La Réunion’s the little Indian Ocean island between Madagascar and Mauritius. Almost half covered by a UNESCO World Heritage national park, it has one of the world’s most active volcanos, white sand beaches, coral reefs, Creole villages and seaside cities. Why isn’t it as well known as the neighbours? Romance is not the selling point here: the atmosphere’s laid back, outdoor adventure is a big attraction and it’s part of France, so French families like to keep its subtle charms to themselves. But they’re more than happy to share, if you’re discerning enough to choose La Réunion for a family holiday.


Why go on holiday to La Réunion

Why go on holiday to La Réunion

  • La Réunion National Park covers over 42% of the island and contains Piton de la Fournaise and Cirques du Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie.
  • Piton de la Fournaise is one of the world’s most active volcanoes alongside Stromboli, Etna, Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea and Mount Erebus in Antarctica.
  • La Réunion’s French overseas territory and direct flights from Paris all year round take just under 11 hours.
  • La Réunion’s dramatic interior is covered in walking, hiking and cycling trails and even the famous Piton’s accessible – if it’s not erupting.
  • Réunion Riviera’s beaches and pretty seaside resorts stretch for over 40km along the island’s sunny, sheltered west coast.
  • La Réunion’s temperatures are seldom lower than 27˚ year-round with heaviest rainfall between November and February. Best time to visit is from April to September – always busiest the first two weeks in August: traditional French summer holiday fortnight.
  • Less developed and crowded than nearby Mauritius, La Reunion’s generally less expensive too.


Where to go and stay in La Réunion

Where to go and stay in La Réunion

West Coast

The island’s leeward side is where to find sun, sand and seaside towns packed to bursting with water sports, kids activities, seafood restaurants, pretty cafés and resort hotels. It’s the busiest area, especially in summer, but a short drive (or cycle) in any direction and you’re in the middle of magnificent wilderness in no time at all.

  • Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains is the west coast’s main town and the place for white beaches, larger resort hotels, lively restaurants and activities from whale watching to deep-sea fishing.
  • Pretty Saint-Leu is more traditional with historic French colonial architecture and family-friendly beaches. Good for mid-range hotels, it’s also a mecca for divers and has one of the island’s loveliest lagoons.
  • L’Hermitage-Les-Bains is famous for beautiful Plage de L’Hermitage, coral reef snorkelling and luxurious beachfront hotels.
  • Don’t miss: Jardin d’Eden; Oasis Lagoon waterpark; Kélonia turtle conservancy; La Réunion Aquarium; Plage de Roches Noir and Plage de Boucan Canot.

Saint-Denis

The capital of La Réunion is a small French city with a Creole soul. Good for a lazy day breather from the rest of the high-outdoor-excitement island. But don’t expect international museums, galleries and monuments. Instead, just enjoy the pretty colonial architecture, admire grand mosques and churches, stroll along the elegant prom and shelter from the very un-French sun at pretty waterfront cafés.

La Réunion National Park

Covering over 42% of the entire island, it’s almost impossible not to come into contact with La Réunion National Park at some point. A protected environment since 2007 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 it’s where to find Piton de la Fournaise and Piton des Neiges, the Cirques de Salazie, Mafate and Cilaos, cloud forests, rainforests, spectacular waterfalls and mountain villages steeped in traditional Creole culture.

  • Visit Hell-Bourg with its graceful Creole mansion houses and gorgeous, lush gardens against a backdrop of soaring peaks and dense tropical forest. It’s said to be the most beautiful town in La Réunion.
  • Walking and hiking trails in the national park are well-marked and graded by difficulty. If you’re unsure about going it alone, several local companies have guided day and half-day treks suitable for families and kids.
  • You really know La Réunion is France when you see the number of picnic tables and shelters tucked into the most scenic spots. Stock up on baguette and fresh fruit at local markets and take advantage of them.
  • Have your al fresco lunch at La Roche Marveilleuse, a classic hike and one of the best views over the Cirque de Cilaos – you can drive too.

Don’t miss: the little villages of Bé Mahot and Îlet-à-Vidot; Cascade de la Voile Mariée (bride’s veil waterfall); a picnic by Rivière du Mât; Basin de Cilaos cloud forest.


What do and see with kids in La Réunion

What do and see with kids in La Réunion

Museum of Music and Instruments of the Indian Ocean, Hell-Bourg

One of the most comprehensive collections of historic African and Asian musical instruments in the world and another reason to visit Cirque du Salazie. Museum of Music and Instruments

Stella Mutatina Museum, Piton Saint-Leu

The island’s most popular museum explores La Réunion’s sugar industry and its social and cultural influences. Year round programme of kid’s events and activities. Stella Mutatina

La Cité du Volcan, Plaine-des-Cafres

Whether you climb Piton de la Fournaise or just admire it from a distance, La Cité du Volcan is the source of everything you ever wanted to know about La Réunion’s legendary volcano. La Cité du Volcan

Kélonia Marine Turtle Observatory, Saint-Leu

Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtle are found in the waters round La Réunion. Kélonia is a research facility and conservancy where kids can get see these amazing creatures in huge indoor and outdoor pools. Kélonia

Piton de la Fournaise

La Réunion’s live volcano is one of the top five most active in the world. But, when possible, climbing the piton with local guides is a thrilling experience with older kids. La Fournaise

Aquarium de La Réunion, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains

An interesting aquarium with over 500 fish native to Indian Ocean coral reefs. Several guided tours every day and a year round programme of kids events. Aquarium de La Réunion

Jardin d’Eden, L’Hermitage Les Bains

A gorgeous botanical garden where kids can get up close to lizards, chameleons, turtles, geckos and dozens of exotic birds and insects. Jardin d’Eden

Dolphin & Whale Encounters, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains

Over 400 dolphins live in the waters around La Réunion and migrating Humpback Whales are regularly seen between June and October. Duocéan

Mountain Biking Tours, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains

The wild, rugged La Réunion interior is made for mountain biking and day and half-day rides are thrilling adventures for beginners and serious bikers. Coco-Bike

Oasis Lagoon Waterpark, Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains

Family waterpark with good chutes and slides, splash play for under 5s, swimming pools and pretty gardens. Oasis Lagoon


Educational value for kids

Educational value for kids

  • Spend Saturday morning with kids at Main Market in Saint-Pierre for a colourful glimpse of local island life.
  • Walk the Cap Méchant coastal path with older kids, it’s one of La Réunion’s most dramatic volcanic landscapes.
  • Madagascar’s the land of lemurs but La Réunion has a large collection of stuffed ones, dozens of creepy insects and other curious creatures at the fine Natural History Museum in Saint-Denis.
  • Take a tour of delightful Maison Folio in Hell-Bourg, it’s one of the loveliest 19th century Creole villas on the island and the apothecary garden’s fascinating.
  • Musée Léon Dierx has a fine collection of modern art including Gauguin and Rousseau ceramics and works by several celebrated local artists.
  • Many La Réunion guided tours are in French only, good practice if kids are learning the language at school.
  • La Réunion has recorded over 90 different species of birds and sightings of marvels like Albatross aren’t uncommon.


Getting about with kids in La Réunion

Getting about with kids in La Réunion

Walking, hiking, climbing and cycling are as natural in La Réunion as sunshine, blue seas and spectacular scenery. But if you want to explore the island from end to end, and you should, hire a car. Most of the national park is accessible by road and driving around coastal towns and villages is an experience not to be missed. You’ll also want to see the wild and wonderful south of the island in your own time and that’s easiest by car.

If you’re driving, keep an eye on the weather and watch for updates on famously temperamental Piton de la Fournaise.