Mauritius is a spectacular little island nation lying off the eastern coast of Africa, beyond Madagascar. Lush green natural surroundings, ocean water in myriad shades of blue melting into the azure sky at the horizon, and the powdery white stretches of sandy beaches – for an ocean-lover, Mauritius is the creme de la creme of beach destinations.
But if you have forever dismissed Mauritius as a luxury travellers’ paradise, you’re missing out on all that this island has to offer. In this article, I’m going to let you in on all the things to do in Mauritius on a budget.
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For as far as I can recall, Mauritius has been labelled as a destination for those seeking its signature luxury resort life. It typically does not appear in the bucket list of people like us who keep a tab on their budgets after every spend. But that’s not entirely true! There’s a lot you can do in Mauritius on a budget without burning a crater in your wallet. This list should act as a good starting point if you have never given a thought about what to do in Mauritius. Who knows, this may even inspire you to finally plan a trip to one of the most exotic islands in the world!
1Camp on the beach
Did you know that camping on beaches in FREE and LEGAL on all public beaches in Mauritius (with the exception of Pereybere)? Most beaches are equipped with toilets and some have shower facilities too. However, they are only open from 7 am until 7 pm. So if you can work around that, and happen to have a tent on you, accommodation is literally free of cost! But even if you have your accommodation sorted elsewhere, I would still suggest you spend a day/night camping on one of Mauritius’s stunning beaches. This truly is one of the most fun things to do in Mauritius without putting a strain on your wallet. Having said that, if you do plan to camp, keep an eye on your personal belongings and beware of petty thefts.
2What to eat in Mauritius
Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, eating and drinking the local way not only saves a ton of money but also gives you an insight into the local culture. In Mauritius, you will find an abundance of reasonably priced Indian, Chinese and French food, which also reflects the local population mix.
Local restaurants and small roadside shops serve a variety of delicious food items ranging from Chinese fried noodles to Indian-style curries. Seafood is also found in plenty and can be eaten grilled, fried or even curried. A plate of food at a local inexpensive restaurant will cost you around USD 4-5. Mauritius also has an abundance of fresh fruits. Visit a local market and stock up on fresh fruits to take care of sudden hunger pangs. This keeps both your health and budget in check.
Another cost centre for many of us is the drinks. What is beach-life without a few drinks, right? But we have something for budget travellers to rejoice! Think local and drink up fresh coconut water which is easily available on the beaches or even on the roadside. But for those of you who cannot think of a beach holiday without a few pints of beer, Mauritius’s locally brewed Phoenix beer will come to your rescue. Buy them from local supermarkets instead of fancy pubs to get them at a cheaper rate. Balmy afternoons on the beach, with a beer for company, are probably the best kind of afternoons!
3Hike up Le Morne
Le Morne is a UNESCO world heritage site located at the southwestern tip of the island. This beautiful site also has a bit of history to it. Le Morne is the mountain where many Mauritian slaves had taken refuge to escape slavery in the 19th century. After slavery was banned on the island, the British troops who took over from the French, approached the mountain to break the news to them. But as fate would have it, thinking that the troops were coming to capture them, the slaves jumped off the cliff to end their life of slavery.
But since the past few years, the Mauritian government has opened up this site for hiking. Le Morne offers some of the most gorgeous views of the entire island once you climb up the 3.6 Km trail. On your way up, you’ll also come across several wild species of plants and animals. It takes about 4-5 hours both ways and might get a little difficult towards the end, but don’t let that discourage you. The views at the end are worth all the sweat. As a bonus, the hike can be done absolutely free of cost if you don’t hire a guide! Here’s all you need to know about hiking Le Morne in Mauritius.
4Put your feet up & relax by the beach
I don’t think this needs to be said, but when in Mauritius, it is mandatory to spend a day or two by its pristine beaches! You can either snorkel and swim in the water or choose to enjoy a laid back afternoon while sipping fresh coconut water. Though hard to rank and even choose, these are some of my most favourite beaches: Trou aux Biches, Pereybere, and Mont Choisy. The water here is still and calm and is perfect for a dip. The beaches too are well maintained and are among those places where you wouldn’t mind losing track of time. Needless to say, being a beach-bum costs nothing and is one of my most favourite things to do in Mauritius!
