With its small population, marvelous blend of cultures, and enticing culinary scene, Mauritius has been a tourist favorite for years, but Port Louis, its bustling capital city, is particularly worth visiting. It’s the obvious choice if you’re a fan of slow travel, and truth be told, we think you’re unlikely to find a more unique travel experience off the coast of Africa.
From its majestic beaches to its rich history, and vibrant nightlife, there are plenty of reasons to pay Port Louis a visit besides the tropical climate. In fact, there are also plenty of colorful alleyways to explore in Chinatown, and a host of French colonial architecture to admire all around, and don’t get us started on the local street food.
If you need even further convincing, these seven reasons to visit Port Louis are sure to sell you on an unforgettable holiday in this tropical paradise. Let’s get into it. You’ll thank us later.
Kickstarting our list we have one of the first things you’ll notice about Port Louis – its gorgeous beaches. Since you’re considering a tropical getaway, we’re willing to bet that beach relaxation is probably on your agenda. You can rest assured that this city has some seriously beautiful white sands, ideal for a honeymoon or family vacation.
Situated near the suburb of Grand Bay in Port Louis, La Cuvette Beach is a great place to visit if you want to give sailing a go since its currents and strong are ideal for it. It might be smaller when compared to the other beaches in Mauritius, but it’s picturesque nonetheless. Its crystal clear, turquoise waters, and dazzling boulders make it the perfect spot to lounge out if you don’t enjoy crowds and prefer tranquil days by the sea.
Another not-to-be-missed Port Louis highlight is Mont Choisy Beach. Here you’ll find a curve-shaped bay lined with beautiful Casuarina trees, which offer an incredible backdrop to a tropical sunset. It’s also the longest beach strip in Mauritius and a great place for photography lovers, watersports, or a game of volleyball with your friends and family. Of course, you could also bask in the tropical climate.
Port Louis really doesn’t have any shortage of adventurous activities for adrenaline junkies on offer. There are many tour operators and scuba diving instructors in Port Louis and we particularly recommend paying a visit to one of the most popular diving sites, namely La Cathédrale. It’s an excellent spot for both snorkeling and scuba diving, whether you’re giving it a go for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro under the waves.
That said, Port Louis has a lot more to offer beyond its waters. This entrancing city is also home to several popular hiking trails like Signal Mountain and Quoin Bluff Circular. The trail is open year-round and considered a moderately challenging route, usually taking around two hours and 20 minutes to complete. It offers an incredible aerial view of Port-Louis at the top, and dogs are welcome to join. Additionally, you could also try your hand at zip-lining with a loved one as the sun sets on the horizon at Adventure Valley.
Mauritius has an enthralling culture, and Port Louis is particularly vibrant. As the most widely populated city in Mauritius, the city has a long history dating back to the colonization era of both the French and the British.
It might surprise you to know that although the majority of the population is Hindu, their main cultural influences are from France. For example Creole, their native language is a mix of African, Asian, and English dialects. Visiting here offers tourists a glimpse into a distinctive culture, and you’ll find a diverse mix of people living in harmony despite their different backgrounds.
A bubbly nightlife has also developed in recent years, with microbreweries like Lambic and Flying Dodo Brewing Company garnering international reputations. Popular spots like Karma Lounge or Le Suffren Hotel & Marina are typically packed over the weekends, and you’ll find plenty of watering holes at the city’s iconic Le Caudan Waterfront.
On top of this, there are many different festivals hosted in Port Louis, and arguably the most famous is Divali. During this Hindu celebration, little clay lamps are placed on walls, terraces, and yards at sunset to celebrate light and hope. It’s believed that their rays will guide the Goddess of wealth and good fortune to lead Hindus to prosperity.
Then there’s Cavadi, another religious festival, but it should be noted that this one can be a little more intense and isn’t for the faint of heart. At this festival, volunteers are pierced with needles and pins before carrying wooden arches covered with flowers and pots of milk, called Cavadis, on their shoulders. It’s believed to be a purifying ritual. Quite hectic right? Still, it can be a colorful and intriguing service to watch.
Mauritius is home to one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the world, with influences from Asian, African, Indian, and even French cuisine. Trying out local dishes like fish vindaye, mutton Halim soup, spicy dhal puri flatbread, and the infamous bad bone, a white fish resembling the red snapper, is a must when you’re on the island.
Eating in Port Louis is a sensor experience and you’ll find mouthwatering native cuisine around every corner. You could pay a visit to Sailors for a taste of the region’s traditional Cajun-Creole favorites, or The Courtyard in the city center for world-class seafood. You could even make a trip to Brasserie Chic at Labourdonnais Waterfront Business Hotel if you’re in the mood for international decadence.
But of course, we can’t forget Chinatown’s sensational street food. It’s a fairly popular spot, with the streets being full even after closing time and on weekends, and there’s also the annual Chinatown Food and Cultural Festival which adds to the popularity. You’ll find plenty of local favorites here, like bol renverse, which is a bowl of stir-fried rice, chicken, vegetables, and fried egg – not dissimilar to an Indonesian nasi goreng.
