Ten things to do in Reunion Island


Awe-inspiring mountain scenery

Réunion Island looks like a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean on Google Maps but zoom in and you’ll find a spectacular island with towering mountains, breathtaking canyons, aquamarine lagoons, colourful towns and villages and stunning waterfalls. An overseas French department, Reunion is a gorgeous mix of French, Asian and African influences. Situated in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar and the African mainland and southwest of Mauritius, it truly is an enchanting island; a mecca for adventurers and hikers or for those seeking an active holiday infused with lovely beaches, awe-inspiring scenery and fascinating cultures. If you’re visiting for the first time, here are ten things to do in Reunion Island which I can highly recommend. I tried each and every one of them and the experiences I gained were unforgettable!

1. Gawk at the most incredible scenery

The scenery on Reunion is absolutely spectacular. I suggest hiring a car and driving around the island. It’s a large island so you may want to pace yourself. Drive the Route du Volcan, the road to Le Maïdo or into the Cirque de Cilaos for some of the most astounding scenery. The coastal stretches offer charming views of colourful villages, lava cliffs, lagoons and beaches whilst the interior is characterised by impressive mountains, canyons, forests (from pine forests to thick shrubs and sub-tropical tree ferns!) and grassy highlands.

Search for rental cars in Reunion Island (Rentalcars.com).

The phenomenal view from Le Maïdo of Cirque de Mafate and Piton de Neiges.

The road to Cilaos.

The charming town of Cilaos at the foot of Piton de Neiges.

The road to Cilaos offers incredible scenery around every bend!


We stood at the very edge of the canyon on the way to Piton de la Fournaise to get this amazing view!


The caldera of Piton de la Fournaise.

Check out my guide to the best places to visit in Reunion Island (includes a 10-day self-drive itinerary and suggestions for where to stay and eat).

Waves crashing onto the lava cliffs of Cap Méchant.

The gorgeous beach in St. Pierre.

2. Visit ‘Mars’ and the smouldering Piton de la Fournaise

A visit to Piton de la Fournaise, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, is a must in my book. It’s arguably the most popular day trip in Reunion Island. The scenery along the way is jaw-droppingly beautiful and on the approach to the volcano, the road takes you through the Plaine des Sables, an area that looks very much like Mars!


Comparing the landscapes of Mars and Plaine des Sables.


We did find some signs of life!

If you’re really into volcanoes, I can recommend the hike inside an old lava flow of the Piton de la Fournaise. Organised by Aparksa Montagne, the lava tubing tour is a wondrous journey that will take you past intriguing formations and tunnel systems. I don’t recommend it if you’re prone to claustrophobia.


Hiking under an old lava flow.

3. Hike in the cirques

Reunion is famous for its three cirques (Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie), three large calderas formed by the collapse of a shield volcano. Of the three, Mafate is inaccessible by roads, making it ideal for hikers wanting to enjoy the impressive nature in total solitude. There are several villages inside the Cirque de Mafate which are accessible only by trails (and helicopters). Reunion Mer et Montage organises guided hikes (including the one I did: a 3-hour hike into the Cirque de Mafate and a helicopter flight back to the coast) and other adventure activities like mountain biking around the island. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be guaranteed mind-blowing vistas, gushing rivers and waterfalls and lush forests.

Check out this 5-6 hour hike into Cirque de Mafate.


The scenery inside the Cirque de Mafate.

4. See Reunion from above

If you enjoy microlight or helicopter flights, I highly recommend seeing Reunion Island from above. Only then will you be able to truly appreciate its impressive and varied topography. From the volcano to the amazing cirques, verdant forests and elegant waterfalls, this is one experience you won’t easily forget! FelixULM offers microlight tours of the island from its base in Le Port.


A majestic view of Piton de Neiges on Reunion Island.

5. Stroll around the towns and their markets

St. Denis is the capital and largest town. It’s great to stroll around this lovely town to check out its beautiful architecture and visit its markets.


St. Denis.

