Top 10 Things To Do In Reunion Island

September 7, 2017   /   bynatalie  / Categories :  Travel, Uncategorized

Reunion Island lies just off the east coast of Africa, not far from its famous resort mecca neighbour, Mauritius. A tropical climate, warm water and loads of action-packed activities make it the ideal holiday destination for South African travellers. If spending 10 days lying on the beach has always sounded boring to you, you’d better start planning your visit to Reunion Island, where boredom is a foreign concept. With so much to do and see, you’ll be busy from sunrise until sunset, exploring mountains and beaches, an active volcano and a uniquely French island culture. Here’s my guide to the top 10 things to do in Reunion Island.

Top 10 Things to do in Reunion Island

Although Reunion Island is part of France and you’re technically entering Europe, South Africans don’t need a visa to visit the island. It’s just a 4 hour flight from Joburg, with Air Austral flying twice a week. The currency is the Euro, although the cost of living is not as high as Europe.

If you’re travelling in a group or you prefer to self-cater, there are some stunning options for every budget on Airbnb (We stayed in this awesome Airbnb ,with a pool, an ocean view and a wonderful host. Check out the other properties I added to my Reunion Island Airbnb Wish List here). I recommend booking your accommodation in Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains, which is within a short distance of the lagoon.

airbnb accommodation reunion island

We saw whales from our Airbnb every morning and every afternoon. It has a pool and sleeps 6 people – although one room has bunk beds. It cost us R6500 each for 9 nights, split between 5 people. It was PERFECT!

The ocean is not safe for swimming, but the lagoon is protected by a stunning coral reef and completely safe for all-day dips. Although public transport is available, it’s more ideal to rent a car.The island is famous for some seriously intense mountain bike races and ultra-marathons. It’s also crisscrossed with thousands of kilometers of hiking trails. It plays host to one of the world’s top paragliding competitions and is a favourite destination for kite surfers. But even if you’d rather spend your holiday swimming, tanning, exploring and sightseeing, you’ll find loads of that too. So although it’s hard to sum up the top 10 things to do in Reunion Island, I’ve done my best to put together a list of things I’d recommend for you, my friends.

1. Spend (at least) A Day on the Beach

saint gilles les bains l'hermitage beach reunion island

The crystal clear water in the lagoon at L’Hermitage in Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains is perfect for swimming. Shot on my WeFix DJI Spark.

You can’t visit a tropical island like Reunion without being tempted to spend at least one day on the beach. The weather is pretty fantastic all year-round, with average temperatures of 26° Celsius. The water is warm and clear and the lagoon, which stretches across the whole western side of the island, is like a natural aquarium – perfect for snorkelling. There are lots of beach bars and restaurants to choose from and the sunsets are unbeatable.

transparent kayak reunion island

Floating on the lagoon in a transparent kayak is a dream! Make sure to go early in the morning, when the weather is at its best.

You can rent a transparent kayak at La Saline Les Bains, which is an awesome way to check out the coral and colourful fish. After a long day of swimming and snorkelling, spend the afternoon sipping on Dodo beers at Coco Beach as you end the day feeling salty, happy and tanned.

Cost: 1 hour guided kayak experience, €20

2. Visit the Peak of the Volcano

piton de la fournaise reunion island voldano

The drive to the Piton de la Fournaise is worth seeing in itself. Make sure to stop for lunch on your way back – keep an eye out for a small country eatery called Ti-Kan, where the English is limited but the food is exceptional!

Reunion Island’s Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is closely monitored round the clock by seismic experts. You can drive right up to it, winding through strange lunar landscapes that make you feel like you’re on a different planet. If you happen to be planning your trip and the volcano suddenly starts erupting, don’t worry – due to the shield around the peak, the lava runs down the southern side of the island into the ocean and away from the areas inhabited by people. You won’t be able to see lakes of lava, but you will be able to see some crazy landscapes.

Cost: There’s no cost at the volcano

3. Shop for Delicious Eats at the Saint Paul Market

saint paul market reunion island

There is so much amazing stuff to eat at the market, so go hungry! We shopped for breads, cheeses, fresh produce and Creole snacks like samoosas and had a feast back at our Airbnb.

The colourful weekend market at Saint Paul is a must-visit. Open on Fridays and Saturdays, it gets packed, so go early and hungry. With a huge variety of local and imported French foods on offer, I highly recommend grabbing a few items for dinner at home. If you’re travelling with friends, it’s fun to have a potluck dinner. Each person has the same budget (like 10 Euro) to shop for whatever catches their imagination, and it all gets shared over a bottle of local Charette rum for dinner.

Cost: There’s no entry cost at the market

4. Canyoning at Rivière Langevin

riviere langevin waterfall reunion island

I know it looks like an fairytale scene, but you literally can spend the day swimming and jumping off waterfalls here.

Canyoning is an adventurous water-based activity that involves jumping off waterfalls into natural pools, sometimes using ropes to assist you with climbing up slippery rocks. It’s so much fun and really exciting. It’s also incredibly beautiful, with clear pools and water cascading over glistening rocks. You can book canyoning on Reunion Island by emailing the Reunion Island Tourism board at resa@reunion.fr or calling  +262 (0)262 90 78 78. Drive back home along the Wild South, stopping at highlights like Manapany and Grand Anse. 

Cost: A half-day canyoning experience costs €50

5. Traditional Creole Dinner at La Bonne Marmite

creole food reunion island

Reunion Island’s Creole food is a delicious variety of spicy stews, beans and lentils, served with rice and chilli. It’s best washed down with the local rum or a Dodo beer.

