Reunion Island is a small volcanic island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and about 200km from Mauritius. With a total area of 2500km2, it’s a true island of contrasts, with one of the most active volcanoes in the world- La Fournaise- on its south coast, 27km of pristine beaches to the west, and lush mountain terrain in between. The capital of the island is the city of Saint Denis.
Reunion, one of the remotest overseas departments of France, reserves some good surprise for you. This is the most beautiful place you can come across. It is not for the beaches, which seem also somewhat bland beside those of Mauritius, it is mainly so because of its mountains and green hills having fun playing hide and seek with the clouds and disappear behind the fog. The place is truly magical.
One thing you should not forget, Reunion is France, but at the other end of the world. A major advantage for those who do not speak English and who want to be disoriented! Here is a handy guide for your stay in Reunion Island with lots of advice
Are you ready? Let’s Go!
Car Rental in Reunion
There are many advantages to rent a car on the island of Reunion; public transport will not take you anywhere, taxis are extremely expensive, and renting a car allows you to remain flexible and to stop according to your desires.
However, if you organize well, you do not mind to stop in small villages and you’re not afraid of the many bus changes, renting a car is not essential and you are almost guaranteed to save. You also save on hard driving on the roads of mountains and narrow the search for parking, and you could even win time for hiking because you will be less tempted to change locations every 2 or 3 days. Anyway, the accommodation must be booked in advance, you will not lose so much flexibility by not renting a car. If you do not rent a car, make sure to organize everything in advance.
From the airport, the best way to get downtown or to the Saint-Denis bus station is to take the shuttle which cost 4 euros per person. Timetables are available there. To find the bus stop, exit the airport and turn right; you will see the sign at the end of the street. Once in the shuttle, the Ocean bus station is the first stop and the city center is the second (and last) stop.
To get out of Saint-Denis, take a bus from the public Yellow Car Ocean bus station. You can find the schedule there too. To understand the times you need to know on what line you will be traveling. This task can be complicated because several lines stop in the same cities. You can also get to the bus station, tell the ticket seller where you want to go and he will tell you which line to take and time of the next bus. To get to some cities, you have to change Bus Company and to buy tickets in each of their offices. For example, for a trip from Saint-Denis to Cilaos.
What to See and Do in Reunion Island?
The Piton de la Fournaise, an active volcano, is one of the biggest attractions of the island. The volcano is difficult to access without a rented car. But it is quite possible to hitchhike, a lot of people do so.
Hiking Is The Principal Activity.
The best thing to do is go for one of the three beautiful canyons – “cirques” – formed by volcanoes. All of them have various hiking trails through forests, rivers and mountain peaks. Cilaos and Salazie are accessible by road. Mafate, in the meanwhile, is only accessible on foot.
Grand Ilet (which is one of the last villages within driving distance before reaching the Mafate) is one of these isolated villages inside the circus. Time stops when you reach there – inside this part of the island supplies need to be delivered by helicopter.
For a trek to Mafate, you definitely have to wake up early in the morning. It remains a very long walk of about 2000 meters. On the way, you will have the chance to admire several really beautiful Creole houses and meet the locals living in remote areas.
The tourist office in each town can give you either a map or directions to local trails. While some wander occasionally, we advise that you hike during the day.
Some More Activities in Reunion
There are plenty of other activities you can try in Reunion. Depending on where you want to go, you can go canyoning, climbing, visit the island in helicopter or ULM, rafting and even cooking classes! The island has beaches of course, but the presence of sharks makes swimming unadvisable … Yet, some beaches can be safe and if you are a fan of surfing, you should not miss those wonderful waves! However Mauritius, only 45 minutes flight from Reunion, is a better destination if you really want to go for a beach destination.
The most important thing to know when seeking a place to sleep is that if you do not want to sleep in a dormitory, you must book a bit in advance. But do not worry if you forget or you are a little late, you will always be able to find a nice place on the island of Reunion. The cottages on the island of Reunion are increasing and many last-minute cancellations will allow you to find rooms not too expensive. The island boasts quite a good number of beautiful hotels around Saint Gilles and you can surely find one hotel that fits your budget and needs.
Reunion does honour its name! His people coming from all corners of the world have brought about a cocktail of races which is subtle. The Reunionese cuisine draws inspiration from Indian, African and Asian food. You will also come across fusion European cuisine on the island. Do not miss the Rougaille or the various Chinese dumplings, they are a regal to the palate.
Enjoy your trip on Reunion Island!