Another market town to visit is St. Pierre on the south coast, with its lively Saturday market. It’s a great place to taste local specialties like Bon Bon Piment and a variety of rhum, buy top quality vanilla (Reunion produces some of the best quality vanilla in the world) and pick up some souvenirs. St. Pierre also has a gorgeous beach right at its doorstep, with a lovely boulevard! One other town I really liked was St. Gilles les Baines, with its colourful shops and sandy beaches.


The colourful market in St. Pierre. Don’t forget to get some high-quality vanilla!

The Town Hall in St. Pierre.

The beach path runs the length of St. Pierre’s beaches.

The beach at St. Gilles.


6. Laze at the lagoons

Most of the island’s most beautiful lagoons are found on the west and south coast between St. Paul and St. Pierre. Here you’ll find wide expanses of sandy beaches ranging from white to black! The most popular beach areas are around La Saline les Baines – here you’ll find a variety of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and bars. You can choose to laze on the beach or indulge yourself in a variety of watersports like snorkeling, windsurfing and stand-up-paddling. Around St. Leu, you can engage in more active sports like paragliding.


The gorgeous beach at La Saline les Baines

Enjoy the sunset on the beach at L’Ermitage les Bains.

Caution: Réunion Island has a history of shark attacks. I enjoyed the beaches on the west coast but restricted my water activities to cooling off in knee-deep water or rock pools in the lagoons.

7. Go canyoning

This was one of my favourite experiences in Reunion. Run Adventures organises this amazing canyoning experience down the Riviere de Roche from Bassin la Mer to the Bassin la Paix on the northeast coast near the town of St. Benoit. An old lava flow had been carved into a canyon by the river, with astonishing walls on each side, tranquil pools, followed by rapids and waterfalls. It was an incredible experience, jumping off the walls (some up to 12 meters high) into the pool below, tobogganing from one pool to the next or floating down the river.


I went canyoning through this gorge formed by an old lava flow.

8. Indulge yourself in food and dance

Reunion presents a fascinating mix of French, African and Asian cultures, resulting in a wide array of delicious food and performing arts. Go on a ‘food tour’ at one of the markets (such as my favourite, the Saturday market in St. Pierre) and indulge yourself in Creole cuisine. If you can, ask around for places to witness stunning performances by a méringue troupe (méringue is a local martial arts dance somewhat similar to capoeira that can be found in Brazil) and the lovely Mahoya dancers. And don’t forget to taste some of the island’s famous rhum!


Colourful Mahoya dancers.

9. Spot street art

You’ll find many vibrant examples of street art throughout Reunion. In fact, Jace, one of the most famous street artists, hails from Reunion. It’s fun to try and spot his works around the island – his faceless characters, called Gouzou, are easy to recognise.


Street art by Jace in St. Denis.


Another striking example in St. Denis.

A beautiful piece in Cilaos.

Read more about street art in Reunion Island.

10. Go whale/dolphin watching

Reunion is a great place to to experience marine life up close. There are various dolphin- and whale-watching tours, some even offer snorkelling or free-diving with dolphins and whales!


Spot dolphins and whales (image courtesy of Matthew Karsten)

There you have it! My recommendations for things to do in Reunion Island. It really is an amazing island which I can’t stop gushing about. Check out the fabulous video below and see for yourself!

Reunion Island of Adventure from StoryTravelers on Vimeo.

Getting to Réunion Island, tours and car rental

You can fly direct to Réunion Island from Paris or Johannesburg with Air Austral – an excellent airline to fly with I must add! Their Premium Economy seats were very comfortable and the service and food were simply top-notch. If you’re looking for an experienced tour guide, I can recommend Nicholas from Tours Reunion who was my guide and driver in Réunion. His knowledge of the island and enthusiasm made my stay truly special! Combine Réunion Island and Mauritius on this 9-day discovery tour.


Alternatively, you can hire a car and drive around the island at your own leisure. The roads are good and well-posted, and driving is on the right hand side of the road. I used Rentalcars.com to compare prices and book a car. The rental car offices and pick-up/drop-off location are directly outside the main terminal of Roland Garros La Réunion Airport. If you’re not accustomed to winding roads or manual transmissions, I recommend booking an automatic transmission. A small car (like a Toyota Yaris) is sufficient to navigate most of the mountain roads. Read about the Best Places to Visit in Reunion Island on a self-drive itinerary.

