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Destination of the Week: Mauritius

by on February 3, 2012 · 25 comments

in Destination of the Week

Part of the dramatic Moka Range outside Mauritius's capital of Port Louis.

This week’s record highs across most of the country got us longing for a little spot of summer, so we figured we’d talk about a destination near and dear to TPG’s heart: Mauritius.

This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean was once part of France and has a colonial legacy that brings lots of Europeans, but very few Americans, to its sunny shores. Well, the colonial legacy and the distance from North America.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Le Morne Mountain, near where the St. Regis will open.

However, just because it’s far from the U.S. doesn’t mean you can’t get there using a reasonable amount of points. And once you’re there, there are a surprising number of things to see and do, plus several accommodation options where you can earn and use your points.

Why Go?

Sure, there are tropical islands closer, but Mauritius is a special place with a fascinating mix of cultures that blends influences from Africa, India and Europe thanks to its location on the crossroads of the ancient spice trade routes. You can see all the things Brian did on his trip there last summer, but in the short version: he visited Hindu temples, played with baby lions and tigers, took a catamaran trip to a private island, and stopped at one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls … when he wasn’t relaxing on the stunning beaches.

The three streams of Chamarel falls, one of the island's most famous sights.

It makes for a great vacation destination for more active travelers looking to experience natural wonders like the Seven-Colored Earth at Chamarel Park, and disparate cultures like the Indian population on the island, as well as just relaxing on a sunny beach.

Getting There

Brian took his trip to Mauritius last summer using 120,000 Delta SkyMiles, he structured an itinerary that utilized Delta’s allowance of open jaws and stopovers and that took him from New York to Spain aboard Air Europa (stopover), Barcelona to Paris on Air France (open jaw), then down to Mauritius on Air Mauritius (destination), back through Paris to Amsterdam for a quick layover and on to New York on KLM. All in business class. All of those carrier’s award availability shows on ExpertFlyer, so simply piece together your ideal award and then call Delta to book.

A view down the coast during TPG's day out on the island.

If SkyTeam’s not your alliance, you can also catch flights to the island on Emirates through Dubai (you can also connect on British Airways or American Airlines through London then Dubai), or South African Airways through Johannesburg.

Hotels

Brezza restaurant and the main pool at the Grand Mauritian.

Grand Mauritian: Back in October, the Starwood Luxury Collection property suffered a devastating fire that badly damaged the lobby, one of the restaurants, and seven of the 15 villas. Since I could still book a room on the web site, I assume it’s not entirely closed, but be aware that the resort is probably still under repair. Brian actually stayed here during his visit last summer. In his review, he noted the resort has just 193 guest rooms and suites in 15 villa buildings. Like the other resorts on this list, it has several dining options including Bar 68 for casual meals and live music in the evenings, Brezza for poolside Italian dining, Seasons for gourmet meals, and the Reflections bar on the beach (and which also hosts a free cocktail happy hour for SPG Platinum members in the evening). Brian had booked a Deluxe Ocean View King, which was almost 650 square feet, but got upgraded to a Luxury Ocean View Terrace Suite that would have been more than twice the cost and was almost twice the size.  The aesthetic is sort of conservative beach chic with dark wooden built-ins, but bright blue upholstery and throw rugs, and crisp white linens in the bedrooms and bathrooms. The bathrooms look like they have standalone deep soaking tubs and separate showers. The resort can arrange for the usual array of beach and ocean activities, and there’s also a spa and fitness facility on property plus tennis courts. This is an SPG Category 5 property, so free nights go for 10,000-12,000 Starpoints or 4,800 Starpoints + $90 and rates start at 210 euros ($275) in February.

The Hilton Mauritius' waterfront with dramatic scenery in the background.

