Activities to do in Reunion Island that will enhance your stay
Situated to the east of Madagascar, in the Mascareignes archipelago of the Indian Ocean alongside Mauritius and Rodrigues, Reunion Island attracts more and more travellers every year. Also known as the "intense" island, Reunion is full of breathtaking landscapes that can be admired and explored during various activities. It is not for nothing that it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the creation of its national park! Between its superb cirques, its impressive volcanoes, its beautiful beaches and its rich flora and fauna, there is an enormous amount to see and do in Reunion Island.
Having become a French department in 1946, it is divided into four arrondissements, which will form our tour of activities in Réunion.
Top start in the north of the island in Saint-Denis, the capital of Reunion
Our tour of things to do in Reunion Island obviously starts in Saint-Denis, where the arrival point from the international airport is Roland-Garros. You will hear French spoken around you, of course, but also Reunionese Creole, the local language spoken by the vast majority of the population.
Cultural activities in Saint-Denis
Start this trip with some typical Reunion Island cultural activities to get a feel for the local customs and traditions! After a visit to Saint-Denis, passing by its museums, its famous cathedral, as well as its Brasseries de Bourbon house producing the famous local beer "La Dodo", don't hesitate to attend a kabar (or kabaré service): this is a traditional Reunion Island festival combining dance, Sega and Maloya music, and of course Reunion Island food. This is one of the best activities you can do to start your stay on Reunion Island in the best possible way!
Cultural and sporting activities from Sainte-Suzanne to Saint-André
To the east of Saint-Denis is the Domaine du Grand Hazier vanilla plantation in Sainte-Suzanne, which is a must-see on Reunion Island. Just a few kilometres away, you can also find the Distillerie de Savanna in Saint-André, in the Sucrerie de Bois Rouge, where you can taste the local vanilla rum or other local fruits such as banana, litchi, pineapple or mango.
Once you've had a chance to see the cultural activities of the area, thrill-seekers will be delighted to go wakeboarding in a small salt pond in Saint-André, right next to the sea, or to go canyoning in the river of Sainte-Suzanne, passing by the famous Niagara waterfall, in the middle of the sugar cane fields.
Passage to the east of La Réunion in the district of Saint-Benoît
There is no lagoon on this side of Reunion Island either, but there are still many things to do! It is here, in the east, that the wind blows the most (it is the windward coast) and that the rainfall is the most important: expect to see green landscapes!
Activities along the Porpoise River
Flowing into the Indian Ocean in the town of Saint-Benoît, the Rivière des Marsouins is surrounded by numerous sporting activities: between hiking, swimming in the natural pools of the îlet Bethléem, rafting (also in the Rivière des Roches, a little further south, which also offers aquatic hiking), but also horse riding around the Grand-Étang, a pond of volcanic origin just a stone's throw away from the Plaine des Palmistes, you won't be short of things to do on this side of Reunion Island!
Discovery of Sainte-Rose and the lava road
The south-east of Reunion Island is much less urbanised: the most populated town in this area is Sainte-Rose, where you can visit a Bourbon vanilla plantation. A little further down, you will find another point of interest in the east of Reunion, Anse des Cascades, and even further south the famous Route des Laves. One of the things to do in Reunion Island 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. Caving excursions in the lava tunnels formed by the volcano's eruptions are also a must on Reunion Island!
A short diversions to the centre of Reunion Island
The centre of Reunion Island has a very rugged terrain offering magnificent natural landscapes. 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 Reunion Island: its cirques, its peaks, its plains and its forests.
The Piton des Neiges and the three cirques of Reunion
A hiker's paradise, exploring the island's highest point at 3,071 m and the surrounding cirques is definitely something to do in Réunion. Inactive for about 12,000 years, the Piton des Neiges offers incredible panoramic views over the whole island, particularly over the Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos cirques which are full of sporting activities:
- go mountain biking down the 2,200 m high Piton Maïdo and admire the breathtaking scenery of the Mafate cirque from the Cap Noir!
- Go on a mountain bike trip in the Salazie cirque and take in the waterfalls of the Voile de la Mariée and the Trou de fer, as well as the charm of the picturesque village of Hell-Bourg!
- and finally, enjoy the sensations by booking a sporting activity in the cirque of Cilaos such as canyoning, climbing or accrobranche. You can also stroll through the village of Cilaos to admire the beautiful colourful Reunionese houses.
The great plains of Reunion and the Bébour forest
The two large pitons of Reunion Island are separated by two plains: the Plaine des Palmistes on the Saint-Benoît side and the Plaine des Cafres on the Saint-Pierre side. The best thing to do in this part of Reunion Island is to go for a walk, a horse ride, a quad or a buggy ride, or to go to the north of the Plaine des Palmistes to discover the beautiful Bébour forest! Reunion Island is 48% covered by forests which are home to a large number of bird and plant species that you can meet on your walks.
Continuation of the itinerary to the west of Reunion Island with Saint-Paul
On this side of the island, also known as the leeward coast, there are more towns than in the east and they have beautiful white sandy beaches facing the few lagoons of Reunion. Therefore, there is no lack of things to do in the district of Saint-Paul!
