Although you could easily spend at least 10 days exploring the beaches, mountains, waters and skies of Reunion Island, sometimes a long layover is all you have time for. Reunion Island is a stop for many visitors from around the world en route to Madagascar and other Indian Ocean Islands, with stops sometimes stretching to 36 hours between flights. It's enough time to get a taste for what makes this island so special and is sure to encourage a longer stay on your next visit.
What to do in Reunion Island on a Layover
You can rent a car at the Roland Garros International Airport in Saint Denis. This will make your stay much easier, as you're going to want to get around as much as possible in the shortest time possible. Make sure you book your car ahead of time, as peak season can become very busy and there are limited rental cars on the island.
The West Coast is the ideal place to base yourself for a short stay, as you have easy access to the spectacular lagoon for sunrise swims and sunset whale spotting. With limited time at your disposal, booking a hotel room or bed and breakfast makes the most sense, as grocery shopping and self catering will take up a lot the time you could have saved for exploring.
Once you've got your car and you're checked into your accommodation, it's time to hit the beach. Head to the soft sands of L'Hermitage, for a dip in the warm Indian Ocean and a bite to eat at one of the many beachside restaurants. Enjoy the sunset from the beach - and keep an eye out for whales! For a taste of traditional Creole food, grab a table at Chez Herbert or sit down to a buffet-style feast at La Marmite, where you can taste more than 20 traditional dishes. Wash it all down with an ice cold Bourbon beer - better known as Le Dodo.
Set your alarm for an early wake up call and hit the road to the peak of the volcano before sunrise. The otherworldly landscape and lunar views make the Piton de la Fournaise a must-see! Be sure to arrive before midday, as the clouds tend to roll in around this time. Drive home along the Wild South and stop for views and photos along the way.
Take in the sunset and enjoy the island vibe lifestyle at one of the bars or restaurants that line the promenade at Boucan Canot. If you've got the energy, head to Saint Gilles, where the nightlife starts to warm up around 10pm.
Of course, it's entirely possible to drive around the island in a day. Without stopping, the journey would take approximately 4 hours, so with a few photo stops and lunch along the way, there are enough hours in the day to see some of the island's most beautiful highlights.
If you have a morning flight, it's important to hit the road early as the traffic from the West Coast into Saint Denis tends to be very heavy during morning rush hour. If your flight is in the afternoon, head to the capital once the rush hour commuters have arrived at work to enjoy a little sightseeing and souvenir shopping. The Grand Market is the perfect place to stock up on local curios like baskets and spices, while the streets of Saint Denis offer restaurants, cafés and gelato shops around every corner.
With your whirlwind trip done and dusted, it's time to start planning your next, much longer, trip to Reunion Island.