The Republic of Mauritius can be a mystery to travelers. As one of the islands in the Indian Ocean, this jewel of a nation doesn't stand out on a map. Perfect for family vacations, romantic getaways, or solo adventures, Mauritius is steadily becoming a must-visit destination. Located off of the Eastern coast of Africa, Mauritius is a biodiverse wonderland with hundreds of rare native species. The people that make up the population are just as diverse. Mauritians are multilingual, multiethnic, and multireligious, having descended from Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Their vibrant culture is a testament to the resilience of the island and its community.

The Republic of Mauritius welcomes travelers with promises of gorgeous landscapes, exciting wildlife, and relaxed attitudes. To discover the true beauty of this island paradise, you'll have to see it for yourself.

01Visit the Bay that Inspired Generations of Surfers

Big waves on Mauritius extremetravel / Getty Images

Flic en Flac is a public beach on the west coast frequented by locals, and perfect for camping near serene, turquoise waters. After spending some time here, you can walk along the oceanside path to Tamarin Bay, once a best-kept secret amongst local surfers. That all changed after the classic 1974 surf documentary Forgotten Island of Santosha immortalized the spot as a surfer's haven. Mauritius gained instant fame in the surfing world for its 8-foot tall waves. Surf conditions have changed a bit in the decades since, but Tamarin Beach remains popular due to the fantastic views and gorgeous sunsets.

02Explore a Sacred Lake and Its Temples

Huge Shiva statue in grand Bassin temple, Mauritius. Ganga talao. Tomasz Banaczek / Getty Images

In the south of Mauritius, tucked in between the mountains near Black River Gorge National Park, you'll find one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites outside of India. The Grand Bassin crater lake was only discovered in the 19th century after a priest dreamed of it. Known to locals as Ganga Talao, this holy lake is surrounded by lush greenery, statues of several deities, and a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and other gods. Overlooking the calm waters is the 108-foot tall statue of Mangal Mahadev, one of the tallest Shiva statues in the world. Plan to arrive during the Maha Shivaratri, an annual Hindu festival celebrated in South Asia. Mauritian devotees are known to celebrate the festivities and share their culture with travelers.

03Spend a Day at Champ de Mars Like a Local

Champ de Mars in Port Louis the capital of Mauritius 8vFanI / Getty Images

The Champ de Mars Racetrack in Port Louis is one of the oldest racing clubs in the world and the ultimate spot for horseracing fanatics. Passionate fans of all social classes gather during the race season to watch some of the finest thoroughbreds in the sport battle for victory. Make like the locals and join in on the fun for a few races, daring to place a few bets. If gambling isn't your cup of tea, feel free to wander the public areas and sample some delicious samosas and other snacks in between races.

04See the Seven-Colored Earths Phenomenon

Chamarel seven coloured earths on Mauritius maximkabb / Getty Images

In the southwestern region of the island, the mountain village of Chamarel boasts some of the coolest attractions in Mauritius. The Chamarel waterfall is the tallest in the country and one of the most breathtaking; there are two locations on the roadside from which to marvel at the sheer cliffs and lush vegetation. Further up the road, you will find the Seven-Colored Earths. These rolling dunes of volcanic basalt have decayed over time to achieve the bright colors and textures that exist today. Access to this popular tourist destination is limited, but the dunes and surrounding vegetation guarantee some impressive photos and selfies. Before leaving, be sure to stop at the tortoise enclosure for a look at some of the island's famous gentle giants.

05Get Familiar with the Native Species

Panoramic view of the stunning Alexandra Falls in Mauritius asmithers / Getty Images

Mauritius was once home to several endemic plants and animals, but centuries of human interference have endangered the island's very nature. To better protect their native species, the Mauritians have devoted serious time and effort to restoring their forests to near-perfect status. The Black River Gorges National Park is Mauritius' last stand to ensure endangered species don't go the route of the extinct national bird, the dodo. Here you'll find lush green forests and over 50 miles of trails to some spectacular viewpoints. The Alexandra Falls viewpoint offers stunning panoramic views of two waterfalls from a raised platform. Keep your eyes aimed high for a glimpse of endangered species like the pink pigeon and Mauritius kestrel, or the feisty monkeys who often approach visitors for food.

