Wonderful La Réunion sits between Madagascar and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The island is famous for its gorgeous, wild nature with lush rainforest, volcanic mountains, waterfalls and bright beaches. It is a French overseas department so people speak French and Creole. Because of its moved history, the islanders come from all over the world, brought their religions and cultures from India, Africa, China and Europe and created a colorful, multicultural society.
The administrative capital of Réunion is Saint Denis a humming city with restaurants and shops, temples and museums where you can learn about the moved past and former colonization of the island. But the nicest region is the west coast, here you find beautiful beaches and the lively town Saint Pierre.
What to do on the West Coast of La Reunion
The most beautiful beaches
The most beautiful beaches are between Boucan-Canot, Saint-Gilles-les-Bains and L’Hermitage-les-Bains. Further south there is the gorgeous beach Grand Anse. Here they have natural pools and white sand.
Go surfing or swim in the blue water but always notice the beach safety flag as there live many sharks in the waters around the island, that’s why beaches have nets and swimming zones but especially surfers have to be careful. Also July to September is the best time to see whales from the coast.
The prettiest beach towns
After a day at the beach you find the gorgeous bakery and bistro Chez Lou Lou on rue du General de Gaulle in Saint-Gilles.
Saint Leu and Saint Paul are two more nice, little authentic towns with bright markets and beaches.
The amazing Cap Méchant is located in the islands South, strong wind and sea formed the wild landscape here. It is a beautiful area lined with screwpines and lava stones where the water continuously clashes against the black rocks. There is also the very good restaurant Le Cap Méchant, where you can eat the freshest hearts of palm salad.
Guide to the East Coast of La Reunion
The east coast is generally less idyllic but one highlight is the Takamaka valley where hundreds of thin waterfalls run down the deep green mountains. The drive up there is long and windy but there are the typical Reunionese picnic areas and hiking trails. When coming from Saint André visit the colorful Hindu temple de Colosse.
Guide to the hinterland of La Reunion
The center of the island is even more stunning than the white beaches of the coast. Huge cliffs, green valleys, volcanos and waterfalls hide behind the mountains. The two main valleys Cirque de Salazie and Cirque de Cilaos are perfect for hikers.
Cilaos is a beautiful, colorful and very remote village located in the heart of the island at the foot of the giant volcano Piton des Neiges. Coming from the coast you have to drive a winding street with 400 turns to get here. A nice hike leads to the waterfall de Bras-Rouge starting right across the white blue church.
Another great outlook is at Cap Noir. Drive from Le Port to Dos d’Ane and then to the parking lot at Cap Noir. From here you have stunning views of the Cirque de Mafate – but be very early, otherwise the mountain peaks will disappear in the clouds.
You reach another fantastic outlook and hiking area from Saint-Paul, the Piton Maïdo. Here you can hike through the lush rainforest of Forêt Sans Souci, for example.
An especially picturesque Creole village is Entre Deux in the mountains near Saint Pierre, where bright plants in all colors grow between equally colorful houses. Here, the restaurant Le Longanis is a local favorite.
A fantastic way to see the mountains and huge, otherworldly volcano craters is by helicopter. When the weather is clear, Helilagon offers different flights to enjoy the full beauty of the island.
You can also drive to the moon-like volcano landscape Plaine des Sables, but the road is unpaved and rocky so you need a stable car.
There are many more possible actives, for example canyoning or rafting. You will also come across the typical cane fields and factories, visit tea and vanilla plantations in Saint Joseph and Roulof or enjoy a rum tasting in the distillery and museum la Saga du Rhum. Isautier and Charrette are the two big distilleries on the island.
What to do in Saint Pierre, La Reunion
In Saint Pierre you find nice shops, fantastic bakeries, temples and mosques.
Especially the market at the waterfront every Saturday is so colorful, fragrant and delicious, the abundance of pineapples, papayas, litchis, guavas and passionfruits is amazing. Try a sweet fresh pressed cane juice, Samoussas or delicious coconut pastries at one of the stalls. Also the local tamarind and curcuma are fresh and fragrant.
There is another market hall in the centre of town, the marché couvert. In the evening walk along the waterfront and watch the sunset from the beach or sit in one of the small bars.
Terre Sainte is the most beautiful neighborhood. Go along the waterfront and cross the river d’Abord and you’ll walk right into this old fisher village. Sit under the trees at the water on rue Admiral Lacaze with a beer and watch the sunset. A magical place is also the open air church on the top of Ruelle Croix des Pecheurs.
Saint Pierre has some very delicious restaurants and small eateries, for good Creole and Chinese food go to Les Bons Enfants, for very good pizza and a nice patio visit the small Pizza Gadiamb. Restaurant Le Flagrant Délice serves creative and skillful dishes and also Ô Baya near the town hall is nice.
What to do around Saint Denis, La Reunion
Take a look inside the art gallery Musée Léon Dierx or drive to Saint Leu to discover the botanic garden Mascarin Jardin Botanique.
The fashion brand Pardon! is an institution in Réunion, their joyful, funny T-shirts, clothes and accessories can be found on the main shopping street in St. Denis, rue du Maréchal Leclerc.
A few minutes away on the same street you find Le Grand Marché, a big market hall with local products and souvenirs.
Come to Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra, a great student and neighborhood restaurant next to the cathedral, to enjoy drinks and live music.