Get your hiking shoes on and plan a day trip up the magnificent Piton de Fournaise volcano - one of the most active peaks in the world. Joining a guided tour is highly recommended, and do wear appropriate clothing, as temperatures tend to fall dramatically the higher up you go.
The island's north holds one of its most scenic spots at the le Maido summit, where stunning views over Reunion's west coast unfold before the eyes of enthralled visitors. To avoid madding crowds and possible weather changes, head to the summit early in the morning on a clear day.
A fascinating adventure through the island's past via the over 900 plant species contained in this well-maintained botanical garden awaits visitors to the domaine du Café Grillé, where the journey starts at a recognizable modern creole garden and ends at a lush forest containing indigenous plants.
The stunning, secluded caldera of Mafate is the place several tiny villages call home. Reaching the dazzling remote loaction is certainly worth the hike (no paved roads run up here, and hiking for hours is unavoidable). Depart in the early morning hours from the Maido or Cilaos (for an easier hike).
Tropical flower fragrances fill the air already in the garden's parking lot, and the abundance of flower species becomes apparent once visitors set foot into the lush gardens. Marvel at and learn all about the indigenous plants, flowers, and spices (learning is currently only possible in French).
The authentic Creole villa is now open for public tours, the owners gladly walking visitors through the well-preserved 19th century house and lush garden premises. Tours in English are possible if you're in luck and happen to be visiting at the right time - there is, however, no fixed schedule.
Being an island in the Indian Ocean, Reunion naturally boasts a number of splendid beaches, some of the best being concentrated in the waterside stretch between the settlements of Saint-Gilles and l'Ermitage-Les-Bains - these beaches here are sheltered from strong waves by near-lying coral reefs. One of the prettiest white sand beaches on the island is the l’Hermitage, lined with trees to provide saving shade. The prettiest lagoons are to be found between St. Paul and Saint-Leu.
The fascinating 600,000 liter aquarium of Reunion contains an impressive 500 species of fish and marine animals. Descriptions are provided in French only, but the aquarium is still worth a visit if only for the sight of underwater creatures. Workshops and information meetings are held regularly.
Few places in the world compare in beauty and dramatic effect to the impression produced by the scenery of Reunion Island. See the volcano, incredible cirques, waterfalls, and the stunning coastline all on one tour of the island from above - on board a helicopter or an ultralight. FelixULM +33 6 92 87 32 32 www.felixulm.com Helilagon www.helilagon.com +262 262 555 555
Marine life is abundant in the waters around the lush Reunion Island, and quite a number of local companies offer organized tours to some of the best spots where sighting a school of dolphins or even a couple massive whales (June to October) is all but guaranteed. Bato Pei +262 692 64 81 97 www.batopei.re
The windy road up to the caldera is a thrill in its own right - after dozens of twits and turns and breathtaking vistas of mossy green cliffs travelers arrive at the secluded settlement of Cilaos. For best vistas, walk up the Roche Merveilleuse, and do stop by the local thermal baths.
Those up for active and a tad bit extreme outdoor pursuits should definitely try canyoning in Reunion. The unique natural landscape provides an abundance of opportunities for exploring (jumping, sliding, swimming and walking in) the canyons, all under supervision of professionals offering services throughout. Aquasens (Rivière Langevin) www.aquasens.re +262 692 20 09 03 Canyoning la Reunion (Cilaos) www.canyoning-la-reunion.fr +262 692 94 03 35
Reunion Island's highest peak with its unbeatable 360-degree panorama is certainly worth the two-day hiking trip normally arranged to reach the summit (those with ample energy may manage a round-trip in one day). If going overnight, opt to stay at Gîte de la Caverne Dufour.
The Saint-Pierre distillery museum grants visitors insight into the production process of one of the island's traditional alcoholic drinks. Take a look at the workings of rum production in Reunion, and do try the several rum varieties offered for tasting at the end of the tour.
Discover the little-known vanilla cultivation plant Cooperative Provanille, where all work is done by hand on-site. See the industrious workers on the job, and witness the spice every step of the way over the 18-month long processing period. Gift shop operates on premises.
The Kelonia turtle center is home to dozens of marine turtles, some of which guests can come in direct contact with. Apart from providing unique entertainment to visitors, the center contributes to research on migration patterns and turtle populations, aimed at preserving the species.
Speaking of authentic, the locally famed restaurant at Eva Annibal's is a longstanding establishment, a place to be written into a savvy travelers' itinerary. Order the full meal featuring some of the local homely classics (such as the vanilla duck), and follow-up with one of the many rums on offer.
Local creole cuisine served at this Saint-Denis location comes in multiple delicious varieties of stews and curries. Ingredients are fresh and locally-sourced, and the menu translated into English - a great asset for those who do not speak the local lingua franca (French).
The fabled French restaurant is an exceptional gastronomic treat for those ready to contribute time and financial resources towards an unparalleled dining experience. Haute cuisine served here bears clear traces of Frech, Creole and Asian influences that all come together in a perfect twist.
