One for all: Our travel guide to finding luxury in Mauritius

Words by
Daisy Palmer

20th June 2019

With its soaring mountains, sugar-soft beaches and five-star resorts catering for everyone, discover why Mauritius is the must-visit island for 2019

Lux* Grand Gaube
Lux* Grand Gaube

Lux* Grand Gaube

Lux* Grand Gaube

For voyagers seeking the perfect long-haul holiday, there are things one must consider: a destination with direct flights and little time difference is essential, for those who  don’t want to spend half of the holiday acclimatising. For this reason, Mauritius is the perfect destination for a week’s holiday from the UK, with plentiful flights from the capital and just a three-hour time difference. And the freshly launched Lux* Grand Gaube might just be the perfect resort. With a 12-hour overnight flight and an easy drive from the airport, a late morning arrival from London means that you can be feasting on coconut and mango ice cream under a swaying palm within an hour of landing. 

The newly refurbished resort is a triumph of light, with a cathedral-like entrance lobby welcoming guests and a view beyond to the ocean. Urns of palms ,white plantation shutters and grey and white hexagonal flooring give it some grandeur, yet there are no pretences here. Staff are ready to whisk you to your room past the converted Mini Austin ice cream van, the hanging brushes in the grass to remove sand from feet and the sun worshippers.

Lux* Grand Gaube
Lux* Grand Gaube

Lux* Grand Gaube

Rooms are unpretentious, but beautiful in their simplicity. Grey and white striped walls offset a wooden framed bed and an uplifting palm print on the wall. A small terrace overlooks an inlet and the bathroom is spacious, with a freestanding bath, a pink and grey palette and bespoke Lux* toiletries such as ylang ylang and lime shampoo, and citronella and ginger body wash, inspired by the hotel group’s tropical destinations. A walk around the resort reveals some treasures. The sporty will thrive here, with four tennis courts, each named after a French tennis legend, excellent classes (pilates was particularly good) and bicycles to borrow. A meander on two wheels through the local settlements reveals a fishing village replete with jauntily hued boats and animated groups of school children walking home. Wellness is key here, with a Murdock barber, Essie nail parlour and Kerastase hair salon making it a key player in the wedding resort market.

The food, meanwhile, is standout — and one can do worse than getting a half board package to eat at the copious breakfast and dinner spreads. Mornings are bettered with the quite staggering display of choice — a favourite was the make-your-own juice station in the marble cool room (which houses cheese, cold cuts and salad). Ginger, carrot, red cabbage and beetroot was a surprisingly tasty and very healthy hit. With a pastry chef who used to work at the George V in Paris, one may as well ditch the diet. Morning croissants are as good as they get. Yet those who venture beyondthe all-inclusive are rewarded with some berry-packed Turkish Merlot at the Bodrum restaurant, while at Inti Peruvian restaurant there is some excellent ceviche with pomegranate and truffle, and slow cooked pork tacos with Peruvian chilli and lime.

“With a pastry chef who used to work at the George V in Paris, one may as well ditch the diet”

The graphic Miami-style designs on the outside Aperitivo bar cater for a young, fun-loving crowd, as do some of the rum tastings in the Banyan Tree bar on the beach. Locally distilled Penny Blue single cask slips down a treat. What is incredible is what good value this is. Starting at £166 per night (room only), it easily competes with places four times as much — and with such an unfailingly warm team, an ocean-inspired, easy-on-the-eye aesthetic and world-class facilities, it really cannot be faulted.

Luxury Guide to Mauritius
Lux* Le Morne

Lux* Le Morne

Lux* Le Morne

From Grande Gaube, it is a drive south past lobelia, orange blossom and fields of sugar cane, where jagged incisors of granite loom over Indian temples and coppered earth. From the same stable, the older Lux* Le Morne might not have the freshness of the newly reopened Grande Gaube — it is the oldest of the group’s resorts on the island — but it undeniably has the more staggering beach: a picture-perfect confection of white sands and swaying palms. Whereas famed interior designer Kelly Hoppen had flooded Grand Gaube with modernism and light, these rooms are more plantation style, with dark wood furnishings and a rustic outdoor shower. Under the watchful eye of Le Morne Brabant mountain — after which it is named — the resort feels more popular with those without children (unlike Grand Gaube, there is no kids’ club here).

Le Morne mountain is a challenge that beckons, but it harbours something of a sad story. Mauritius had a long history of slavery, from the 17th century, until it was abolished under British rule in 1835. Many slaves used the mountain as a refuge, hiding in the dense woodland. When soldiers arrived to free them, many assumed they were going to be recaptured, so flung themselves off the mountain rather than face slavery again. It is now a place of reflection. On 1 February each year the annual Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery is celebrated at the International Slave Route Monument, which sits at the foot of Le Morne Brabant and the mountain stands as a symbol of peace and freedom.

