15 things to do in Saint Joseph (Reunion, France)

In Reunion’s Sud Sauvage “Wild South”, Saint-Joseph is a region of black sand beaches and inland scenery that will leave you speechless. Two rivers run through the region, the Langevin and the Rivière des Remparts, both of which are essential in their own way.

Langevin is a tropical idyll with waterfalls, cascades and pools, while Rivière des Remparts is a volcanic beast with black basalt walls that can climb hundreds of meters of water. Saint Joseph is on the doorstep of Reunion National Park, a World Heritage site with volcanoes, epic circuses, canyons and lunar plains scarred by lava flows.

Let’s explore the best things to do in St. Joseph:

1. Piton de la Fournaise

Piton De La Fournaise

Of all the life-changing attractions in Reunion National Park, one landmark stands above the rest: Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

There are at least 20 hiking routes around its summit that take you to scenes of unfathomable power.

From Saint Joseph, your best bet is to wake up before dawn and drive to Pas de Bellecombe.

If you don’t want to drive these winding mountain roads in the dark, you can also spend the night in a lodge on the pass.

The hike takes a few hours, but you won’t complain when you witness the sun rise over the crater.

2. Cascade de Grand Galet

Cascade De Grand Galet

The Langevin River flows from north to south, descending from an altitude of more than 2,200 meters to the Indian Ocean at only 18.3 kilometers.

So its route is interrupted by many waterfalls and small waterfalls, which is absolutely fascinating.

Just off the Route de Grand Galet, you can park your car and gaze at this cascading, small Gossamer waterfall, which descends on a lush basalt cliff.

The waterfall feeds several pools where you can swim, and there is a picnic area by the water.

3. Nez de Bœuf

Nezdebov

To see the many jaw-dropping natural wonders of St. Joseph along the way, you actually have to leave the area and head west, then head back to the sensational Route du Volcan from Bourg-Murat.

The journey is like nothing you’ve ever seen in your life, and one of the earliest landmarks is the 2136-meter Nezdebove mountain.

From here there is a perfect view of the pristine cliffs of the Rivière des Remparts deep in the valley in the distance.

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If you’re an experienced hiker, you can even trace the river’s epic canyon from the coast of St. Joseph, but it’s not an excursion to take lightly.

4. Cratère Commerson

Claire Commonson

Anyone visiting La Fournaise Massif in Reunion must enter this vast abyss, itself an ancient crater.

Cratère Commerson On the road to the Piton de la Fournaise, a few minutes from the Rivière des Remparts.

You’ll be able to park and step onto this viewpoint mounted right above the opening.

The crater was created by an almost unimaginable force eruption 2,000 years ago, blasting a rock 200 meters wide and 120 meters deep into the sky.

5. Manapany-les-Bains

Manapany-les-Bains

One of St. Joseph’s seaside communities is Manapany, which has a gorgeous pebble cove surrounded by palm trees.

This is where the annual Manapani Surf Festival comes to an end.

Dangerous currents and threats from tiger sharks occasionally cancel surfing.

But within a few days, there were plenty of musicians playing reggae, creole, funk and jazz.

Manapany is also a great place for swimming, as there is a crystalline water lagoon surrounded by a man-made sea wall.

6. Wandas Garden

Wandas Garden

Reunion has 120 species of orchids from 30 different genera.

Fascinatingly, most of them end up on islands after their seeds, weighing micrograms, were carried away from Asia and Madagascar by tropical cyclones.

The garden Rue Léon Heaulme has all the species that grow naturally in Reunion and many more from all over the world.

There is an outdoor and indoor space with a conservatory, and you will gain more from your visit with a guided tour of the owner, who will convey his passion for this mysterious plant.

7. Ocean Langevin

Marine Langevin

Where Langevin enters the Indian Ocean, ancient lava flows form a convenient landing stage.

This has been used by cargo ships and fishermen for hundreds of years and features a small corridor in the rock that leads to the water.

The only problem is that the coast is almost constantly hit by waves, which make it difficult to get ashore even in clear weather.

If you’re wondering how the local fishermen manage it, come here around 1pm on a calm day, when a group of people hoist their boats up the ramp from the choppy waters.

