Things to do in Réunion that will enhance your stay

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Located to the east of Madagascar, in the Mascareignes archipelago in the Indian Ocean alongside Mauritius and Rodrigues, Réunion Island is attracting more and more travellers every year. Also known as the "intense" island, Réunion abounds in breathtaking scenery that can be admired and explored through a variety of activities. It's not for nothing that it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as soon as its national park was created! With its superb cirques, impressive volcanoes, beautiful beaches and rich fauna and flora, there is an enormous amount to see and do on Réunion Island.

The island became a French department in 1946, and is now divided into four arrondissements, which will form the basis of our tour of things to do on Réunion.

Top start in the north of the island at Saint-Denis, capital of La Réunion

Obviously, our tour of things to do in Réunion starts in Saint-Denis, the point of arrival from the international airport there: Roland-Garros airport. You'll hear French being spoken around you, of course, but also Réunionese Creole, the local language spoken by the vast majority of the population.

Cultural activities in Saint-Denis

After a visit to Saint-Denis, with its museums, its famous cathedral and the Brasseries de Bourbon brewery producing the famous local beer "La Dodo", don't hesitate to attend a kabar (or kabaré service): a traditional Réunionese festival featuring dance, Sega and Maloya music and, of course, Réunionese food. This is one of the best ways to start your stay on Réunion Island!

Cultural and sporting activities from Sainte-Suzanne to Saint-André

Canyon of Sainte Suzanne, Réunion

To the east of Saint-Denis is the Domaine du Grand Hazier vanilla plantation in Sainte-Suzanne, a must-see on Réunion Island. Just a few kilometres away is the Distillerie de Savanna in Saint-André, in the Sucrerie de Bois Rouge, where you can sample local rum blended with vanilla or other local fruits such as banana, lychee, pineapple or mango.

Once you've had your fill of the area's cultural activities, thrill-seekers will be delighted to be able to wakeboard in a small salt pond in Saint-André, right next to the sea, or go canyoning in the Sainte-Suzanne river, passing by the famous Niagara waterfall in the middle of the sugar cane fields.

Passage to the east of La Réunion in the arrondissement of Saint-Benoît

There's no lagoon on this side of Réunion either, but there are still plenty of things to do! It is here, to the east, that the wind blows the most (this is the windward coast) and that the rainfall is the heaviest: so expect to see some verdant landscapes!

Activities along the Rivière des Marsouins

Rafting on the Rivière Marsouins

Flowing into the Indian Ocean in the town of Saint-Benoît, the Rivière des Marsouins is surrounded by a host of sporting activities, including hiking, swimming in the natural pools at îlet Bethléem, rafting (also in the Rivière des Roches, a little further south, which also offers water sports) and horse riding around the Grand-Étang, a volcanic pond just a stone's throw from Plaine des Palmistes. There's no shortage of things to do on this side of Réunion!

Discover Sainte-Rose and the lava route

Piton de la Fournaise lava tunnel

The south-east of Réunion Island is much less urbanised: the most populous town in this area is Sainte-Rose, where you can visit a Bourbon vanilla plantation. A little further down, you'll find another of Réunion's eastern landmarks, Anse des Cascades, and even further south the famous Route des Laves. One of the best things to do on Réunion, and nowhere else, is to admire the various marks left by the lava flows from the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, particularly around the church of Notre-Dame des Laves, which narrowly escaped them. Potholing excursions in the lava tunnels formed by the volcano's eruptions are also a must on Réunion Island!

A short diversions to the centre of Réunion Island

The central part of Réunion Island has a very rugged terrain offering magnificent natural scenery. A 12-stage trek, the GR R2, takes you from the north (from Saint-Denis) to the south (in the Basse-Vallée forest), passing through all the points of interest in the centre of Réunion: its cirques, pitons, plains and forests.

The Piton des Neiges and Réunion's three cirques

Hiking in the Mafate cirque

A hiker's paradise, exploring the island's highest point at 3,071 m and the cirques that surround it is undeniably something to do on Réunion Island. Inactive for around 12,000 years, the Piton des Neiges offers incredible panoramic views over the whole island, including the Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos cirques, which are full of sporting activities:

The great plains of Réunion and the Bébour forest

Electric mountain bike ride Forêt de Bébour

Réunion's two great peaks are separated by two plains: the Plaine des Palmistes in Saint-Benoît and the Plaine des Cafres in Saint-Pierre. The best way to explore this part of Réunion Island is on foot, horseback, quad bike or buggy, or head north of the Plaine des Palmistes to discover the beautiful Bébour forest! 48% of Réunion is covered in forest, which is home to a large number of bird and plant species that you can come across on your walks.

Continuation of the route west of Réunion with Saint-Paul

On this side of the island, also known as the leeward coast, there are more towns than to the east, with beautiful white sandy beaches facing Réunion's few lagoons. So there's no shortage of things to do in the Saint-Paul district!

A cultural break in Saint-Paul and its market

The market in Saint Paul, Réunion
(c) - IRT / Serge Gelabert

Réunion's largest market is located in Saint-Paul and remains a must-see in Réunion. The stalls are brimming with local produce and the scents of the spices are bound to make your mouth water, providing a good opportunity to talk about the local cuisine! Réunionese dishes are a blend of flavours from all over the world, with the population of Réunion having international origins: Madagascan, African, European, Indian, Chinese, etc.; but the staple diet is mainly rice. The typical dishes of curry (meat or fish with spices) and rougail saucisse are always served with rice! On the sweet side, you must also try the famous bonbons piments, as well as gâteau patate, a mixture of sweet potato with milk, vanilla and cinnamon. All accompanied by Cot Citron, a lemonade made in Réunion!

