Reunion Island's west coast is a beach-lover's paradise. The hot, dry weather makes for perfect beach conditions, and the warm turquoise water is inviting all year round. The protected lagoon spanning the whole of the west coast is a marine reserve and is protected from the open ocean by a coral reef. The water is calm and shallow, ideal for the whole family. Strap on a snorkel and a mask and you're transported to another world, filled with colourful tropical fish and brilliant coral formations.
You're absolutely spoilt for choice on the west coast. L'Ermitage-Les-Bains is a top spot for a day of sunbathing and swimming, with ample parking, a handful of cafés and restaurants for lunch and beach huts where you can rent gear for snorkelling and other water sports. The water temperature generally doesn't drop below 25°C, so swimming conditions are perfect year-round.
At Boucan Canot you can enjoy the beach or spend some time on the promenade, lined with bars, cafés, restaurants and ice cream spots. Its the perfect place to watch the sun go down over a cocktail and a plate of Creol tapas. At L’Étang-Salé, you can sink your toes into black volcanic beach sand, which originates from the basalt fragments that are created when volcanic lava meets the ocean.
Vibrant Resort Atmosphere
The many hotels, bars, restaurants, beaches and nightclubs that line the west coast give this part of the island a vibrant holiday energy. There are plenty of places to stay on this side of the island, ranging from self-catering properties to five-star hotels. The beaches are alive with visitors during the European holiday season, but never too busy to be comfortable. For nightlife, head to Saint Gilles, where the streets come alive with revellers late night.
Every year from June to September, humpback whales flock from the Atlantic to the warm waters surrounding the island. They are hard to miss, breaching and blowing just beyond the reef, so it's possible to enjoy a sighting almost every evening from the beach as you enjoy a sunset cocktail. For a closer encounter, you can join an organised boat tour with a local diving company, during which you might also have the opportunity to spot sperm whales and fin whales.
Nature's Beauty at the Aquarium and Botanical Garden
The Aquarium de la Réunion has an impressive collection of more than 500 fish species, showcasing the important marine diversity in the waters surrounding the island. Different exhibits showcase marine life endemic to the coral gardens, deep reefs, volcanic cliffs and the open ocean of Reunion Island's protected waters. The luxuriant botanical garden Jardin d’Eden in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains sprawls across 2.5ha of tranquillity.
Stunning Scenery and Activities
Set your alarm for an early start for an energising hike to the highest point on Reunion, the Le Piton des Neiges, at 3 069m. Sunrise from this point is truly breathtaking!
Take a walk from the village of Dos d’Ane to Cap Noir for a stunning view of the Cirque de Mafate caldera. The scenery along the way is just as impressive, and includes the Rivière des Galets and orange groves.
An early-morning drive or hike up to the summit of Belvédère du Maïdo in Saint-Paul will reward you with a magnificent view of the Cirque de Mafate. This is also the starting point of various hikes to Mafate, which is a remote and fascinating handful of villages well worth visiting.