I spent two weeks relaxing and using La Palmeraie as a base from which to explore Mauritius and, having never had a beach holiday in my adult life, I can say that this ticked every box of expectation and more.
I wanted somewhere scenic, away from the majority of the tourist hordes, where I could just unwind in peace with my girlfriend. This hotel certainly provides these advantages. Belle Mare is a half hour walk from the hotel up the beach and is relatively undeveloped. This means that the tourist infrastructure is not as complete as areas like Grand Baie in the far Northwest. That is not to say there is nothing to do in the Belle Mare area, if you want to you can find sea-planes, kite surfing, banana boating (I saw one with Father Christmas on it!), speedboats and catamarans.
What this area does best though is good old-fashioned beach lazing. Having hired a car for three days (with Europcar through the hotel for about 55 Euros per day) and driven the island extensively I can say that the beach at Belle Mare/Palmar rivals any on the whole island. It’s far wider than the rocky ones found in a lot of other locations, including Grand Baie which is plagued by boats. La Palmeraie has one part of its beach with normal sun loungers packed together and another stretch with a dozen or so cabanas.
Much of the east side of the island is actually a kind of lagoon with a reef about 400m from the beach taking the brunt of the Indian Ocean waves. This means that there is shallow water all the way out. The flip side to this advantage is that there are still quite a lot of rocks near La Palmeraie’s beach. You have to be aware that these attract sea urchins in HUGE numbers. Whilst the rock-less roped/buoyed area near the boat launch area is kept clear of urchins you must try to wear some kind of footwear in the sea. I capsized one of the free Lazer sailing dinghies and managed to end up with over 70 spines embedded in my foot as a result.
The hotel is beautiful. A gorgeous orange colour and based on Moorish designs, making use of gardens and water. Even the pool area (one kiddies pool and a separate adult pool) and bar are peaceful retreats. The Hotel has a spa which I probably should have used but didn’t get around to it. I think the cheapest massage was about 35 Euros. The rooms (mine was 224 and overlooked the cabanas and Indian Ocean) are spacious and look exactly as they do on La Palmeraie’s website. Lots of wardrobe space, a big bed, a sofa, a nice big Samsung telly, DVD player with rental disks from reception, nice overhead rain-type shower. Everything was very clean and housekeeping kept the room fresh with flowers. The chairs on the balcony aren’t that comfortable but there are plenty of cushions in the room to alleviate this small issue. There is also a ‘Nespresso’ machine and mini-bar.
One of my little problems with this hotel is that everything is in Euros. Whilst this is just dandy for the majority of guests who seem to be French, German and Italian it feels a bit rubbish for the sizeable number of UK guests. It’s almost like they don’t want to use the Mauritian Rupee because big numbers scare guests? With Belle Mare not too far away it’s possible to nip there for supplies but take care not to use the tourist ‘supermarket’ for them. There is a small off-license/cafe on the left, just past Poonam supermarket and the money exchange place. In there you can buy anything for the same prices the locals pay rather than quadruple in the surrounding traps. Green Island Spiced Gold rum is a MUST try whilst you’re there. If you want even cheaper food then Centre de Flacq is a 15 minute drive away and the VIP Way is a big supermarket.
Talking of food, the hotel does it’s best to provide a variety each night. Personally I can’t really fault the selection as I eat absolutely anything. There is at least one fish dish and one meat dish most nights with a mix of sides. Apparently the chefs will cook other food should you request it but I was happy, save a couple of gristly beef dishes. The cocktails from the bar are ‘ok’, I’d recommend the Rhum Collins for a refreshing tipple. If you’re All Inclusive then you get certain cocktails free of charge but I was half board so they were about 5 Euros each. After speaking to other guests who were Full Board I certainly wouldn’t advise going All Inclusive, it just doesn’t seem worthwhile.
The staff were all really really helpful and attentive, perhaps a little too attentive during dinner one day when there seemed to be more staff that guests. But who can blame the staff for trying to do a great job eh? Shout out for Nicoletta here who was brilliant and fetched me some drops for my injured feet, on her own initiative.
Away from the hotel we explored the island quite a lot. I’d encourage people to visit Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens which is lovely for a few hours wandering and snapping exotic plants, Black River Gorge National Park for some hiking and amazing views, and La Vanille crocodile farm in the south in Rivieres des Anguilles.
So, La Palmeraie is fantastic. As far as value for money goes I’d say it’s well worth it at half board. After 2 weeks there the final bill from the hotel came to 245 Euros for the two of us. That’s with carafes of wine, beers and cocktails everyday and various mini-bar tipples. Only about 9 Euros per day each. Far cheaper than the all inclusive upgrade.
Go to La Palmeraie as soon as possible, there are the stirrings of developments next door so the southerly beach may not be quite as idyllic in two years’ time, though it will be clearer of seaweed…