On Reunion’s northwest coast, Le Port is the island’s main port. With the development of the port, it is unique in France as it is the only one that includes an industrial port, a naval base (the third largest in France), a passenger port, a fishing port and a marina.
For tourists, the pier is the most exciting place as you can embark on an unforgettable nature adventure or set sail with a dive company to coral reefs and underwater caves. In a few days, you can travel along Reunion Island’s west coast with its white sand beaches, wildlife attractions, fruit plantations and breathtaking views.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Le Port:
1. Whale watching
About 23 species of whales and dolphins swim off the west coast of Reunion Island.
From June to October, you can witness the exhilarating sight of humpback whales surging out of the water after swimming from Antarctica to these locations.
Other species that congregate on the island are sperm and fin whales, as well as many species of dolphins (Fraser, spinner, Indian humpback, pantropical spotted dolphins), which are here all year round.
If you’re concerned about disturbing the habitat of these creatures, you’ll be happy to know that Reunion’s operators adhere to the O²CR Conservation Label, which enforces strict regulations.
There are many dive centers in Le Port, and these companies will take you to a dozen incredible locations on the west coast.
Experienced divers will get more out of this underwater environment, as they can investigate shipwrecks, dive into volcanic caves and canyons, or explore steep descents.
The wildlife here is more spectacular than the sea floor, with turtles, a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, barracuda, moray eels and crustaceans on the reefs.
If you’re lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of predators like hammerhead sharks from afar!
3. Bazaar sous Pied Bois
Le Port’s weekly market trades every Wednesday at Port des Cheminots and is the fastest way to embrace the island’s lifestyle.
The name “sous Piedboi” derives from this location as it is shaded by lush redwood foliage.
You’ll indulge in aromas of coffee, vetiver, vanilla and turmeric, all fresh from the plantations in Reunion.
Meanwhile, St. Paul’s Market on Fridays and Saturdays is probably the best in Reunion, tempting you with heaps of tropical fruit and “truck bars” cooking up Indian-inspired samosas and bouchons (Chinese dumplings) .
4. City Hall Museum
You will learn about the complex origins of Reunion in this museum a few kilometers from the coast of St. Paul.
The building is the colonial property of a 10-hectare plantation, once owned by the Desbassyns family, who built their fortune sugar cane.
Of course, it wasn’t a completely happy place, as slavery played an important role in the success of the family as well as the development of the island.
The museum does not shy away from this and other aspects of life on Reunion in the 1700s and 1800s.
There are antique furniture, décor and historical documents, all in an authentic colonial setting.
5. Cimetière Marin
On the opposite bank of the Galets Estuary is a cemetery that takes you to the early days of Reunion’s colonial days.
Here are the graves of 19th century shipwrecks, pirates, plantation owners and some of Reunion’s most prominent political and cultural figures.
The most distinguished funeral is that of Leconte de Lisle, a 19th-century Panasian poet who was born in São Paulo and transported back to the island after his death in mainland France in 1894. The seaside setting, behind black sand beaches, and tropical vegetation evokes an era of conquest and marine adventure.
6. Plage de Boucan-Canot
The beaches of Reunion Island are not so well known.
That has a lot to do with the danger of waves and shark attacks, but the West Coast is bucking the trend.
At Boucan Canot, the shark problem has been solved with a new net (the first on the island) so you can bathe safely.
On choppy days, surfers and body boarders have a good break.
You may prefer to stay ashore, where you can relax on a comfortable stretch of fine white sand.
There are basalt cliffs to book the beach, palm groves and bars to serve rum and other drinks for your sun loungers.
7. Egret Basin
Reunion excels in magnificent tropical scenes such as waterfalls, crystal clear pools and ravines covered in lush vegetation.
But usually you need to go on an expedition to get to them.
Bassin des Aigrettes is just over 10 minutes from the road, just off the N7. A 15-minute walk down the trail leads to a heavenly waterfall cascading into a pool that glows deep blue in the sun.
This is probably the most beautiful of a series of pools along the St Gilles Gorge, which stretches 25 kilometers from the center of the island to the west coast.
8. Plage de l’Hermitage
Another coastal paradise, Plage de l’Hermitage, contrasts sharply with Boucan-Canot, as it is isolated from the open ocean by coral reefs.
Thus, at about 500 meters there is a clear and warm lagoon with a depth of no more than 2 meters.