Visiting the local market is another way to get a taste of the mouthwatering local cuisine. The central market houses a sensational variety of fresh foods, including meat, fish, veggies, and fruit. You’ll find a wealth of local products, spices, and traditional handicrafts too. Other notable markets in Port Louis include Rose Hill and Vacoas, Quatre Bornes, Flacq, and Curepipe.
Port Louis was founded in 1638, with the harbor itself boasting a strategic location for ships sailing from Europe to Asia during the colonization era for both the French and British. Consequently, the city is home to a plethora of incredible architecture from colonial houses, fortifications, government offices, and modern buildings among others.
For starters, you could visit Aapravasi Ghat. This building housed forced laborers from India in the 19th-century before the abolition of slavery in 1834. It’s currently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses the remains of three stone buildings dating back to the 1860s. Then there’s the Jummah Mosque, which combines Indian, Creole, and Islamic architecture, and is where the remains of Jamal Shah in a marble tomb next to the mosque can be found.
You could also explore the Marie Reine de la Paix, which is a modern chapel with breathtaking views, consisting of a 26-foot statue of the Virgin Mary on a 175-foot platform. Finally, take in the incredible views of Port Louis and its harbor at Fort Adelaide, which stands at 240 feet above sea level. It was built in fear of a civil war by the remaining French settlers on the island between 1834 and 1840 under the direction of William IV and named after Queen Adelaide.
Port Louis has an undeniably rich history, and paying a visit to one of its museums offers an enthralling window into it. There’s no shortage of amazing free options either.
One of the most interesting is the Blue Penny Museum, which houses some of the most famous post stamps in the world, namely The Two Pence Blue, and the Red One-Penny stamps. It’s important to note, however, that you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the museum, and the most famous stamps are shown for only 10 minutes at a time. The admission fee is 245 MUR for tourists, roughly $6, and it’s open daily between 10 AM and 5 PM, except for Sundays.
Another option is the Natural History Museum, which is located inside the Mauritius Institute building, next to Les Jardins de la Compagnie, where several natural science exhibits, as well as the skeleton of the extinct Dodo bird, are on display. It also has an extensive collection of seashells, butterflies, and other insects. On top of this, you could also explore the Postal Museum, at the Caudan Waterfront, where you’ll learn more about the history of postal services in Mauritius. Last but not least, you could visit the Bank of Mauritius Museum, which houses a collection of historic coins and banknotes.
The Street Art
Finally, you must experience Port Louis’ vibrant street art scene. It’s evolved quite a bit in recent years and documents the cultural melting pot that is Mauritius.
Following the Porlwi by Light festival, an initiative started in 2015 in Port Louis to help spread awareness of the historical and cultural heritage of the country intertwined with themes of nature, many crumbling buildings and walls have been given makeovers with colorful murals. Local and international artists, commissioned by the city, have turned around Port Louis’ once run-down streets to reflect the vibrance and creativity of the capital.
Most of the street art can be found all over Chinatown, mainly because the non-profit organization, The New Chinatown Foundation, funded a lot of the work to restore the area and promote the district to tourists. Emmanuel Anquetil Street is a true highlight with images like the “Flying Fox” and “Girl Playing the Flute” by Armand Gache being local favorites. There’s also the Kungfu Panda mural, imagined as breaking the walls of Chinatown down, which is a great photo spot for kids. “Le Grand Bleu de Mauric” by Oksana Kandabura is another special piece depicting aquatic scenes of the diverse marine life to be found in Port Louis’ waters.
You’ll also spot some on Bourbon and Sir William Newton Streets and huge intricate works covering the entire sides of buildings crop up around every corner. All in all, it’s an undeniable highlight in Port Louis and makes meanless strolling a feast for the senses in the city.
Is Mauritius expensive?
Mauritius can be an expensive holiday destination, especially when it comes to stocking up on toiletries and cosmetics on your trip. This is because most tourist products have to be imported since Mauritius is an isolated island. Local food can be very cheap but international restaurants, especially around the upscale harborfront area of Port Louis, can cost a pretty penny. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and cosmetic products with you to save some money while you are there.
Is Port Louis safe?
Port Louis, like Mauritius on the whole, is very safe to travel to and petty crime will be your biggest concern in the city. Downtown Port Louis and central tourist districts can demonstrate higher crime rates, but this is usually due to opportunistic pickpockets who prey on vulnerable tourists distracted by the sights. Violent crime is very low and you should have a problem-free trip as long as you keep an eye on your belongings and surroundings and leave valuables back at your hotel.
When is the best time to visit Mauritius?
Mauritius benefits from warm year-round temperatures thanks to its tropical climate. The island has two seasons and you’ll find cooler temperatures during Mauritian winter which is May to September, while things heat up a bit from October but the island also experiences more rain. If you want to avoid summer crowds, head to Mauritius in October when the temperature rises but the rain hasn’t come in full force yet and shoulder-season discounts could save you some money.