Note: the #GoToReunion campaign is a collaboration between iambassador, Réunion Tourism Board and Air Austral. As always, opinions expressed are mine, and mine only.


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36 Responses to “Ten things to do in Reunion Island”

  1. Keith Jenkins 16/04/2018 12:34 pm

    Totally agree. And there’s such cool street art there too! I got to meet a few of the artists. Really cool!


  2. Steven on aFabulousTrip 16/04/2018 10:13 am

    Such a beautiful island, it’s a shame not a lot of people know about it (or if they do it’s because of bad press).

  3. Keith Jenkins 15/02/2018 5:33 pm

    Hi Micky,
    It depends how much time you have on Reunion. You can hire a car (driving is on the right side of the road as in France) and drive into the mountains along the Route du Volcan to Piton de la Fournaise. The scenery is amazing! It’s about 100km from St. Denis (see map: https://goo.gl/maps/HSHhFKFELEG2 ), about a two-hour drive. I hope you get to see a bit more of Reunion aside from St. Denis.


  4. Micky 14/02/2018 7:28 am

    We will be at St. Denis for one days on a cruise. How do you recommend to do? How is to driving there, does it worth to rent a car? The driving is like in France or on the other side? Thanks!

  5. Selena 18/01/2018 11:57 am

    Thank you!

  6. Keith Jenkins 18/01/2018 10:26 am

    Hi Selena,
    Check out Cirque de Cilaos where you can base yourself (there’s even a spa in the village), go on short hikes and enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery. This cirque is accessible by car – it’s a very winding road (400-odd bends) but the scenery along the way is spectacular! If you’re staying along the coast and plan to swim in the ocean/lagoons, please check with the locals about which areas are safe. I hope this helps. Have a great trip – I’m sure you’ll find Reunion absolutely amazing!


  7. Selena 13/01/2018 10:44 pm


    Loved reading this – so informative!

    I am planning a trip to Reunion for a week with my family (husband, parents and toddler!) Could you recommend any shorter hikes to make it easier for us carrying the toddler (and for the OAPs!) and particular areas we should base ourselves? We will have a car and keen to explore as much as we can.

    Thanks so much,


  8. William 17/10/2017 8:43 am

    Hi Prakash,
    This is the best idea ever to come and visit the island in January.
    Lot of possibility about accomodations, just need to know what do you prefer in order to propose the best solution.
    Let me know how we can work together, i will give you the right contact to plan your trip.

    William from Reunion Island Tourism Board

  9. Keith Jenkins 01/09/2017 1:37 pm

    Hello Prakash,
    I definitely recommend a drive around the island which you can do in 2-3 days. Include the Route du Volcan which goes up to the Piton de la Fournaise (see: https://velvetescape.com/route-du-volcan-reunion/ ). I’m not too familiar with hotels on the island as I only stayed in one place but I can ask around.

    Have a great tour! I’m sure it’ll be spectacular!


  10. Prakash 31/08/2017 3:11 pm

    Mr Jenkins,

    The tour will be in january 18.


  11. Prakash 31/08/2017 3:08 pm

    Mr Jenkins.

    We shall proceed to Reunion Island by january 17.
    Please give us an idea, which place will be good to stay.
    It is a 3 night stay and one day.
    The group will of 16 persons, mainly senior citizens.
    Also about places to visit and some clean budget hotels.


  12. Keith Jenkins 09/05/2017 8:00 pm

    Hi Roy,

    Two days is not a lot of time so I suggest driving the Route du Volcan (hire a car or join a tour) to Piton de la Fournaise. This can be done as a day trip. If you have more time, you could go for a hike in Cirque de Mafate (you can hike there, have lunch and take a helicopter back; see info in my blog post) or a micro-light flight over the island (if you’re feeling adventurous).
    Enjoy Reunion Island! I’m pretty sure you’ll be in awe of its stunning natural beauty!


  13. ROY CHOWDHURY 07/05/2017 5:31 pm

    Hi Keith,

    Me & my wife will be stopping over at Reunion Island for 2 Days. We will be staying in St. Denis.

