Reunion Island: It’s a place many of us have heard of, but we’re not entirely sure why. Is it like Easter Island, with its strange statues recognized around the world? And where is it? What’s the weather like? Our questions encouraged us to take a deeper dive into why Reunion Island is worth visiting during your next vacation.
Unlike Easter Island, Reunion Island is off the coast of Africa, nearest to Madagascar, and is a Department of France, meaning it’s under French rule and its people hold French citizenship. French is the official language and the euro is the currency. This means it’s actually reasonable to get to Reunion Island via direct flight from Paris and easy to obtain a visitor’s visa. Of course, all that is wonderful, but can be said of many locations. So, why should you visit Reunion Island instead of someplace closer to home? Here are our top 10 reasons.
1. The Fresh Fruits And Local Cuisine Are Absolutely Delicious
Food may not always be the thing we think of first and foremost when it comes to choosing a vacation spot, but Reunion Island may change that for you. Reunion Island is modern and French, but locals have preserved their culinary traditions over many years of French rule -- and assimilated culinary techniques from India, Sri Lanka, China, and mainland Africa, meaning visitors can enjoy delicious and truly unique dishes.
You’ll find the samoussa, for example -- a delicacy reflective of the Indian cuisine brought by immigrants to the island decades ago. Samoussas, much like samosas, are stuffed with fish or minced meat and seasoned with Reunionese spices. You’ll also find bouchon -- a take on Chinese dumplings with an island twist. Chicken curry is another popular dish, along with rougail saucisse, a surprisingly flavorful sausage made with tomato and onion.
In addition to the diverse cooked food, there’s the fruit. Oh, the fruit! You’ll find lychees, bananas, coconuts, pineapples, mangoes, guavas, and many other sweet and tangy tropical fruits served fresh from Reunion Island’s trees and vines.
2. There Are Nearly 600 Miles Of Hiking Trails To Enjoy
If you love the outdoors, you will fall in love with this island and may never want to leave. The island boasts 550 miles of marked hiking trails that will take you past waterfalls, canyons, up volcano walls, and through lush forests. More good news: There are no entrance fees for Reunion Island National Park, and camping sites are abundant across the island. The National Park itself occupies 42 percent of the island’s landmass, which means it truly is an outdoorsy paradise perfect for hikers of all experience levels.
3. You Can Visit A Remote Village Only Accessible By Foot Or Helicopter
Speaking of hiking, the island is home to three cirques, or small villages, one of which is only accessible by hiking in or flying via helicopter. Cirque de Mafate is inhabited by the descendants of runaway slaves who saved their lives by maintaining physical isolation in the area. There are 180 Mafatais who welcome hikers into the village. No roads lead into or out of the area, which is why you must hike in or fly in. But a dense network of hiking trails allow the Mafatais and hikers alike to gain access to the remote crater villages filled with colorful homes and buildings. Popular entry points that allow access to the trails leading to the cirque are in Riviere des Galets, Maido, Taibit, Col des Boeufs, and Dos-D’ane.
4. An Incredible, Active Volcano Awaits You
One of the most famous features of Reunion Island is its amazing, active volcano. Piton de la Fournaise is a basaltic volcano with more than 150 recorded eruptions, including one as recent as August 2019, though this shouldn’t alarm you too much; the volcano erupts a few times a year in some cases. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, which, of course, means it draws lots of visitors looking for a unique experience. Residents celebrate the eruptions and gather at various vantage points to delight in the natural wonder. The volcano is only one of two on the island but is the more active of the two by far.
5. The Dazzling Coral Reefs And Sparkling Waters Are Perfect For Swimming And Water Sports
Surrounding Reunion Island you’ll find some of the bluest, clearest waters. Swim off its shores, and you’ll have the opportunity to spot nearly 900 species of fish and dozens of different species of coral. Only certain areas are suitable for year-round diving -- the easiest dives are off the west coast near Saint Pierre and Saint Paul. A marine reserve encompasses nearly 12.5 miles of protected reef, offering shelter to soft and hard corals, an abundance of fish and crustaceans, and other marine life. This means you’ll find some of the most diverse diving and snorkeling opportunities in the world. Not a diver? You can enjoy swimming, paddle boarding, or kayaking with some incredible views.
6. You Can Go Canyoning In The Waterfalls
For those looking for a thrill on their tropical vacation, canyoning and aqua hiking are some of the most popular options on Reunion Island. There are dozens of sites suitable for the activities, including incredible waterfalls, ziplines, and slides. Grab your wetsuit and helmet, find a guide, and head out into the rivers, waterfalls, and canyons to dive under rocks, take 32-foot drops -- only on advanced tours, of course -- and expand your views of the world through the incredible sites and unique experiences of these intense, watery sports.
7. The Weather Is Pretty Much Perfect Any Time of Year
Whether you’re planning a summer vacation, a winter getaway, a spring break trip, or an autumn cool down, Reunion Island is ready for you. The weather in this tropical paradise is near perfect all year round. The humidity levels change and national holidays shut things down occasionally, but generally, any time of year that you want to visit, you’ll find the weather pleasant and suitable for a host of outdoor activities.
From December to March, you’ll experience temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while in the winter months (April to November), you’ll enjoy a slightly cooler climate in the upper 60s to mid-70s.
8. You Can Crawl Through Lava Tunnels
This is an incredibly unique experience you can have on Reunion Island. Crawl through the lava tunnels in the inactive sections of the island’s live volcanoes. You’ll need a guide, of course, to find your way into the small openings of the networks of natural and magnificent tunnels formed by volcanic pressure over millennia.
Some spots along this adventure include changing colors as you slide through narrow passages, cathedral-size halls within the formations, and even spots where you can see folds that are still forming within the tunnels.
9. You’ll Try Some Of The Most Amazing Rum In The World
If you love good rum, then you’ll need to visit Reunion Island. Multiple distilleries around the island offer their amazing liquors made according to their recipes, or you can choose to blend rum with herbs and spices for your own unique batch.
The island has been an exporter of sugarcane and rum since the 17th century, which has resulted in small-scale distilleries producing thousands of flavors. Local favorites include ginger and lemon, vanilla and coffee – the island is, after all, a huge producer of Bourbon vanilla – and even tamarind. You can visit the La Saga du Rhum museum in Saint Pierre to learn more about rum and its role in island life.
10. There Are So Many Waterfalls You Won’t Be Able To Count Them All
Reunion Island is mountainous, and it’s simply covered in waterfalls. They cascade down stunning mountainsides all around the island. They’re visible from the air, the mountain tops you can summit, the roadsides you’ll drive along, the valleys you can climb down into, and even from the water itself as you can swim in cooling pools with waterfalls in the background. And since you can explore many of them by canyoning, swimming, and hiking, the cool waters might just be a major motif during your Reunion Island adventure.