Reunion is truly a perfect holiday destination! It has a mix of beautiful white beaches, stunning volcanic landscapes all with the backdrop of fantastic food. This is your ultimate guide to Reunion Island with a perfect 10 day itinerary.
I went to Reunion Island (La Reunion in French) for 10 days travelling solo and I had a blast! I saw some incredible sights and met some truly lovely people.
Where is Reunion Island?
Reunion island is a small island to the east of Madagascar in the Indian ocean close to Mauritius.
What Country is Reunion Island?
Reunion is a department of France. This means that it is essentially exactly the same as a region of ‘metropole’ (mainland) France, except it’s a long-haul flight away from Paris. The laws to enter Reunion are exactly the same as it would be to enter Metropole France. Reunion is still a member of the European Union so the European visa restrictions apply.
Fun story: I met a group of French retirees when in Reunion who were spending their retirement sailing the globe (life goals right?). The only reason they stopped in Reunion was to renew their passports because it has a French Passport office.
What Language do they Speak in Reunion Island?
The official language of reunion island is French. As well as this, French Creole is widely spoken. Most people can speak both languages, talented eh?). Although Reunion has a thriving tourist industry most tourists are French speaking and English is not always spoken in hotels or restaurants. If you don’t speak French I would strongly recommend to write down some key phrases/words to make your stay a lot easier.
What Currency do they use in Reunion Island?
As you are in France, Reunion Island uses the Euro. If you are going to the more remote parts of the island, card machines are harder to come by. I would recommend carrying cash to cover the cost of accommodation if you haven’t already pre-paid for it. In the main towns ATMs are easily available as well as at petrol stations.
How to get to Reunion Island
If you are ‘in the area’ there are flights from the island of Mauritius. If you are based in Europe the easiest way is to get a direct flight from Paris with Air France and connect on to your destination.
How to get around Reunion Island
If you are planning to explore the whole island, I would recommend a hire car. I hired the car at the airport for my whole trip and it was really easy. There are multiple hire car companies based at the airport so you will have a choice. Some of the roads in the countryside can be windy especially around the hills so make sure you are comfortable driving on smaller roads. As in France, you drive on the right hand side in Reunion island.
When to visit Reunion Island
The rainy season in La Reunion is between December and February, it can be hot and humid as well during this period. The dry season is between May and November. The temperatures can be cooler (18-25) but there is significantly less rain. If you are hoping to see whales, go during August and September.
Safety Concerns in Reunion Island
There are a couple of safety concerns that you need to be aware of. When I visited these were announced on the plane just before we landed to ensure you are aware of them.
Shark attacks are a genuine concern in Reunion (not a joke). Do not take the risk. There are some horror stories that I will not share here but the risk is real to be killed by a shark. However! There are lots of places that you can swim that have been blocked off and are safe. Be sure to look at the signs on each beach you see.
As with most tropical countries, mosquitoes are not your friend. Be sure to make sure you have sufficient mosquito repellent to stop them giving you nasty bites and more. Anti-malarial medication is not required.
What to pack for Reunion Island
As with all island holidays, beach attire is obviously a must!! If you are hiking in the cirques or the volcano, hiking boots or shoes are needed as the ground is uneven. As well as this, it can get cold in the evenings and mornings in the hills so take layers and a waterproof. Suncream and anti-mosquito spray as well.
Where to stay in Reunion Island
There are many lodges as well as hotels to choose from. I chose the more budget options and I found them really good quality. If you are hiking one of the cirques you must book in advance including the meals as the options are so limited.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 1: Arrive and visit waterfall Niagara
On your first day, take time to recover from your flight and prepare for the exciting energetic days ahead. After arriving in Roland Garros Reunion Airport, sort out your hire car (this took surprisingly long for me) and head out to the island. Make a stop at Niagara waterfall for a perfect 1st day relaxing activity. From here, drive up to close towards the cirques to be closer to the start point of your chosen hike.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 2-5: Hike one of the Cirques in the Piton des Nieges
An absolute must do in Reunion is to go hiking on one of the Cirques in Piton des Neiges UNESCO world heritage site. (As you might have guessed cirque loosely translates to loop). There are 3 cirques in Reunion Island, Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie. They were created when Piton des Neiges (the highest peak in Reunion island) partially collapsed centuries ago. Piton Des Neiges is a dormant volcano so has formed dramatic landscapes and impressive faunas. On my trip, I hiked cirque de Mafate over 3 days.
Piton des Neiges is one of the most remote areas of the island. Once you have driven to the access points the only way around is on foot or by helicopter. There are people that live in the very remote villages that are a day’s walk away from a road. All food and supplies are delivered by helicopter too! The reunion tourism board has a brilliant tool you can use to plan where you want to go and how long the walks would take.