Cultural break in Saint-Paul and its market
The largest market in Reunion Island is located in Saint-Paul and remains a must-see site in Reunion Island. The stalls are full of local products and the scents of the spices are sure to make your mouth water, a good opportunity to talk about local cuisine! Reunionese dishes mix flavours from all over the world, as the population of Reunion has international origins: Madagascan, African, European, Indian, Chinese, etc.; but the basic food is made up of rice. The typical dishes of curry (meat or fish with spices) and rougail saucisse will always be served with rice! As for sweets, you must also try the famous chilli sweets, as well as the patate cake, a mixture of sweet potato with milk, vanilla and cinnamon. All this accompanied by Cotron, a lemonade made in Réunion!
Water sports activities around Saint-Gilles les Bains
The lagoon of Saint-Gilles is a place with many things to do in Reunion, especially water activities. It is here, along its Roches Noires beach that you can surf. 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 to see the dolphins and whales of Reunion Island, and why not swim with them if the conditions are right. Boucan Canot beach, north of Saint-Gilles les Bains, is also a great spot for swimming and fare niente on the superb white sand.
Beaches from Saline-les-Bains to Saint-Leu Bay
The most important thing to do on the lagoon of Reunion Island is to rent a transparent kayak to admire the underwater fauna and flora of the lagoon. This activity can be done from the Trou d'Eau beach in Saline-les-Bains. After a trip a little further south to the Ermitage beach and its underwater path for diving, go to Saint-Leu and don't hesitate to drop by Kélonia, a sea turtle observation centre, on your way to learn more about them. As in the lagoon of Saint-Gilles, there is no shortage of water sports activities here. But you can also go paragliding over the Bay of Saint-Leu! The white sandy beach is also suitable for fare niente and other beach activities.
And if you go a little further south, you will come across the Etang-Salé lagoon, which has a black sand beach, but also an impressive chasm to see! There is also a park where you can enjoy a Reunion-style picnic, which is definitely something to do in Reunion.
And here is the best part...
The wild coast of the south of Reunion Island in the region of Saint-Pierre
For the end of this tour of Reunion Island, head for Saint-Pierre, the southern district of the island. This is where you will discover the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, but also the wild coastline of this part of Reunion Island which offers new activities!
The unmissable Piton de la Fournaise volcano
Culminating at 2,632 m on the border between Saint-Benoît and Saint-Pierre, the 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 made up of reddish rocks and volcanic sand, its Pas de Bellecombe viewpoint at the summit, its craters and lava tunnels, hiking on this world-famous volcano is one of the activities to be enjoyed in Réunion Island. And if you still have time, don't hesitate, as mentioned above, to go caving in the lava tunnels formed by the volcano: you will be amazed by the spectacle of the lava stalactites and stalagmites.
Beauty of the coastline from Cap Méchant to Saint-Joseph
Located between Saint-Philippe and Saint-Joseph, Cap Méchant is a point of interest to be seen in Réunion Island. Its green nature contrasts with the black of the rocks of its cliffs where a powerful swell comes to collide: it is very impressive to see! A little further inland, by going up the Langevin river, you can also witness the spectacle of the magnificent Trou Noir and Langevin waterfalls which also prove to be very good canyoning spots near Saint-Joseph.
This kind of wild landscape thrives here in the south of Reunion Island: you can discover the black sand beach of Ti Sable, in Saint-Joseph, and a little further west the beach of Grande Anse, mixing white and black sand. You won't be able to swim there because of the presence of sharks in their waters, but resting there is something to do if you enjoy spending time surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Memorable end to the trip to St. Pierre
Before heading to Saint-Pierre, where a last impressive activity awaits you, go to the village of Entre-Deux: located between two arms of the river, this village is full of typical Reunionese houses, the huts, with Creole architecture that you absolutely must see. You can then enjoy a swim at the white sandy beach of Saint-Pierre, the town having a small lagoon inviting you to use your mask and snorkel for a last snorkeling 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 Reunion Island and its spectacular terrain. If you want to end your trip on a beautiful note, a helicopter tour in Saint-Pierre is definitely the best thing to do to keep superb memories of your stay!
So, ready to plan your future trip to Reunion Island?
This tour of activities to do in Reunion Island has suggested some land, water and air activities to do during your stay according to each of our stops: the list is therefore non-exhaustive! If there is one activity you should not miss, it is canyoning. That's why we've made a selection of the best spots for canyoning in Réunion Island. If you're a thrill-seeker, don't hesitate to book a parachute jump in Saint-Pierre, or a pendulum jump or a bungee jump from the Bras de la Plaine bridge, between the village of Entre-Deux and Le Tampon! There is something for everyone: discover all our outdoor activities to do in Reunion Island.
Reunion Island is an impressive island with plenty to do and beautiful scenery to enjoy. The weather is mild all year round, making it a pleasant destination in all seasons, but it is of course best to avoid going during the cyclone season.
Go for it! Prepare light clothes for the coast and slightly warmer clothes for climbing the peaks, Reunion Island and its countless activities are waiting for you!
P.S. Did you know that Mauritius is only 226 km from Reunion Island? And you will also find many unique activities in Mauritius!