By Mauritius specialist Natalie
Mauritius’s beaches are an undeniable draw for families. They’re all public, and made up of the kind of delightfully velvety sand you can bury your toes in. On the west and east coasts, the warm, teal seas are nearly always calm – ideal for fledgling swimmers. But as Mauritius is a compact island, it’s easy to combine relaxing beach time with the country’s other child-friendly attractions in one family trip.
In the island’s south, the Chamarel Mountains are a highland area of tropical rainforest latticed with short, accessible cycling and walking trails like the 6 km (3.72 mile) Savanna Trail. Here, you can stop off at lookout points to gaze across at waterfalls. On the coast you’ll find marine parks, where families can snorkel among kaleidoscopic marine life.
With well-maintained roads, driving is straightforward in Mauritius, and you can explore at your own pace.
Recommended experiences for families in Mauritius
Snorkel in the Blue Bay National Marine Park
The Blue Bay National Marine Park certainly lives up to its name. An area of 3.5 sq km (1.4 sq miles) off Mauritius’s southeast coast, the aquamarine waters of the lagoon here have excellent visibility. With the water an average depth of 5.5 m (18 ft), swimming feels safe and enjoyable as you’re almost always able to see the seabed underneath you.
Snorkeling is one of the best ways to discover Blue Bay’s pristine underwater environment. Mangroves, algae gardens and rare coral reefs shelter clownfish, parrotfish, damselfish and angelfish. If you prefer to stay above the waterline, you can admire the lagoon’s aquatic inhabitants by glass-bottom boat.
The Blue Bay Marine Park is also the location for small-group mini-submarine trips, which journey to depths of up to 35 m (115 ft) to explore the area’s reefs and marine life.
Take a day trip to Ile aux Cerfs
This bosky sand bar sits on a lagoon off Mauritius’s east coast. Named after the imported deer (cerfs) that once wandered among its coconut palms and flowering bushes, it has since become something of an island pleasure garden for both local people and visitors to Mauritius. The sea is dreamy here – shallow and clear, the water shades of curacao blue and emerald.
The good thing about Ile aux Cerfs is that it can be jam-packed with adrenaline and water-based activities, if that’s what you’re looking for. However, families need only wander a mile or so away from the main water sports areas and cafes to find a little more privacy. If you don’t mind walking, you’ll can reach peaceful, empty expanses of beach with unbroken views out to the ocean.
Water sports include parasailing and speed boat outings. There’s also an adventure playground and a high ropes course for children, with wheels and swings for them to clamber over and jump between.
Try to go to Ile aux Cerfs on a weekday, as it can become crowded at weekends. The sand bar is reached by boat: ferries depart every 30 minutes from Trou d’Eau Douce’s public beach on the mainland.
Go for forest walks and spot wildlife in the Vallée de Ferney
In the hills in southern Mauritius, the forested valley of Ferney was reclaimed as a conservation area after plans to build a roadway through it were derailed. Now it’s a hilly vale, a 2 sq km (0.77 sq mile) site with open grasslands and wildlife such as wild boars. Walking through ferny dells, you’ll pass woodland streams running over rocks blanketed with moss, and many-tiered, frothy waterfalls.
The on-site guides are passionate about conservation and biodiversity, and they’re good with children. One of the valley’s guided walks, a 3 km (1.8 mile) trail, is particularly suited to families. Along the route, your guide will point out all kinds of indigenous plants and trees, such as the Latanier Bleu palm. From the top of some of the reserve’s hills, you’ll get unimpeded views of Mauritius’s southern coastline.
There’s a pleasant on-site restaurant and a couple of resident giant tortoises. Around noon, you can watch staff feed the reserve’s Mauritius kestrels. The valley is 2 km (1.3 miles) from the town of Vieux Grand Port.
If this kind of landscape and activity appeals, I also suggest visiting Domaine de L’Etoile, a nearby reserve of woods and sugarcane plantations with hundreds of wild deer. It would particularly suit active families with older children – hiking, horse riding, quad biking and zip lining are all on offer here.
On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for some fresh air and some shady glades to walk in, there’s Pamplemousses Botanic Garden in the north of Mauritius. Children can have fun looking out for the weird and wonderful features of the garden’s flora like the scarlet, blotchy bark of the Bleeding Tree and the massive girth of the Elephant’s Foot Tree. Ideal for picnics, the garden also has deer and several giant tortoises living on site.
Spend a night or two in the Chamarel Mountains
For families with children aged 12 and above, I’d recommend staying in the Chamarel Mountains overnight at Lakaz Chamarel. Tucked away in the rainforest, this boutique lodge has 19 smart rooms decorated with poetry quotes and provides unrivalled access to the surrounding Black River Gorges National Park.
Borrowing some of the hotel’s bicycles, you’re able to explore your setting on two wheels. Head into the small coastal villages of Black River and La Gaulette where traditional Mauritian life moves at a gentle pace. Try to spot some of the 28 species of endemic birds, such as pink pigeons, Mauritius parakeets, the Mauritius fody or the Mauritius cuckoo shrike.
Alternatively, you can embark on one of the many walking trails around the hotel. Just ten minutes away you’ll find View Point, from where you can enjoy views across the rainforest and down to the ocean off the west coast. For longer hikes, a three and a half hour circuit from Pétrin to Black River takes you past Mauritian ebony trees.
Family-friendly hotels in Mauritius
There are plenty of family-friendly hotels to choose from, but The Oberoi Mauritius and The Residence are two particularly great properties for families.
Sitting on the northwest coast, The Oberoi Mauritius is a grand hotel set in expansive tropical grounds with a large open-air pavilion and far-reaching views to the sea. All the rooms have a garden and sunken bath. The luxury pool villas suit families well, as they include a private pool.
During my stay at The Oberoi, I took part in a stargazing activity. As evening descended, my fellow guests and I were invited to sit on a bench set out along the shore, where we were joined by the hotel’s resident astronomer. He was able to point out various constellations to us through a powerful telescope, and also helped us read the night sky with the naked eye. I was thrilled when, with the aid of the telescope, I identified the Southern Cross.
The Residence, on the east coast of Mauritius, is a colonial-style hotel edged by a large, smooth beach and a millpond-like cerulean sea where local fishermen catch their supplies. It’s a good-value hotel for families as it includes various free activities, such as daily glass-bottom boat cruises, kayaking and snorkeling.
I enjoyed watching the Sega dance group, which sometimes visits the hotel. Sega has its origins in the music that was made by Mauritian slaves, and its songs are usually sung in Creole. The rhythms are infectious and the swirling, voluminous skirts of the female dancers make for a real spectacle.
Best time to visit Mauritius with your family
April and May, and October and November are the best months to visit Mauritius. During this period temperatures are in the low 30s C (around 85F). From June to September the island experiences slightly cooler and windier weather conditions. If you want to travel during this time, I recommend staying on Mauritius’s more sheltered west coast.
Practicalities for visiting Mauritius with children
- Seven to ten days gives you plenty of time to explore many of Mauritius’ attractions, as well as spending some time on the beaches.
- If you’re comfortable with the flight duration, Mauritius is suitable for children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.
- The island’s southern coast isn't suitable for young children who wish to go in the sea, as the water is very choppy, with currents that could be dangerous to young swimmers. For young children who love swimming or paddling in the sea, the west or east coast of Mauritius is the best option. There are great sunsets on the west coast, while the east boasts the best beaches.