When South Africans hear the name “Reunion Island”, what springs to mind? Maybe "where is that?" or "I'm dying to visit!" Thanks to the island’s unmatched beauty, diversity and truly unique landscape, it’s no wonder people can’t stop talking about the perfect climate, beautiful hiking trails and crystal clear waters, which make it the perfect place for South African visitors.
We've already shared some of the 3 top things to do in Reunion Island on land, now let's take a look at some of the lesser-known favourites on Reunion Island. The small quirks that give this island such a distinctive personality. Here are 5 things (to add to your list) to love about Reunion Island.
5 Things to love about Reunion Island
A European Capital
Before arriving on Reunion Island, many visitors imagine tiny island roads, small roadside villages and palm leaf huts. But upon landing at Roland Garros International Airport in St Denis, their perception is immediately changed. Beyond the internaional airport, St Denis is a beautiful city, showcasing Reunion’s French and Creole culture blend. The 19th century, Creole-style mansions that line the cobbled streets have become everyday homes and boutique businesses. At night, a stroll through the streets around the Cathedrale de Saint Denis will transport your mind to what feels like a quaint, modern district in Paris itself. The warm glow of fairylights across the one-way streets, jovial murmur of people discussing the art exhibitions that spill out into the courtyard behind the cathedral and the clinking of glasses might have you losing track of time.
The Saint Paul Market
The weekly market is a melting pot of vibrant colours, vanilla scented air, fresh produce and delicious eats. Located along the seafront in Saint Paul, the market hosts over 200 vendors selling their fruit and vegetables, rhum blends, local vanilla, fresh breads, souvenirs, hats, baskets and more every Friday. It's a must-see highlight for any visitor but be warned - come hungry! You won't want to miss out on a bite to eat, either from one of the many vendors, or the Le Quai Gilbert Traiteur restaurant. Cold Dodo (the island's local beer) in hand, you can enjoy the cool breeze from the ocean as you watch the market life.
Although the island is renowned for its sunny days and warm tropical air, there’s nothing quite like a Reunion Island sunset on the west coast. As the day cools slightly, the sun setting over the ocean puts on a display that rarely disappoints. During whale season (June to September) you might even be rewarded with a breaching pair of mother and calf breaching, sending huge splashes in the sky on the horizon. Rich pinks and golden orange hues collide to create the perfect artwork to admire while you sip on one of the island’s famous cocktails.
The Local People
There’s nothing like a Reunionaise local. Their laidback lifestyle and outgoing spirit make them not only some of the friendliest people you’ll find in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but also the most adventurous. Living on an island covered in beautiful hiking routes, cascading waterfalls and misty forests certainly lends itself to an active lifestyle. No matter what time of the day, you’re likely to see a local going for their daily jog, playing a game of boule or diving for a volleyball on the beach. A beautiful combination of happy and healthy come together to daily, personal interactions you’ll never forget. And don't worry, although locals speak French, they are happy to try their best in English.
Supermarkets in this tropical paradise most likely aren’t what you're used to seeing on small islands. Not only does the island enjoy some of the best fresh produce grown right here in the rich volcanic soil, but also a selection of groceries that France has to offer. From fresh bread baked at your local Boulangerie to French cheese straight from the Metropol (as locals refer to France) you can look forward to a wide variety of healthy and delicious items to enjoy for the duration of your stay.