About the West
The west coast of Réunion is hot, dry and sunny, and all about beautiful beaches. Stretches of turquoise ocean and natural rock pools line the coast, with lifeguards on duty and amenities provided at the swimming beaches. The ocean surrounding the island is a marine reserve, making diving a desirable activity.
For beach sports and sunbathing, La Plage des Brisants is the spot to visit, or you might venture to L’Étang-Salé, a beach comprised of black sand originating from the basalt fragments that are created when volcanic lava meets the ocean. The beaches at Boucan Canot are particularly popular among tourists, with the many restaurants that line the waterfront enhancing the holiday atmosphere.
The leisure theme is extended inland from the west to include microlight flights, helicopter flips over the island, mountain biking and zip lining. An added attraction from June to October is the possibility of sighting humpback whales calving offshore.
Take an early-morning drive or hike (to avoid cloud cover, which obscures the view later in the day) up to the summit of Belvédère du Maïdo, Saint-Paul, where a strategic lookout point provides a magnificent view of the Cirque de Mafate. The site is the starting point of various hikes to Mafate for those who wish to venture further.
If you’re in search of a respite from the busy beachfront, head for Jardin d’Eden in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains, where a luxuriant botanical garden welcomes you into 2.5ha of tranquillity.
Plage de l’Hermitage between Saint-Gilles-les-Bains and La Saline is Réunion’s longest beach, at 2km. It has a lagoon sheltered by a coral reef for diving, and the casuarina trees lining the beach are perfect for those wishing to relax in the shade. Plenty of hotel accommodation may be found in the vicinity, and some restaurants provide beach loungers.
The Aquarium de la Réunion, with more than 500 fish species, showcases the marine diversity of the island. Different exhibits portray the marine life endemic to the coral gardens, deep reefs, volcanic cliffs and the open ocean. See the fish being fed and learn how the 600 000-litre aquarium operates.
Take a walk from the village of Dos d’Ane to Cap Noir for a stunning view of the Cirque de Mafate caldera. Scenery along the way includes the Rivière des Galets and orange groves.
- Make an early start inland for a hike to the highest point on Réunion, Le Piton des Neiges, at 3 069m, to witness sunrise over the island. This is a challenging walk that attracts hikers from across the globe. A reserve on the lower slopes showcases the flora and fauna found on Réunion.
- The Grand Boucan Carnival has lured thousands of revellers to the streets of Saint-Gilles-les-Bains during June for more than 20 years. A costume parade takes “King Dodo” along the streets to a black-sand beach, where the effigy is burned and fireworks thrill the crowds long into the night.
- Picnics are a favourite family pastime on Réunion island, with traditional Creole picnic areas to be found at L’Étang-Salé, Saint-Leu, La Saline-les-Bains, L’Ermitage, Petit Boucan and the seafront at Saint-Paul, which also hosts one of the island’s best markets all day on Fridays. Look out, too, for poulet bitume (road chicken), which is a marinated, grilled chicken sold at the roadside.