A treasure chest stashed between mountain and sea

MAY 2012 – Whether you choose to brave the active volcano, paraglide from steep mountain peaks, mountain bike down forested gorges, scuba dive in crystal clear water or simply laze on coral sands, the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean offers unparalled treasures – not least of which is LUX* Ile de la Réunion and its signature LUX* checklist of 50 experiences guaranteed to surprise and delight holidaymakers.

Tropical islands are all about hidden treasure: untold riches lying on sun-kissed shores, and travellers-in-the-know chancing upon the spot of their dreams. Cast away in the sky-blue seas of the Indian Ocean, Ile de La Réunion was for centuries a hideout for treasure-hungry pirates: men who sought out the world’s riches and stashed them on the dark beaches of this dramatic volcanic island. But that was then.

Today the true treasures of Réunion come not in sturdy wooden chests, but in the chic surrounds of the LUX* resort on the island’s west coast. Here, vanilla-scented air wafts through the manicured gardens that provide an idyllic hideaway for travellers looking to rest and recharge. And Blackbeard would have turned as green as the palm trees with envy at the stylish accommodation, where a hint of colonial elegance dances a sultry sega with irresistible island charm.

In the spacious rooms and suites, stylish ghost chairs stand effortlessly beneath beds awash in Creole colours; turquoise throws and elegant orchids an echo of the tropical paradise on the doorstep. On your first night, relish the deep rest you’ll find on the Sleep Tight mattress that’s a signature of every LUX* resort. The next morning, rested and refreshed, your holiday awaits.

Réunion is a far-flung island belonging to France, so to start with a café is de rigeur. Happily the Café LUX* serves coffee that would be fêted in the salons of Montmartre; their signature Island Blend of certified organic beans created by one of Africa’s top artisan roasters.

It’s just the beginning of the gourmet experience. La Cuisine is the gastronomic heart of LUX* Ile de La Réunion, with a globetrotting menu of island-inspired cuisine. Laid-back beachfront La Plage celebrates traditional Creole cuisine, with the likes of spicy rougail or red tuna tartar ready to tempt your taste buds. If you’d prefer a little more privacy, that’s no problem either. Simply request a gourmet picnic basket, toss a LUX* Sombrilla over your shoulder for some shade, and head off to find your own private idyll.

And like the island’s steep, forested slopes, LUX* likes to keep things green. Imported bottled water is eschewed in favour of fresh spring water that’s purified and bottled, keeping locals employed and Mother Nature smiling. But don’t forget to create your own treasures along the way. Every guest receives a LUX* Journal, a bespoke diary in which to jot down special memories, and there are quirky and colourful photo shacks where you can print your holiday snaps – or send them to your Facebook account. And if the island experience inspires you, why not sign up for one of the regular painting, drawing or photography classes?

As the sun dips below the sea, it’s time to head for dinner at Orangine – an intimate eatery combining Old World elegance with island sensuality. Think lobster carpaccio on local sugarcane, or spring rolls of freshly picked papaya. Of course, an impressive wine list offers both French and the New World vintages. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, LUX* will create a magical dinner for two on the beach, or in a private corner of the lush gardens. Candlelight, stars and a private butler on hand… the perfect place for creating new engagements or celebrating lifelong romances. Or if you’d prefer to get passionate and party island style, there’s a late-night entertainment excursion service that will guide you to the island’s hottest nightspots.

Red-hot romance is all the more fitting on Réunion: this is an island born of fire, and even today the Piton de la Fournaise, the dramatic volcano in the heart of the island, occasionally rumbles to life. It’s a dramatic landscape that will tear you from your sun lounger at some point. Whether it’s trekking in the national park, mountain biking through butterfly-filled forests or marvelling at the Piton from a sky-high helicopter adventure, Réunion has a reputation as the Indian Ocean’s top adventure destination. Not that your island escape has to be all about adrenalin. LUX* is just a few steps from the L’Hermitage coral lagoon, and in the calm, clear waters you can quietly snorkel among the tropical fish, or kayak over them. Possibly just spreading out a towel on the sand is adventure enough? In the afternoon heat, perhaps pack the kids off to the PLAY club and book some metime at the spa, or find inner peace with a yoga session in the gardens.

As with every minute of your days at LUX* Ile de La Réunion, the choice is yours. Because here, on this treasure island, you create your own perfect.

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