Do you crave the sophistication of Europe but also the laid-back feel of an island? Reunion island is just a four-hour flight with Air Austral from Johannesburg*.
Reunion has volcanoes and mountains, beaches and the best Creole cuisine and architecture you can experience. A 'province' of France, it is, however a visa-free destination for South Africans. Marinda Louw Coetzee has compiled a selection of hotel accommodation on the island.
Just about 15 minutes from the airport, high up above the hospital with the same name (set your GPS to this location) sits Bellepierre overlooking the ocean and Creole-style houses and apartments. The only 4-star hotel in the capital of Saint-Denis, it has 85 rooms, a huge pool and an excellent restaurant frequented by locals and guests. Popular with conference guests, it has a host of amenities including the best freshly squeezed fruit juice as welcoming drinks. Choose a room on the lower lever to minimise noise from the pool deck.
We liked the expansive breakfast, views over the city from the restaurant and friendly reception staff.
Good for large groups and accessibility to the airport.
Diana Dea Lodge
A narrow road twists uphill between sugar cane fields to this 4-star lodge. Located near St. Anne on the tempestuous east coast, Diana Dea Lodge - at an elevation of 600m - overlooks the ocean and surrounding hills. The exterior might resemble a combination of a Swedish sauna and a German hunting lodge, but the interior is all warm and welcoming - original art, deep sofas and a wood fire in the main lounge.
Smiling staff serve exquisite food - think quail with butternut crème and chocolate brownies with goyavier sorbet. Stay for at least 3 nights - a day to explore the area on their electric bicycles and another to spend in the spa.
We liked the excellent wine list and the stags grazing outside our chalet at night.
Good for luxury, food and spa treatments
Le Vieux Cep
A mix of Creole architecture and a Swiss mountain hut, is the style of Le Vieux Cep. Centrally located in the picturesque town of Cilaos in the centre of Reunion, the hotel has spectacular views of the Piton de Neiges (3069m) and is popular with hikers exploring the cirque's many hiking trails. The 'Cep' offers friendly accommodation with triple and family rooms - the best views are from the top floor rooms.
Amenities include free Wi-Fi, a Jacuzzi and huge pool, luggage storage and safe parking. Local bands perform in their restaurant L'Isabelle and portions are enormous. There are, but the best views are from the top floor rooms.
We liked walking to explore the town and early breakfasts - from 06:30.
Good for a base to explore the cirque of Cilaos. Both families and couples will feel welcome.
Le Saint-Pierre Hotel
This modern hotel is just two blocks from the sea in the southwest coastal city of Saint-Pierre. However difficult to find, it is a gem in this lively city. It has undercover parking, B&B rooms or small studios with self-catering facilities and a small restaurant that serves a choice of only two dishes but have the locals queuing for tables. The location is perfect - in the middle of everything and two minutes from the beach and bustling promenade with seaside restaurants.
We liked the huge shower heads and being close to the street market and beaches.
Good for access to the Piton de la Fournaise volcano and exploring the south coast of Reunion.
On the western side of Reunion at Saint-Gilles-les-Bains is where the white swimmable beaches and surfing spots are. Here the 4-star Boucan Canot offers laid-back luxury. Think Creole-style exterior, white and cream beach-style chic in the rooms. The exceptional restaurant Le Cap is frequented by well-heeled locals and guests in beach wear and serve breakfast on a deck overlooking the sea. The pool is wooden-decked and looks out over a tidal pool and the vast Indian Ocean. Here guests lounge with a book or a Dodo beer at sunset.
We liked falling asleep to the sound of the waves and the location - right on the beach.
Good for a base to explore the west coast and just lazing on the beach.
The island's only 5-star hotel is located on the west coast of the island and directly on the lagoon. Hemmed in by a coral reef, the lagoon is a quiet coral-filled body of seawater perfect to explore with a snorkel, on a stand-up paddle board or in a transparent kayak. The hotel has a pool of over 1100m², three restaurants, rooms with hammocks on their balconies, a children's club, spa and gym as well as an ice cream and smoothie kiosk just meters from the ocean.
We liked the red bean bags on the beach and massage beds in the garden.
Iloha Seaview Hotel
Further south but still on the west coast is the eco-friendly Iloha Seaview Hotel overlooking ocean and the Creole town of Saint-Leu. Accommodation are Creole-style bungalows and rooms in a vast garden of palm trees, bougainvillea and lawns. Bungalows have a small kitchen and the B&B rooms overlook one of the pools. There is a wellness centre, two pools and two restaurants including the Italian-style La Trattoria.
We liked the bungalows (better value for money than the rooms) and the recycling efforts of the hotel.
Good for families and budget-conscious travellers.
*Air Austral is offering a special on flights from Johannesburg to Saint Denis until 30 June 2016. Fly from around R5 400 (inclusive) twice a week to the island of Reunion.