There are carparks at the entrance of the Cirques that you can leave your car for multiple days. As this is such a remote location, make sure to book all accommodation in advance as well as if you are eating there too. I found some of the shops to be closed so bring more food than you expect to need just in case. Hungry hiker is an unhappy hiker!
Note: If you have a drone be very careful about where you fly it as there are lots of helicopters around. There are strict limitations on where you can use the drone in the national parks, be sure to check the restrictions.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 6-7 Piton de la Fournaise
You can hike an active volcano in Reunion. Yes you heard that, active! Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It erupts approximately 3 or 4 times a year. And it is because of this that it is actually safe to hike up. There are reliable predictions of the eruptions and if an eruption is likely access will be limited.
Getting to Piton de la Fournaise is easy enough in a car although the roads are not so nice. The national park of the volcano is quite large therefore the roads are not tarmacked. The roads are dirt tracks at and can be really bumpy. There is also reduced phone signal around the volcano. The colour of the ground driving up to the Volcano is redish so it feels like you could be on mars!
Fun not so fun story: I got a flat tyre in my rental car on the dirt track leaving the volcano. But luckily a lovely couple came to help me change the tyre as they had seen me stop! I love the kindness of strangers. (And thankfully I had paid for rental insurance to cover spare tyres)
There is one lodge that is at the base of the volcano which is the best place to stay. Aptly named Gite du Volcan. Make sure you book in advance as it can fill up very quickly. They offer a lovely evening meal with communal dining with a seating plan. If you are travelling solo this is a really great opportunity to meet some new friends.
The Hike up Piton De La Fournaise
The hike up to the top is not for the faint hearted but it is worth the views.
The walk starts from the carpark at Piton de la Fournaise. The walk begins with a descent down many many many stairs just to warm you up for the walk up! From the bottom of the stairs it brings you to a flat plain facing the volcano. To get to the base of the volcano it takes approximately 20 mins.
The path is marked out by paint on the ground. You will be walking over solidified lava so the path isn’t always the clearest to see but stick to the paint markings. The path is marked to show the safe areas of the volcano to go off the path you must be with an official guide.
I left in darkness to see the sunrise as I hiked. Not only was the light beautiful but I was alone at the top which meant I could have breakfast in peace. It was definitely a lot busier as I was walking down so if you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind the early mornings sunrise is the time to go.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 8: Go Chasing Waterfalls
To disagree with the famous song – you should go chasing waterfalls! There are some lovely waterfalls in reunion but my absolute favourite is Langevin falls! It is a bit off the beaten track but it is beautiful and you can swim in some of the pools downstream. This is a great activity to chill out for a bit after an energetic few days.
On the way to the waterfall, I stopped at Saint Pierre. This is a port down with protected beaches so you can swim in the sea. St Pierre is home to lots of lovely cafes and bars so is the perfect place for a sunset meal by the sea. I had a sunset swim and then dinner overlooking the sea, it was so dreamy!
Drive down to the south of the Island so can see the run off lava path from Piton de la Fournaise volcano. If there has been a big and fresh eruption, this might mean the road is blocked by Lava so try and check in advance if the road is empty.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 9: Beach Day at Saint Leu
After the excitement of all of the hiking and waterfalls, it’s time to relax. Spend a beautiful beach day at Plage St Leu. This is a perfect white sandy beach. The great thing about this beach is that is that the waters are protect by a reef. This means that Sharks cannot get to the shallow waters.
If you happen to be at the beach on a weekend, you will see one of the great local cultures of picnic time. Whole families make a massive day out of this with some of the biggest picnic spreads you have ever seen. If you are lucky enough to be invited to one you will have a great time.
Saint Leu is also home to lots of paragliding centres that offer tandem paragliding flights. I booked mine in advance but sadly the weather wasn’t playing ball so the flight wasn’t possible. I have done paragliding not in Reunion and loved it, this is a fab way to see the beautiful island.
From Saint Lea, visit the Kelonia Turtle conservation centre. They rehabilitate turtles and is a great spot to see lots of different types of turtles.
10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island Day 10: Swim with Dolphins and Whales
At reunion you can swim with Dolphins and even whales! Whale season is August/September in Reunion Island. There are companies for boat trips to see the wildlife and swim with them. I went with Duocean after a recommendation from a friend. I was really impressed with them, they were really respectful of the animals and explained how to be as least disruptive as possible. As you swim in a big groups you are not at risk of shark attacks.
If you happen to be here on a Friday or Saturday, go to the market in Saint Paul. The market offers a range of local fruit and veg as well as local crafts. This is the perfect place to get souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.
From here, make the sad journey back to the airport to end your trip in Reunion Island.
That’s the end of 10 Day Itinerary in Reunion Island!
You now know all there is to know about visiting Reunion Island and where to visit to have the best trip. I hope you have an amazing adventure and let me know how it goes!