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More than 100 up-market hotels ring the coast of Mauritius, a former French colony. This is certainly one of the most glamorous of the many postage stamp-sized islands in the southern Indian Ocean, but despite much development over the past decade, Mauritius doesn't feel overly built up. The breezy north is ideal for watersports, such as kite- and windsurfing; the east has a wilder coastline and fewer resorts; the west enjoys magnificent sunsets, rolling waves, and is home to the capital, Port Louis.

Beaches

The fine sands of east-coast Belle Mare beach front a deep lagoon lined with casuarina tress and coconut palms and fit for snorkeling. Considered one of the island's most beautiful, this beach remains unspoiled despite two nearby golf courses. For sunset cocktails and a cosmopolitan buzz, head to the beach cafes and resorts lining Grand Baie, on the northwest coast. Trou aux Biches is ideal for snorkeling, kayaking, and water-skiing and the shallow, calm water is suitable for children.

Things to Do

The majority of Mauritians are Hindu and their temple is on the shore of Grand Bassin Lake, in the center of the island. In the nearby Black River Gorge, you can go rafting through the forest. On Mauritius, you can drive an underwater scooter to be eye-to-eye with the local marine life; for a unique encounter on land, visit the cheetahs and lions at Casela Nature Park, where trained handlers escort you on a walk through the big cats' habitat.

Eating and Drinking

International Michelin-starred chefs have lent their names to restaurants across the island, such as Alain Ducasse at Spoon des Iles in the One&Only Le Saint Géran resort. A gourmet favorite and island specialty is palm heart salad, palm buds lightly tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. A classic Mauritian dish served is dholl purri, a wheat pancake stuffed with split peas, ginger, onion, and chilis served with a tomato sauce.

Nature

Encircled by the world's longest unbroken coral reef, Mauritius is a major scuba and snorkeling destination. Spot monkeys, boar, and the Mauritius kestrel falcon at Domaine de Chasseur, a nature reserve in the southeast Anse Jonchee Hills. A climb up Le Morne Mountain, on a south-coast peninsula, ends in panoramic views of Le Morne Beach lined with resorts and the Indian Ocean. The best time to go is sunrise, when the sun shines pink and golden over the shimmering sea.