Hilton Mauritius: The Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa is about an hour’s drive from the international airport, and 15 minutes from Casela Nature Park where Brian walked with the lions and tigers. The hotel is right on the beach near Flic en Flac. The standard rooms are almost 500 square feet with either garden or ocean views, balconies, desks, armchairs and ottomans plus WiFi access. The resort’s pool is sort of lagoon-style with rock borders, waterfalls and foliage, and there’s a kid’s pool for families. There are also four restaurants and two bars including Melanzane for gourmet Italian, Ginger Thai, and Les Coquillages on the beach for seafood at lunch. The Spa Mauritius. This is a Hilton HHonors Category 7 hotel, requiring 50,000 points for a free night, which is pretty steep. Rooms are starting at 370 euros ($490) in February.

An aerial view of the Intercontinental and its beach.

Intercontinental Mauritius: Brian also stayed here while testing out his new Priority Club Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status last summer. The resort is on the northwest coast about an hour from the airport on a lagoon called the Baie aux Tortues and near the capital of Port Louis. It has only 210 rooms and suites decorated with crafts representing the many cultures that have passed through here including Chinese, Indian and Muslim. Rooms have a mix of dark wood fixtures and furnishings, and earth-colored tiles plus crisp white linens accented with touches of red, orange and turquoise fabrics. The bathrooms are pretty large as well with separate showers and freestanding deep soaking tubs, his-and-hers vanities, and WCs. The hotel has five restaurants and bars including Noble House for Asian fusion, Segala for Mediterranean and seafood, and Palms for salads and sandwiches. The Yuj Spa features treatments inspired by local healing traditions, and Brian said he had the best massage of his life there. Brian was upgraded from a Deluxe Ocean View Suite to one of the hotel’s nine two-story loft-style Presidential Suites with three private patios (the one on the rooftop had a spa Jacuzzi on it), a huge spa-style bathroom.

The foyer of Brian's Presidential Suite at the Intercontinental Mauritius.

Free nights here can be redeemed for as low as 30,000 Priority Club points in low season (their winter, when it’s still quite sunny and warm) up to 50,000 points in high season.

A Premium Nirvana Ocean View Room in the Le Meridien's adults-only Nirvana wing.

Le Méridien: The 265 guest rooms and suites have either mountain or Indian Ocean views, satellite TV, and even the standard Deluxe rooms are quite spacious at over 500 square feet. The Executive rooms are in their own wing of the building (the Nirvana wing) with a private beach and outdoor pool, and a restriction on children under 12, so no screaming kids there. Though overall the resort is child-friendly with activities like beach volleyball, sailing, waterskiing, glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling and more. It also has an Asian-inspired Taamra Wellness Spa with Indian and Balinese treatments, and a fitness center for staying in shape. Dining options include Shells right on the beach for casual meals, La Faya for chic Mediterranean “gastronomy,” La Croque for snacks, 180 Degrees for breakfast and dinner buffets, and Cumin for contemporary Indian cuisine by the pool. This is an SPG Category 4 hotel requiring 10,000 Starpoints for a free night though rates in February are going for 210 euros ($275).

A guest room at the soon-to-open St. Regis on the Le Morne Peninsula.

St. Regis Mauritius: This new hotel is scheduled to open in May 2012, by a lagoon on the Le Morne Peninsula on the southwest coast of the island near the UNESDCO World Heritage-listed Le Morne Mountain. The resort will have 173 rooms and suites spread out in colonial-style buildings across the property. Each will have St. Regis Signature Bedding, private terraces, LED TV’s with DVD players, WiFi access and what look to be huge bathrooms. The resort will have six restaurants and bars serving everything from contemporary Asian food to traditional Mauritian cuisine, and Indian, as well as a casual beach grill. There will be an Iridium Spa with 11 treatment rooms and 7 Spa Suites. The resort will chauffeur guests to and from the airport and to a nearby golf course in one of their Bentleys, and arrange activities like beach picnics, dolphin-spotting cruises on its private yacht, and various other water sports, plus kid’s activities at the St. Regis Children’s Club. No word on which SPG category this resort will fall into, but I suspect it will be 6 or 7, meaning it will take between 20,000-35,000 Starpoints to redeem for a free night.