Lux* Le Morne
Lux* Le Morne

Lux* Le Morne

From our knowledgeable guide Alan, we learn about remedies from the forest, such as placing neem (Indian lilac) under the pillow to aid sleep, or easing toothache with pepper. The walk up to the top is equal parts terrifying and awe-inspiring — and at some points verging on rock climbing. We scale 7km in two hours, with sweat dripping and breath short. We are finally rewarded with 360-degree views of the glistening ocean. Back at the hotel, a massage with Lux Meta Boost oil is rigorous and eases the multiple hiking strains. Dinners here are regal spreads and it is hard to choose between the paella, chicken shawarma and pork sichuan noodles; puddings are equally tempting, with baklava creme brûlée taking the prize. Breakfasts are generous, with some interesting additions such as congee with marinated chard leaves. A thoughtful touch is a plastic bag for your “last swim” before departing, which I use willingly, before heading off to the final stopover. 

Luxury Guide to Mauritius
One&Only Le Saint Géran

One&Only Le Saint Géran

One&Only Le Saint Géran

One resort that is hard to leave is the final destination on the trip — the storied One&Only Le Saint Géran. Greeted by fragrant urns of frangipani, this is a turbo resort with an immaculate clinetele. A hum from the sky reveals an advancing helicopter, ferrying in new guests from the airport. Over bottles of Perrier Jouët, a triovof soigné French diners graze at one of the (exceptional) quinoa tuna watermelon and avocado lunch bowls. One of the gentlemen tinkles with no less than five Cartier love bracelets and his feet are tastefully shod invseal-grey Hermès sandals.

Thoughtfulness abounds throughout the resort: suites have Polaroid cameras for guests to use during their stay; Le Carré lounge is kitted out with computers and homemade cookies, as well as tomes suchas Vogue 100 and Book of Tides. The fitness complex is next level. With three tennis courts, two (seemingly always popular) Padel courts and a photogenic outdoor gym “sculpture” by Spanish brand MyEquilibria, it excels. There are two studios, including spinning and boxing, plus a teens club, One Tribe, with table tennis and a pool table.

A sense of balance is restored in the resort’s excellent One&Only spa, where a hot stones massage using ESPA oil is deeply relaxing and what feels like a year’s aches and pains are unleashed by the masterly Vinesh with a Thai massage in the Neroli room. The shop is also one of the most tempting possible. Sundowner-ready kimono coats from Kisshoten are particularly covetable, as are Mini Rodini baby clothes and Bobbies shoes. But it is not buying frocks one comes for, but mainly the beach. The 2km-long stretch is combed daily and furnished with gnome-hat shaped umbrellas. “Do not disturb” or “Service Please” flags allow for some serious sand-based slumbering. There can be a keen wind, but the immaculate swimming pools with cabanas provide shadier dwelling.

As part of the $60m refurb, the rooms and suites are also the perfect siesta spot. Linen panels embellished with lotus flowers hang above the bed; Abahna room fragrance leaves a lingering scent of white grapefruit and a wooden fan adds a fin de siècle grace. One of the biggest downfalls of even the newest hotels is the lack of bedside charging points, yet this is dealt with efficiently with multiple USBs. Bathrooms are spacious with easy-to-navigate Hansgrohe showers,and the hotel’s investment in premium brands is evident with stylish Luigi Bormioli toothbrush glasses.

Under the watchful eye of the culinary team, food is masterful. Breakfast is a feast that caters to every diet and whim. There are copious treats including homemade granola, burrata salad, shakshuka, marlin carpaccio and hearty seafood makhani. Spinach, mango and beetroot juice sets you up for the day making lunch optional. If you can manage the food by the beach, the crunch bowls are out of this world.

Evening brings out the heels, jewels and dresses, although a stretchy number is needed for the steak restaurant, Flame. With foie gras and poached pears on the menu and the most delicately cooked wagyu, the potato dauphinoise with comté seems the height of decadence — and tastes like it too. More restrained are the tuna tacos at Asian restaurant Tapasake. A saunter back to the room past chirruping frogs welcoming in the night and life is fully restored again.

Rates at Lux* Grand Gaube for a Superior Suite on a room-only basis start from £166 per night in low season and £390 in high season

Rates at Lux* Le Morne for a Superior Room on a room-only basis start from £184 per night in low season and £433 in high season luxresorts.com

Rates for One&Only Le Saint Géran start from £382 in low season and £518 in high season oneandonlyresorts.com