A traditional Creole dinner starts with rum and ends with rum. At La Bonne Marmite you can sample the flavours of 15 different Creole dishes and try the local rum, which is infused with a variety of local flavours – from pineapple to vanilla and even fragrant orchid leaves. The most popular local foods include samosas and falafels, rice, beans and a delicious stew made from pork sausages called rougail saucisse.

Cost: Dinner costs €32 for a huge buffet, a couple of alcoholic or soft drinks, coffee and dessert

6. Hike to the Remote Cirque of Mafate

best reunion island hiking trails mafate la nouvelle guide

Even if you’re not normally into hiking holidays, this is such a special, unique and beautiful trail and well worth the experience!

The Cirque of Mafate is a collection of tiny villages in the heart of Reunion Island. Completely cut off from the rest of the world, the “island within the island” is only accessible by foot. It’s absolutely fascinating to visit and to experience the Mafate way of life. You can hike in and out over 2 days, starting at Col des Bœufs in Salazie. There’s a big parking lot here, where you can park your car for 10 Euros per night. Hike for a couple of hours into the village of La Nouvelle, where you spend the night. Accommodation ranges from around 17€ per person for a 6 bed dormitory or 40€ for a double room. Dinner is served family-style and costs 25€ per person, with breakfast at 7€.

Read my Reunion Island Hiking Guide here

Cost: The whole trip costs about €70

7. Waterfall picnic at Langevin or Trois Bassins

reunion island waterfall salazie

There are waterfalls all over the island – this one is en route to the start of the hike to Mafate. But Langevin (mentioned and pictured above) has to be one of the most beautiful. Trois Bassins is easier to access. Both are perfect for swimming.

Spend the day swimming and picnicking at the waterfall Langevin, situated in the south of the island. Or, if you’re already planning to visit for a canyoning experience, you can have your picnic at Trois Bassins, which is closer to the west coast. It’s the stuff dreams are made of! Pack a picnic basket filled with fresh baguettes and cheese and a cooler with a couple of Dodo beers. 

Cost: Free

8. Party in Saint-Gilles

boucan canot reunion island

The restaurants and bars that line the beach at Boucan Canot are a dream for sunset drinks before a night out.

After watching the sunset from a beach bar in Boucan Canot, make your way to Saint-Gilles for a party. The area has lots of bars and “dance bars” to choose from. Start at the Carré d’Or, then move on to QG bar, Balcon (where they serve food, in case you’re hungry), Chez Nous, Escobar or Cubana. From 1am, the Tititwister on the Marina starts to liven up and becomes interesting. The Loft is located about a 5 minute drive from Saint-Gilles if you’re into Karaoké – it’s open during the week if you’re looking for a school night party. 

Cost: That depends on your partying

9. Check out the vibe in Saint-Denis

saint denis reunion island

Just behind the big cathedral you’ll find an adorable square with great bars and restaurants to choose from. Apoteek is a little walk away, so have a drink here around sunset before heading for dinner.

The capital city of Saint-Denis feels decidedly European, with Parisian architecture and high street boutiques lining the streets. It’s a street art-lover’s dream, with colourful murals from world-famous artists like the island’s own Jace Ticot.

natalie roos street art photography jace ticot gouzou reunion island

I always have to beg Keenan to be in cheesy photos with me. Anyway, this piece by Jace Ticot is adorable and I have no regrets.

Street art duo Kid Kreol & Boogie use the medium to visually depict many of the island’s myths and legends, preserving stories that were previously only shared verbally for future generations. There are also some stunning bars and restaurants that you need to make the most of. We had dinner at Apoteek, which was a highlight!

Cost: Expect to spend around €70-€100 on drinks and dinner if you want to visit the hotspots 

10. Explore the Cirques of Cilaos and Salazie

three cirques reunion island

The three Cirques of Reunion Island have unique climates, vegetation and highlights.

With over 200 micro-climates, the small 2500 square kilometer island is home to some seriously diverse landscapes. In the Cirque of Salazie, you can expect rain or mist, with an abundance of tropical flowers and vivid green plants. In Cilaos, you’ll find some of the best canyoning in the world. The drive itself is an adventure, with over 100 intense switchbacks and hairpin bends along the 40km drive. It’s terrifying, but an entirely unique experience!

Cost: That depends on what you get up to

Bonus: 11. See the Island from the Sky

corail helicopteres reunion island

Such an amazing way to end a trip!

This might be on the pricier side, but it is totally worth it! Seeing the island from the sky is such a trip – but it really helps you to get perspective. You’ll get to see the lagoon, three Cirques, volcano and some of the island’s most breathtaking views. And considering the fact that your flight from Johannesburg to Reunion Island is on the more affordable side (ours were R5500,00) you might be able to stretch your budget. We flew with Corail, and I can vouch for them.

Cost: From €210

Reunion Island is known as The Island of Adventure, and it’s not difficult to see why. No matter how many times you visit, there will never be enough time to explore everything it has to offer. Trust me – this was my 5th visit! I hope you find my guide to the top 10 things to do in Reunion Island useful! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

How to book your Reunion Island Experience

The easiest way to book your visit to Reunion Island is through the Reunion Island Tourism, via resa@reunion.fr. You can email them directly with your travel dates and the size of your group, as well as your accommodation preferences.

*My recent trip to Reunion Island with friends was hosted in-part by Reunion Island Tourism, who sponsored my flight and car. The rest of the trip was for my own cost. 

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top 10 things to do in reunion island

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