    Could you please suggest which activities would suit our 2 day Itinerary.




  14. Keith Jenkins 13/02/2017 3:59 pm

    Hi there,

    Awesome! It’s such an extraordinary island isn’t it? Really happy that my blog helped and that you hired a car to explore the island – that surely is the best way as the roads are good. I also spent only a week there and it definitely wasn’t enough!


  15. Abimanyu 13/02/2017 3:56 pm

    Hey Keith,

    Spent a week in Reunion. So need to go back. A week wasn’t enough. And its only a 5.5 hour direct flight from Chennai. Thanks to your blog. Did a lot. But I do belive hiring a car was the best thing we did.

  16. Keith Jenkins 13/02/2017 3:52 pm

    Hi there,
    Yes, there are Indian restaurants in Reunion Island. I’m not sure if they’re all over the island but I remember seeing a few in the capital, St. Denis. Simply Google ‘Indian food Reunion Island’ to find out.


  17. himanshu 10/02/2017 12:27 pm

    Hiii Keith

    what is indian food availability in Reunion Island

  18. Keith Jenkins 22/12/2016 12:08 pm

    Hi Abimanyu,
    There are various car rental agencies on Reunion Island including the bigger names like Europcar and Alamo. I suggest doing a Google search and comparing the offers from the different companies. Have a great trip!


  19. Abimanyu Malewar 21/12/2016 5:37 pm

    Hi Keith. I’m heading there in Jan. Which company did you hire a car from and what was the cost? Thanks

  20. Keith Jenkins 26/09/2016 11:04 pm

    Hi Thea,
    The weather in June should be fine; just outside the rainy season. This is also a quiet month in terms of tourism so that’s an added bonus. I would definitely recommend staying in different parts of the island for different experiences. Perhaps a few days on the west coast for the beaches (around St. Gilles) and some days in the mountains (perhaps Cilaos). You’ll discover that Reunion is a hiker’s paradise and I definitely recommend a flight over the island! It’s absolutely awe-inspiring!

    Have a great trip!

    Best regards,

  21. Thea 19/09/2016 7:18 am

    Wanna take my hubby to reunion for his 50th in June 2017…is it good weather in June? A friend of mines’dad go there al the time and said we must stay in different places there? We’d like to hike..shop the market! And snorkeling…and fly over the island !!

  22. Fabiana 13/05/2015 12:25 am

    Oh my god! That lagoon looks just like my kind of place! I’d love to spe an afternoon with there with a drink and a good book.

  23. pragati 09/05/2015 7:33 am

    Hello Keith,
    Thanks for sharing this..looks like there is something here for everyone..food sounds interesting!

  24. Keith Jenkins 27/04/2015 11:51 am

    Hi Noah,

    There’s indeed lots to see and do in Réunion Island. Not many people (except the French) know about it so it’s still pretty much off-the-beaten path and what a gem it is! Happy to know I brought it to your attention. 🙂


  25. Noah 19/04/2015 11:12 pm

    So much to see here … how many people do you suppose have heard of this place before? I hadn’t until you started covering this place several months ago!

  26. ivy kriste 16/04/2015 6:46 am

    Amazing beauty…loved it…

  27. Harry Connor 14/04/2015 12:57 pm

    Wow, such beautiful places! and amazing photos!!! Congratulations!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  28. Keith Jenkins 30/03/2015 4:46 pm

    Hi Rob,
    I’m sure you’ll LOVE the Lodge Roche Tamarin! I did! 🙂


  29. Keith Jenkins 30/03/2015 4:44 pm

    Hey Janice,

    Excellent! 🙂 Hope you get to go there one day – I’m sure you’ll love it!


  30. Sand In My Suitcase 27/03/2015 7:39 pm

    Ok, we’re convinced :-). Reunion Island looks like it has lots to offer. The canyoning sounds like loads of fun.

  31. Rob Hermans 21/03/2015 1:56 pm

    Oh my God, that’s so beautiful! and i want to stay in Lodge Roche Tamarin.!!

  32. Uma 19/03/2015 3:10 am

    Hard to believe I haven’t really heard of this place until just lately … thanks for demystifying this island nation!


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