With its many off-road paths, tracks, sugarcane fields and beaches, the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius presents the opportunity for visitors to travel around this little piece of paradise in a far gentler, eco-friendly and cost-effective manner – by cycling!
Mauritius is just 65 kms long and 45kms wide and with its different terrains there are some amazing routes and trails for every level of ability from beginners to professionals.
It is worth noting though that some cyclists find the roads in the North particularly around Port Louis narrow and busy. They are right, as you would need to be an extremely confident cyclist BUT there are ways around this – you just need to take precautions and know where to cycle!
There is always some confusion as to the best time to visit Mauritius and this is because their Winter is May to October and their Summer is November to April. That will immediately baffle many!
So, what this means is that it is best if you are planning to explore the island on a bicycle to visit during their winter months when temperatures are a little cooler and importantly less humid.
Whilst tourists flock to the island from October to December it is hot and humid and more akin to laying on the beach than taking on the islands cycling routes – however each to their own!
For those seeking to harness pedal power over horse power, there is the chance to explore the island on an E- Bike which comes with power-assisted pedalling – just what you need to get you through those last few metres of a long tough ride.
For those looking to be a little more extreme, Mauritius has some spectacular mountainous regions, in particular at Black River in the South of the island, that provides a tougher challenge. If this is your aim, then a mountain bike would be more suitable.
In the North there are the two popular towns of Grande Baie and the capital Port Louis so it may be that a traditional bike is more suited to your needs as you opt to explore not only the countryside but also the bustling towns and markets.
There are plenty of options when it comes to renting bicycles in Mauritius, that is if you have not brought your own.
The first place may be your hotel although from personal experience some only allow you to use them within the hotel grounds which kind of defeats the object of wanting to hire one to explore! Another thing to consider is hotel rented bikes may not be of the same quality that you get when hiring from a specialist cycling shop.
A better option perhaps is a bike rental shop or agency where the average cost is about 300 Mauritian Rupees per day.
You could also sign up to a guided group cycling excursion which includes expert commentary on the island as you go.
For many, cycling in Mauritius will take some getting used to as they cycle, and drive, on the left! So for a British person like myself, this is what I am used to but for many international visitors its worth spending a few moments familiarising yourself with this strange new world!
In some parts of the island, particularly around Port Louis there are main roads and freeways and often, particularly around rush hour, a lot of traffic. Despite these roads often having plenty of space at the side, I would avoid them at this time, unless you are a very confident cyclist!
Some of the roads in Mauritius can be a little uneven particularly as you head into more rural areas so beware of the cyclist’s number one hate – the pothole!
From Grande Baie to Pamplemousse & Port Louis
As mentioned the main roads here can get very busy, especially around rush hour. My advice here is to stick to the coast as much as possible however the detour to Pamplemousse will take you inland so at some stage you will have to negotiate busy roads.
Grande Baie is a lovely town with its Bazaar selling all manner of cheap toot and fake fashion while the markets sell fresh produce and give you that true feel of Mauritian friendliness and hospitality. There are an increasing number of high-end boutiques, numerous cafes and delightful restaurants in the area known as Sunset Boulevard. Then there are the beaches that are straight out of the finest holiday brochures! The nightlife is also the best on the island so I would recommend an overnight in Grande Baie at the very least!
The village of Pamplemousses is a popular location for those seeking to view and understand the flora of this unique island. Cycling tours are available here that allow you to discover L’Aventure du Sucre, an old sugar factory, where you can ride through the sugar cane fields and visit the colonial Château de Villebague. Take time to marvel at the giant lilypads and spice trees at the famous Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens, the oldest in the southern hemisphere.
If you were cycling to Port Louis from Grande Baie then it is best to follow the coast however from Pamplemousse as soon as you arrive at the capital city limits you will have to venture onto the busy roads. It’s not ideal but there is no way to avoid it. Port Louis offers the chance for a spot of retail therapy at the Caudan Waterfront as well as attractions like the Mauritius Postal Museum, Chinatown, Le Citadelle and the Central Market for souvenirs and fresh produce. Sampling the street food in Port Louis is a must!
From Port Louis to Flic En Flac & Tamarin
The area around Flic en Flac is generally pretty flat and easy for those hiring a bicycle. However as you head inland the main roads are busier and more hilly.
A popular yet challenging area to cycle to is Casela and the Black River Gorge where there are a variety of attractions and views:
The Casela Nature Park is a huge adventure centre as well as nature reserve where you can take a safari quad bike, ride a roller coaster or go zip lining. There is also a lovely restaurant with views across the valley – just watch out for the monkeys stealing your food!
Close to Chamarel is the rum distillery. Not ideal when you are cycling but you could pop a bottle in your rucksack for a much deserved tipple when you get home.
Black River Gorge is named after the black stones that are found in the river. Its best known for its hiking trails particularly those that cover the ebony forest however there are some cycling routes and the landscape here is incredible.
In the extra South West is Le Morne Peninsula. This is a must see as this is probably the most iconic site on the island of Mauritius and a World Heritage site. The mountain is striking and steeped in a dark history which relates to slavery. The views from the top are breathtaking.
From Bois Cheri to Souillac & Mahebourg
The Bois Chéri tea estate is a working tea factory with a museum, restaurant, shop. Its worth a stop as close by there are many tracks near the tea plantations with excellent views of the coast line.
South of Bois Cheri is the rural region of Mauritius known as Souillac. Cycling here is easier than most other areas of Mauritius. You can discover small villages both inland and on the rocky south coast where you can also indulge in local Creole style food in the local restaurants and kiosks. This is also a great place to learn and discover the colonial heritage of Mauritius.
Mahebourg is the former capital of Mauritius. This little coastal village is worth visiting. The place is a hive of activity while the beaches allow you the chance to kick off your shoes and relax in the Indian Ocean!
From Belle Mare to Grand Riviere Sud East
The flat wetland and beaches in the Belle Mare region are perfect for cyclists.
There are a large number of white sandy beaches along this stretch of coastline which you can follow. Make sure you head south to the village of Trou d’Eau Douce which is just across from the popular landmark of Ile aux Cerfs.
From here you can continue along the South East coast heading south to Grande Riviera Sud East to view the waterfalls. Or why not venture inland into the mountains and across to Souillac and Chamaral.
Don’t forget to take water and some snacks and to keep yourself hydrated and your energy levels high!
Whatever the time of year always use sunscreen and wear a hat.
Check the weather forecast before heading out as the weather can change quickly.
Avoid cycling late at night. Mauritius roads do not have great street lighting.
Make sure you have your phone and the numbers of your hotel, group leader and maybe even the local hospital in case of problems.
Pack a repair kit in case of mechanical or tyre blowouts.
Feel free to ask the locals for help, advice or directions. They are so friendly and will more often than not speak English.
Take your time to enjoy the island and taking a detour, down to a hidden cove or beach, can be the moment that will always remind you of that amazing cycling holiday in Mauritius!