Tear yourself away from the beaches – though they are some of the world’s best – to snorkel, sail or take a catamaran out to see dolphins. Catamarans take you on full-day outings to nearby islets, most notably the Ile aux Cerfs off the east coast, where you can swim, snorkel, water-ski and take a pedalo ride in turquoise seas and enjoy a fish BBQ beneath the coconut palms.
Walk on the seabed in Solar Sea Walk Undersea Walk in Grande Baie, an attraction that lets you get up-close-and-personal with fish and corals at a depth of 3m in a tropical lagoon, wearing a special diving helmet.
Go on a Blue Safari in one of two submarines that descend to a depth of about 30m off the island’s north coast, piloted by marine biologists who can tell you all about the underwater life you see. Alternatively, try one of their 'sub-scooters', suitable for ages 8+.
Explore the Anse Jonchée nature park, hidden away in the mountains, where luxuriant rainforest conceals stags, Javan deer, wild boar, monkeys, hares and windhover kestrels that you might encounter as you follow nature trails past indigenous trees and spice plants.
Explore the Black River Gorges National Park in the south-west, shortlisted for UNESCO World Heritage status, with information centres, picnic areas and 60km of trails. Endemic plants and animals here include the Mauritian flying fox, parakeet and cuckoo-shrike.
Alternatively, take an eco-tour of the Ile aux Aigrettes nature reserve with its endangered birds, animals and plants (it’s set in the coastal ebony forest that once housed the famously extinct dodo), run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. You might see kestrels, pink pigeons, day geckos, giant Aldabra tortoises and rare orchids in full bloom.
Take in views of the whole island from the rim of Trou-aux-Cerfs, an extinct volcanic crater now filled with woods. Or venture to the sacred lake of Ganga Talao in the mountains, occupying another crater. This Hindu place of pilgrimage has temples to Lord Shiva and other gods, plus a huge statue of Shiva, on its banks. Water from the Ganges was added to the lake water, hence the name. You can feed giant eels that live in the lake and enjoy beautiful views.
Float around the beautiful southern part of Mauritius, admiring its waterfalls (with rockpools for swimming), mountains, gorges, tea and sugar plantations and gorgeous beaches. At Rivières des Anguilles, visit La Vanille Nature Park, set in a tropical forest in a former vanilla-growing area, with Nile crocs, giant tortoises, large Madagascan lizards, bats, wild pigs and an insectarium, plus a restaurant, Le Crocodile Affamé, where the unsentimental can dine on croc meat. Alternatively, head for Casela World of Adventure in the Rivière Noire district, with big cats, a petting farm, rope activities, Segway and karting.
Find out about the island’s sugar production at L'Aventure du Sucre, a museum in a former sugar factory, with two mascots (a mynah bird and a mongoose) encouraging kids to take an interest, and lots of modern interactive displays. August sees a sugarcane festival.
Visit a local market for a glimpse of local life and a chance to stock up on wonderful island produce – Flacq has the island’s largest and most colourful open-air market. Spend some time getting to know the island’s capital, Port-Louis, with markets galore, plus temples, a Chinatown complete with pagodas, and designer shopping. Near Port Louis, discover the tropical spices and exotic plants at the botanical Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, better known as the Jardins de Pamplemousse, including giant waterlilies.
Most of the hotels on the island have super-friendly and helpful staff who will advise you on all of the above and give directions, and in many cases book excursions for you to enjoy on family holidays. Other activities worth asking about include quad-biking, windsurfing, trekking, mountain-biking, horse-riding, canyoning (abseiling under a waterfall), rock-climbing, sea-kayaking, para-sailing and helicopter flights over the island.