Reunion was a destination I had longed to go to for quite some time. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, only what I had been told – “it’s not really a beach destination, but more of an active travellers’ destination” – so I shouldn’t expect my usual island holiday.
Flying on Air Austral to Reunion is a quick and easy flight and direct out of Johannesburg. If you decide to do a 2 destination trip, which for me, if travelling from South Africa would be the perfect way to spend 10 – 12 nights away. With Air Austral, the flights not only make the triangular journey easy and comfortable, but also really affordable– the airline scores high on my ranking!
3 Reunion myths that need to be cleared quickly
- Reunion is not a 2 night stopover island – you will only be doing yourself an injustice and not fully getting to appreciate all there is to offer. This would be like trying to squeeze Dubai or New York into 2 nights and thinking you have seen enough to know what is has to offer – Believe me, it’s impossible.
- Reunion is not a beach destination – As much as Reunion does not have long stretches of soft sandy white beach, it certainly does have the most beautiful coastline and there are definitely some amazing swimming beaches, especial in the south and south –west – St Pierre & St Gilles areas.
- Reunion is a typical island with nothing much available to tourists – Reunion is a French overseas department and therefore extremely well run and quite European in the way everything works well and what is available to the tourist, the expat and the resident.
So which type of traveller is Reunion Island suited to?
I would say – all types of travellers – couples, honeymooners, singles, groups, school groups, families, active travellers – there is something for everyone.
Anyone who wants their senses ignited. Anyone who wants to see beauty so untouched and remarkable that you will be left standing in awe gasping. Anyone who wants to tantalise their taste buds with so many varieties of different cultural cuisines. Reunion is a place to be educated – a wonderland for any Geography teacher wanting to breathe life into their classroom – it doesn’t get better than the Island of Reunion!
What would a typical itinerary consist of?
If you are thinking of doing Reunion on its own or combining Reunion with Mauritius, I wouldn’t allow for less than 4 nights and 5 full days. There is so much to see, do and take in to make your stay worthwhile for a full 7 Night period.
Air Austral flies direct from Johannesburg to Reunion 3 times a week. The Arrival time is at approx. 8pm and the departing flights are at approx. 10:30am. With this schedule in mind my suggestion would be to a full 7 night Reunion Itinerary or an alternative option would be to spend 4/5 nights in Reunion and then go to Mauritius for a further 5 to 7 nights. This in my opinion really offers the best of two completely different islands and holidays at the same time.
There is no need to get a private tour in Reunion. If you feel comfortable driving on the right hand side of the road, hiring a car would be most suitable and economical way. As in Europe, it is extremely well sign posted and easy to follow.
Below is my suggested 7 night itinerary based on arriving in Reunion late on the first evening into St Dennis.
Hotel suggestion for Night 1 would be the 4 star Hotel Bellepierre – located 15 mins from the airport in St Dennis and is situated high up on a hill with most exquisite view, especially from the breakfast room.
DAY 1 – 3: SAINT DENIS – LA SALINE LES BAINS
ACCOMMODATION 2 NIGHTS: LE LUX SAINT GILES *****
- Must see – Plage de l’Ermitage, which is the island’s longest beach, Plage de l’Ermitage attracts recreational swimmers and snorkelers with its calm waters. Shaded by a line of casuarina trees, the beach is covered with powdery white sand mostly made of ground corals and shells. The lagoon, a designated nature reserve, is protected from the dangers of the open sea–namely shark attacks and strong waves. Perfect to SUP, swim and do a little snorkelling.
La Maison du Coco – nestled in the Coconut grove the tree known for 1000 uses – this house showcases the coconut with all its benefits.
- Must eat – at LE K’BANON – Amazing seafood and other delicious dishes! Make an afternoon of it!
- Must do – explore Réunion’s canyons – starting with some hiking, a little zip lining, rappelling and water-sliding – ultimate in canyoning.
- The Hotel – LUX SAINT GILES is one of the best resort type hotels that you will find on the island. Rooms are amazing, the hotel has the largest swimming pool on the island, the buffet is tremendously large, there is a gym, a spa and it’s the finest 5 star beach side property you will find in Reunion Island.