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8. Jardin de Parfums et des Epices

Jardin De Parfums Et Des Epices

Soon after colonization, the flat coastal plains of Reunion were filled with coffee, sugar cane and vanilla plantations.

But there are also thriving spice and perfume plants that you’ll find in this charming garden.

About 15 minutes from Vincento on the N2, the attraction has vetiver and ylang-ylang, as well as cloves, cardamom, vanilla and turmeric and ginger root.

Accompanied by a guide, you will learn how each species was imported to Reunion and grown here.

In the store, you can pick up spicy souvenirs to take home.

9. The House of Turmeric

home of turmeric

Another fragrant day, the House of Turmeric is located in the Plaine des Grègues, a mini-circus west of the Rempard River.

It’s a family-run plantation that grows turmeric root, described as Reunion’s answer to saffron, and creates the turmeric spice, a staple of Reunion’s Creole cuisine.

You can explore the plantation to learn how the roots are processed into powdered spices.

Finally there is the “Cave Aux Épices”, which sells an intoxicating variety of spices and fragrances.

10. Canyoning

canyoning

With waterfalls, basalt canyons and pools, the Langevin can be a playground for diving, climbing and sliding down waterfalls.

It’s all safer than it sounds because you’ll be wearing a helmet, life jacket and neoprene suit on your canyoning trip.

More and more operators have qualified guides who will take you to the best spots on the river and encourage you to jump off cliffs and from waterfalls in the best way possible! Several companies near Saint-Joseph include Canyoning Langevin, Aquasens, Alpanes, and Pranaventure, most of which will record your adventures for you to download or take home on a memory card.

11. Lava Tunnel

lava tunnel

The most recent eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise created an underground artery around the Grand Brûlé in the southeastern part of the island.

And, as with river canyons, there are many businesses waiting to lead you through these tunnels.

The experience will depend on how brave you are: you can easily walk through long, tall voids and are open to all ages, but many companies also offer tours in tighter spaces where you can walk on your hands and knees, Squeeze through tight crevices for up to four hours.

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12. Ocean Vincento

Ocean Vincento

During the hurricane season from November to May, you can head to this large black sand beach.

When the weather is nice, you’ll want to lounging under a screw pine tree with your feet in the shallows.

Swimming at the beaches on the south coast is not recommended as the currents are strong and there are quite a few shark attacks.

But that doesn’t take away the otherworldly beauty of these black sand beaches and cliffs behind them, overshadowed by tropical vegetation.

13. Plage Ti Sable

Plage Ti Sable

In fact, swimming is prohibited anywhere on the coast, except in lagoons sheltered by seawalls or natural coral reefs.

So despite the attractiveness of the local beaches, often without tourists, you can have a paradise cove like this one in St. Joseph.

Under the dark cliffs are fine black sand covered with greenery.

While the currents keep you from setting foot in the ocean, you can walk along the water or sit on the beach and soak up this dreamy tropical scenery.

14. Sightseeing flights

sightseeing flight

Reunion is a small island, only 63 kilometers long and 45 kilometers wide, but its canyons, ice craters, mountains and volcanoes make road trips arduous.

If you need sightseeing but don’t want to drive twisty mountain roads, then a helicopter or plane flight is a real option.

Pierrefonds Aerodrome is 25 minutes from St. Joseph Airport, where several companies offer tourist “fly-over” services. The small size of the island puts all the island’s striking attractions within range, including the Cirque de Cilaos, Cirque de Mafate, the dead volcano of Piton des Neiges and Piton de la Fournaise.

15. Creole Food

Curry puff

Citizens of Reunion are a diverse group, with a large community of African, Chinese, Indian, Tamil and, of course, European descent.

Combine this cosmopolitanism with spices, tropical fruits and vegetables, and you’ve got a tempting meal inspired by everywhere.

Samosas are street fast food, a pastry filled with meat or vegetables and deep fried.

The main course is usually rougail or cari meat or fish cooked in a spicy tomato sauce similar to an Indian curry.

Sugarcane is grown everywhere in Reunion, and tropical fruits such as lychees, pineapples or mangoes are often added to rum to make a delicious wine.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Saint-Joseph, France
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