La Digue is the fourth largest inhabited island of the Seychelles (though only 5 km [3 miles] long and 3 km [2 miles] wide), and the real deal when it comes to a laid-back tropical paradise. Only 6.4 km (4 miles) from Praslin (about a 15- to 30-minute ferry ride) and 43 km (27 miles) from Mahé, little la Digue nonetheless feels a world away. With no natural harbor, La Digue is protected by a coral reef, which, together with masses of colossal pink granite boulders, encircle and protect the island. Streets here hum the quiet rhythm of local life: a melody of ox-carts and bicycles, paths shaded by flowers and lush vegetation, and old colonial-style houses that speak of times past. Named in 1768 after a ship in the fleet of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, La Digue's economic mainstays used to be vanilla and coconut oil. The island's fabulous beaches, lush interior, and colonial charm have made tourism its number-one industry today. The island's population of about 2,000 mostly reside in the west coast villages of La Réunion and La Passe.
In the spirit of this super-chilled-out island, most of La Digue's restaurants are pretty casual. There are a few great beachside joints, as well as a couple notable hotel restaurants.
La Digue Island Lodge Restaurant
This lovely hotel restaurant enjoys a location on the edge of beautiful Anse Réunion. Tables are set up by the white sand beach and are surrounded by views of a lush garden filled with massive pandanus palms, frangipani, and Indian almond trees. Dinners are buffet style with a focus on the international, which means that on any given night there will be some degree of influence from Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and of course, Creole cuisine. Great grilled fish, fresh salads, and reasonable Asian fare can be expected (pastas are not a highlight), though check in advance if there is a theme on the night you intend to go (Saturdays are typically all Creole). Not a fan of buffets? Choose from the à la carte seafood specialties, which are heavy on lobster and prawns (neither usually sourced from the Seychelles). Non-hotel guests are welcome, but large groups must reserve in advance. When the weather is fine, the beachfront tables, lit by gleaming oil lamps, are extremely romantic and peaceful.
The only restaurant on the east side of the island, casual and friendly Loutier Coco serves an extremely tasty lunch buffet of the usual Creole favorites. Expect items like a beautifully spiced octopus curry in coconut milk, delicious grilled fish, roast pork, veggie curries, several piquant salads of mango or papaya, and dessert. Located just off Grande Anse beach, the sand floors, coconut-frond and hibiscus-flower decor, and brightly painted rustic murals invite dining in one's swimsuit. Try to arrive early, as items like the grilled fish tend to dry out a bit towards the end. Open for lunch only from 12:30–3, and serving drinks from 8–5. If you call a day ahead, you can organize a lobster feast.
La Digue's accommodations are largely comprised of smaller hotels, guesthouses, and an increasing number of self-catering options. Check out the STB's website for updated listings.
Shops and stalls selling the usual curios and artisanal crafts can be found at Anse Réunion and L'Union Estate. A small kiosk across from Anse Severe sells the expected knickknacks, plus cold drinks and snacks. In the center of La Passe is a new shopping complex with several souvenir shops, including a Kreolor.
Barbara Jenson Studio
This shop features the work of this British painter who made La Digue her home. From her beach studio, Jenson produces a wide variety of work in many different media, all of which reflect the Seychelles' unique landscape and ethnically diverse population. Lately experimenting with paintings of varnish on aluminum, Jenson's more traditional island scenes in acrylics and watercolors are also available here, and she can arrange packaging for transport home, or shipping if necessary.
Kreol Art Collection Shop
This small curio shop near the old cemetery at L'Union sells shells, sarongs, vanilla tea, vanilla pods, and the famous La Digue vanilla essence. Out front an even smaller stall also sells vanilla, sometimes at a cheaper price if you bargain.
