Discover: The 16 essential things to do in Saint-Paul, Reunion

Are you coming to Reunion? Head to the North of the island in one of the most emblematic cities with our selection of must-sees to visit in Saint-Paul.

Summary

  • 1. Downtown
  • 2. The fairground market
  • 3. The marine cemetery
  • 4. The Savannah of Saint Paul
  • 5. Cap de la Houssaye
  • 6. The Villele Museum
  • The beaches of Saint-Paul
  • – 7. St. Paul’s Bay
  • – 8. Hermitage beach
  • – 9. Boucan Canot Beach
  • 10. Saint-Gilles les Bains
  • 11. Distillerie La Part des Anges
  • 12. Le chemin pavé Lougnon
  • 13. Le tour des Roches
  • 14. L’étang de Saint-Paul
  • 15. The Maïdo peak

To visit Saint-Paul is to discover the cradle of Reunion and the second largest city on the island after Saint-Denis .

Labeled as a city of art and history, it carries with it the heritage of Intense Island and testimonies of the past. The town is home to the most beautiful landscapes of Intense Island between primary forest, savannah and the largest lagoon on the island. You won’t have time to get bored in Saint-Paul.

To help you on your journey, Generation Voyage has selected for you the essentials to visit in Saint-Paul de la Réunion.

1. Le centre-ville

St. Paul Town Hall

Photo credit: Wikimedia – BBCLCD Related tickets/activities: St.Paul

To visit Saint-Paul, the city center is worth a look for its many small streets that converge on the seafront.

Les voyageurs croisent la route des locaux en villégiature dans les artères commerçantes. En effet, vous trouverez divers commerces bien connus de tous en métropole et d’autres aux couleurs de La Réunion avec des produits locaux. Lors de votre visite à Saint-Paul, ne manquez pas d’observer les bâtiments créoles et notamment la mairie.

2. The fairground market

St. Paul Market

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Stefano Ember

Après votre halte au centre-ville, rendez-vous sur le front de mer pour visiter Saint-Paul. Ici se tient le marché forain le vendredi de 6 h à 17 h et le samedi matin. Privilégiez donc ces deux jours-là pour visiter la commune pour faire une pierre deux coups. Plus de 300 marchands se réunissent dans le plus grand marché de l’île de la Réunion.

Wander among the stalls of exotic fruits, vegetables, colorful flowers and fragrant spices. The singsong accent of the people of Reunion encourages you to stop at each stand to discover their incredible gastronomic culture. You will also find handicrafts, clothes and jewelry to bring back as a souvenir of your vacation in the Indian Ocean.

Many stands even offer you to taste Creole specialties such as sweet potato cake or gratinated bread. Your mouth will water quickly!

3. The marine cemetery

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Flickr – Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Among the essential places to visit Saint-Paul, there is the marine cemetery dating from 1788. It is located facing the ocean on the bay of Saint-Paul towards Saint-Gilles. It is one of the oldest cemeteries on the island and the most unusual to visit.

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Anonymous pirates, shipwrecked people and wealthy Reunionese families rub shoulders peacefully in this place steeped in history. Have fun finding the graves of famous people like the pirate La Buse, or the poets Eugène Dayot and Leconte de Lisle. Palm trees and colorful flowers guard the memory of ancestors, far from traditional cemeteries. You can combine this visit to Saint-Paul with the cave of the first French which is located opposite the road.

4. The Savannah of Saint Paul

The savannah of Saint Paul

Crédit photo : Flickr – Michael Kemper

Reunion Island has many faces and the savannah of Saint-Paul illustrates this perfectly. Always in the direction of Saint-Gilles les Bains, it runs along the coast for several kilometres. Straw-yellow in color, the vegetation takes on a green hue during the rainy season.

If you like hiking, we recommend the 8 km long Savane loop. For walking enthusiasts, extend the walk with the large loop of the Savannah and its 10.4 km.

However, equip yourself with a GPS or an IGN map, because the path does not show any beacons. In addition, you will not find any shaded corner during your pedestrian getaway. So, cover yourself with sunscreen, a hat and don’t forget the bottle of water to hydrate yourself.