The Splurge

One and Only's suites are housed in small buildings like these.

One & Only Le Saint Gérain: For a really decadent experience, consider a stay at what just might be the island’s most exclusive property, the One & Only Le Saint Gérain. This is 162 all-suite resort with a private villa on property as well, and all guests receive 24-hour butler service. Each suite (they start at 700 square feet) has a private terrace or balcony facing the ocean or a tropical garden. Beds come with Egyptian cotton sheets and goose-down pillows, while the colorful furniture is meant to evoke the Indian Ocean spice trade. Rooms also come equipped with satellite flatscreen TV’s, WiFi, big bathrooms with his-and-hers sinks, granite countertops, bathtubs and separate cascade showers. There are several gourmet restaurants including the PRIME steakhouse and Rasoi by Vineet for Michelin-quality Indian. Perhaps a bigger draw, however, is the onsite ESPA spa, salon and fitness center.

While it doesn’t have a loyalty program of its own, guests who book a stay on the One & Only website or the company’s reservation line at (230) 401-1888 can earn one Emirates Skywards mile for every US dollar spent on accommodation from now through March 2012. Rates start at a jaw-dropping 887 euros ($1,165) in February-March.

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  • Terradel711

    did you get paid to make this post? Seems like an add for mauritius.

  • Anonymous

    Nope- and when I went I used my own points/money. This series are just meant to highlight interesting destinations where you can use your points and miles.

  • Jon

    There are plenty of travel blogs Brian. I like your site because you talk about points, not destinations that the points can get you. I hope you choose to go back to your bread and butter and not waste time on these posts no one will read.

  • Anonymous

    The great thing is it doesnt have to be one or the other. In fact, I don’t even write these posts- Eric my managing editor does. It’s really just an opportunity to learn about a new destination and how to get there with miles and what hotels you can stay at with points. It’s not like every post is like this- just once a week to switch things up a little!

  • http://twitter.com/jamucsb Jamison

    great trip brian.. hopefully i can make the most of my delta miles like you did!

  • Jon

    First off, kudos for always handling criticism with class. I have seen some much more vile criticism than my own and you always deal with it in a dignified manner. Hopefully you don’t see mine as vile but rather as constructive :) I still enjoy your site overall.

    I can, and will, abstain from reading these types of posts as I guess they’re just not what I’m looking for when I come to your site. If other readers enjoy this, more power to them. I just hope you’re not publishing just for the sake of publishing. Quality always overrules quantity. Keep up the good work otherwise though.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree about quality and personally as someone who loves travel, there are plenty of places to read about destinations, but few that actually tell you how to get there with moles or show you how many points each hotel will cost. You can open up any travel mag but they won’t list how many Hilton points a hotel charges. So I totally see your point, but still think these posts can help people start thinking about where they can use their hard earned points.

    I really do appreciate the feedback, so keep it up!

  • R L

    Which destination do you prefer? Mauritus or Seychelles? I tried to use expertflyer to book a seychelles trip, but i had to go through Doha, Abu Dhabi or Dubai or Frankfurt

  • Anonymous

    Seychelles was more “magical” and also expensive. Mauritius was more crowded, but also had a more interesting blend of cultures.

    Air seychelles just stopped serving Paris so using Skymiles is no longer an option. You can, however, still use Skymiles for air mauritius/airframe code shares which is how I went. You can get to Seychelles via Kenya but that’s not the most convenient connection

  • R L

    Air France flies from Paris Orly to Mauritus and from Mauritus, Air Seychelles to Seychelles. Good way to see both islands.

  • bspn

    Hi TPG,

    i am confused about the open jaw part. Can you elaborate on that? Thanks.

  • Abr

    TPG I love you new series of destination posts and think it is very additive to the overall site. I believe the the goal of my point accumulation is to have travel experiences that I would have never otherwise considered. Would I ever go to Mauritius, maybe on a honeymoon. Would I ever go to Mauritius with a stopover in Paris all in business class while using points, yes. The point is that points allow me to experience travel that would have otherwise been cost prohibitive and new creative ways of using those points is a great addition to the site.

