Reunion Island, located just 4 hours from Johannesburg via direct flight, is the ideal destination for adventurous female travellers. If you’re dreaming of perfect beaches, swimming in waterfall pools and spending evenings sipping cocktails, you’ve found your destination. With no visa requirements for South African passport holders, a completely French infrastructure and a huge variety of activities to keep you busy, it’s just what you’ve been looking for in a girlfriend getaway. After visiting Reunion Island six times over the past 5 years, and receiving countless comments and messages from blog readers who dream of visiting the island themselves someday, I’ve put together the ultimate Reunion Island Guide for Girls.
Reunion Island Travel Guide for Girls
Is Reunion Island safe for female travellers?
I would never give an unequivocal “yes” to this question about any destination, but the crime rate on the island is extremely low. I’ve always felt safe walking around in the day, going out in the evenings, and sleeping at night. Of course, female travelers always need to be careful, but the overall feeling on the island is welcoming and unthreatening. It’s certainly the kind of island where women can explore hiking trails without fear, carry their cameras out in the open, and feel safe going topless on the beach (it’s French, people!) Be sure to carry your hiking gear though! You could get some at a relatively lesser price by searching for deals like a rei garage sale and similar others. The basic hiking equipment is indeed necessary if you indeed want to go down the hiking route!
Also read: Mauritius vs Reunion Island?
Where should female travellers stay on Reunion Island?
I’ve always loved staying on the west coast. It’s close to the beach, the weather is always great (it’s the driest part of the island) and you’re close to all the best bars, restaurants and grocery stores. In terms of areas, I love Boucan Canot, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains and La-Saline-Les-Bains. Accommodation options in these areas range from hotels and guesthouses to self-catering and Airbnb. Accommodations are relatively modest on the island, as most visitors spend about 90% of their time away from their rooms. I recently spent 2 weeks at La Biche de Mer, which has been the best spot in terms of location – conveniently located between a bakery, a grocery store, a pharmacy and the beach. Our 2 sleeper room was tiny but adequate, but the 6 sleeper bungalows are much bigger and would be ideal for a group of friends. *Note: I found it difficult to find accommodation that had en-suite bathrooms, and “self-catering” often means a small bar fridge and a single hot-plate.
Also read: Reunion Island Hiking Guide
Getting around on Reunion Island
While there are busses on the island, renting a car makes getting around much easier. You’ll need to get used to driving on the wrong (right) side of the road, but if I can do it, you can do it. Roads are perfectly maintained and easy to navigate. I use Google Maps when I’m there to find my way around. You can pick your car up at the Roland Garros airport. Make sure to book your can ahead, as there are limited numbers. Also remember to get your international drivers license (you can do this through the AA in South Africa) and a bring a credit card with a 1000 Euro limit for your deposit (unless prior arrangement has been made with the car hire company).
Also read: Top 10 Things to do in Reunion Island
How to stay connected on Reunion Island
It’s quick and easy to get a SIM card preloaded with 35GB data for around 20 Euro. There are not many places where you can do this, so head straight to the Free store in Saint Gilles (103 Rue du Général de Gaulle, Saint Paul), where you can get a data-loaded SIM card from a vending machine which is immediately activated.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Reunion Island
What to pack for Reunion Island
It’s an action-packed destination, so bring active wear and a pair of sneakers along with your dresses and beach cover-ups. The weather is great all year round, so you won’t need jeans or heavy sweaters. If you plan on hiking (read my Reunion Island hiking guide here) make sure to pack a heavy jacket because it gets really cold in the mountains. You’ll need swimsuits and cover ups for the beach, active wear for adventures like hiking to the volcano or secret waterfalls, and a few dresses for sunset drinks or dinner.
Watch: Reunion Island from the sky
What to do on Reunion Island
My favourite activities are; swimming in the lagoon, hiking to the remote village of Mafate (which can only be accessed by foot!), shopping at the Saint Paul market, walking the streets of Saint Denis to find gelato shops, canyoning at the Langevin waterfalls, eating all the Creole food I can fit into my belly and finding secret waterfalls to swim in. You can also scuba dive, snorkel, visit vanilla plantations, hike to the peak of the volcano (or drive up to a different part), take a helicopter flight over the island, take a sunset boat cruise or a scenic drive around the island and loads more. It’s the perfect place to split your time between relaxing and adventuring. For itinerary inspo, check out my 7 day Reunion Island itinerary here.
Also read: 10 Budget Tips for Reunion Island
Where to eat on Reunion Island
There are so many boulangeries (bakeries) and pattiseries (pastry shops) on the island that you’ll have to pace yourself if you want to try the other food available. You can’t go wrong with any of them, to be honest, although Chez LouLou is a firm favourite. The restaurants mostly specialise in either Creole food, French food or seafood. My favourite spots are all Creole restaurants, and not just because Creole food is less than half the price of French food. Inspired by Indian, Chinese and African flavours, Reunion’s Creole food is rich, spicy and delicious. A plate of Creole tapas typically consists of Chinese-style dumplings (known as bouchon), samoosas and falafels (known as bonbon piment) and goes down a treat with a beer. Cari, a curry-style dish made with tomatoes, onions, ginger, tumeric and other spices and chicken or fish is very popular too. Rougail saucisse is my favourite – a rich, spicy stew made with a local smoked sausage. It’s served with fragrant rice, thyme herbed beans and a local chilli known as “piment”. Don’t miss La Marmite, an all you can eat buffet where you can try every type of Creole food. In Saint Denis, Apoteek is a highlight – beautiful interior, distinctly European sidewalk dining, great cocktails and delicious food.
Where to have drinks on Reunion Island
You can’t really go wrong here, either. The local beer, known simply as “The Dodo” is everywhere and it’s always good. I love PlancheAlizé in La-Saline-Les-Bains for sunset and Choka Bleu for a fun evening out (Thursdays are huge nights). For a late-night party, head to Le Balcon in Saint Gilles, where the bar and dance floor are heaving from about midnight to 2am. Boucan Canot is another great option for sunset. Just take a walk along the promenade and take a seat at any of the restaurants that line the beach. I recommend a Ti-Punch (local rum muddled with sugar and lime) or a Punch Planteur (local rum with fruit juice). It’s also worth ordering a Rhum Arrangé after a meal – every bar and restaurant has their own infusion of fruits and spices.
What to budget for Reunion Island
Although the currency is the Euro, Reunion isn’t prohibitively expensive. There are easy ways to save, like shopping from local grocery stores, filling up a water bottle instead of buying bottled water (up to 3 Euro per bottle) and eating at restaurants that aren’t located right on the beach. Read my 10 budget tips for Reunion Island for more handy money-saving tips.
Still have questions?
I hope my Reunion Island travel guide for female travellers has answered most of your questions. If you’re considering visiting, consider this the confirmation you need to make that trip happen. There are so many reasons why I keep going back! If you still have questions, feel free to drop them below, or check out my Reunion Island Q&A on Instagram.