TOP AND BEST 6 BEACHES OF INDIA
Varkala beach provides a relatively peaceful alternative to the now commercialized Kovalam. The setting of this beach is striking enough to take your breath away, with a long winding stretch of cliff and views that extend over the Arabian Sea. A paved footpath runs along the length of the cliff, bordered by coconut palms, quaint shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guest houses. Nestled at the bottom of the cliff is a long stretch of sparkling beach, reached by steps leading down from the cliff top.
Varkala is located between Alleppey and Kollam, around one hour north of Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), in India's southern state of Kerala.
Getting to Varkala:
Varkala cliff and beach are located a 10 minute drive away from Varkala town and railway station. Almost 20 Indian Railways trains stop at the station. If coming by train, take an auto rickshaw from the station for around 50 rupees ($1). Alternatively, there are airports at Trivandrum and Kochi (around 4 hours north of Varkala).
Varkala's climate is very tropical and humid. It receives rain from both the southwest and northeast monsoon, which produce intensely heavy downpours. The rain is at its worst from June to August, and late October to December. Late December to March are the best months to visit, when the weather is dry and sunny every day, and the temperature hovers around 30 degrees Celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). The summer months of April and May become very humid and hot, with temperatures around 35 degrees Celcius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).
Varkala is a wonderful place to relax and rejuvenate. It's well known for its dramatic sunsets. Settle into one of the beach shacks with a drink, and you'll have an uninterrupted view of the sun as it slowly sinks down the horizon. The mineral spring that flows from the cliff at the southern end of the beach is believed to have medicinal properties. You'll also find plenty of places specializing in yoga, and Ayurvedic massage and therapies. Shop 'til you drop at the endless rows of huts lining the cliff, stocking everything from jewelry to handicrafts. TheJanardhana Swamy Temple festival is held every March.
Varkala's main beach is called Papanasam Beach -- which means destroyer of sins. The beach is divided into two parts, with the southern area at the end of the road leading from the Janardhana Swamy Temple considered sacred to Hindus. It's where they come to perform the last rites after close relatives have died. The tourist part of the beach is located further north, past the mineral spring, at the bottom of the cliff. There's also another small beach with black sand near the coconut grove where the cliff ends in the far north, past Papanasam Beach.
Varkala has accommodations to suit all price ranges, from resorts to simple rooms in family homes. Puthooram Ayurvedic Beach Resort, at the north end of the cliff, is the perfect place for a peaceful and reasonably priced ayurvedic and/or yoga experience. Varkala Marine Palace, at the south end of the cliff, has rooms, cottages and apartments from $20 to $80 per night. The Green Palace is a popular and centrally located budget option on the cliff, with rates from $30. For a romantic retreat away from the action, you can't go wrong at the boutique Villa Jacaranda, on a hill near the Indian end of Papanasam Beach.
The nightlife in Varkala is quite laid back. Some beach shacks, such as the Funky Art Cafe and Dolphin Bay, do have parties and play music late into the night. However the party scene is restricted by complaints from nearby hotels about the noise, and also the prohibition of alcohol. As Varkala is a holy town, none of the beach shacks are licensed to serve alcohol, although this doesn't stop them from doing so after paying adequate compensation to the local police. Other nightlife includes traditional Kathakali dance performances in the evenings.
Varkala Dangers and Annoyances:
Varkala has undergone a dramatic amount of growth in just few years to be transformed from sleepy village into sought after beach destination. This has had a significant impact on the locals. Females should take particular care around local men, as incidents of drunkenness and groping are common. Many foreign women also end up being charmed by the staff from the beach shacks, who usually end up wanting money or are married. Begging and hawking are becoming issues as well. Also bring a flashlight as power cuts are prevalent. At the beach, swimmers should be aware of strong currents and not swim out too far.
Varkala Travel Tips:
An important thing to keep in mind is the interesting tide pattern at Varkala. This sees Papanasam Beach completely immersed in the ocean during the monsoon season, while the black beach is accessible. After the monsoon, this trend reverses with the black beach becoming engulfed in water and Papanasam Beach open.
