Reunion is an island, and like its diverse interior (read about it here), the coastline has much to offer. The northern coastline of the island tends to be “wild”, and is not noted for swimming. There was a period when shark attacks received much publicity, leading to the closure of beaches. Whether or not it was over hype by the media, it had a lasting impact. Swimming is only allowed on beaches with shark nets (mostly on the west and south coast).
The stretch of coast between Saint Paul and Saint Pierre (and a bit further) has some beautiful beaches and lagoons. Saint Pierre is a small harbour town that has a pretty lagoon, great for snorkelling. There’s lots of coral in the lagoon, and broken bits on the beach sand. The coral, in turn is good for the variety of tropical fish that can be seen. We stayed at the excellent Villa Delisle, which is right across from the beach, and they provide free snorkelling equipment.
The larger, and perhaps more diverse lagoon is at La Saline les Bains to L’Ermitage les Bains (close to Saint Gilles). The beach tends to have less broken bits of coral, so you can still have long walks on the beach. These lagoons are formed by coral reefs which act as breakers. The sea is still and calm in the lagoon, and waves can be seen crashing in the waves beyond. The high end Lux* Resort Saint Gilles is the best places to stay over in these parts, but there are other recommended, less pricey options in the area.
You could easily spend a week beach hopping. Apart from the one I have already mentioned, we also visited the popular Boucan Canot and Grand Anse (both swimming, sandy beaches that also have tidal pools). Having a rental car makes exploring the beaches (and the island in general) a lot more convenient.
Reunion was formed by volcanic activity. When Piton de la Fournaise erupts, it generally spews its lava across to the east coast of the island. The coastal road has these lava flows marked by year of eruption, and some are worth exploring. An unmarked one has some lava tunnels that can be explored. We ventured in for a short while, being able to clearly see the pathways that the lava would have followed. (The longer tunnels are best left being explored with a guide.) When the lava eventually reaches the sea, there are some other worldly beaches, some with lava rocks or black sand (like at L’Etang) or an olivine beach (close to Le Tremblet). Further along the east coast, the Anse des Cascades are worth a visit (and picnic). A series of waterfalls peek from the forest and there’s a pretty bay fringed by palm tree shaded lawns.
Reunion’s coast is not all tropical, sandy beaches. But Reunion is more than just a coastal destination. With its mountainous areas, tropical forests, waterfalls, volcanoes and countryside, there’s always something to see or do. It’s diversity in action.
Read on for tips and info to make the most of your trip to Reunion.