Reunion Island benefits from a tropical climate softened by the breezes of the Indian Ocean. The sun shines down all year round, especially in the north, west and south of the island. The wide variety of microclimates in Reunion means that one can be soaking up the sunshine by the sea in the morning and be up taking in the cool mountain air in the afternoon, and all this without having to travel far to do so.
Compared to the northern hemisphere, the seasons are the other way round in the south. However, any notions of winter and summer are relative in the tropics. The year is divided up into two long periods: the warm and humid season, from November to April, and the fresher and drier season which runs from May to October.
The Austral Summer
The Austral summer reaches its peak in January and February, with daily temperatures well over 30° by the coast. Rain showers come in short, but heavy patches. This is also the season for tropical cyclones, which hit the island on average once or twice a year and generally last a few days. This time of year is when the lush vegetation and cascading waterfalls are at their most impressive.
The Austral Winter
The Austral Winter comes in July and August, with slightly fresher temperatures (around 24-25° by the Indian Ocean) – however, even at night the hardships of winter by the coast rarely drop lower than 20°! The water temperature in the lagoon varies around 22°.
Apart from one or two exceptions, the trees do not lose their leaves and plant species tend to flower at different periods throughout the year.
However, beware if you’re heading up into the mountains: the drop in temperature can come as a shock.
Because they are neither too not nor too humid, the two periods between these seasons (April – May and October – November) are particularly pleasant times to visit.
Temperature variations during the day
There is little difference between day and night temperatures, especially at sea level. However, as the day goes on, clouds tend to form in the mountains thus providing the vegetation with the necessary humidity. In order to make the most of the viewpoints and get clear blue skies, it’s best to get an early start.
Water temperature varies between 20 and 25° during the year, but the shallow waters of the lagoon are even warmer.
Between the east & the west: the eastern slopes of Reunion get the most rainfall whereas the west coast is much drier.
Between the mountains & down by the coast : at altitude the temperature can plummet to zero degrees and rarely climbs over 25°, even at the height of summer. Anywhere over 1800m, night frost is not uncommon in July and August. Near the highest peaks, sub zero temperatures are sometimes recorded.
- Average Temperature in St Denis (at sea level): From 24° (in August, the coldest month) to 30° (in February, the hottest month).
- Average Temperature in La Plaine-des-Palmistes (1 200 m) : From 17° (in August, during the day) to 24° (February).
There is one phenomenon completely unknown to most tropical islands: we sometimes get snow in Reunion! This was the case in early August 2003. Over a period of three days, the summit of Piton des Neiges lived up to its name. A thin blanket of snow also covered the volcano and its surrounding area, as well as the ridge between the Maido and the Grand Bénare. This phenomenon took place again in October 2006, but with less snow.
The sun sets early : around 7pm in summer, 6pm in winter.
- Sunrise: 5.30am on 21st December (summer solstice), 7am on 21st June (winter solstice).
- Sunset : 7pm on21st December, 5.50pm on 21st June
You’ll need no better encouragement to get up early and get the best of the scenery!