5. Cap de la Houssaye

Cap Lahoussaye

Photo credit: Wikimedia – René Boulay

Below the savannah, by the roadside, Cap de la Houssaye is one of the most beautiful viewpoints on the island. You will find a few points to stop, but be careful, the area is very busy. This piece of land owes its name to the Breton captain Guillaume de la Houssaye.

Anglers rub shoulders with novice and experienced divers fond of this natural site. Indeed, the coral reef is home to dense underwater life consisting of coral fish, catfish, turtles and schools of juveniles. Moreover, two wrecks rest for eternity in the bottom of the Indian Ocean: the Barge and the Sea Venture.

Moreover, in the austral winter (May to October) humpback whales and their young greet the luckiest of you. A magnificent spectacle not to be missed under any circumstances.

One of the best times of the day is by far the sunset. The previously clear blue sky is ablaze before your eyes, amazed by so much beauty.

6. Le musée de Villèle

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Matthieu Sontag

The Villèle museum is a must to visit in Saint-Paul. It is spread over an area of ​​10 hectares on the heights of the town. This former colonial residence belonged to two wealthy families from Reunion: Panon Desbassayns and Villèle. If this name means anything to you, it is because they rest in the marine cemetery mentioned above.

Premier musée de La Réunion, ce vaste territoire se classe monument historique dans son intégralité depuis le 12 décembre 2019. Il se constitue de six éléments architecturaux : une cuisine traditionnelle créole, un pavillon en bardeaux, une chapelle domestique, une sucrerie ainsi qu’un hôpital pour les esclaves. Ces différents éléments vous rappellent les temps plus sombres de l’esclavagisme.

You can visit several components of this area freely and book a guided tour. Then discover the story behind the ground floor, the main house, the floor and the pointed chapel .

The beaches of Saint-Paul

7. St. Paul’s Bay

visit Saint Paul

Crédit photo : Wikimedia – mwanasimba

The bay of Saint-Paul is the ideal spot for walking, but unfortunately it is still prohibited for swimming. Indeed, the sharks, hidden by powerful waves, do not allow swimmers to enjoy the water.

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However, on this black sand beach, a landing stage offers you a panoramic view of the entire bay. Here too, the sunset illuminates the end of the day. If this bay could talk, it would tell you the story of its attack by the British in 1809.

8. Hermitage Beach

Hermitage beach

Crédit photo : Wikimedia – gab rallye

Between Saint-Gilles les Bains and La Saline, Hermitage (or Hermitage) beach stretches over several kilometers of fine sand. Vacationers bathe there in peace in a turquoise and shallow lagoon. The natural coral reef invites you to discover its maritime fauna and flora with a mask and a snorkel.

The turquoise waters of La Réunion Marine Reserve look like a real paradise in the tropics. Families from Reunion get together on weekends for a picnic under the casuarina trees on this very popular beach. You will also find something to eat between the ice cream parlors and mobile snacks.

9. Boucan Canot Beach

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Balate Dorin

Boucan Canot beach offers holidaymakers a slightly deeper bathing area than that of the lagoon. Its turquoise blue waters are therefore ideal for snorkeling among the corals and the many exotic fish in the area.

On the right of the beach, a natural swimming pool formed by black volcanic rocks allows children to swim in peace. Moreover, lifeguards monitor the bathing area every day.

A pedestrian esplanade overlooks Boucan Canot beach. Walk in front of a shades of blue between the sea and the sky. Many restaurants facing the ocean offer a quick bite to eat or a drink. For sunset lovers, this is another spot to put on your list. Photography enthusiasts have a field day as soon as the sun begins its final decline.

10. Saint-Gilles les Bains

Port of Saint-Gilles-les-Bains

Photo credit: Flickr – Seb Marg Related tickets/activities: Saint-Gilles les Bains

Saint-Gilles les Bains is the tourist capital of Reunion Island between Boucan Canot and the Hermitage. Moreover, a large part of the hotel complexes take up residence in this town. We can understand them, this seaside resort has the most beautiful beaches on the island.

Bordered by the Indian Ocean, it also offers many water activities between catamaran excursions, boat trips, scuba diving or safaris with dolphins. In addition, you benefit from mild weather all year round during the austral summer and winter.

Pour les petits (et les grands), observez les 700 poissons et les 200 espèces de la vie récifale à l’aquarium de Saint-Gilles-les-Bains.