During the monsoon season it's therefore best to stay at the northern end of the cliff near the black beach, while in peak season, the southern end of the cliff provides the easiest access to Papanasam Beach as the stairs leading down the cliff are located there. This end of the cliff is also quieter.
It's cheaper to stay away from the cliff, at the Indian southern end of Papanasam Beach, however the cliff isn't easily accessible from this area (which suits people who want to avoid the crowds!). The Indian end of Papanasam Beach also remains isolated from the tourist part of the beach until the monsoon fully retreats and the beach completely opens up. Therefore if you want to go up to the cliff from there, it's necessary to take an auto rickshaw.
Gokarna is a small and remote holy town, with four of India's most secluded and pristine beaches nestled nearby. It draws both pious pilgrims and hedonistic holiday makers with equal enthusiasm. Travel to Gokarna to get a feel for what Goa was like in its heyday, although time is limited as developers are already seeing the potential of this area.
Gokarna is located in the state of Karnataka, an hour south of the Goa border. It's around 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Bangalore, the state capital.
Getting to Gorkarna:
The nearest airport is Dabolim, in Goa. From there it's a four hour drive to Gorkana. Alternatively, trains on the Konkan railway stop at Gokarna Road station, 15 minutes from town, as well as Kumta and Ankola stations, both around 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Gokarna. Gokarna is also well connected by bus from major cities such as Madgaon in Goa, and Mangalore and Bangalore in Karnataka.
Gokarna experiences the southwest monsoon from June to August, following which the weather becomes dry and sunny. The best time to visit Gokarna is from October until March, when the weather is warm and pleasant with temperatures averaging 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). April and May are hot summer months, and the temperature easily reaches 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) then.
Gokarna's main attraction is its beaches, where people come to chill and soak up the sun for months at a time. As Gokarna is one of the most sacred holy towns for Hindus in south India, there are also some important temples to see. Unfortunately, they're off limits to non-Hindus but you can grab a glimpse inside. The Mahabaleshwar Temple houses a huge lingam (symbol) of Lord Shiva. Make sure you check out the huge chariots near the Ganpati Temple, which carry a Shiva idol through the streets while people throw bananas at it for good luck during the Shivaratri Festival in February/March.
Gokarna town has it's own beach that's popular with pilgrims. However, the beaches that are of most interest to tourists are located one after another a short distance away. There are four of them called Kudle Beach, Om Beach, Halfmoon Beach, and Paradise Beach. Each has its own appeal. Om Beach is the most happening beach, and is the only one that's reachable by car or rickshaw. The others are around a 20 minute hike away from each other through the hills and over rocks, or a short boat ride away. The last beach, Paradise Beach, is not much more than a tiny protected cove that's a patch of hippie paradise.
Gokarna town has plenty of hotels but they are characterless places. Instead, find yourself a basic hut right on the beach. Namaste Cafe is a popular place to stay at Om Beach. Beach accommodation can be difficult to come by in the peak months of December and January though. Many people are just happy with a hammock! There are also a few new luxury resorts in the area, such as the Om Beach Resort and SwaSwara to cater for those who prefer their comforts. The Om Beach Resort has a traditional Ayurvedic center, while Swaswara focuses on yoga and meditation.
Bonfires, singing, guitars, and drums are familiar parts of Gokarna's nightlife. The party scene in holy Gokarna is kept in check by strict policing, although some beach parties do happen during the peak season. Officially, alcohol is banned because of the town's religious significance but you won't have a problem getting a cold beer on the beach.
Gokarna Dangers and Annoyances:
Care should be taken when walking between the beaches at night in the dark, and it's best not to go alone. Swimming can also be dangerous as some areas have strong currents.
Palolem Beach, enclosed by a thick forest of coconut palms in far south Goa, is arguably the state's most beautiful beach. This mile long, shady, semi-circle shaped beach continues to grow in popularity every year, and it's become very lively with the diverse crowd that it attracts.
Palolem is located in south Goa, 43 kilometers (27 miles) from Marago and 76 kilometers (47 miles) from Panaji, the state's capital.
