We can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t enjoy a vacay in St Lucia. This Caribbean gem ticks off powder-soft sands, emerald-coloured rainforests, and adrenaline-inducing activities – it’s practically got it all. But, if you’re looking for an alternative because you’ve already been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, though, then why not try out somewhere new? Psst, we hear mountainous Mauritius is super trendy right now…
Hike Black River Gorges National Park
If you picture St Lucia as a fly-and-flop holiday, think again. This place has way more up its sleeve than you might think. Take the Piton Mountains, for example, which are the island’s crowning glory. Did you know that these twin peaks have been stamped with World Heritage Site status? These protected mountains are the ideal excuse to go exploring, too – you can hike your way to the top of Gros Piton, which is the bigger of the two and the easiest to climb. And when you reach the top, you can capture those obligatory Instagram snaps of the entire island – the views are amazing.
Mauritius has plenty to offer adventurous types, too. Our personal favourite is Black River Gorges National Park, which is just 25 minutes’ drive away from Bel Ombre. This place is a must-visit if you’re a wannabe David Attenborough – you’ll see tonnes of wildlife and tropical plants as you hike through the zigzagged routes. Plus, you can cool off by going for a dip in the emerald-green rivers when it’s time for a pit stop. Thrill seeker? Not a problem. You can abseil down the canyon walls and tumbling waterfalls – the choice is up to you.
Snorkel at Blue Bay Beach
It goes without saying that St Lucia’s reefs are excellent snorkelling territory – the duck-egg-blue waters speak for themselves. Top of the list is Anse Chastanet reef, which is a world-class diving site and one of the best in the Caribbean. And if you opt to paddle around Anse de Pitons, you’ll get to float past the base of the protected peaks.
Ever seen water so blue it looks airbrushed? At Blue Bay Beach, the water actually is that mesmerising. It’s the brightly-coloured coral reefs that draw in the crowds here, though. The underwater gardens were Mauritius’ first marine park, and they play host to all kinds of sea life, including sea turtles, trumpet fish, and parrot fish, to name a few. Plus, the shallow water and mild currents make it ideal for families with little ones.
Party all night in Grand Baie
Looking for a place to celebrate happy hour? Look no further than Rodney Bay Marina in St Lucia. This former pirate bay is famous for its chic cocktail bars, where rum-based tipples, like caipirinhas and daiquiris are on tap. And if you’re looking for a place to dance with your pals, nightclubs like GLO stay open until the early hours of the morning.
We think Grand Baie takes the crown when it comes to partying in Mauritius. The island’s best nightlife spots can be found along Royal Road, where the range of cocktail bars, karaoke joints, and stay-up-late nightclubs will leave you spoiled for choice. Banana Beach Club has been a favourite among locals and holidaymakers for more than 20 years, thanks to its lively atmosphere and never-ending menu of beers and spirits. We suggest catching one of the live DJ sets – they take place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Visit Île aux Aigrettes national park
Did you know St Lucia is home to pink pigeons? We’re not kidding. You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of them at Pigeon Island – which has been named after said bird. Other than exotic wildlife, this national park is home to amazing beaches, and there’s a beautiful lookout point where you can soak up bird’s-eye (sorry, we couldn’t resist) views of the entire island.
Over in Mauritius, it’s all about day trips to Île aux Aigrettes. You’ll find the small-but-mighty national park just 800 metres off the south east coast of Mauritius. The teeny island is famous for its sanctuary-like status, and used to home the now-extinct dodo. Highlights include spotting Aldabra giant tortoises, ebony-coloured trees, and orchids as you go. And if you sign up to an excursion of the protected reserve, your next stop will be Ile des Deux Cocos. This marine park shelters sea life in every colour you can think of. Then you can top it all off with a barbecue lunch, and wash it all down with a cold beer, wine or traditional rum punch.
Shop from nine ‘til five in Port Louis
If there’s one thing you can’t miss in St Lucia, it’s the weekly Castries market. This huge market is full of brightly-coloured stalls, where locals sell everything from hand-crafted souvenirs, to authentic Creole snacks (like accra and plantains), and home-grown produce. Plus, while you’re there, you can check out the Instagram-worthy 17th-century fortress and the largest church in the Caribbean.
Mauritius packs a pretty big punch when it comes to shopping, too. We suggest making tracks for Le Caudan Waterfront in the island’s capital, Port Louis. This place is full to the brim with high street favourites, like Mango and L’Occitane. At the other end of the scale, you’ve got high-end places, including Ralph Lauren and Diesel. Hungry? No problem – there’s an al fresco food court to keep you fuelled up, and you can even catch a movie at the cinema if you fancy it.