DAY 3 – 5: LA SALINE LES BAINS – CILAOS – ST PIERRE
ACCOMMODATION 2 NIGHTS: LE BATTANT DES LAMES ***
- Must see – Le Piton Maido is extremely popular for the amazing views as well as the highland for its tamarind forest and geranium fields.
- Must eat – Typical home prepared lunch in one of the small villages. Don’t be surprised if every dish is prepared with their infamous vegetable “Choux Choux”
- Must do – The Piton de la Fournaise – Whilst staying St Pierre, make a day of going to the volcano. It is one of the world’s most active and yet most accessible volcanoes – The 3 Cirques (craters) on the island, Salazie, Cilaos and Mafate – with Mafate’s only access being on foot. The day we made the trip, viewing was impossible due to rain
- Must Go – Near to the hotel is the biggest local market in Reunion to spend a little free time experiencing local produce and locally made items.
- The Hotel – LE BATTANT DES LAMES is a brand newly built hotel classed as a 3 star hotel, which I would be more inclined to place in the upper 3 lower 4 star category. The food at the dinner restaurant of the Hotel was fantastic – Salmon prepared to perfection, was a definite highlight for me! The rooms were spacious and the staff extremely helpful and friendly. Definitely worth a second visit.
Day 5 – 7: ST PIERRE – LE TAMPON – SALAZIE – ST ANNE
Stay at LE DIANA DEA LODGE *** for 2 Night.
- Must see – Driving along Route des Laves, to see first-hand the effects of volcanoes on the ever-changing landscape. Volcanic flows from Piton de la Fournaise regularly rolls across the landscape, shaping the area as the flows cool and harden.
- Must eat – en-route to Le Tampon must experience a typical creole picnic at “Le Belvedere” of Boiscourt with Anime Pique Nique. The views are incredible, the picnic food along with the music and rum was a definite highlight and an A Plus!!
- Must do – Helicopter tour before leaving St Pierre – there are a number of different options to choose from – I highly recommend the 35 min option with volcano and 3 cirque viewing – this viewing will stay in your heart forever – it is breath-taking!
- The Hotel –LE DIANA DEA LODGE is in a class of its own – albeit the drive and windy road getting to the hotel was quite a task, it was well worth it in the end. If you didn’t know better, you could easily believe you were in the Alps about to start your ski holiday. This lodge is fantastic. The rooms are superb, with amazing views and the most comfortable beds I have stayed in for the longest time! The food was extraordinary- with management fully immersed in this Gem of a place that would make going to St Anne very worthwhile.
Day 8: – DEPART – MORNING DEPARTURE FROM ST DENNIS
There are different routes that can be taken and different places added – what matters is what appeals most to the traveller – there is something for everyone in Reunion. This is an island that has a history in farming from vanilla, to cocoa to coffee and now has made tourism its primary industry.
Should you wish to do a Reunion and Mauritius combo, you will still be able to see plenty of this incredible Island with a 4 or 5 night stay – just make sure you include the Helicopter Trip, which is such a treat!
Other fantastic areas of interests:
- Reunion is building one of the longest highways over water with perhaps the largest Viaduct. The 12.5km highway, parallel to the coast, will connect Saint Dennis with La Grande Chaloupe and replace the existing coastal road between Saint Dennis and La Possession.
- Bourbon Pointu, the king of coffees. A product native to Reunion Island, Bourbon pointu is not only the best (and one of the most expensive!) coffees in the world: it is delicious and people travel from all over the world to have it.
- Bourbon Vanilla: Vanilla from Reunion Island, or Bourbon vanilla, is now considered to be the best in the world.
Reunion is the most remarkable Island that I have ever been to. It is extremely safe, easy to get to, a variety of activities to do and the ability to get around the island very easily.
Most importantly Reunion Island is a destination that will allow you to leave enriched, rested and wanting to return again and again.
Interested in this suggested itinerary? Book it here:
Check out all our Reunion packages here: https://www.igotravel.co.za/offers/reunion-holidays/
Blog written by Ravella Lambert – Owner of iGO Travel. Ravella travelled to Reunion in Jun 2017, with Reunion Tourism.