Swap Out The Maldives For This Other Beautiful Indian Ocean Island

Located 420 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Réunion is an unspoiled paradise. Its magnificent array of landscapes truly sets it apart from other Indian Ocean islands. The island is an open-air exhibition of nature's marvels, with 18 miles of black and white sand beaches, rugged mountains, majestic waterfalls, and striking land formations called cirques – natural amphitheaters formed during volcanic eruptions. The 970-square-mile island also boasts one of the world's most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise. In the recent past, the volcano has erupted several times per year, treating visitors to red-hot spectacles as the lava cascades down mountainsides.

As an Indian Ocean island, Réunion is an enchanting alternative to the more popular destinations of the Maldives and Seychelles. It has everything the other islands have to offer plus a little bit more, from spectacular topography and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures to a unique, multifaceted culture and cuisine.

Réunion's endless adventures

Another draw is that all of the island's unplugged nature is an outdoor playground that's ripe for exploration. For beach strolls, swimming, and other water sports, the island rivals the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands. However, do note that swimming is restricted in some areas of Réunion due to shark activity. Please be informed about where it's safe to swim

Away from the ocean, the list of things to do on Réunion is endless. Hikers can explore the extensive network of trails that wind through the island, including the challenging but rewarding climb up Piton des Neiges, the highest peak in the Indian Ocean. Taking a microlight flight over lush terrain, canyoning through gorges, and mountain biking down Piton Maido are a few other exhilarating experiences active travelers can have on the island. The gist of all this: if you're seeking beach time on an exotic island and an adrenaline rush, Réunion may be just the place for you.

Vibrant culture and cuisine

Another reason to choose Réunion over the Maldives is to experience its unique culture, a kaleidoscope of African, Indian, European, and Chinese influences. A bonus is that people from the different ethnic and religious backgrounds live together harmoniously on this island, like a true global village. While meandering around the island, evidence of this will pop out at you. You'll see stands and markets selling foods from just about everywhere and pass by mosques, churches, Hindu temples, and Chinese pagodas.

The island's Creole language, traditional Sega and Maloya music, and flavorful cuisine all arose from this rich cultural melting pot. The food scene is a tantalizing journey for the palate. On Réunion's menus, you'll find spice and more spice, especially ginger and turmeric, which delightfully animate the curries, masalas, and Creole dishes. There's also plenty of fresh seafood to go around, an abundance of tropical fruits, and punch with mulled rum to quench your thirst after all that heat. Top off your evening meal with a serving (or two) of sweet potato cake infused with vanilla and rum, and go to sleep dreaming of the next day's adventures.