Long Beach Mauritius resort review: as good as it gets
Nurture body, mind and soul at this mini Eden in the Indian Ocean
Phrases such as “paradise on Earth” are often bandied about to describe tropical destinations, with even celebrated writers seemingly guilty of such hyperbole. Mark Twain is said to have claimed that “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”.
In fact, it turns that a slightly sceptical Twain was quoting a proud resident, but after just a fleeting visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago, I’m siding with the local: Mauritius is as close to heaven as many of us are likely to get.
The East African nation was uninhabited up until the early 1600s, when the arrival of Dutch explorers led to a flood of settlers from Europe, Africa, India and Asia, and successive colonisation by the Dutch, French and British. The result today in this now-independent republic is a multicultural population speaking a hotchpotch of English, Creole, French and Indian languages, with followers of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam living peaceably side by side.
Flying into the main island of Mauritius from Brexit-torn Britain, I’m more than ready for a bit of peace and goodwill to all, along with some serious R&R - and our final destination delivers the goods.
A tropical paradise
The Long Beach Mauritius resort stretches along a white-sand beach protected by a coral reef lagoon on the east coast, around 23 miles from capital Port Louis.
After checking in at the vast open-air lobby, my travel buddies and I venture into the resort’s sun-drenched tropical gardens, where more than 500,000 types of plants conceal luxury chalets and apartments dotted along winding paths.
At the centre of this mini Eden sits four of the resort’s five restaurants, in a spacious pavilion that buzzes like an Italian piazza come evening. This social hotspot is also home to Shores bar, which as the name suggests, overlooks the palm-dotted private beach.
Eager to test out the turquoise waters that lie beyond, I dump my suitcase in my roomy beachside chalet and head out via the sliding glass doors onto the sand - and into a short, sharp shower. As most visitors to Mauritius quickly learn, the island’s lush, green landscape is the result of regular downpours even outside the rainy season (roughly, January to March).
Fortunately, these sudden showers rarely last for more than a few minutes and actually offer a welcome respite from the tropical heat, refreshing both body and mind – a result that sums up the overall effect of a stay at the Long Beach Mauritius.
One of the things that sets this luxury resort apart is its Cinq Mondes Spa & Wellness Retreat, which offers not only treatments inspired by traditional medicines from across the world but also bespoke detox programmes with a focus on diet and exercise.
Tucked in a secluded corner of the grounds, the central spa building is constructed from volcanic rocks and wood, and surrounded by a series of water features and freestanding treatment rooms.
Following a consultation with a friendly therapist who tells me I’m a little lopsided (dominant left side, apparently), I’m guided to one of these small cabins for a massage to knead out my asymmetric muscles. My ego may be a bit bruised, but the rest of me feels wonderful as I unwind to a live soundtrack of exotic birdsong from outside.
This sense of satisfaction is deepened by an evening yoga session at the beach, before a bedtime mug of Lait D’or, a traditional Ayurvedic concoction of vegetable milk, turmeric, honey, ginger and cinnamon. The all-natural drink is said to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and detoxifier, though the sweet flavour won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
The jury may be out on the Lait D’or, but my group is unanimous in our admiration for one of the central figures in the resort’s well-being and fitness programme, Cecile Jeanson. This inspirational woman is a French former Olympic swimmer who was left immobile and in constant pain by a serious back injury at the age of 40.
Determined to regain her former fitness, she developed her own exercise programme to build muscle strength without stressing injuries using her favourite element – water. Now fully recovered and with an Olympic-class body to prove it, she shares her methods at her Akwa Active classes, where Long Beach Mauritius guests learn a series of easy-to-follow exercises that they can practice after returning home.
Jeanson works her magic at the pool in the centre of the resort’s impressive sports complex, which also features a well-equipped gym, outdoor climbing wall, football pitches and tennis and volleyball courts.
Parents looking to regain their pre-child physiques, or just enjoy a bit of peace, can drop their little people at the adjacent kids club, which offers a packed timetable of activities ranging from craft workshops to cookery lessons. It’s all provided for no extra charge, which is an especially good deal given that under-12s stay and eat at Long Beach Mauritius for free.
