It might sound absurd, but it was love at first sight when I laid eyes upon The St. Regis Mauritius Resort. I’ve stayed at more than my fair share of beach resorts around the world, but few that are located in the midst of such a raw, natural landscape. Facing the coral-laden sands of the Le Morne Peninsula, with the World Heritage Mount Brabant Le Morne rising in the distance, there’s a drama to the south-west part of the island. Thronged with palm trees and whipped by winds, it has a raw, wild beauty – the kind that stops you in your tracks. And then there’s the design of the resort itself – a throwback to the colonial days of Mauritius’ sugar industry heyday, all cream-coloured hues, white timber, and old-school elegance.
Most beachfront properties like to exaggerate their proximity to the sand, but The St. Regis doesn’t have to. My St. Regis Suite is virtually on the sand, so close to the water I can hear the sound of waves breaking off shore, and windsurfers’ and kite surfers’ sails flapping in the breeze, from bed.
Styled after a plantation-style manor house, all leather and linen and earthen tones, my suite is fitted with drapes that blow in the breeze, sisal carpets underfoot and charming framed sketches of the dodo bird and early-settler scenes on the walls. The bathroom, lined with subtle aquamarine-coloured mosaic tiles, is also generous, with a double-head shower, an eggshell tub and sizeable St. Regis Remède amenities.
The resort only opened in 2012, yet there’s a time-honoured feel to the service. Buggy drivers are convivial and genuinely interested in guests’ well-being; spa therapists equally so with a nurturing touch; while the butlers – there’s a reason they are celebrated – are there to greet, unpack belongings, bring platters of freshly sliced pineapple and macarons, and disappear just as unobtrusively as they appeared.
The resort’s low-rise suites span a lengthy portion of the 143-metre beach, but it doesn’t take me long to walk along the shoreline to reach the main Manor House, though for guests who want central access, the Manor House Suites are ideal. With pool views, unhindered views of the Indian Ocean, and better still, a private in-room spa for couples, these suites with their enormous terraces, feel classically colonial and have the resort’s facilities just moments from their door, whether guests want to thumb through books in the library, or even catch one of the three daily films screening at the 32-seat cinema – serving as much free popcorn as you can wolf down. A mere stroll downstairs – the teak staircase is magnificent – takes them to breakfast at Le Manoir, the terrace area overlooking the pool with black-and-white Portuguese-style tiles underfoot and fans overhead. In the evening, this area takes on another atmosphere for sundowners – don’t miss the local version of the Bloody Mary cocktail at The 1904 Bar.
Elsewhere on the gourmet front, the resort has plenty to choose from, such as Simply India with its shuttered, arched doors leading out to a terrace; Floating Market and Atsuko serving Asian fusion and Japanese cuisine respectively; or The Boathouse Grill & Bar, for fresh seafood facing the sand. But I find nothing so satisfying (nor as indulgent) as ordering lunch on my balcony in my suite – a silver-service affair set up beautifully by a butler – and dining in blissful solitude as the sea sighs and the wind rustles the palms.
Laboratoire Remède happens to be a personal favourite of mine, though I test out treatments using another ultra-luxe product range, Valmont, at Iridium Spa, the resort’s contemporary two-storey 2,000-sqm spa, with 12 treatment rooms an array of luxurious facials and massages, and an oversized terrace where I sit in serenity post-facial, sipping tea and snacking on dried fruit and nuts. My skin glows for the next few days, such is the standard of service, but Iridium treatments are not just to beautify – there’s even a Kite Surfer’s Respite on the menu, a 90-minute hydrating body wrap, brush and deep tissue massage ideal for nixing those post-kitesurfing aches.
It’s probably one of the most popular treatments, for the winds at Le Morne are world famous, drawing elite kitesurfing aficionados, many of them leading sportsmen who are there to test out an acclaimed bucket-list wave known as “One Eye”. There are plenty of other beginner’s waves on the lagoon, with all the gear and lessons provided by ION Club, though it’s worth pointing out that the beach isn’t blasted by wind. It actually seems rather sheltered from the breeze – though should your towel need rearranging or your sunglasses need polishing from sand grits, there is an attendant on standby.
Among the avid kitesurfers and snorkellers are honeymooning couples, and families too, with The Kite Flyers Club catering well to kids. With a colourful playroom, the kids’ club arranges supervised excursions for children to explore the lagoon, learn sega, or have the time of their lives toasting marshmallows over a bonfire. Upstairs in the Manor House, The Drawing Room for teenagers is a hip haunt equipped with a pool table, table tennis, Playstation and an Xbox 360 – sure to keep even the tetchiest teen entertained.
For families requiring more privacy and even more exemplary, bespoke service, there’s The St. Regis Villa, where I spend one truly indulgent evening living it up like a one-per-center (www.stregisvillamauritius.com).
For the travelling connoisseur, the mere mention of the name The St. Regis is like a salve, a soothing reassurance of refined luxury in its finest form, from the legendary butler service to the nightly ritual of sabrage, where a champagne bottle is opened with the swoop of a cavalry sword.
The art of sabrage – a tradition that dates back to Napoleon Bonaparte – has become a St. Regis signature since John Jacob Astor IV opened the first hotel in New York in the early 1900s. Today, bottles are decapitated around the world at each and every one of the luxury brand’s hotels at sunset. I’ve witnessed it from the Maldives to Istanbul, but I’m probably among only a privileged few to have had the pleasure of being taught sabrage at The St. Regis Villa. Handed a sword by a butler on a balmy evening and asked to do the honours, before a lavish six-course degustation prepared by the villa chef? Let’s put it this way, it’s a memory I won’t forget in a hurry.
Few guests staying at The St. Regis Villa would forget the place in a hurry, however. It’s not only the premium accommodations at the resort, but it’s the largest villa in Mauritius, with a full team exclusively dedicated to guests – including butlers, villa manager, chef and security guards.
Surrounded by verdant tropical gardens, the villa sprawls 1,659 square metres across a single storey, with four spacious and exquisitely appointed suites, and enormous bathrooms featuring stand-alone tubs, and Remède, Jo Malone, Aqua di Parma and Hermès amenities. Each opens out to a timber deck (with three of the four featuring a private plunge pool), unobstructed ocean views and direct beach access, and rather cleverly, depending on the number of guests, the villa can be configured into separate, private accommodations, such as a one-bedroom suite or a two-bedroom villa.
Throughout, the design is light-filled, with soaring ceilings (with striking circular chandeliers), neutral textiles and an indoor/outdoor aesthetic. The island’s lava rock lines the walls, tropical plants grow between living spaces, and the main bar area where I learn sabrage, is lined with a timber deck with lounges and daybeds.
Along with individual pools, the main 58-sqm infinity pool is just steps from the beach. There’s also a private gym with a Technogym treadmill and exercise bike, free weights and various other equipment. There’s a hammam and a sauna, a beautiful office (should you need to catch up on work) and for lazing about, a 47-sqm lounge with board games, 52” LED television with Dolby Surround System and Nintendo Wii.
The private dining room features a large family dining table that seats up to 12 people for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with all the gastronomy preparations taking place in the professionally equipped kitchen by team of private chefs. Though this is by far not off limits to guests – the villa has the sort of relaxed ambiance where guests may wander where they please (even to the kitchen to fix themselves a midnight snack). Which is exactly the standard of hospitality the St. Regis has been perfecting since 1904 – an anything-goes attitude towards luxury that’s sophisticated yet familial, refined yet laid back. What’s not to fall in love with?
The St. Regis Mauritius Resort
+230 403 9000