A casual eatery serving Chinese and Creole dishes, Le Sham's is good whether you're looking to dine in or take away. Choose from a broad selection of chicken, beef, and seafood dishes (fish, calamari, shrimp, etc.). The establishment is very popular with locals. Does not serve alcohol.
For fans of the sushi conveyor-belt concept, Wasabi is a good choice in Saint-Denis - sushi and rolls here are of remarkably good quality, and a la carte is available to diners who bring time (one cannot go wrong with a bento box). The restaurant is very popular with locals.
Set in a lush tropical garden, the Le Manta restaurant (located right by the beach of L'Hermitage-les-Bains) specializes in fish and seafood dishes, with some Creole menu items on offer. Serves a selection of desserts, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The well-regarded Creole restaurant set on one of Reunion's most stunning beaches is a great choice for dinner. Its buffet-style arrangement allows diners to sample a large selection of local meat, seafood and vegetable curries and stews all in one meal. Cultural nights are sometimes hosted.
A great address in Saint-Gilles, the Ti Mahi-Mahi offers a limited selection of dishes for very good reason - "ingredients" (fish) are caught daily by staff going out to sea in the restaurant's own boat, which guarantees excellent quality and freshness. Tartare is the way to go.
Located directly on the beautiful l'Hermitage beach, the La Bobine restaurant serves Creole cuisine and seafood specialties in an unbeatable setting right by the water. Thursdays are reserved for traditional local dance performances. Prices may bite, but do stop by if only for an evening drink.
To aquaint yourself with local culinary traditions try the very good value La Case Creole. In the evenings, the all-inclusive buffte-style dining allows guests to sample a large variety of Creole (as well as French/Cajun) dishes at once - even the pickiest of eaters will find something suitable.
Le DCP holds somewhat of a legendary status when it comes to seafood in Reunion. The menu foregrounds fresh fish, which comes raw (in the form of tartare, sushi, or carpaccio), seared, or well-done. It's hard to go wrong with the selection. Do book in advance to ensure being seated.
Grill-it-yourself is the motto of this Korean restaurant, where guests are invited to actively participate in the process of dish creation. Staff are helpful and ready to guide you through the process if the need arises. A la carte menu available if you prefer ready-made meals.
More of a beach club than a restaurant (complete with sunbeds and water sport equipment rental), Planch' Alize is a waterfront establishment that serves meat and seafood dishes in the main dining area, along with solid sandwiches, salads and desserts at its in-house take-away booth.
The superb St-Leu restaurant serves cooked to perfection local meat and seafood, but the real highlight here are the so-called "tartines" - succulent open-faced sandwiches that come with various toppings. Portions are very generous, and desserts simply not to be missed.
A restaurant holding somewhat of a legendary status on the island, the Blue Margouillat (housed inside a boutique hotel by the same name) is a very upscale dining establishment serving elevated dishes by the pool, against a backdrop of the traditional Creole building it is contained in.
This casual eatery serves delightful local Creole cuisine. The menu varies daily, and the place opens early for lunch, giving it a good head start over competition. Sandwiches, salads, mains, grill, and even dessert are all available to have inside or take away.
The recently opened Coffee Shop de Bourbon became an overnight hit with locals. The decadent-looking coffees topped with whipped cream and flavoured syrups a must-try, and cafe foods are on offer for those looking to grab a bite (salads, pizza, sandwiches and more).
Cupcakes galore in the tiny pastry shop in Saint-Denis, where the adorable dessert comes in multiple colorful varieties. The elaborate cakes are a pleasure to look at - the designs feature unicorn and fairy castles, and a large variety of cakes is served by slice.
The centrally located bakery is, perhaps, one of the best in Saint-Denis. It's great for a quick, affordable lunch as well as a coffee break in town with a delicious local or classic French pastry. Breakfast is served in a pleasant on-site dining room, and breads may be purchased for take-away.
The delightful bakery in Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains is a godsend for those who enjoy a good freshly-baked loaf of bread or layered dough pastry. Case a Pains packs a punch with its endless array of freshly baked goodies, cakes, tarts, coffees and much more.
Upholding its French culinary heritage, the island of Reunion is home to a number of delightful French bakeries and creperies - L'Instant Plaisirs in Cilaos being a shining example. Crepes served here vary from cheesy savoury galettes to decadent sweet treats mounted with whipped cream.
The exquisite ice cream parlour is worth a stop for dessert if you happen to be in the area - the selection of home-made ice-creams is rather impressive, and many are made with fresh local fruit (adding to the flavour variety). Also on offer are desserts and pastries, including French crepes and macaroons.
Heralded as one of the best pubs in the island's north, Mac Evan's is not to be missed by travelers to Saint-Denis. The place boasts an extensive selection of drinks (the variety of beer is particularly impressive), but food is served as well - try the classic combination of meat and fries.
Located directly behind the Saint-Denis Cathedral, this aptly named bar is really a full-blown restaurant with an extensive menu, but its spacious outdoor seating area is a very popular location for an evening drink in the island's capital. Service is pleasantly attentive.