Water sports around Saint-Gilles les Bains

dolphin watching from Saint-Gilles

The lagoon of Saint-Gilles is a place with many things to do on Réunion Island, especially water sports. It is here, along its Roches Noires beach, that you can go surfing. You can also hire paddles here, and of course swim in the lagoon for safe snorkelling and diving with rays and turtles, away from the sharks of the open sea.

Sailboat and boat tours are also available from Saint-Gilles les Bains to take you out to observe Réunion's dolphins and whales, and why not swim with them if the conditions are right. Boucan Canot beach, to the north of Saint-Gilles les Bains, is also a favourite spot for swimming and fare niente on superb white sand.

Beaches from Saline-les-Bains to the bay of Saint-Leu

transparent kayak tour of Saint Gilles lagoon

A must-do on Réunion's lagoon is to hire a transparent kayak to admire the lagoon's underwater flora and fauna. You can do this from the Trou d'Eau beach in Saline-les-Bains, and after heading a little further south to the Ermitage beach and its underwater snorkelling trail, head for Saint-Leu and be sure to drop in at Kélonia, a sea turtle observation centre, on your way to find out more about them. As with the lagoon at Saint-Gilles, there's no shortage of water-based activities here. But you can also go paragliding over the Baie de Saint-Leu! The white sandy beach is also ideal for fare niente and other beach activities.

paragliding flight over the bay of saint leu

And if you head a little further south, you'll come across the Etang-Salé lagoon, with its black sandy beach and impressive chasm! There's also a park where you can enjoy a Reunion-style picnic, which is absolutely a must-do on Réunion Island.

And here, the best for last...

The wild coastline of southern Réunion in the Saint-Pierre region

For the end of this tour of Réunion Island, head for Saint-Pierre, the island's southern district. It's here that you'll discover the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, as well as the wild coastline of this part of Réunion, which offers a host of new activities!

The unmissable Piton de la Fournaise volcano

Caving in the Caverne Gendarme lava tunnel

Rising to 2,632 m on the border between Saint-Benoît and Saint-Pierre, Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but also one of the most beautiful! With its Plaine des Sables of reddish rock and volcanic sand, its Pas de Bellecombe lookout at the summit, its craters and lava tunnels, hiking this world-famous volcano is one of the must-do activities on Réunion Island. And if you still have some time to spare, as mentioned above, don't hesitate to go caving in the lava tunnels formed by the volcano: you won't fail to be amazed by the spectacle of lava stalactites and stalagmites.

Coastal beauty from Cap Méchant to Saint-Joseph

Canyoning on the Rivière Langevin

Located between Saint-Philippe and Saint-Joseph, Cap Méchant is a must-see point of interest in Réunion. Its lush greenery contrasts with the black rocks of its cliffs, where a powerful swell comes crashing down: it's a very impressive sight! A little further inland, up the Langevin river, you can also witness the spectacle of the magnificent Trou Noir and Langevin waterfalls, which also happen to be great canyoning spots near Saint-Joseph.

This kind of wild landscape thrives here in the south of Réunion Island: you can discover the black sandy beach of Ti Sable, in Saint-Joseph, and a little further west the beach of Grande Anse, a mix of white and black sand. You won't be able to swim here due to the presence of sharks in the waters, but taking a break here is a must if you enjoy spending time surrounded by beautiful scenery.

A memorable end to the trip to Saint-Pierre

helicopter flight from Saint-Pierre

Before heading to Saint-Pierre, where one last impressive activity awaits you, visit the village of l'Entre-Deux: nestling between two arms of the river, this village is full of typical Reunionese houses, the "cases", with their Creole architecture, which you absolutely must see. You can then enjoy a swim on Saint-Pierre's white sandy beach, as the town has a small lagoon inviting you to use your mask and snorkel for one last snorkelling session.

Then it's time for one last activity from Saint-Pierre / Pierrefonds airport: it's time to board a helicopter or microlight, depending on your preference, to enjoy one last panoramic view of Réunion Island and its spectacular terrain. If you'd like to end your trip on a high note, a helicopter tour of Saint-Pierre is definitely the best way to make sure you keep some superb memories of your stay!

So, are you ready to plan your next trip to Réunion?

This round-up of things to do in Réunion has suggested a few land, water and air activities to do during your stay, based on each of our stops: so the list is not exhaustive! If there's one activity not to be missed, it's canyoning. If you're a thrill-seeker, don't hesitate to book a parachute jump in Saint-Pierre, or a pendulum jump or bungee jump from the Bras de la Plaine bridge, between the village of Entre-Deux and Le Tampon! There's something for everyone: check out all our outdoor activities on Réunion Island.

bungee jumping in Réunion

Reunion Island is an impressive island with a wealth of activities to do and beautiful scenery to enjoy. The weather is mild all year round, making it a pleasant destination in any season, but it is of course best to avoid visiting during the cyclone season.

Get moving! Pack light clothes for the coast and slightly warmer clothes for climbing the peaks. Réunion Island and its countless activities are just waiting for you!

P.S. Did you know that Mauritius is only 226 km from Réunion? And you'll also find plenty of activities that are unique to Mauritius!