Veuve Nature Reserve
La Digue is the last refuge of the rare black paradise flycatcher, of which there are only about 100 still in existence. Once on the brink of extinction, these rare birds, which the locals call the veuve, or widow, are now protected in this reserve, which is also home to two extremely rare species of terrapin. The Veuve Information Centre is also La Digue's only environment office, managing the Reserve, and providing the majority of information on the island's unique flora and fauna. Staff there can take visitors on short guided tours upon request, but arangements must be made in advance.
Visit a traditional copra mill (once used to produce coconut oil from the dried flesh of the nut) at this grand plantation house. Stroll around the outside of the majestic old buildings framed by giant granite boulders, or go horseback riding. The grounds also house a small shipyard where displays (intermittently) show how craftsmen used to build pirogues and fishing boats. The estate is also home to the cemetery of the original settlers of La Digue and provides access to one of the most pristine beaches in Seychelles—the legendary Source d'Argent—among the most photographed beaches on earth.
Anse Source d'Argent
La Digue is home to some of the world's best beaches, including one of the most photographed, Anse Source d'Argent (the film Cast Away was filmed here). With its soft white sand, clear turquoise water, and huge granite boulders, it's easy to see why this would be the case. However, the crowds it attracts could outweigh the beach's stunning natural attributes. In either case, it's worth visiting and deciding for yourself. The beach is accessible only through L'Union Estate, for which you must pay the normal entry fee of Rs100.
Amenities: Food and drink, toilet. Best for: Snorkeling, swimming, walking.
Anse La Réunion
Closer to La Passe, this long, beautiful beach has fine views of neighboring Praslin Island. It'sgreat for snorkeling and swimming. A
menities: Food and drink, toilet. Best for: Snorkeling, swimming, walking.
This architectural gem among the plantation houses remaining in Seychelles. Said to be one of the oldest, it is the focal point of L'Union Estate. Unfortunately at the time of writing, admission into the house was prohibited.
On La Digue's eastern side, this picturesque beach is known for its huge waves. The sea may look inviting, but there is an extremely strong undertow, so beware. Strong surfers may find a ride, but picnics and sunbathing are the recommended activities here. Grand Anse is home to the Loutier Coco restaurant. Petite Anse, just across the rocks from Grand Anse, is more private and great for picnics, but shares the same rough conditions as its big sister.
Amenities: food and drink; toilet (at restaurant). Best for: solitude, surfing, walking, sunrise.
Anse Bonnet Carré
If you're near Anse Source d'Argent but want more privacy, the neighboring beach of Anse Bonnet Carré has the same white sand and shallow warm waters, but fewer rocks and people. It requires a short walk, and thus is often deserted, but it's great if you a dip rather than a proper swim.
Amenities: none. Best for: swimming, walking, solitude.
Next to the longer Anse Gaulettes, this smaller beach on the island's northernmost end has soft white sand and calm seas, making it well suited for swimming and snorkeling.
Amenities: none. Best for: swimming, snorkeling.
A bit longer than Anse Patates, which makes it perfect for walking, this beach on the island's northern end has soft white sand and calm seas. However, dangerous currents make it not good for swimming or snorkeling.
Amenities: none. Best for: walking.
If you're near Anse Source d'Argent but want more privacy, the neighboring beach of Anse Pierrot has the same white sand and shallow warm waters, but fewer rocks and people. It requires a short walk, and thus is often deserted. It's great if you want some privacy and a dip rather than a proper swim.
Amenities: none. Best for: swimming, walking, solitude.
If you're feeling adventurous, hire a guide (you can ask at the Loutier Coco restaurant, or organize one in advance) to take you to the beautiful, wild beaches at the island's southern tip. About a 20- to 40-minute walk from Grand Anse, Anse Songe is lovely and surrounded by trees so you can enjoy some shade. Another 20–40 minutes along from Anse Songe, Grand Marron's empty beach is a stunning and worthy reward for the adventurous. The hike from Anse Songe to Grand Marron involves climbing over some seriously rocky outcrops and is only for the fit and well prepared (good water shoes are advised).