There is no place for the ubiquitous mojito and caipirinha on the drink list of this innovative establishment boasting liquor imports from all over the world (Japanese whiskeys and Russian vodka, to name a couple) and creative cocktail mixes. Serves good food (international rather than local).
Sit back and sink your feet into the sand at this casual waterside restaurant and bar, where the atmosphere is conducive to complete relaxation. Live music is played at night, with guest singers setting the mood to a wonderful evening. Dancing isn't uncommon either. International foods on offer.
La Villa is, perhaps, one of the island's finest nightlife establishments - with its in- and outdoor areas, excellent music and regularly held theme nights, the venue is all but perfect for the twenty-something demographic of party-goers. An entry fee is normally charged.
A beach club with sunbeds and water sports equipment rental by day, Coco Beach turns into a relaxing bar with front-row seats to the beautiful Reunionnais sunset as the day slowly comes to an end. Vibes are relaxed except on party nights, when local DJs and performers stir up the crowd at weekends.
Hot Latin beats fill the air at Cubana Club, the island's most well-known venue for those who enjoy salsa, mambo, rumba, and cha-cha dancing. Do not hesitate if you are to come alone - the atmosphere here is very laid-back and you are almost certain to be asked to dance.
The franchise's well-realized ambition is to bring together a bar and cellar under one roof, creating a space where guests would be free to purchase exquisite wines and varied beers by the case, while also having the possibility to sample some of the finest varieties in-house.
The brewery franchise originated in France over 30 years ago, and has since spread all around France and beyond - to Canada and French territories such as Reunion. There are 2 locations on the island, both serving several varieties of home brews and a good selection of dishes.
Located inside the old railway station building of Reunion's single rail line, the establishment is good for coffee and people-watching by day, and letting loose by night, when frequent parties, live music and theme evenings are hosted. Wednesdays are karaoke nights.
The tropical Bambou restaurant and bar is set directly on the beach in Saint-Gilles. It is known for its generous portions sizes and very decent Creole cuisine - arrive hungry or do not hesitate ordering to share. A nice selection is provided for those looking to simply indulge in an evening drink.
A cafe by day and cultural center/live music venue by night, La Cerise (sur le chapeau - "cherry on top") is an attractive evening venue with a varied event program (check the web page to see what's on currently). Walk-ins are welcome - grab a beer and enjoy the show.
The selection of locally-made cheeses in this Le Tampon location is staggering - browse through a variety of cheeses, but be ready to be guided by the senses only if French isn't on the list of languages you speak. The house specialty is caramel and honey-flavored "fromage de Sylvie."
The open-air market at Sainte-Clotilde in the island's capital is a great spot to stock up on fresh produce - items vary from fresh fruit and vegetables to meat and fish from local suppliers. Browse though local art and craft creations (authentic-as-it gets souvenir material) and local treats.
The Duparc shopping center in the island's north is the largest shopping mall in Reunion, with multiple international brand names represented. The center is located directly by the Roland Garos airport, making it a popular shopping destination for travelers. Cafes and restaurants available on-site.
Simultaneously a local attraction and shopping location, the Maison du Curcuma is an educational experience and shopping spot combined. Learn all about the processing stages of this indigenous spice and shop for unique goods featuring the ingredient known for its medicinal properties.
Nearly 20 registered shark attacks have occurred in the waters surrounding Reunion since 2011, 7 of which ended in fatalities. In 2013 (when attack frequency reached its peak) surfing, body-boarding and swimming were banned on all Reunion beaches. Travelers are advised to exercise extreme precaution and stay updated on the current regulations.
This one is the island's main entry point, servicing a number of international destinations and airlines. The airport is located in the immediate vicinity of the capital city of Saint-Denis. The "Citalis" bus line 31 functions as the airport shuttle and allows travelers to reach the city easily. There are two long-distance bus routes by "Car Jaune": "ZE" bus connects Saint-Benoît and Saint-Denis (Mon-Sat, 3 times a day), while the "T" route runs from Roland Garros to Pierrefonds airport in Saint-Pierre via multiple destinations on the west coast (every two hours). Taxis and rental cars are available for hire.
The island's second airport - Pierrefonds - is located at it's southern end. Bus line "T" operated by the "Cars Jaunes" company connects Saint-Pierre and Saint-Denis (including the Roland Garros airport), passing through multiple beach resorts on the west coast. Consult the website for schedules. To hire a cab to Saint-Pierre, call +262 262 96 80 00
A network of yellow buses ("Car Jeunes") connects all major destinations on the island. There are 13 lines in total, one of the most popular ones being line "T" that runs through many beach resorts along Reunions west coast, from Roland Garros Airport in the north to Pierrefonds Airport in the south. Consult the website for schedules and fares.
Taxis are fairly expensive, and prices go up even higher at night time (after 8pm) - these are easily hired in town centers or at bus stations. Taxis can be shared, in which case prepare to wait for passengers headed in the same direction. Saint-Denis: Allo Taxi +262 692 854 134 Saint-Pierre: +262 262 385 484