No one needs help finding a beautiful beach in Mauritius, but there's tons to explore away from the water as well.
For a small nation, Mauritius overflows with scenic hikes through the mountains, holy pilgrimage sites, amazing food and historic areas that trace the island's globe-spanning history.
Chamarel: On an exposed hilltop on the Chamarel plain, the earth takes on magical rainbow hues of purple, red, violet, green, blue and yellow.
Pereybere beach: Here the waters spill out toward a protected marine sanctuary, where the island's ever-growing hotel developments cannot reach.
Le Morne: The mountain at Le Morne was once a refuge for escaped slaves. With cliffs on three sides, the beautiful mountaintop provided an easily defensible site
SSR Botanical Gardens: With towering palms and plant species from around the world, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens are a favorite picnic spot for Mauritians.
Ganga Talao: Grand Bassin, or Ganga Talao, is considered to be a sacred place for locals, especially for the Hindu community in Mauritius
Just off the coast of Le Morne, on the island's southwest, Mauritius offers a spectacular illusion.
Sand and silt on the ocean floor run off in a way that makes it look like they're pouring down a waterfall -- or like the entire island is being sucked down a vast drain.
It's really just the flow of underwater currents that create the dramatic image. The ocean water is spectacular from the shore, but to see this particular view requires a helicopter ride. Tours are set up just for that.
Chamarel Colored Earth
Chamarel's colored sands are caused by lava turning into clay minerals.
Grey Hutton/Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
On an exposed hilltop inside a park, the earth takes on magical rainbow hues of purple, red, violet, green, blue and yellow.
The colors are most vibrant at sunrise, and they appear to shift during the course of the day as the sun moves and clouds pass overhead. Nearby, a narrow waterfall plunges over a cliff, and the Black River Gorges National Park nearby protects what remains of the island's original rainforest.
Some of the best diving and snorkeling in Mauritius is located off Pereybere beach.
guichaoua / Alamy Stock Photo
Because there's got to be one beach on this list, we've tracked down the best.
Just past the tourist buses and food trucks that clog the main beach at Grand Baie lies a secret shore, a smaller inlet where the water is just as blue, the sand just as white.
But the people are mainly families who bring their children to swim in the placid waters off Pereybere. That doesn't mean it's a kid's beach.Rather it's a happy in-between place, close to the restaurants and nightlife in Grand Baie, but quiet enough to feel away from it all.
Here the waters spill out toward a protected marine sanctuary, where the island's ever-growing hotel developments cannot reach. Smaller islands a short boat ride away are uninhabited except for a little Coast Guard post.
This is where some of the best diving and snorkeling in Mauritius is located.
In places, even snorkeling is too much. Wading in the water is enough to see everything hiding below the surface. For those feeling less active, there's a luxury catamaran to deliver guests to a beachside gourmet dinner among the ruins of the old Dutch governor's mansion.
Down the only pedestrian street in Port Louis, across from the Municipal Theatre, lies one of the city's hidden treasures.
The Photography Museum is the culmination of Tristan Bréville's lifelong passion for cameras, and his personal collection of one million images documenting the history of Mauritius.
Only a relative few are on display. Among the jewels are a collection of daguerreotype images that are the first photos taken anywhere in Africa.
Dhal puri at the Central Market
Stack of snacks: Roti flat breads at Central Market
The Central Market in Port Louis underwent a makeover a few years ago, which cleaned up the building and left intact the colors, smells and flavors that define Mauritian cuisine.
Market stalls overflow with chilies, dragon fruit, rose apples and towers of vegetables.
Toward the center is a food hall where vendors serve up fresh juices and the definitive local street food, dhal puri. It's yellow split peas wrapped inside a roti flat bread and served up with chili to taste.
To figure out the best, join the longest line.
Central Market, Farquhar Street, Port Louis, Mauritius
The mountain known as Le Pouce overlooks Port Louis. It's not the tallest peak in Mauritius, but its location next to the capital makes it the most iconic.
Ascending to the top takes about an hour. On the way down, walking all the way to the city center takes two or three hours.
Near the base, in Moka, is The Creole House in Eureka. The colonial home has undergone a gorgeous restoration, and the restaurant prides itself on serving the best Mauritian food.
Eureka, La Maison Creole, Moka, Mauritius; +230 433 8477
Sacred lake: Grand Bassin
When the volcanoes that created Mauritius died out, one of the craters filled with water and became a lake known as Grand Bassin.
It's also known as Ganga Talao, a name that links the water symbolically to the Ganges River in India. The waters here have taken on a similarly religious significance, with a shrine to Lord Shiva dominating the lakeside.
"Grand Bassin is a lake which is considered to be one of the most sacred places in Mauritius, especially for the Hindu community," says Sarvesh Unuth, an English teacher visiting the lake.
He says it can get crowded, visited by more than half the island's population in a few weeks during the Shivratri festival celebrated annually in honor of Lord Shiva.
On other days, it's a place of tranquil reflection with a microclimate cooler than the rest of Mauritius.
Blue Penny Museum
A museum dedicated to a single stamp may not seem like the most riveting attraction, but the Blue Penny Museum
presents an engaging overview of Mauritian history.
The museum centers on two of the rarest stamps in the world: the red penny and the blue penny. Both were issued in 1847 by the British colonial government.
Only 500 were printed of each, from a single plate. The last one sold at public auction in 2011 fetched more than £1,000,000 in London -- the highest price ever paid for a stamp.
The Blue Penny Museum showcases rare examples of the stamps, but only for 10 minutes at a time. The museum also presents artwork, coins and engaging passages from Mauritian history as a hub for seafarers crossing the Indian Ocean.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens
SSR Botanical Gardens: Lovely lily pads.
Bamba Sourang/Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
Famed for its truly gigantic water lilies, the SSR Botanical Gardens
are a favorite picnic spot for Mauritians who spread out beneath the tropical canopy.
Not all the plants have been labeled, but anyone wanting to know the stories of the flora can hire a guide at the entrance.
In addition to the towering palms, the gardens include many of the plants that produced the spices that brought Europeans battling into Asia for trade in new flavors.
The 18th-century Church of St Francis of Assisi faces the gardens, built for the wealthy landowners of the day.