8 Insider Tips to Reunion Island
Want to explore Reunion like a local? Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip to one of France’s best–kept secrets:
1. If you’re not a hiker or don’t have enough time to trek, some lovely viewpoints accessible by car are: Le Maïdo to see the cirque of Mafate, La Fenêtre des Makes for Cilaos, and the Gîte de Belouve to see Salazie. Whether driving or hiking, if you want to make the most of Reunion’s majestic landscapes try to head for the hills as early as possible, as clouds tend to build up during the day, especially during summer. However even if you’ve arrived at a viewpoint and it’s cloudy do stick around for a short while – the clouds might lift and all will be revealed.
2. Talking about the cirques, if all that hiking/mountain-biking/canyoning (delete as appropriate) in Cilaos has made you hungry, check out the Tsilaosa hotel in the main street of Cilaos town for afternoon tea. They have scrummy home-made cakes, a wide selection of teas and coffees, and even Rooibos!
3. Still in the cirque of Cilaos, one of my favourite places in Reunion has to be Ilet à Cordes. This small village of 500 souls is perched on a plateau at 1200 metres above sea level and is literally at the end of the road – you can go no further. Buy lentils direct from the farmer, and spend a night – there are several comfy bed & breakfast places, including one with a heated outdoor swimming pool!
4. Many scuba divers visiting Reunion head to St Gilles, which has a wide choice of dive clubs and spots. But don’t forget to try out the clubs at St Leu and/or Etang Salé, which are less well-known and have different underwater life. If wreck-diving is your thing you can dive the Antonio Lorenzo, and hammerhead sharks can sometimes be spotted at St Leu’s famous Pointe Au Sel. And wherever you choose to dive between July and September you stand a chance of seeing, or at the very least hearing, humpback whales.
5. When you set out on a trek don’t forget raingear even if it’s sunny, and sun protection even if the weather is overcast – the weather in Reunion can change in the blink of an eye. While you’re at it, throw in a jumper and a swimsuit – with 180 microclimates and its diverse landscapes Reunion is always ready to surprise you!
6. One of my favourite Creole dishes has got to be Carri Ti Jacques. This dish mixes exotic jackfruit with locally-cured pork. Delicious!
7. Whether or not you like rum, take at trip to the Saga du Rhum at St Pierre. This fascinating self-guided museum not only describes rum-making in English but also explains all about Reunion’s history, AND you get to sample a selection of local rums at the end of the visit.
8. Don’t forget to taste some mouth-watering pineapple while in Reunion. A top French chef has called Ananas Victoria (the local variety) the best in the world. While pineapple (and bananas) can be enjoyed all year round, take advantage of seasonal fruit too: mangoes and lychees from November to January, and longan from February to April. You might also discover fruit you’ve never even heard of before: strawberry guava, ox-heart, soursop, tree tomatoes, sugar apples, Japanese medlar fruit …
British-born Catharine Cellier-Smart has lived on Reunion Island for a total of 20 years since 1990, and despite visiting almost 60 other countries and living in Asia for several years, she still finds Reunion the best place in the world to live. When not travelling or visiting Reunion she enjoys scuba diving and hiking. Read her blog Travel Smart or follow her on Twitter at @NewsFromReunion, an English-language Twitter news feed about Reunion.