When most people think of Mauritius the first things that come to mind are turquoise waters and white sand beaches, the second is the price tag – Veranda Grand Baie is offering a more cost effective option removing Mauritius off the bucket list and on to the doable list.

Veranda Grand Baie – a background story.

Mauritius is an island synonymous with honeymooners (where you don’t leave your room) and fly & floppers (where you don’t leave your lounger) but Veranda Grand Baie is changing the way things are done, allowing you to visit the island on a budget (sort of) and actively encouraging guests to explore more than the infinity pool to gain an understanding of what really makes the island tick.

Veranda Grand Baie’s slogan of “Feel Mauritius, Feel Mauritian” coupled with the MO of an ‘ethos of authenticity’ whets the appetite of what is in store. Sega shows, Creole lessons, rum tastings, cooking lessons and snack shacks offering local cuisine are all included in the price of the stay to ensure guests truly immerse themselves in the local culture. There is no pretense, the authenticity is felt in spades from the passion of the staff to the detail of the interiors.

The hotel popped onto the Mauritian shoreline forty years ago as one of the first boutique hotel offerings on the island. In a landscape that was being heavily peppered with resorts and large scale hotels, this small and intimate affair has been doing things differently since its conception.

A design led hotel putting the chic in Creole Chic.

This year the hotel has seen a major refurbishment but ensuring the heart and soul of the establishment is not lost as it proudly labels itself as ‘Creole Chic’.  It wasn’t until a food tour around Grand Baie itself that the hotel came into its own. As we wound down residential streets and peered through gateways to the houses behind I could see the inspiration behind the design of the hotel. White washed homes, wrap around porches – or should I say Verandas – corrugated tin  roofs, shutters painted bright blue. Trees heaving with tropical flowers hanging low over pavements. Palms and fronds lining pathways and well weathered white patio furniture sitting under fruit trees. Every house I saw, no matter how humble, had an energy about it that welcomed you inwards. A feeling of warmth and comfort which I was soon to  learn is the Mauritian way.  On returning to the hotel from the tour, I saw it in a completely different light – it had never not been a stunning accomodation but now the Creole pride was palpable.  The Veranda Grand Baie shines a light on a culture and a history somewhat unknown, it wears it’s roots as a badge of honour and it ensures that everyone that stays there experiences a little bit of Creole magic. 

Following an exploration of the town of Grande Baie town – a mere ten minute stroll away – we ambled down the shoreline back  to our beach front hotel, our group formed a plan of a quick shower and freshen up before meeting back for dinner. However, on reaching the property all plans went out the window as it was impossible not to be enveloped into the big hug that the hotel bar exuded – the tinkle of cocktail shakers dancing on the evening breeze as sundowners were lovingly prepared. The warm glow of ambient lighting pooling onto the veranda – not too stark as to detract from the out of this world sunset that was about to take center stage but just enough to ease the transition of day to dusk. Low soft seats dotted under palm trees, perfectly positioned to take in the lapping waves and aching to be filled with sun kissed bottoms. If this is what it is like to feel Mauritian – sign me up.

The Veranda Grande Baie hotel – in focus.

The hotel houses 95 rooms, all with nods to the surrounding island through design features such as antique furniture from the area and specially curated wallpapers depicting island vistas. In addition to this is an infinity pool, small private beach, two restaurants and a kids area. What the hotel does so well is provide discoverable corners such as a library and games room, cozy seating areas and enclosed bars, further cementing the ‘Creole Chic’ way of life – warm, welcoming, wonderful. A calculated decision has been made not to offer ‘too much’ to guests in a bid to get them to explore the island be that through the kayaks and paddle boards provided free of charge or local excursions such as the aforementioned food tour, katamaran experience and local botanical gardens to name but a few, all of which can be arranged by the hotel. It is truly refreshing to stay somewhere that actively encourages guests to get out and see what makes a place so special rather than just provide a plethora of options that could be plonked anywhere in the world although, should you be in camp ‘fly and flop’ – no judgment  – you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful infinity pool backdrop and the house special Pina Colada could be argued as reason enough to anchor yourself to a sun lounger.

