Experience Reunion Island
What brings visitors to Reunion Island?
This enchanting destination of Reunion Island is blessed with a tropical climate and beautiful volcanic landscapes, with its appeal being as much due to the stunning white sandy beaches as its mountain scenery. Visitors come to the island because it offers travelers opportunities ranging from relaxing to adventurous activities. From hiking Reunion's unique "cirques" or canyoning the island's many waterfalls to scuba diving or surfing in the clear waters that surround this tiny 30-mile-wide island, adventure seekers flock to this island for the endless opportunities of outdoor adventure.
What is the Religion and Culture like in Reunion Island?
Most of the population of Reunion Island are Christians. Estimates show 87% of the population are Christians, followed by Hindus (6.7%) and Muslim (3.2%). Chinese and Buddhism are also represented in minority. Reunion Island is a real mix of traditions and cultures. With people from Africa, Madagascar, Asia and Europe, this island is a beautiful and diverse ‘Reunion’ of cultures all living together in harmony. The diversity is mostly expressed in the island’s lifestyle, architecture, arts, music, cuisine and dance. Several religious festivals and traditions are also celebrated all year round: firewalking, Dipavali (festival of light), Chinese New Year, Festival of Guan Di, Cavadee, "Fêt Caf" on 20 December, Liberté Métisse (abolition of slavery).
What is the food like in Reunion Island?
Being a French overseas department, you can find French cuisine everywhere. You’ll also find a fabulous blend influenced by Africa, India, China, and Europe. As an island the cuisine includes a wide variety of local fish. If you prefer more western-style food, you can find this in both gourmet and fast food establishments across the island. There are also a wide variety of local fruits, vegetables, herbs and other ingredients not usually found in French mainland cuisine such as Manioc, Mangue (mango), Goyavier (guava), Chevaquines (dried shrimp), Baba-figue (banana flowers which are stuffed and fried), Songe, and Ti-jacques (jack fruit).
As far as local specialties are concerned, make sure to try the Hedgehog carri (curry) eaten with boiled rice cooked in Indian style. Another unique food that you should try is the eggs of Wasp (kind of kleptoparasite that lays its eggs on another wasp species). Wasps undergo a phase of ‘larvae’. The natives of Reunion Islanders (mostly the Tamils) make a dish called `Rougail,` a kind of semi-solid porridge out of the larvae of Wasps. It’s a truly exotic dish of the country. And lastly, the native staple of Reunion island is rice cooked in various forms accompanied by meat and vegetables.
For dining options, we highly recommend getting out of the center of Saint-Denis to discover the authentic places to eat the good Ruionese food at affordable prices.
What are the nightlife offerings in Reunion Island?
Reunion Island is a country with a wide variety of night time entertainment to suit everyone's taste. It is possible to dine in a fine dining restaurant or relax after a hard day in one of the many coffee shops and then go to a theatre or nightclub.
Reunion Island's west coast is the area most frequented by party-goers - the general stretch between Saint-Paul in the north and Saint-Piere in the south is where most bars and nightlife establishment are concentrated, with Saint-Gilles and the paradise beach of L'Hermitage particularly known for their animated, glossy venues, while Saint-Pierre still retains some of the authentic local charm. Drinks to be had on the island are the locally-produced rums and the island `Burbon` beer brand, simply referred to as "dodo" by locals.
What are the best museums and attractions to experience the history of Reunion Island?
Reunion Island offers some fantastic museums to explore such as the Natural History Museum and its incredible collection of Indian Ocean flora and fauna. Not only is the museum’s collection classified as a historical monument but also the neoclassical architecture of the building as well as the botanical gardens surrounding it. The La Saga du Rhum Museum, located in the ISAUTIER distillery, is another great place to visit to learn the behind the scenes process of sugar cane-base alcohol. The museum displays the island’s rum diversity as well as its history. Explore the island’s multicultural history at the Musée de Villèle located in Saint-Gilles. The museum is in a house on the Panon-Desbassayns property and showcases the island’s colonial history. Lastly, check out the Aquarium of Reunion Island to learn about the diverse species of marine life and some of them that are now preserved The aquarium is in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains and houses more than 500 species of fish and natural coral reefs.
What are the Markets like in Reunion Island?
Visiting the markets is authentic to the culture and heritage of Reunion island, with street food encompassing local food and French culinary flair. People from Reunion go there to shop fresh products at the best price. But also tourists who love to discover a country’s culture through one of the most typical events will find these markets a great place to do just that.
Saint-Paul’s seafront market is considered one of the most beautiful markets on the island. With over 300 stalls, it is diverse and offers a huge variety of fresh produce as well as those selling handicraft and other local items.
What are the outdoor activities to do in Reunion Bay?
With an active volcano on its south coast (Piton de la Fournaise being the most famous), 17 miles of warm, welcoming beaches in the west, and lots of mountains and forests in between, Reunion Island offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities.
Home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise, on the east side of the island has more than 150 recorded eruptions and is a major tourist attraction. It last erupted in January this year. It was previously a popular hiking spot but the volcanic activity of late has curtailed this.
Go whale and dolphin watching in the Indian Ocean! The shores of Reunion Island are home to many marine mammals. Many diving schools, as well as other establishments, offer sessions of whale and dolphin watching. Among the mammals you will get to see are blower dolphins, spotted dolphins, humpback whales, and the Risso dolphins, a species discovered off the shores of the island.
Hike in the cirques and explore the three cirques (Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie), three large calderas formed by the collapse of a shield volcano. Of the three, Mafate is inaccessible by roads, making it ideal for hikers wanting to enjoy the impressive nature in total solitude. There are several villages inside the Cirque de Mafate which are accessible only by trails (and helicopters).
For something a little more lowkey, check out the lagoons that can be found on the west and south coast between St. Paul and St. Pierre. Here you’ll find wide expanses of sandy beaches ranging from white to black! The most popular beach areas are around La Saline les Baines – offering a variety of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and bars. You can choose to laze on the beach or indulge yourself in a variety of watersports like windsurfing and stand-up-paddling. Around St. Leu, you can engage in more active sports like paragliding.
Notable towns to visit in this area are Saint-Paul, Saint-Gilles and Saint-Leu. Spend a few days in this area exploring the coastline. The coastal road (N1A) from Saint-Paul to Saint-Gilles offers beautiful views of the ocean and the cliffs. The west coast is also the best area to go scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing or whale-watching (June - October are the best whale-watching months). There are various tour operators based in towns like Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains and Le Port.