Mahe is large enough to keep you busy for days, and small enough that with a car, you can explore most of the island in 72 hours.
This is the main island in the Seychelles. The place where your commercial airline will land and where you visit for culture, hiking, and beaches. Three days is just the right amount of time to explore what this island has to offer. A car rental is required to get around, and you’ll be driving on narrow, winding roads that go up and over the jungle covered mountains to get to various beaches. (To add to the challenge, people drive on the left side of the road in the Seychelles).
In January, the winds blow north east, so beaches on the west side of the island are round and wavy while the east side of the island is smooth and still. But, we highly recommend a visit to the main island of the Seychelles before heading to your secluded, luxury island destination to get a feel for the wonderful people that call this place home.
Check into Copolia Lodge, a six room boutique hotel tucked into the lush mountains of Mahe along Sans Souci road. The lodge is run by the calm and sweet Coralie and makes for a centrally located zen home base. Each morning you’ll enjoy a filling, fresh homemade breakfast in the open-air dining room that overlooks the lush mountains of the Seychelles, where tropical birds soar from treetop to treetop. We recommend the Fregate Suite, which offers a personal balcony with views of both the jungle and the ocean.
Get acquainted with the narrow roads, bordered by cliffs on one side and mountains on the other (while also driving on the left side of the road), on your drive to downtown Victoria and the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market. Although the market occurs every day, the best day to visit is Saturday morning, when vendors from all over the islands come to sell their goods. The place starts to crowd with tourists around 11 a.m., so be sure to arrive earlier in order to scope out the chilis, fish, citrus, spices, and eggs.
With picnic supplies gathered at the market, it’s time to get to a beach! For a quintessential introduction to the Seychelles, the Anse Major Trail is an easy hike that wraps around a small peninsula of the island, rewarding you with wonderful views of turquoise water and a semi-private beach at the end of the trail. When we visited, there was only one other couple and a local man selling coconuts. As wonderful as the idea of coconuts sounds, beware, the straws he used tasted like moth balls so we ended up trying to pour the coconut water straight into our mouths. The total hike takes about 1 hour.
Post hike, we like to relax in the shade with a nice view and a drink in hand. Before heading back to the lodge for dinner, stop at Beau Vallon beach, a long sandy stretch of turquoise water and white sand for a couple hours of lounging. This is the busiest beach on the island, which for the Seychelles means there are often more than a dozen people there. You can order a drink beachside at La Plage restaurant or visit one of the many shops clustered on this strip of beach.
Enjoy a multi-course, french and Seychellois inspired dinner back at Copolia Lodge. You will go to bed full, rested, and ready for another day of exploring tomorrow.
A short drive from Copolia Lodge is Mission Lodge, a collection of structures originally built by missionaries as a school for freed slaves, but now a heritage sight made up mostly of ruins. A short walk through the former buildings brings you to wonderful views of the Mahe coastline and is worth the half hour detour.
Now that you’ve been in the Seychelles more than 24 hours, it’s time to get serious about visiting beaches. Guests of Maia Resort frequent Anse Boileau because it is the beach right outside their resort, but there is public parking just off the main road, making it a generally unfrequented cove and the perfect place to relax for a couple of hours. The best advice we have about the beaches is pull over when you see a sign and explore for yourself; they are all gorgeous in their own right.
Make a reservation at Le Jardin du Roi Spice Garden for Sunday brunch for one of the best meals you’ll have on your vacation. We were skeptical at first due to the t-shirt hanging in the souvenir shop when we pulled up the dirt driveway, but the scents wafting through the dining patio and out to our car converted our skeptisim into excitement.
You can tour the garden for the equivalent of $10, but the real reason to visit is the Sunday brunch. All but the grilled fish is grown organically at their onsite garden and prepared fresh that day. Served family style, we ate white fish with lime, chicken curry, saffron rice, star fruit, green papaya salad, sliced and seasoned mango, green apple salad, water apple, pomelo, veggie curry, and breadfruit, followed by a dessert of fruit salad with a scoop of homemade ice cream.
After lunch, continue exploring the many beaches on the southern part of the island. Anse Soleil has a beach restaurant that serves up the local Seychellois beer, Sey Brew, at reasonable prices. Petite Anse directly translates to “Little Cove” and that’s exactly what it is, an adorable little cove.
Baie Lazare is a beautiful bay for swimming and snorkeling. Palm trees along Anse Takamaka grow almost horizontally and make for a great photo opp. Anse Intendance is known for its strong waves that are ideal for surfing. And finally, Anse Capucins, is another beautiful beach featuring its own unique rock formations and lush jungle setting.
Enjoy dinner at La Plaine St Andre at the Takamaka Rum Distillery. We’ll admit, we were drawn here by a fantastically designed label (look at the graphic design on the pineapple rum bottle!), but ended up staying for the food. Instead of booking a tour, we recommend a rum tasting at La Plaine St. Andre, the restaurant located on the estate, followed by a delicious seafood lunch afterwards. You’ll love the tuna appetizer, a rare treat on the island despite tuna being the Seychelles largest export.
The Copalia Trail will please even the faintest of plant lovers due to the presence of the extremely rare, carnivorous pitcher plant that only grows in the Seychelles, on the islands of Mahe and Silouhette, at certain elevations. The steady, uphill hike rewards sweaty explorers with 360 degree views of Mahe as well as bushes full of this unique flora. The total hike takes around 2 hours and is easy to access if you’re staying at Copolia Lodge, as the trailhead is just across the street from the Lodge.
L’islette can be accessed on foot only during low tide (a very territorial parrot fish lives in the rocks along the way) and usually has a bar open to reward your trek with a drink.
Venture to Port Luanay for some snorkeling and a fresh, orange king coconut before heading to your next destination.