This complimentary childcare allows parents to join the other grown-ups at the adults-only infinity pool, set on a ledge above the main pool and just metres from the sea shore. The ledge-top lounging spot offers a prime view of the mile-long beach, where more active types can enjoy watersports ranging from windsurfing, water skiing and paragliding to kayaking and sailing.
And few holiday experiences beat an hour or two snorkelling in the bath-warm sea, which teems with colourful marine life.
Golfing fans are catered for, too, with a magnificent 18-hole championship golf course designed by two-times Masters champion Bernhard Langer on the nearby Île aux Cerfs, or Island of Deer (these animal inhabitants are long gone, sadly).
Even golfing novices such as myself should make the short car journey to Pointe Maurice, just down the coast, and hop aboard the boat shuttle service ferrying visitors to the Île aux Cerfs Golf Club. Here, an endlessly patient coach teaches our group the difference between our wedges and our putters, before we swing our stuff on the practice green.
Having battered our fair share of golf balls, we head to the club’s private beach for a lunch of chargrilled local fish and seafood served from a thatched-roof restaurant. It’s superb fare, with highlights including a slab of ultra-tender white tuna that’s a culinary hole in one.
Indeed, on any other holiday such a meal might be unbeatable, but the Long Beach Mauritius resort takes the Masters for food.
Manna from heaven
Influenced by European, Chinese and Indian cuisines, and spiked with robust African flavours, food in Mauritius is every bit as diverse as the rest of the culture. To comprehensively cover this wide range of flavours is a big ask, but Long Beach Mauritius has a very good stab at it, with five restaurants offering various cuisines.
The main restaurant, Le Marché, does a mean breakfast and bountiful international buffets, while neighbouring Sapori serves first-class pizzas and other Italian classics.
On the other side of the central pavilion sits Chopsticks, specialising in Sichuan-style, Cantonese and Hunan cuisine, including delicious bite-sized vegetable patties and spicy sambal calamari (squid cooked in chilli paste).
Each of these restaurants excels at their specialist cuisine but the star of the bunch is Hasu, with an à la carte menu of sushi and other Japanese-style dishes, and a well-deserved reputation as one of the best dining spots on Mauritius. The signature starter of wafer-thin sashimi salmon topped with flakes of fried garlic is a melt-in-the-mouth delight that alone merits a visit.
Although Hasu takes the crown for food, the top prize for setting goes to the resort’s fifth restaurant, Tides, located on the beachfront. Here, diners are served an expertly cooked selection of fresh fish as the waves lap the shore just a stone’s throw from their table.
Tides also hosts a weekly beach party celebrating all things Mauritian, with a vast buffet and live band and dancers performing sega, a traditional music and dance originally created by African and Malagasy slaves. My companions and I watch in amused admiration as a few guests pull their own sega moves, aided by the dancers and, in some cases, a little Dutch courage.
Indeed, this weekly shindig is a great excuse to sample some of the potent cocktails on the Tides menu and up at Shores bar. Many involve some form of rum, a speciality of Mauritius, with standout options including the local-style mojito - like the Cuban version but with added curry leaves.
Guests can learn other ways to add a Mauritian twist to their favourite flavours with a cooking lesson from resort chef Ritesh. Eager to expand our culinary horizons further, we join him on the final day of our trip for a shopping expedition to the Marche de Flacq, the largest outdoor market on the island.
Alongside stalls selling clothing and religious paraphernalia are piled a bewildering array of fruit and vegetables, many of them entirely unfamiliar to us Brits. Guided by Ritesh, we select a colourful range of ingredients and head back to the resort for a Ready, Steady, Cook-style session, minus the timer and with considerably more expert guidance.
And the result? A Mauritian-style feast of ten different dishes that includes fish curry; chicken rougaille (Creole tomato stew); deep-fried sliced African aubergine; and sauteed chouchou, a popular Caribbean squash with a texture like a potato crossed with a cucumber.
It’s a fittingly diverse meal with which to celebrate our visit to this multicultural paradise.
Prices at Long Beach Mauritius start from £224 per room per night, based on two sharing a room on a half-board basis. To book, visit longbeachmauritius.com/en.