Kovalam is famous for its beaches, among the most pristine in India. Kovalam is extremely popular among westerners due to shallow waters and low tidal waves. It is also one of the oldest tourist enclave in India, which known among tourist circuit right in 1930s. Kovalam shot into limelight in the early seventies with arrivals of the masses of hippies. That started the transformation of a casual fishing village of Kerala into one of the most important tourist destinations in all India- the Kovalam beach.
Kovalam was brought to the public eye by Her Highness The Queen of Travancore Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bai decided to build a palace for herself at a rock top near the beach, as her private residence better known as Haylcon Castle. Later, in 1936, the next Queen, HH Karthika Thirunal choose this palace for her honeymoon with her newly wed husband, 1st Prince GV Raja. It was Prince G.V Raja who found immense tourist potentiality of the region and decided promote the region among state guests, by inviting Thomas Cook & Sons- UK to develop the region. The Maharaja of Travancore soon started hosting regular state banquets and accommodation of his European guests in Kovalam Haylcon Palace. This made the beach popular among European families living in nearby Madras and Bombay Presidencies as well as elite Travancore families to spend their holidays. Thus, the move helped to lay foundations of modern tourism industry in South India. Post independent India, the beach was popular among Indians and few tourists. It was 1970s, the hippie culture helped to revive the beach, with vast influx of tourists, spending their wild holidays here. When Kerala government thought of making tourism as a major industry, towards 1990s, Kovalam was the first tourist destination to be highlighted and promoted. Today its an intentionally renowned beach.
Kovalam has 3 major beaches in its 17 km coastline. The southernmost, known as the Lighthouse Beach is the most popular of the three. Many hotels, restaurants, lodges and shops are located here. It is frequented by outsiders who stay and enjoy Kovalam.
The Northern most crescent, (with the different names Main Beach/Leela Beach/Samudra Beach) - is crowded on weekends, is very popular with the locals, day-travelers, and passing-by tourist buses. During the week it's quiet. Hawa Beach inbetween is among one of the beaches in India where top-less sunbathing is tolerated and well appreciated by the locals. The tourism department provides a vigilant life guard service on both Lighthouse and Hawa beach.
Note that many tourists in Kovalam are between the ages of 40 and 60 years young. Those expecting a replica of Goa will be pleasantly surprised by the more relaxed atmosphere, a bit more laid back, the food a touch softer and lighter.
Kovalam is about 16 km (20 minutes in a taxi) from Trivandrum. Taxis can charge around ₹400-₹500 to get to Kovalam. When asked where you want to go, say Hawa Beach, Leela Beach/Main Beach or Lighthouse Beach in Kovalam.
In an auto-rickshaw ₹150 - ₹170 is a fair price, avoid going above ₹170. If in doubt ask to use the meter, but in reality they really don't work at all. Advice being if they are trying to rip you off go to leave for another rickshaw and they will often back down and offer you a fair price, if not, get in a different rickshaw. Even if India is comparatively less expensive, the prices for gasoline are international standard, so don't expect super cheap private transportation. If you go by public bus from Trivandrum-East Fort to Kovalam Beach you only pay ₹8. for the half hour trip.
Buses to Trivandrum can also be caught from Kovalum Junction as well as Ambassador taxis and Autos to pretty much anywhere.
Be very careful walking around the junction, especially at night, as there are no traffic lights and the street lighting is very minimal. The intersection can be busy.
Tourist taxis are the most convenient way to travel around attractions, especially while travelling in a group. Most airports and railway stations have tourist taxi services that would take you anywhere you would want to go.
The rate should be around 15Rs per kilometre on auto rickshaw but some drivers may try to overcharge up to 100Rs for 1km.
A more adventurous option is to get a bike on hire. The highway is a pleasure to drive on, with the cool breeze and coconut palms lined along the way. Once on the highway, drive north for the plains, drive south for the hills. Avoid driving through Thiruvananthapuram city, it's congested. The old highway, also called MC road, is also good to drive on. The MC road can take you deep into the hills. Try out the throaty Enfield 350 CC bikes for a truly vintage experience, check your fuel levels before you leave.
Two wheelers do not have to pay the highway toll, simply ride through the side lane.
The beaches are the star attractions here. Kovalam has three crescent shaped beaches separated by rocky outcroppings. The larger of the beaches is called Lighthouse Beachknown for its 35 metre high lighthouse which towers over it atop Kurumkal hillock. Most of the foreigner’s stay on Lighthouse Beach, which is more developed. There are some vendors on the beach, but they are not too pushy. It takes less than five minutes to walk from Lighthouse Beach to the second largest beach, Hawah Beach. This beach is named thus for the topless European women who used to throng there. It was the first topless beach in India. However topless bathing is banned now.
The northern part of the beach is known as Samudra Beach. A large promontory separates this part from the southern side. Samudra Beach doesn't have tourists thronging there or hectic business. The local fishermen ply their trade on this part.
The old lighthouse, located at the southern beach is a local landmark, for being one of the oldest lighthouses of Kerala, guiding ships to the nearby Vizhnjam port. The lighthouse can be visited from 3PM to 5PM daily.
Surfing - Some fine waves from time to time (0.5 - 2 meters). You can hire surf boards and body boards on the beach from $6USD a day. During peak season they will try and charge more unreasonable amounts but just say no. Body boarding can be enjoyed by anyone. Surfing takes a bit more skill. It is wise to follow the life-guards' instructions as there are some strong currents that can suddenly whisk the unwary out to sea. The new artificial reef is creating some good surfing conditions, more on ASRltd.com website and .
