The Maldives and Mauritius have sometimes been compared to the bride and bridesmaid at a wedding. But while overwater villas on tiny atolls in a cerulean sea with live coral reefs are dressed to impress, Maldives holidays are pretty homogenous.
Mauritius’ warm, authentic welcome, diverse holiday experiences and commitment to sustainable tourism, earned it third place on Lonely Planet’s best places to travel this year, and we're seeing travellers slowly discovering that Mauritius is a fraction of the price of the Maldives and offers a whole lot more.
Like the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, the Maldives and Mauritius have long been rivals. This year it is Mauritius’s turn to win. Why? Perhaps because of the pent-up demand for postponed weddings (you can’t get married in the Maldives) and multigenerational family reunions (at cheaper private villas – in the Maldives, villas are only found in hotels).
It’s worth noting, too, that Mauritius only fully lifted Covid restrictions this July, taking the time to polish its product, to refurbish and reinvigorate its luxury hotels, bringing in international DJs, wellness gurus and celebrity chefs.
Mauritius hotels have a warmer, more authentic service, not to mention complimentary watersports (many Maldives hotels charge extra) and golf courses. And don’t forget, here there’s a whole island to explore – in the Maldives, there’s just a sandbank, and your hotel. Mauritius has everything from hiking in nature reserves, electric bike rides and whale watching, to visiting plantation homes and doing street food tours.
But the main reason Mauritius outstrips the Maldives? Price. A trip to the Maldives is, on average, two to three times more expensive than an equivalent holiday in Mauritius.
A week in a five-star hotel in Mauritius costs roughly £5,000 per couple – less than a stay in a three-star hotel in the Maldives – while an average five-star Maldives holiday costs £13,000. Factor in return seaplane transfers at £400 per person – versus £180 for a private road transfer anywhere in Mauritius – and it’s a no brainer. Mauritius comes out firmly on top.
Plan your Mauritius holiday
Fit for a royal
On a sheltered northeast coast peninsula, Constance Prince Maurice is the only hotel on the island with overwater suites on stilts, as big as houses. With just 89 of them, this place is small enough to take good care of you, while eager golfers have (free) access to two Championship courses, and premium all-inclusive packages include Champagne and seafood suppers by candlelight at the island's only floating restaurant.
How to do it: Susie Freeman Travel (01488 668821; susiefreemantravel.com) offers seven nights at Constance Prince Maurice in a junior overwater suite from £5,630 per couple, premium all-inclusive, including wine-tasting and private transfers, but excluding flights.
Luxury north to south twin-centre
Fashionistas will love floating breakfasts in the rooftop infinity pool, the Miami-style beach club and the underground spa at LUX* Grand Baie Resort & Residences. After the buzz of the Mauritius Riviera, recharge – and go kitesurfing – at romantic LUX* Le Morne.
How to do it: Luxury Holidays Direct (020 8774 7299; luxuryholidaysdirect.com) has a 10-night five-star twin-centre from £9,369 per couple for travel between May to September, with a five-night stay in a junior suite at LUX* Grand Baie, with a catamaran cruise to spot dolphins and a five-night stay in a superior room at LUX* Le Morne, with a private sunset aperitif on Le Morne mountain. It includes flights with Air Mauritius and the VIP arrival lounge, and private transfers with sightseeing between hotels.
Snorkelling with dolphins on a catamaran cruise is a highlight of this luxury escape at the five-star Four Seasons Resort Mauritius. Also on offer is unlimited golf on-site, African rainforest treatments in the island's only overwater spa and lazy dodo rum cocktails at the exclusive beach on Ile aux Cerfs.
How to do it: Black Tomato (0207 426 9888; blacktomato.com) has the Ultimate Mauritius trip with a seven-night stay in a thatched villa with plunge pool, and a bicycle to pootle about on, from £4,399 per person, B&B, including private transfers, but excluding flights. Bespoke experiences include a Creole food tour, sampling street food and eating lunch in a local home.
Beaches and mountains
This couples holiday explores different geographical regions of Mauritius, while staying in four-star boutique accommodation – from a white clapboard Relais & Châteaux hotel in a coconut grove beside the sea near Grand Baie to a boho-chic eco-lodge in the Chamarel highlands.
How to do it: Kuoni (0800 047 3893; kuoni.co.uk) has the 10-night Mountains and Beach twin-centre trip from £2,458 per person, half board, based on travel in June, with a seven-night stay in a charm room at 20 Degrees Sud and a three-night stay in a pool suite at Lakaz Chamarel Exclusive Lodge, with A Love Tree tour at Ebony Forest, to plant an endemic tree. It includes flights with Air Mauritius and a private car and driver to sightsee between hotels.
