How to Spend 24 Hours on Reunion Island Without a Car

After my duties in Mauritius with SPG Amex were finished I decided to stick around the Indian Ocean and do a few more things for myself. Since the flight down here takes forever it seemed like the only smart option. I am excited to go to Nosy Be, Madagascar but I first booked my flights so I would have a 24-hour stop on Reunion Island. It’s a good life on Reunion Island and I wanted to do a few things I hadn’t done the first time I was there in 2010. The problem was I couldn’t get a rental car so here’s how to spend 24 hours on Reunion Island without a car!
Reunion Island, La Reunion, cannons, Saint-Denis
Upon arrival at Roland Garros International Airport near the Reunion Island capital of Saint-Denis, I went to try to get a rental car. I asked at every counter and every counter was sold out of cars. I only had 24 hours and I knew what I wanted to do so I made the best of it.
Reunion Island, La Reunion,  Saint-Denis, waterfront
I stayed in Saint-Denis at the Best Western right on the water. It is perfectly located and central so you can easily walk everywhere in Saint-Denis. It has a nice pool, even though I didn’t use it and it was pretty cheap at around $100. It wasn’t anything special but as far as I’m concerned the best place to stay in the capital.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, cappuccino, Roland Garros, restaurant, steak tartar
It’s also located right next to my favorite restaurant called Brasserie Roland Garros of course! Yes the same Roland Garros who the French Open in Paris is named after and the food is excellent at his namesake Brasserie. Try the steak tartar, entrecote and the local favorite, rougail saucisse. They’re basically sausages in a French tomato sauce but are pretty tasty. The cappuccinos are also excellent!
Reunion Island, La Reunion, cappuccino, Roland Garros, restaurant
So basically I spent my first day walking around lovely Saint-Denis and trying to arrange a helicopter or sightseeing flight for early the next day before my flight out to Nosy Be. I was not having an easy time as it’s peak season and every helicopter was booked. So I happened to stumble upon the Reunion Tourism Office and I went inside.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, Saint-Denis
I never go to these tourism offices as I find they’re generally useless and they just have pamphlets and are no real help. However, this time I was very pleasantly surprised. The woman at the desk set me up with a 75-minute flight for 7am the next morning. That was perfect and pretty cheap at only 190 Euros.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, scenic flight
I went with a company called Papangue Ulm based out of the field next to the main airport. They picked me up at the hotel and held my bags before dropping me off at the airport after my scenic flight. They couldn’t have been nicer guys.
Lee Abbamonte, Reunion Island, La Reunion
The small one-seater planes were very light-you could actually lift them with one hand! My pilot took me up and was awesome. I saw all the valleys, pitons, ramparts and cirques in the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site interior.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, Papangue
The flight was punctuated by a direct flyover of the Piton de la Fournaise; which had erupted only ten days prior. You could see it was still smoking although it’s hard to tell from the photo.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, Piton de la Fournaise, helicopter
Taking good photos from a plane or helicopter is tough because of the angle of the glass, reflection and the glare. I have done many of these types of flights and it’s always best to wear dark colors to get the least reflection in your photos but it’s still very hard to do and not fool proof.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, coastline
After the mountains and the volcano, we flew back along the beachfront coastline from Saint-Pierre, the second biggest city of Reunion, all the way back to the airport. It was windy and we had some turbulence but it was a great flight and well worth the $220ish it cost.
Reunion Island, La Reunion, sunset
So basically, that’s how to spend 24 hours on Reunion Island without a car! No matter what you do, you want to see it from the sky whether it is by plane or chopper. That’s the basic rule of thumb in general; landscapes almost always look better from the sky because you can see the full breadth of the scene. Trust me on that one-it’s absolutely stunning-the pictures cannot do it justice!

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  1. Do they have international rental car agencies at the airport that you can book in advance? We’re planning a trip there and were hoping to reserve a car, not chance it like you had to do. Thanks

  2. Alessandra Salvatore says

    Hi,, I spent my holiday going around the island mostly by car and of course bicycle. For the admiring the volcano, the best way is by helicopter. The views are simply amazing. But I did enjoy cycle around too. In fact, it was one of the staff members of the hotel where I was staying, Akoya Hotel, who gave us the idea of cycling around. Initially, I had chosen scooter but afterwards I decided cycling was a nice idea and at the same time, it was an exercise for me. Since after having so many delicacies at the hotel, I had definitely put on some weight. In this case, cycling was not a bad idea.

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