In the words of Mark Twain... "Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; heaven being copied after Mauritius."
With pinch-me perfect scenes at every turn and waters abundant with glorious fish, Mauritius leaves us with no option but to agree with Mark. Alicia Rountree, model, restaurateur and founder of eco-conscious swimwear brand Alicia Swim, concurs.
Growing up on the island nation, Alicia has an unsurpassable knowledge when it comes to what to do, where to stay, eat and drink while in Mauritius. And when it comes to packing, she confides: "you basically only need a bikini."
The best time to plan a trip to Mauritius is…
Fondest memories of growing up in Mauritius…
Being barefoot all the time and having so many animals. We would often go swimming at 6am before school.
How has the island inspired your Alicia Swim range?
My prints are a reflection of nature in Mauritius. I paint coral, waves, leaves, flowers...
How would you define your brand?
It's timeless and elegant, eco-conscious and sustainable. It's also comfortable and high quality.
Key pieces to pack for a trip to Mauritius
You basically only need a bikini - and sun cream.
What's the dress code?
Casual. If you are staying in a nice hotel you can also go chic and elegant. When I go to dinner I like to accessorise with big earrings and chunky rings.
Best hotels on the beach…
Where's good for lunch?
And for a late dinner?
Le Whatever restaurant - it's owned by a French couple and has a great wine list.
Other food spots to try…
The Blue Marlin restaurant at the Paradis Hotel & Golf Club - you'll need to ring ahead and book.
Where should we head post-party?
Home to bed!
Where's good for a pre-bedtime tipple?
The Bay guesthouse for sundowners.
Where should we head on a Saturday morning?
On a hike to Les Sept Cascades. You need a guide to take you as the ascent is a little tricky, but it's worth it. On the trail, you'll trek among seven waterfalls and lots of lush vegetation.
Where can we do an early morning workout?
Go paddle boarding at 6am when the sea is at its flattest and no one is in sight. I do this as part of my morning meditation.
One thing you can only do in Mauritius is…
The street food here is incredible. My favourite is dholl puri - a savoury split-pea pancake filled with vegetarian curry and chutneys. The market in Mahebourg is the best place to get them.
For Sunday brunch book a table at…
Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa - the buffet here is out of this world.
Great day trips include…
Swimming with whales and dolphins or renting a catamaran for the day and sailing around the island. Stop for lunch on one of the smaller islands and finish off with sunset drinks.
One thing only locals know about is…
Horse riding at La Vieille Cheminée.
A souvenir to bring back…
An Alicia Swim bikini.
One misconception about Mauritius is…
That it is just a beach holiday.
Underrated spots worth a visit…
The water at Pointe d'Esny is is amazing - the same goes for Blue Bay, which is more towards the south of the island. Swimming there is great, you can go by car or take a boat. If you go by boat, stop by Île aux Flamants en route, a little island sand bank in the middle of the ocean.
A book to read before we go?
I have a coffee-table book coming out with Rizzoli in spring 2020, so you will have to wait and look at that before travelling to Mauritius. It's a lifestyle book with tips and recipes inspired by growing up in Mauritius.