Romantic island living
Couples seeking a Crusoe-style experience should choose the five-star Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa. Butlers await with a cold towel on the jetty at its private island Ilot Mangenie, and bear truffle pizzas and rosé to cabanas. Golfers get Ile aux Cerfs, one of the planet's most stunning island courses, while foodies have monthly visits from celebrity chefs and Champagne-pairing suppers in a hyperdome overlooking the sea.
How to do it: Elegant Resorts (01244 897271; elegantresorts.co.uk) has a seven-night stay in an Frangipani one bedroom suite ocean view – with butler service, a la carté breakfasts and a daily happy hour, plus an adult pool and a secluded beach – from £4,200 per person, B&B, including flights on Emirates, private transfers and UK airport lounge passes. Based on a May 8 departure, for travel until April 30 2024.
Elegant but relaxed, the plantation-style five-star Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort at Bel Ombre in the southwest, is great for families. It has a baby club, large pools and activities for everyone – including quad biking and kitesurfing for teens, golf and gastronomic dinners. Take the tribe for a Mauritian lunch in a picnic pod in the nature reserve, with a swim beneath a waterfall and traditional Mauritian games.
How to do it: Turquoise Holidays (01494 678 400; turquoiseholidays.co.uk) has a seven-night stay in a deluxe seaview suite from £6,395 per family (two adults and two children under 12 years), half board, with a choice of four restaurants at dinner. It includes flights with Air Mauritius and private transfers. Based on travel in July, for bookings by Dec 15.
Active families experience the “real” Mauritius, staying at eco-lodges and guesthouses and exploring on foot, bike and kayak in this adventure led by locals. Highlights are a guided kayak to Amber Island with snorkelling, a kids treasure hunt around Port Louis – sampling street food and exploring Wolmar Nature Reserve on fat bikes, spotting deer and wild boar.
How to do it: Responsible Travel (01273 823 700; responsibletravel.com) has a 10-night bespoke Mauritius family adventure from £4,102 for a family of four, half board, including four lunches, car rental, guided activities and local assistance, but excluding flights. Accommodation includes the colonial-style Auberge Saint Aubin, with an on-site artisanal rum distillery and vanilla plantation.
Cosy Veranda Tamarin hotel on the west coast is popular with young couples seeking an active holiday that’s easy on the wallet. Its explorer programme allows guests to exchange credits earned per nights’ stay for local activities – such as a street food tour, sunset on Trois Mamelles mountain, or kayaking with the dolphins in Tamarin Bay.
How to do it: British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com) has a seven-night stay at the three-star plus Veranda Tamarin from £1,381 per person, half board, including flights on British Airways. Book by Dec 15, for stays between Jan 20 and May 31.
With over a mile of talcum-powder-white beaches on an east coast peninsula and white-clad beach staff in panama hats, the One&Only Le Saint Géran oozes luxury. Think Pedi:Mani:Cure by Bastien Gonzalez in the spa, dining at lantern-lit Pan-Asian restaurant Tapasake and a helicopter trip to view the “underwater waterfall” at Le Morne.
How to do it: Red Savannah (01242 787800; redsavannah.com) has a six-night stay in a standard lagoon room from £2,534 per person, half board, with dining at La Terrasse, and credit for other restaurants, including return flights on Air Mauritius and private transfers. For travel between May 8 to July 29.
Island-hopping in the Indian Ocean
This twin centre holiday combines relaxing on the beaches of Mauritius with an exploration of the lunar landscape of Reunion Island, a 45-minute flight away. Book a day trip to the private island Ile des Deux Cocos in Mauritius, with snorkelling in Blue Bay marine park and a Mauritian-style buffet lunch.
How to do it: Saga (0800 9885 886; travel.saga.co.uk) has the 10-night Mauritius and Reunion Twin Centre trip from £2,038 per person, B&B, with a seven-night stay in the four-star Tamassa Hotel in southwest Mauritius and three nights in the three-star plus Hotel Le Recif in Reunion including flights and transfers, and two full-day excursions – a history tour in Mauritius and a four-wheel drive to visit the volcano on Reunion Island.
How to get there
Air Mauritius (020 7660 0062; airmauritius.com) flies five times weekly from London Heathrow to Mauritius during the winter season, while British Airways (0844 493 0787, ba.com) flies four times weekly from London Gatwick. The best non-direct service is with Emirates (0344 800 2777; emirates.com) with three daily flights to Mauritius from Dubai.