  • RP

    Mauritius was the 2nd stop on my honeymoon last year. The first stop was in Madagascar. I agree with Brian, Mauritius was a fantastic destination. We stayed at the Paradis Hotel & Golf Club right at the base of Le Morne. Even though I’m an SPG member, we simply couldn’t pass up this hotel and its location. With the St. Regis opening up, I think it might be time for another trip out to Le Morne.

  • Asar

    How do you commute on the island?

  • Jessica

    If you want to see fabulous secluded beaches (like ones in calendars), Seychelles is the way to go. If you go in winter, snorkeling and scuba are popular. In the summer, sailing is big. There isn’t much for shopping or other cultural activities. It takes about 5 minutes to see the capital city of Victoria. Driving is not for the faint of heart in Seychelles with narrow, steep roads.

    Mauritius has beaches that are OK (Florida’s are nicer), a very different, interesting culture, shopping, and some unique natural sites. Mauritius is where the Seychellios go on vacation since it is cheaper and has places to shop. The snorkeling was good and they have all the typical beach activities like dolphin watching and scuba. It’s a popular vacation spot for Germans and French who get packages that make the hotels like an all-inclusive. At the Hilton, water activities are included. I found the restaurants were not very good and we went off-site for dinner every night. The Hilton was a good base being in the middle of the island for venturing out on excursions. I would recommend getting a car there if possible. Driving is on the left but the roads are wide and well marked.

    Between the 2, I would go back to Seychelles in a heartbeat even though I already spent 2 weeks there. It was just so beautiful and relaxing. Mauritius was a once in a lifetime is good location and we felt like we saw everything in a week.

  • Phil

    Having been to Mauritius twice (10 days as part of our honeymoon and five days last year, some 11 years later) I’d really struggle to recommend it to an American crowd given the travel distance. It is not in the same “wow” league as Seychelles or Maldives and not worth the very long travel distance (on what is not the best set of business products in the world either). The hotels are nice-ish but nothing you couldn’t find a lot closer to home. Any American would be better off say with a week at the Westin Grand Cayman or St Regis Monarch Beach than going half way round the world to spend time in generic but nice Grand Mauritian.

  • Kathy K

    Tough crowd today, eh? sprinkling some “niceness” around the TPG group.

  • http://www.youwentwhere.com/ Adam1222

    Confused about the routing and where the open jaw comes in.
    Wouldn’t this just be JFK-BCN (stopover), BCN-MRU via CDG, MRU – CDG -AMS-JFK?

  • Blake

    The Grand Mauritian is closed…I think indefinitely. Or at least haven’t been able to find out when they say they are going to re-open. Check out the message when you go directly to their site — http://www.thegrandmauritian.com/

  • Anonymous

    It was JFK-Madrid (stopped for a week) and then I got my own way to BCN so the open jaw was there. BCN-MRU (Destination). MRU-JFK via CDG and AMS.

  • Anonymous

    I’d respectfully disagree. To me, travel is more about the physical hotel or beach. I agree that its far, but I’m sure there are some TPG readers who are looking for an “outside the box” type destination that is unique and exotic- which is what Mauritius is. I agree Seychelles have nicer beaches, but theres more to do in Mauritius and its still a pretty remarkable place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Elchananpdx Elchanan van Herpen

    Dear Brian,
    Is it posible to still book a business class only flight using delta from usa(PDX) to MRU ? (2013)
    Thanks
    Chanan

  • http://www.facebook.com/Elchananpdx Elchanan van Herpen

    Is it still posible to book a business class only flight for 110.000 miles using delta miles in 2013?
    PDX-MRU
    I only see 185.000 economy
    Thanks
    Chanan (dutchguypdx)

  • thepointsguy

    If you find saver availability (like on partners) it’s only 120k round trip for business class. Delta.com doesn’t accurately show availability FYI

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