Getting to Palolem:
The closest railway stations to Palolem are Marago and Canacona, on the Konkan Railway. Canacona is a 10 minute drive away from Palolem and the journey costs around 50 rupees ($1) in an auto rickshaw. Alternatively, Goa's Dabolim airport is around one and a half hours away. A taxi from the airport will cost 1,000-1,500 rupees ($20-30).
The weather at Palolem is warm throughout the year. Temperatures rarely reach more than 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day or drop below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. Some winter nights can get a bit chilly from December to February though. Palolem receives rain from the southwest monsoon from June to August, and most places on the beach close down during this time (including the beach huts, which get dismantled). The tourist season kicks off in late October, and starts slowing down around March.
Palolem offers both relaxation and adventure. Those who've had enough of lounging on the beach can go dolphin spotting or fishing in a boat, or take an inexpensive boat trip along the backwater canals during high tide. Hiring a kayak is also a good way to explore the surroundings. During low tide, it's possible to walk to Butterfly Beach (which becomes an island when the tide is in) where there are hiking trails and striking sunsets to be enjoyed. For those who like to shop, Palolem also has a small market that sells jewelry, clothes, and souvenirs. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary makes a pleasant day trip from Palolem.
Everyone, from long term travelers to package tourists, seems to have found an appropriate place for themselves on Palolem Beach. As a result, you'll find completely different atmospheres at the north and south ends of the beach. The quieter and laid back north tends to attract families, while backpackers congregate in the south where the party scene is. The ocean is also gentler in the north and doesn't get deep as quick as in the south, which is safer for small children.
The feature at Palolem is the temporary coco huts, which line the beach from October until May. Some are more basic than others, and can come with or without a bathroom. This guide to the best Goa beach huts offers some suggestions. In addition, Camp San Fransisco is known to provide amongst the cheapest huts on the beach. Cirians, located in the middle of Palolem Beach, has well appointed luxury huts in beautiful surroundings. Rooms are also available in guest houses and hotels set back from the beach. Om Sai Guest House, located at the northern end of Palolem market, is recommended as an inexpensive alternative to the beach huts.
The nightlife at Palolem is as eclectic as the people that the beach attracts. Dance music, live music, reggae, and rock -- it pumps until the early hours of the morning, if not through speakers at least though headphones at the unique Silent Noise Parties. Cafe Del Mar and Cocktails & Dreams (yes, it is based on the movie starring Tom Cruise) have 24 hour licenses, so are the places to be for late night or early morning action. Butterfly Beach is also a popular place for parties.
Palolem Travel Tips:
Many people wonder whether they should book their accommodation in advance at Palolem, or just turn up and hope they find a beach hut. If you're not too fussy about where you stay, it's possible to do the latter. However, the good places do fill up quickly during peak season in December and January, so booking ahead can be wise. Make sure you bring a flashlight and mosquito repellent. A sweater can also come in handy during the cooler months.
Baga Beach in north Goa may be touristy and busy but for those who like action, it’s one of the most happening beaches on the coast. You'll find everything from water sports to fine dining restaurants there, along with a pulsating nightlife.
Baga Beach is located in North Goa, 9 kilometers (6 miles) from Mapusa and 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Panaji, the state capital. It's bordered byCalangute Beach to the south, and Anjuna Beach to the north on the other side of the river. Baga Beach starts right where Calangute ends, although it's hard to pinpoint exactly where.
Getting to Baga:
The closest railway station to Baga is Thivim. Expect to pay around $5 in a taxi to get to Baga from the railway station. Alternatively, Goa's Dabolim airport is located 50 kilometers (31 miles) away, and the fare in a pre-paid taxi is around $15.
The weather at Baga is warm throughout the year. Temperatures rarely reach more than 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day or drop below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. Some winter nights can get a bit chilly from December to February though. Baga receives rain from the southwest monsoon from June to August. The beach huts close during this time, although many nightspots remain open. The tourist season kicks off in late October, and starts slowing down around March.
