What springs to mind when you imagine an all-inclusive holiday?
Endless, international buffet food? Packed resorts full of holiday makers taking part in enforced jollity? Bland hotels?
Let’s face it, many of us have the same preconceptions about this type of holiday – but having just spent a week on an all-inclusive holiday in Mauritius with First Choice, all I can say is WOW.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a little video of our adventures:
Okay, here are our top ten things to do on an all-inclusive holiday to Mauritius.
The first surprise was the flight – nobody (in my experience) looks forward to an 11.5 hour flight in economy, but on the First Choice Dreamliner you get 3 inches more seat space than in a standard economy seat, the engine is quieter than a standard plane, and it uses clever sensors in the wings to reduce the impact of turbulence on passengers.
The on-board entertainment system was probably the best we’ve ever seen, with a great range of TV, movies and games – and there are some whizzy changes to cabin pressure which means you’re less likely to experience jet lag and headaches. It’s still long and boring – but Dreamliner makes the most of a bad situation.
The Long Beach Hotel in Mauritius is unashamedly luxurious. It’s also beautifully designed with artfully framed views around every corner. There’s an enormous lobby which overlooks a plaza below – around the plaza are four restaurants (Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and a local buffet-style restaurant) and a bar, which has open sides allowing for views through to the palm-fringed beach beyond. A little beyond this is the beach-side restaurant that serves cafe style food in the day and fresh seafood in the evening.
Standard rooms at the hotel are pretty spacious – ours included two Queen-sized beds, a sofa, flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, and lots of space. The bathroom has a private w/c cubicle and a fabulous shower as well as bath, and double sinks. There’s air-conditioning and the room is serviced twice a day by a very nice man who regularly seems to drop in with fresh flowers and complimentary bottles of water. If you’re on an all-inclusive package, much of the mini bar is also free, meaning you can help yourself to water and soft drinks as you need them.
You do need to book most of the restaurants for dinner ahead of time, except the buffet. We found the quality of the food excellent, although not all the restaurants are open every night, which can get a bit confusing. The Japanese restaurant boasts a Michelin-starred chef and Flea loved her first chance to try out sushi.
That said, we did mostly dinner eat at the buffet because it offered the most child-friendly options, although seeing what your kids will consider to be a GREAT meal can be quite surprising – Flea seemed to survive all week on watermelon, crackers, cheese and endless bowls of ice cream. For adults, there was a great selection of Creole style curries, and two fresh grills every night – one serving meat, the other fish. And miniature desserts, which can’t go unmentioned. I love a miniature dessert (miniature means you can eat three, right?)
All the restaurant menus indicate which items can be chosen as part of your all-inclusive package, and which are subject to a supplement – we paid around £20/head when we ate off-menu. At the buffet, everything is included and at the other restaurants there’s a pretty wide choice of food, along with soft drinks, beer, wine and a few cocktails.
On our last evening, we dined at the Tides seafood restaurant and you can choose from almost a dozen fresh fish dishes, grilled and served with a sauce and sides of your choosing. I thought the quality was outstanding and it blew away any last ideas I might have had about what “all-inclusive food” looks like. It was a-ma-zing.
There are two swimming pools close to the beach – one, an adults-only infinity pool, and the other a more family friendly pool with a pool-side bar and restaurant and plenty of areas for lounging in the sun. Rather than your bog-standard sun beds, the pool has a range of beds, from a double bed lounger in the middle of the pool, to secluded double loungers with pillows and shade, set under wooden pergolas around the pool.
It all makes more a slightly more relaxed feel, and offers areas of shade and privacy, which is really lovely – and quite rare! Not to mention that a double bed is just the most civilised sort of way to spend a day at the pool, and allows for maximum snoozing.
On the other side of the hotel lobby is a fitness centre and spa, which houses another pool for lap swimming, along with a well-equipped gym, golf course, basketball court and climbing wall. The swimming pool is beautiful and did encourage me to go and do laps on, ooh, at least three of my seven days in Mauritius. But it isn’t heated, so it’s one for the brave!