On the shore, the farther you go, the finer the white sand, surrounded by Australian pines and laurels, which produce bright purple flowers in season.
You can also snorkel in shallow water if you follow local guides.
Dangerous marine species are not at risk, but you can watch green turtles, Moorish idols, eagle rays and lagoon triggerfish on the reef.
The grassy slopes of western Reunion have ideal terrain and wind for paragliding.
You can take part in this sport on the day because you will be flying with an expert.
Most flights depart from the Saint-Leu branch, a short drive on the west coast.
The majestic view of the wild majesty of Mount Reunion makes it such an exhilarating experience.
As you turn around, you will admire the impenetrable rock faces of the Piton des Neiges mountains, including the shield volcano of the same name, which rises more than 3,000 meters above sea level.
On the site of an old lime kiln in Saint-Leu is a center for the study and conservation of sea turtles.
Kélonia is also a modern tourist attraction with an expansive 500,000 water tank that recreates the habitat of six species of sea turtles.
Then there are exhibits explaining the human impact on sea turtles, and the future of these species, as human encroachment increases, but technical and scientific conservation also improves.
Perhaps most importantly, you can witness Kélonia’s conservation efforts at the rehabilitation center, where hundreds of rescued sea turtles have been treated before being released into the ocean.
11. Coco House
Reunion Island has a large number of plantations with tropical crops such as sugar cane, spices, herbs, coffee and palm trees.
Not far off the west coast, there is a fabulous seven hectares of coconut grove and a workshop.
You’ll learn the story of how coconuts were grown in Reunion, learn more about the bizarre biology of coconuts, and the hundreds of products and uses for this fruit.
You’ll head to the grove to pick your own coconut and learn how to open it and extract its pulp.
There is also a tasting session with coconut sugar made from flowers, coconut oil, candied coconut, coconut water and coconut sorbet!
12. Le Maïdo
If there’s one downside to Reunion’s expansive volcanic landscapes, it’s that it’s less convenient to drive.
Hardcore adventurers take their stride into spectacular regions, such as the Piton des Neiges, for grueling hikes or canyoning.
But Le Maïdo is special because it’s a jaw-droppingly splendid setting that you can reach from the road from the West Coast.
You’ll drive through tamarind forests and geranium fields to a lookout below 2,200 meters above sea level, including the Cirque de Mafate, a huge, steep rock bowl.
If you’re feeling fit, you can climb a nearby mountain or follow a trail to explore an isolated village.
As always, come in the morning as the clouds will roll in later in the day.
13. Saint Denis
The N1 circles the coast and in half an hour you will arrive at Saint-Denis, the capital of Reunion.
The city started out as a colonial trading post, as you know from its architecture.
Take the Rue de Paris, for example, the street that houses all the government offices in beautiful mansions with balconies.
In addition to museums, galleries and places of worship of the city’s many faiths, Saint-Denis also has the northernmost point of Reunion.
This is Le Barachois, a seaside park still guarded by cannons.
You can stand at this point until you reach the Arabian Peninsula thousands of miles north, and you won’t know there’s nothing but ocean and remote islands.
14. Creole Rum
With its 18th century sugar cane plantations, Réunion’s relationship with rum dates back to colonial times.
Made from fermented sugar cane juice, Rhum Agricole is a rum infused with the beloved ti’ Punch, mixed with lime and cane syrup.
The rum industry is white rum sold primarily in Europe, made from distilled molasses.
True lovers can find the best mature rum made with this process.
These are aged in wooden barrels for many years (usually, the longer the better) and can be quite expensive.
At the market, you can pick up a bottle of rhum arrangeé to take home as a souvenir or gift.
It’s a rum that’s also infused with a range of local spices, including vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and even orchid.
15. Island Cuisine
Street food is at the heart of Reunion cuisine at the market, in the city centre and by the beach.
These samosas, croquettes, fried squid balls and dumplings perfectly sum up the melting pot of island cuisine.
The food is a delicious mix of French, Chinese, Indian and African styles.
There’s even a spiced pork sauce and cheese from the Plaine des Caufres, seasoned with garlic and ginger.
Most dishes are infused with tropical fruits and spices, and almost everything is served with rice.
Many dishes to try include green papaya salad, smoked fish, avocado salad, chop suey, as well as bolognese and civet, and a tangy curry with a tomato and onion base.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Le Port, France
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