The redesign of the hotel is a thing of beauty. Natural colour palettes complimented by pops of bright colours be it from the bright blue shutters, the turquoise water surrounding the property or the Birds of Paradise flower arrangements that adorn every console and table create a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere. The design team behind the refurb have done what so many strive (and fail) to do – created a perfect balance of barefoot living coupled with oodles of sophistication. White linen sofas and dark wood club chairs sit beneath palm fronds, beamed ceilings and wicker chandeliers. Fresh grass pathways and sandy flowerbeds bleed into natural stone floorings and rattan rugs. The two worlds of outdoor and indoor don’t exist here, rather they blend together to create this unique experience further cemented by stunning design led features such as cottages with outdoor showers and floor to ceiling windows. 

Things to do

Take a food tour with Taste Buddies

When it is time to drag yourself away from your outdoor shower (I don’t think I have ever been so clean in my life) and discover what the island has to offer, guests are spoilt for choice. The town of Grande Baie is a short walk away and offers  the opportunity to shop and eat to your heart’s content – from beachside street food shacks to more formal sit down restaurants, all serving up local delicacies such as fish gratin and fresh Marlin smoked over local wood. The food scene in Mauritius is a melting pot, with influences of Indian, Chinese, African and European cultures all playing a huge part, that coupled with the bounty of the Indian ocean means that menus are unusual and exciting. Not only has the identity of the food offering been shaped by the multitude of visitors and inhabitants of the island but also the enslaved as our food guide explained that those enslaved were given the most basic of crops to grow but still managed to create something wonderful such as palm hearts cured in citrus and then soaked in milk, this in turn trickled up into the masters kitchen and became a popular dish that still resides on most menus today. The history behind the plates here is truly fascinating and the best way to learn, see and most importantly taste it all is through ‘Taste Buddies food tours’ which can be organised through the hotel’s concierge.

A day at sea with Croisieres Australes

A trip to Mauritius wouldn’t be complete without a fill of Mauritian rum. Daily tastings are on offer at the hotel but in my humble opinion there is only one way to drink rum on a tropical island and that is at sea. Luckily for me, a Catamaran tour to neighbouring Gabriel Island made this dream a reality. Guests are welcomed aboard by a jovial crew and a captain with a penchant for Barry White – amazing how his crooning voice seems to dissipate any notion of sea sickness – as the Catamaran sets sail and bounces over white capped waves, Mauritius disappears into the distance and the big blue swells in front. After an hour or so we arrive at a picture perfect beach. A sunbathe for me and a snorkel for my more active friends resulted in a) a fantastic tan pour moi and b) a sighting of a barracuda and a multitude of tropical fish for them. Once sun’d and sea’d we were welcomed back aboard for a lunch of freshly barbecued meat with lashings of homemade hot sauce and even more lashings of rum punch. It was at this point I took it upon myself to orchestrate a rum fueled photo shoot on the hull of the boat, the aim was the Duran Duran Rio music video, the reality more of a swaying Jack Sparrow aesthetic. Be warned, the rum punch punches! Headache aside it was a great way to see more of what makes Mauritius so special. We were even treated to a sighting of humpback whales on our sail home.

Sated on rum and sun, it only seemed right to have our last evening dining on fresh fish in the beach side restaurant, under the stars, listening to the waves lap beneath the beat of traditional Mauritian music and so we did just that.

The following morning as I had one final outdoor shower under the hot Mauritian sun I asked myself if the hotel had hit their brief – “am I leaving with an understanding of what it is to truly feel Mauritian?”. My sunkissed skin, slightly rounded belly, heart full to burst and a slightly sore head all told me, yes, absolutely I did. 

Veranda Grande Baie Hotel – the details

Prices from £240/€276 per night, in a Comfort Garden room with breakfast and dinner included. Price based on two adults.

If you choose to eat outside of the hotel, there are plenty of wallet friendly options within Grand Baie town and the concierge team will happily advise you on where to head.

Direct flights from London with Air Mauritius start from £650 return

Activities within the hotel such as rum tasting, cooking lessons and creole classes are FOC.

Taste Buddies Grand Baie tour – Price : £45 

Catamaran tour to Gabriel Island – Price : £52

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