It’s not just adults who can get active. Next to the gym, there are two areas for kids’ clubs, including a ‘club house’ for teenagers, which Flea loved exploring. There seem to be loads of instructors around to help the guests try out new activities, and Flea particularly loved the free daily climbing sessions – although less energetic types will find plenty to entertain them too – Alison took part in what must be the world’s prettiest yoga class, on the beach at sunset.
The beach here is one of the best in Mauritius – 1.5km long and perfectly sandy. You won’t find shells, but the kids had a great time splashing in the surf and finding pieces of coral. There are no sea urchins in this part of the island, either, making it a great option for families.
It can get a little windy on the East coast of the island but the upside is that during the winter (May-Oct) any brief showers are blown away quickly, leaving you with lovely warm sunshine – temperatures in May average around 28 degrees.
Even at sunset, the water was warm enough for swimming, and the light here was absolutely spectacular.
Of course, one of the greatest bonuses about an all-inclusive holiday in Mauritius is that almost all the watersports you can think of are included in the price, so you can relax and let the kids really make the most of the facilities without worrying about running up a huge bill. On the beach there is a dedicated watersport hut staffed by three friendly guys who take bookings and can offer great advice on when it’s best to do various things. We loved trying the pedal boats, canoes and kayaks – although we weren’t brave enough to try paddle boarding or wind surfing those are both options.
Even non-swimmers are catered for with under-sea walks to see the coral reef, along with glass-bottom boat trips and snorkelling sessions for hotel residents. With just a week to spend in Mauritius, we didn’t have time to try all the things we might have done!
We did however, pay a small additional fee (around £30) to go parasailing, and tubing – which involves sitting on an inflatable raft and being towed behind a speedboat. Yes, I did scream like a small girl throughout both activities, thanks for asking.
One of the common myths about all-inclusive breaks is that you’re stuck in a gated resort, but First Choice offers a range of excursions that give you the chance to see a bit more of Mauritius. To be fair, most of these seem to be geared to adults (tours of nature reserves, spice farms and the like). One of our favourites was a tour of the Southern half of Mauritius, taking in volcanic earth, ancient tortoises, waterfalls, spectacular vistas and an amazing lunch at one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever seen, in the heart of the National Park. It was a long day for the children, but the views were worth it. By far our favourite way to explore though, was on water.
And of course, you can always just use your own initiative to book a trip, guide, or walk into the local town of Belle Mare.
Of all the things we did in Mauritius, spending the day on a catamaran was probably one of our favourites. We left the hotel at 9am to board the Oceana, and spent the day being wonderfully looked after by a really attentive crew – who were fantastically friendly and patient with all the children on board. In the morning, we toured the coastline and sat on deck enjoying the sunshine, before heading to see some waterfalls (although Flea was way more impressed by the monkeys and fruit bats).
Next on the agenda was snorkelling on the coral, which was fantastic fun, followed by a barbecue lunch on board and an afternoon at Ile aux Cerfs, one of the most pretty beaches in Mauritius – remember to take some money with you, as you’ll need to pay for drinks and any activities on-shore. Then a lazy sail home in time for dinner at the hotel. I’d totally recommend this trip, it was loved by the kids and adults alike.
Staying somewhere like Long Beach, with great kids’ clubs, does of course leave you with some spare time to relax – and you can do that in style at the hotel’s spa. There are treatment rooms for all the usual sorts of treatments – massages, aromatherapy, pedicures etc – and a genius relaxation area that consists of floating double beds hidden away in a small patch of woodland, set around a small pond, filled with fish. It’s absolutely idyllic – although you might want to watch out for the mosquitoes here – they’re fierce!
Our overall impression of Mauritius is that it’s the perfect place if you love beaches and watersports, and are looking for a family-friendly destination with world-class hotels. And it’s beautiful. When the sunrise looks like this, what more could you wish for?
Our flights and accommodation were paid for by First Choice for the purposes of this review. For details on all packages, please see the First Choice website where you can read about the Long Beach Hotel, the island tour of Mauritius and the day trip on the Caramaran. A week’s stay at Long Beach starts from £1,266 per person. More photos from our trips are available on Facebook.