If you want to get more out the beautiful ocean in front of you and want to experience scuba diving, there could not be a better place to do it. Check out this detailed guide about scuba diving in Mauritius.
5Dig into history at Le Caudan Waterfront
Located in the capital town of Port Louis, Le Caudan Waterfront is technically Mauritius’s first shopping mall. It has a lovely Crafts Market that sells local jewellery, handicrafts and clothes. But hold on before you before you disregard it as just another swanky mall! The Le Caudan compound not only has a shopping arcade, but various parts of it are reminiscent of Mauritius’s history. For example, what is now the food court, originally used to be the first meteorological observatory of the Indian Ocean. The picturesque water-front originally started out as a harbour for incoming and outgoing ships carrying bags of sugar, one of the biggest exports of Mauritius. It is easy to spend an afternoon here strolling the cobbled walkways and picking up local goodies. Or you could just watch the glorious sunset and let it enamour you. It is here that city life slows down a bit and mingles with stories from the past – a welcome change from the beach shenanigans, if you ask me!
6 Sail away to Ile Aux Cerfs on a Catamaran
This is probably the most expensive activity on this list but there are still ways to minimize your expenses if you plan well. The Ile Aux Cerfs is one of Mauritius’s most beautiful islands located on its east coast. Soft, sandy white beaches and a beautiful lagoon makes this one of the most coveted tourist attractions of Mauritius. This is truly the stuff of dreams! You can easily spend a few hours walking around the island or swimming in the emerald waters.
However, the only way to get here is by a speedboat or a Catamaran from the mainland. Personally, I would recommend you go for a Catamaran if your budget permits.The slower pace gives you a much better experience of sailing on the Indian Ocean. The water looks absolutely breathtaking and is a delight to snorkel in. Alternately, you can also grab a beer and let the ocean breeze blow in your face while you soak in the vastness of your surroundings. While you’re at it, don’t miss the rocky hills in the background contrasting the soft waves of the sea!
Once you land in Mauritius, you will see no dearth of tour companies offering various packages to visit the Ile Aux Cerfs, sometimes coupled with other activities. Make sure to check at a few places to compare services vs price, before zeroing in on a tour operator. No matter how much you end up spending on this trip, the arresting views on the way and on the island itself, make it worth every penny!
7Drive around and explore the island
You’re on one of the most beautiful islands on earth, so you are probably going to stay close to the coast, right? But if you do want to explore the other parts of Mauritius, the most convenient way to commute will be to either rent a bike or a car for the duration of your stay. This gives you the much-needed flexibility to move around at your own pace and reach places which may not be connected via public transport. And the icing on the cake is the absolutely stunning roads of Mauritius! Highways meandering past grass patches with an imposing backdrop of the mountains – you will wish the drive never ended! Given that it’s a fairly small island, it is also not difficult to cover most of it by driving. The longest highway on the island connects Grand Baie in the North to Mahebourg (and the International Airport) towards the South and passes through Port Louis. For those of you who love the steering wheel, this may be one of the best drives you will experience on an island!
Look out for local car rental companies since they tend to be cheaper than their international counterparts. If you book in advance, they will even keep the car ready for you at the airport when you land, and you can drop off the car at the airport before departure. Depending on which car model and what benefits you choose, car rental can cost you from USD 30 per day.
Can you really travel to Mauritius on a budget?
YES! If you have never really thought about planning a trip because you couldn’t figure out what to do in Mauritius on a budget, I’d say this is a good place to start! It’s true that this island is exotic, to say the least, and hence may seem expensive. But don’t let that stop you! There are tons of things to do in Mauritius if you think beyond the conventional itineraries, to fit any budget type. Give this African beauty a chance and let it surprise you in more ways than one!