If you prefer green nature to the beach, visit the Garden of Eden and its 700 tropical plant species.

11. La Part des Anges Distillery

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Facebook – Celine Maufras

Not sure what to visit in Saint-Paul? Let yourself be tempted by a rum distillery and especially that of the Part des Anges. This family business is the first legal tropical fruit distillery in Europe. It deserves to make a small detour in your program to do a tasting.

During the visit, they will explain the stages of rum production: fruit processing, fermentation and distillation. You will discover their range of Sublim eau-de-vie, agricultural rum, liqueurs and mistelles. The distillery can only be visited by reservation from Monday to Friday except Wednesday.

12. The cobblestone path Lougnon

The cobblestone path Lougnon

Photo credit : Wikimedia – Alaf2

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The paved Lougnon or Bellemène path has linked Saint-Paul to Bellemène, 200 meters higher, since 1720. It is even one of the most beautiful paths on the island, ahead of the English path and the Crémont path for many holidaymakers.

Very well rehabilitated, this wide and well-maintained central strip offers you a breathtaking panorama of the Indian Ocean from Cape La Houssaye to the port. Despite a steep slope, this hike is suitable for all levels of walking from beginners to the most experienced. Carry out this walk rather in the morning outside the peaks of heat of the day even if some tamarinds grant points of shade.

13. Around the Rocks

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Thierry CARO

Not far from the city center of Saint-Paul, the Tour des Roches is a beautiful walk or bike ride through lush vegetation. Multiple plant species such as papyrus, palms and bamboo grow in this semi-swampy area.

During your trip, take a refreshing break at the watermill, a real emblem of the Tour des Roches. It dates from 1820 and produced energy for the cassava mill. The water there is invigorating, but represents a real salvation when the sun reaches its zenith. Several walks start from this site, such as that of the Vital basin (about 1 hour 15 minutes round trip) or that of the Long basin .

14. The pond of Saint-Paul

The pond of Saint-Paul

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Thierry CARO

Near the Tour des Roches, the pond is one of the things to visit in Saint-Paul during your getaway in Reunion. It is made up of exceptional fauna and flora which have earned it its classification as a national nature reserve since 2008. To this recognition is added the label of wetland of international importance since August 20, 2019.

In this green setting, the animals live peacefully, so the instruction is simple, you must avoid disturbing them. Indeed, this best-preserved site in the Mascarene archipelago is threatened and therefore closely monitored. More than 40 interesting plant species are revealed among the 26 species of birds and the 230 species of insects . That’s a lot of people per km2!

The calm of the pond contrasts with the frantic bustle of the coast. Family walks are legion there as well as picnic breaks. Fishermen dip their line in the calm water of the lake while canoes-kayaks cut through the water at the mouth of the shoreline.

15. The Maïdo peak

visit Saint Paul

Crédit photo : Shutterstock – SYLVAIN FELTEN

Abandon the beaches and the coconut palms to immerse yourself in an intense forest where green and brown dominate at an altitude of 2000 m. Reunion Island remains above all a volcanic territory with impressive cirques. Le Maïdo stands out as the balcony of La Réunion with its belvedere at 2190 metres . You will embrace a breathtaking view of the Cirque de Mafate and the west coast of the island.

Accessible by car, it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Reunion. Given the landscape that awaits you, you will quickly understand why. The bravest will set off to conquer the Piton Maïdo on foot during a sporty hike.

Moreover, for an even more exceptional experience, sleep one night nearby to watch the sunrise over the Cirque de Mafate from Maïdo. The piton is also one of the gateways to various hikes to the Cirque de Mafate, the Glacière or the Grand Bénare .

What to visit around Saint-Paul

visit Saint Paul

Photo credit: Shutterstock – JeanLucIchard

  • ULM flight: live an incredible experience from the skies of Reunion. The scenery is breathtaking;
  • The Hindu temple of Shiva Soupramanien in Piton-Saint-Leu: the oldest Tamil temple on the island built in 1880. It is dedicated to the God Muruga, the son of Shiva;
  • The city of Saint-Denis : economic capital of Reunion, Saint-Denis has an extraordinary culture and heritage in its center.
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Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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