Mauritius Main

mauritius-main

Like Seychelles, its neighbor to the northwest, Mauritius enters the 21st century as an exotic alternative to more traditional sun-and-fun beach destinations. This Indian Ocean crossroads has seen its share of cultural collisions - Dutch, French, British, Indian, and Creole - and today those influences flavor the island's colorful mix of religious festivals, as well as its spicy cuisine.

French colonial buildings line the streets of the capital, Port Louis (where the Natural History Museum exhibits include a replica of the ill-fated, extinct dodo bird), and hikers can explore a world of trails, notably in Black River Gorges National Park.

But if you make the long journey to Mauritius, it's usually because of the stunning, white-sand beaches, and the full gamut of activities that come with them - diving, surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing (marlin and yellowfin tuna abound). Besides, how can you not love a place with a beach named Flic en Flac?

ISLAND THERAPY Indulge in a ylang-ylang purity body treatment at Oberoi Spa by Banyan Tree on Mauritius. $137 for 90 minutes. If you choose to stay there, room rates from $878, including breakfast, oberoihotels.com. At the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Mauritius, the spa's solarium is made from the bricks of an old nearby sugar factory. Spring for a full-body treatment using essential oils such as palmarosa, ylang-ylang, lemon grass and raventsara. Room rates from $742, including breakfast and dinner, movenpick-hotels .com. Whiff!, which was once at Mövenpick, is currently closed and has no plans to reopen as of press time.

RÉUNION'S FIELDS La Distillerie du Mäido near Petite France in northwest Réunion offers 30-minute tours of its geranium fields, distilleriedumaido.com. Also on Réunion, the Coopérative de Vanille plantation in Bras-Panon will teach you about vanilla through a film and a tour. The tour costs $6 per person. coopvanille-braspanon.com