire a lounger for 200 MUR/£4). 

To the left of Sugar Beach are a series of ridiculously pretty beaches. For deeper water, walk south to the Sands Hotel, where the sea is almost like a pool. Anyone can swim here, but the dry beach beyond the high-tide mark is the preserve of the hotel. There are many beautiful palm and takamaka trees, and one can walk all the way to Tamarind, an affluent little town. It's a nice long beach, but take the warnings about the currents at the river mouth seriously. There's also a public volleyball net and a surf spot jealously guarded by locals. 
Share it with Lots of foreign holidaymakers at the hotel beaches; mostly locals at the public ones.
Pack Hat, sunblock, sandals, credit card. 
Up your beat Try the Mauritian speciality, the palm-heart salad. Most hotels will sell it.
Experts say The palm heart is the soft core of the palm tree. It contains good amounts of potassium and essential vitamins, but the greatest benefit is that it has dietary fibre, great for digestion. The texture is crunchy but the flavour isn't strong. The lighter the dressing, the healthier it is.

WHEN TO GO
Mauritius has a subtropical climate, so it's warm all year round. Rather than summer and winter, the seasons are more accurately separated into dry and wet. Peak tourist times are December, April and school holidays.

WET 
From December through to April. Showers are usually short and sharp but warm (it's wonderful to swim in the rain). This is also the most humid time of year. 

DRY
From May to November there is less rain. May to August are usually the coolest months, but temperatures don't often drop below 23°C. From September to November, it's warmer and less humid than during the wet season.   

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