06Enjoy a Sega Music and Dance Performance

Kelly Hoppen Hosts Dinner At The Lux Belle Mare In Mauritius David M. Benett / Getty Images

Originally brought to the island by slaves, sega was an act of rebellion and perseverance. Now, the motivation behind the art form has changed, but the lively beats and flirtatious rhythm of this island music have not. Sega performances are the best way of familiarizing yourself with this unique style of music. Whether you're on a sandy beach or at a neighborhood restaurant, you'll undoubtedly sway your hands and hips along with the gorgeous sega dancers. Musicians sing in Mauritian Creole and keep the beat with native instruments like the ravanne, a goatskin drum, and the triangle. Check online for reservations to a show, or ask a local for recommendations.

07Be Amazed By a Natural Geyser

Le Souffleur or a natural geyser at Reunion Island gael_f / Getty Images

Not far from the lovely, touristy beaches of Blue Bay is an incredible natural wonder known as Le Souffleur. This phenomenon occurs when the rough ocean waves crash against volcanic rock formations along the shore. Crevices in the rock force the water upward through an opening, creating a natural geyser. Your best chance to see Le Souffleur in action is during the high tide, though the view itself is stunning and worth a visit. Less than a mile to the East, you'll find the Pont Naturel, a natural bridge carved from the rocks along the shore. The drive to find this site is tricky, so make sure you have proper directions or hire a car to make the trip.

08Do the Challenging Climb to the Top of Le Morne Brabant

View from mount Le Morne Brabant. Mauritius island vencavolrab / Getty Images

Surrounded by a lagoon and crowned with a basaltic mountain, Le Morne's distinct hammerhead shape is visible from many other destinations on the island. The significance of this site is more than just the gorgeous landscape and panoramic views. Le Morne and its many caves were a hiding place for escaped slaves in the early 19th Century. The mountain is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a point of pride for local Mauritians. Access is free, but a guide is mandatory and available for a reasonable fee. Be prepared for a lengthy, three to four-hour hike and steep rock-climbing near the summit. Unbelievable views of the island and the underwater waterfall in the Indian Ocean will be your reward.

09Contribute to the Restoration of Mauritian Ecosystems

Aigrettes island Mauritius bennymarty / Getty Images

Located in Chamarel, the Ebony Forest is a haven for threatened flora and fauna. A small fee grants access to the reserve, where you can ride in a 4x4 vehicle, spot endangered species, and explore the forest mid-canopy from raised walkways. A short boat ride from Pointe Jerome will take you to Ile aux Aigrettes, a small island nature reserve. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has successfully restored native species to the islet, and guided eco-tours highlight the results of all the painstaking work. Entrance to both of these nature reserves is reasonably priced, with all proceeds directly funding conservation efforts.

10Escape from the Crowds to Rodrigues Island

Port Mathurin, capital of Rodrigues island, Mauritius mtcurado / Getty Images

Located about 350 miles East of Mauritius is the pristine island of Rodrigues. Coral reefs form a ring around the land, creating a lagoon perfect for snorkeling or diving. Besides spotting endemic and endangered species, you'll also have a chance to mingle with the kind and carefree locals, or Rodriguans. The outdoor markets are excellent for purchasing local handicrafts; after a visit, you can dine on octopus curry or soup made from fresh shellfish gathered on the beach. Rodrigues' developing tourism industry is a positive change for the residents. They recognize the island's touristic value, and soon, other travelers will, too. Research the cost of flights from Mauritius to Rodrigues ahead of time, and try to squeeze in a few days on this beautiful island paradise.