Port-Louis naturally grew to be the economic and administrative capital of Mauritius after it superseded Mahebourg in the early eighteenth century because of the superior quality of its harbour. Until the 1860s, when the Suez Canal was built, Port-Louis was the recommended stopover for ships from Europe on their way to India. It was largely because of the safety and activity of Port-Louis, that Mauritius then earned the title of 'Star and Key of the Indian Ocean.' The City of Port-Louis underwent a second birth in the 1980s when post-independence economic stagnation finally gave way to bursting activity. The skyline of Port-Louis has changed dramatically since, and high-rising towers now compete with buildings from the colonial times. Port-Louis is unrecognizably quiet after business hours and on week-ends, except when the Champs-de-Mars hosts the very popular horse races.
Curepipe stands at the lower tip of the urban zone which stretches diagonally across the island from Port-Louis, through Beau-Bassin, Rose-Hill, Quatre-Bornes, Vacoas and Phoenix. Curepipe became a popular residential town in the previous century reputedly after inhabitants fled the malaria epidemics on the west coast for the healthier, if wetter, highlands. The strangeness of the name 'Curepipe' has given rise to fanciful etymologies, the most persistent of which is that travelers used to stop there to 'cure' their pipes! Curepipe today is an elegant residential town with prize colonial houses, pleasant public gardens and a ultra-modern vegetable market! A short drive around Curepipe brings you to Trou-aux-Cerfs, one of the most exciting points of view of the island, and to the luscious tea plantations.
Mahebourg is named after one of the foremost figures in the history of the Island, the French governor Mahe de Labourdonnais. A visit to the Naval Museum in Mahebourg reveals the richness of the historical past of the village. This site was the port where the Dutch settlers disembarked, the first capital harbour of the island, and the theatre of the sole victory of the Napoleonic fleet over the British - an event commemorated by engravings in the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris.
Grand Baie owes its popularity to the enchanting quality of its emerald waters and to its liveliness by day or by night. It offers facilities for safe swimming, sailing, windsurfing, and water skiing. Grand Baie also hosts a variety of fashion and craft shops, hotels, restaurants, and night-clubs. It is the departure point for helicopter excursions, and it provides facilities for deep sea angling and for boat excursions to the islands to the north of Mauritius: Gunners' Quoin, Flat Island, Round Island, and Serpent Island.