“Grand Baie, sandy beaches and restaurants spell the premier destination in Mauritius”
Dubbed the Creole Cote D’Azur, and with more sandy beaches and sunshine than anywhere else on the island, the north is understandably popular. Grand Baie is the centre of the action, situated on a horseshoe-shaped sheltered bay around an emerald lagoon on the northwest coast. It has hotels aplenty, shopping and the island’s best nightlife, around 50 restaurants line the coastal road to Pereybère!
In Mauritius, when we speak of ‘the North’, Grand Bay is the first thing that comes to mind. Grand Bay, through sustained development, has become the premier tourist destination of Mauritius.
The starting point of nautical trips to the northern islands and other sea activities, Grand Bay has two beaches, one of which is ‘La Cuvette’, a discreet hideaway, where you can still find the rare ‘tec-tec’ hidden in the sand, small white shells that need to be preserved.
Take a walk through the narrow streets behind the main road and enjoy what the small local boutiques have to offer. Known for its wide variety of restaurants and its nightlife, you will immediately be drawn to this charming and exuberant village.
Another picturesque village in the North of Mauritius is Cap Malheureux, with its famous red-roofed church, its view of the northern islands and its important fishing community.
The North of the island has plenty of beaches, each one more beautiful than the next. The most popular ones among Mauritians and tourists are Trou aux Biches, shaded by casuarinas, and the long curvy beach of Mont Choisy which continues from Pointe aux Canonniers to Grand Bay and to the divine Pereybere public beach.
For the more adventurous or those in search of peace and quiet, take a walk over the stones, to the left or right of Pereybere’s public beach and discover the private beaches of Casita and Bain Boeuf with their clear blue waters and exquisite views.
If the horizon is clear, you can appreciate the sunset from any point along the coast. Try to catch a glimpse of the “green rays” especially in the winter months when as the sun’s path is more northerly and the atmosphere more able to separate the colours. But be careful to protect your eyes and don’t stare directly at the sun!
What to see?
Les Vergers of Labourdonnais at Mapou: Close to Grand Bay, discover a large variety of tropical fruit trees and colourful fragrant flowers. After a walk among the anthuriums, bougainvillea and hibiscus, taste jams and freshly squeezed fruit juice made from fruit grown in the orchard. Those living in Mauritius buy plants and flowers for their gardens and homes at Labourdonnais.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden: The Pamplemousses garden is known by botanists from around the world for the large collection of indigenous and exotic plants that grow there, including the giant Victoria Amazonica water lilies and the numerous species of palm trees. Leave the business of the towns behind you… whether you want to go for a gentle stroll or a brisk walk, you can relax and breathe in the fresh air.
The Red Roof Chapel in Cap Malheureux: Cap Malheureux is the northernmost part of the island. This is where the Commander-in-Chief John Abercrombie landed his troops when the British attacked the island for the second time in 1810. Moreover, Cap Malheureux owes its importance to a small chapel: Notre Dame Auxiliatrice, commonly known as the Red Roof Chapel. Once there, simply appreciate the quality of the meticulous carpentry work and its giant clam holy water stoup.
The Maheswarnath Mandir of Triolet: Triolet is not only the longest village of the island but also the place where you can visit the biggest Hindu temple, the Maheswarnath Mandir.
Goodlands Market: Goodlands, a huge village of 14 000 inhabitants, comes alive on Tuesdays and Fridays because of the fabric and fashion (ready to wear, printed cotton, saris) fairs, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the fruit and vegetable markets.
Paul and Virginie monument at Poudre D’or: The most famous Mauritian myth is undeniably the one of ‘Paul and Virginie’. It was inspired by the sinking of the Saint Géran on the northeast coast. A small monument marks the spot where the ship sank.
The legend tells that Paul, of humble origin, awaited the return of his beloved Virginie, of noble blood. Her ship, the Saint Géran crashed against rocks. It is said that Paul jumped into the water and swam to his beloved who, shy and chaste, refused to remove her clothes to follow him back to shore. Finally, her waterlogged Victorian clothes dragged her to the bottom, and she drowned. The book of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre tells that Paul died of grief afterwards.