Water sports are a huge attraction. You can go para sailing for around $25, wake boarding for $15, windsurfing for $10, kite surfing for $45, or take a ride on a jet ski for $12. Dolphin spotting trips are on offer for around $8 per person, and island trips for $35. However, many people are simply content lazing on the sun lounges in front of the beach shacks all day and feasting on a steady supply of food, beer, and cocktails. The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna Beach and Saturday night market at Arpora are both close by, and will satisfy even the best shopaholics.
The Ronil Beach Resort has double rooms for $85 per night and is centrally located, five minutes walk from the beach. The Colonia Santa Maria is a bit more upmarket and has cottages leading to the beach for $100. Baga also has some great boutique hotels. The best are Casa Baga, located right near the heart of the action, and Baia Do Sol, with its wonderful location on the river front. Rates start from $130 and $45 per night for a double respectively. A very popular budget choice is the relaxed Alidia Beach Cottages (email:firstname.lastname@example.org), which fronts onto the beach. Expect to pay around $20 onwards for a room.
Baga is well known for its nightlife, most of which can be found in and around Tito's Lane -- home to the infamous Club Tito and Cafe Mambo. Both hold regular events with interstate DJs. The lavish and classy open air Loungefly bar also features top DJs and will leave a memorable impression. Head to hip Cocktails and Dreams to try an astonishing variety of cocktails and shooters, and be dazzled by barmen with impressive flame juggling skills. Guys will love the Sports Cafe. For those who prefer live music, Cavala caters to an older crowd and has Rock n Roll every Saturday night.
Fiesta (opposite Club Titos) will take your breath away with its magical setting and scrumptious food. Britto's, a beach shack specializing in seafood, is a popular tourist place that serves delicious Goan cuisine which isn't too spicy for the western palate. Find it at the far northern end of the beach. You can dine on a table right on the beach. The Lila Cafe, with its offerings of freshly baked bread on the river bank, is recommended for breakfast and lunch. The spectacular garden setting of East Meets West is perfect for romantic night time dining, and there's live music nightly too.
Little known Marari Beach, not far from Alleppey in Kerala, is perfect for those people exploring the Kerala backwaters who feel like some time at the beach as well. This beach is quiet and undeveloped. The name Marari is shortened from from Mararikulam, a small and sleepy fisherman's village.
Marari Beach is located in Kerala, a short distance from Alleppey and 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Cochin, the state capital.
Getting to Marari:
The nearest train station is in Alleppey. Alternatively, the nearest airport is in Cochin. A taxi from the airport to Marari will cost around $20 and take one and a half hours.
The weather at Marari is warm and humid throughout the year. Rain is received from both thesouthwest and northeast monsoons, which produce intensely heavy downpours. The rain is at its worst from June to July, and late October to December. Late December to March are the best months to visit, when the weather is dry and sunny every day. During April and May, the heat and humidity quickly builds, and summer temperatures reach 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit).
Marari isn't a tourist beach but rather a peaceful place to relax and unwind. Those who visit Marari look forward to the slow pace of life, and soaking up the serenity and tranquility on the deserted sandy beaches. A number of interesting day trips are possible around the area. These include the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, traditional coir-making units, and the Kerala backwater canals. If you're there during August, you can also check out the Snake Boat Races.
A big draw card in Marari the earth conscious Marari Beach Resort. The luxurious resort, inspired by local fishing villages, aims to capture the heart and soul of the beach. It's set on a sprawling property filled with coconut groves and lotus ponds, and amongst other things offers Ayurveda treatments and yoga classes on the beach. Rooms cost from $280 per night for a double. A Beach Symphony, which consists of four cottages on the beach, is a hidden gem. Price starts from $150 per night, plus tax. Alternatively, there are plenty of options for traditional homestays in the area as well.
Warning About Swimming at the Beach:
Unfortunately, it's been reported that Marari Beach is a popular location for fishermen to defecate at sunrise. Although the excrement gets washed away by the tide later in the morning, the bacterial content of the water is likely to be high. Thus, while the beach may look clean and unspoiled, this is actually deceptive.