Do not listen to what anyone else says. This, Constance Le Prince Maurice, is the top classic luxury hotel on the island, says the gal. This is for serious connoisseurs, who might even spend 450,000 rupees ($13,043 ) on a bottle of 2010 Dme Romanée-Conti. Like the gal, they are impressed by sunrises and sunsets, and by the lovely staff – at last count, 320 of them to look after a mere 89 rooms. The knowledgeable, by the way, always choose one of the detached, over-water villas, of which more later.
Everyone is impressed, and not only at their first visit, by the arrival. Get out of your car, climb six stone steps and then three wood steps, and you look through the open lobby and the gigantic infinity pool, which seems to stretch on to, and join up with, the ocean. It was incredibly daring of architect Jean Marc Eynaud to come up with such a design in 1998, when the hotel was built, for its continuing owners, the sugar conglomerate known as Constance (all seven Indian Ocean hotels they own are prefixed Constance).
Once in the open lobby area, you can turn left or right and the same again. You might find yourself in Archipel, the main restaurant that has lots of open-sided but more or less indoor dining areas as well as uncovered terrace seating, with deep persimmon umbrellas for shade. There is also a dinner-only restaurant, reached via a 250-yard boardwalk, but sadly I did not have time to visit it. I did tour most of the 125-acre estate, however, much of it on a bike I discovered early one morning and ‘borrowed’ for half an hour.
The Constance owners, and their architect, were really thoughtful and clever when they put this luxury hotel up. Perhaps because they are protected, dozens of banyan trees have been left in place. They seem to tower over, as if guarding, the 12 individual over-water villas, of which nine have beach-set private pools.