Van Ann Chocolate Manufactures: Unique in Mauritius, Van Ann chocolate manufactures invite locals and tourists to visit their premises at Calebasse, located close to both highways. Founded in 1992 by a Belgian lady and famous for its Belgian-style pralines, innovative packaging and delicious chocolates distributed mainly in hotels, this is an opportunity to discover how some of the sweetest things in Mauritius are created and, of course, to buy your favourites!
History of Pamplemousses: Pamplemousses – named after the grapefruit imported by the Dutch who first colonized Mauritius in the seventeenth century – has a rich past too. The places worth visiting there include: the old cemetery, the church of St Francis of Assisi which dates from the eighteenth century and ‘L’Aventure du Sucre’, a fascinating museum that relates the history of the Mauritian sugar industry while providing a more comprehensive overview of the history of the island, including its history linked to slavery and rum production.
What to do?
Shopping in Grand Bay and Pamplemousses: All those fond of shopping should stop at Sunset Boulevard in Grand Bay. Other shopping centres such as La Croisette and Super U in Grand Bay have outdoor play areas, skateboard parks and bumper cars that are great for children (and the young at heart!) and will keep them occupied while you do your shopping. Those who wish to buy souvenirs can head to Pamplemousses where they will find an assortment of handicraft items, gift boxes, local fashion products, ship and aircraft models, paintings and jewellery. Furthermore, at Pamplemousses: a renowned manufacturer of ship models and memorabilia related to sailing ships.
Nightlife: If you want to have some great evenings in Mauritius and meet the locals, there is nowhere better than Grand Bay where you will definitely feel the heat! Just follow the coastline at night and you will discover the various and lively discotheques, clubs, bars, lounges and billiard halls.
Cycling: Cycle from Cap Malheureux towards Calodyne and Saint Antoine through the little villages, sugar cane fields, and pine forests and enjoy the view of the outer islets.
Sailing: Grand Bay is the Mauritian sailing paradise thanks to its protected bay. From there, one can join a yacht trip, a catamaran cruise or even rent a private sailing boat. The conditions for sailing are ideal and yachts can be hired to navigate around Mauritius or to visit some of the islands that lie off the north coast.
Kite surfing: The North has some great kitesurf ‘spots’, especially around Cap Malheureux and Anse la Raie.
Diving: The North has the most beautiful dive sites of the island. There is a range of interesting options for beginners as well as for experienced divers. Some of the most popular spots are: Gunner’s Coin, with a depth of 26 meters where you can see large parrotfish at each dive; Whale Rock (26 to 38 meters deep) where the lucky ones can come face to face with a hammerhead shark; and Holt’s Rocks (16 to 25 meters deep) whose name suggests the formation of huge rocks under the sea. Other spots are to be found in Trou aux Biches, which is more adequate for families, and Pointe aux Piments where you can swim with the turtles. Don’t forget your waterproof camera!
Other underwater activities: Among the most spectacular and favourite ways to explore the ocean: a trip in the Blue Safari submarine or with an underwater scooter. An opportunity for those who do not dive to enjoy a superb encounter of the rich Mauritian marine fauna.
The Northern islets: The small group of islands in the North of Mauritius has become the favourite stopover for boats and divers. Whether by catamaran to enjoy a long trip before lounging on the islands or by speedboat, these trips to the northern islands are worth the detour. From snorkelling in the crystal waters of Gunner’s Coin, whose cliff holes nest seabirds, to swimming and picnics around Flat Island and Gabriel Island… you will not regret taking a trip here. Round Island is a unique nature reserve whose access is prohibited (unless having a special permit) in order to protect its endemic plants and reptiles as well as the indigenous species introduced there.
The Mauritius Aquarium at Pointe aux Biches: This playful and very ecological Aquarium in Pointe aux Biches features a collection of 200 Mauritian fish species, invertebrates, corals and sponges, including a reservoir of large predators like sharks. This one and only aquarium also offers a pool where children can have direct physical contact with some of the harmless species that live around Mauritius.
When to Go
= Best = Good = Mixed
Why we like it
Most beaches and best diving on the island.
Great nightlife and shopping.
Sailing on Grand Bay and trips to the offshore islets.
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