Wooden Boat Ride - At Kovalam's Main Beach/Leela Beach you can go out on the ocean with a traditional Catamaran. These ancient boats are rowed with a bamboo paddle and maneuvered by experienced local fishermen. There are 11 registered boats available. Rides last from about 15 to 120 minutes and cost between Rps. 300 to 600 p.p. .The best time for going snorkeling from the boat is in the early morning. Most romantic are the "sunset cruises". No advance booking necessary. First come - first served.
Motor Boat Ride - In 2009 local fishermen/catamaran people added a few motor boats to their fleet, destroying the peace and serenity of the coves. They hope to make some extra money from Indian tourists, but are not aware of the impact on the environment and Western tourism.
There is a wide range of shops selling good quality souvenirs. Most of the beach front shops are the general Kashmiri stores you see everywhere.
Beware of hawkers though. Once you show interest in a certain product, they will pursue you everywhere until you buy it.
Try some of the shops behind the beach front stores. You'll get a better price plus some hidden gems.
Little Tibet Arts (between Malabar and Coconut Grove Restaurant) is a nice little shop with fair prices. The very nice Tibetan owner seems to be the only one of the dozens of shop-owner"s that won't hassle you!
Kovalam Junction is about a 10 - 15 minute walk up the hill from the main beach. You will pass through it on your initial arrival into Kovalam. Your main reason for coming here will be the ATMs, the post office, and Divine Supermarket. There are also a few good cheap eateries located around the area, a decent supermarket, and a few grocery stores where you can save a little money from the beach store prices.
Kovalam junction: there are four ATMs here which accept all the major cards. They are open 24 hours a day and protected by security guards.
There is an ATM just inside a hotel driveway just a short distance (10 minute walk) from Hawa Beach toward Kovalam Junction.
The ATM's are:-
Federal Bank (next to the Divine Supermarket) – has a daily limit of R20,000/- and the full amount is allowed in 1 transaction.
ICICI ATM next to the restaurant/café almost opposite the supermarket – has a daily limit of R20,000 but a limit of R10,000 per transaction
Canara Bank ATM next to the Post Office – again a daily limit of R20,000 but only R5,000 per transaction.
Catholic Bank ATM at the Hotel Swagarth up Cardiac Hill. Daily limit is R20,000 but only R10,000 per transaction.
HDFC Bank ATM - Near Holiday Home and next to the Govt Liquor Store
Axis Bank ATM - Near the HDFC ATM as above
Union Bank ATM - Near both HDFC and AXIS ATM as above
There are money changers on the shore line on Lighthouse Beach and these do not charge any commission. If you change T/Cs or money at your Hotel or an Thomas Cook exchange then you will be charged commission. Bank will also change money but expect to wait.
There are many restaurants along the beach front at Lighthouse Beach. The days catch is usually laid in front of them in the evening for those who like fish. Most restaurants have a leisurely approach to life and an hour between ordering and receiving your food is not uncommon. But don't get uptight, just relax and enjoy.
You can grab a top fruit salad from the fruit ladies with all the trimmings for less than $1USD. But, they'll remember you and if you don't buy from them again they will take it very personally.
Head up the hill from the beach to Kovalam Junction and sample some of the many local restaurants. The specialty of the area is Chicken Fry. Fried chicken in a red masala paste with freshly cut chillis. Some places are spicier than others. For between $2 & $3USD you will get 2 pieces of chicken fry, vegetable sambal and some paratha (a richer version of roti). Beef fry and fish fry are sometimes available as well. Note: These establishments are very local orientated so do not expect cushy surroundings: it's very much eat, pay, leave. Expect great chicken.
Ayur Restaurant, Hotel California, Lighthouse Beach Kovalam, Vizhinjam PO Thiruvanathapuram, 695527 Kerala, ☎ 9947359808. Ayur Restaurant at Hotel California offers great vegetarian food cooked fresh. It has an open kitchen concept, with frendly english speaking staff. Though vegetarian, the menu is extensive and the food is healthy, made with top quality ingredients. edit
The German Bakery - Go for the date shake and the excellent banana pancake. A full range of baked goods are available too, plus one of the best views in Kovalam. Easily the most popular place for breakfast on the main beach.
Bethel, (down the alleyway between Fusion and Swiss Cafe). - A good vegetarian restaurant in Kovalam. Friendly staff and comfortable, cozy, open-air seating with two levels. They serve delicious Keralan and other Indian foods, as well as a medium selection of (equally tasty) Continental and Chinese cuisine. The owner (who cooks there) was a chef in an upscale veg restaurant in Varkala for 8 years. Mains Rs. 50-110. edit
Fusion restaurant, Lighthouse Beach, ☎ 0471 2484153 (email@example.com). First floor restaurant on the beach front (recently moved to the end of the beach near the lighthouse) with beautiful ambiance and great food. Unique menu offers food from the East, the West and fusion of both.edit
Vedanta Wakeup! by Lighthouse Beach Kovalam, (Near Avaduthura Devi Temple, Temple Road, Hawa Beach, Kovalam, Vizhinjam Post Thiruvananthapuram – 695 521), ☎ +91 22 67471628, +910471-6050010, +91 0471-2484211 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . edit
Unwind Hotels, Lighthouse Beach (Enter through Malabar Cafe from the beach), ☎ 9986008636, . All Double Deluxe Rooms with AC and Non AC options,Room Service from Malabar Cafe,Inhouse Ayurvedic Rejuvenation and Treatment Centre,Activity Centre with Indoor Games and Pool Table.edit
Kovalam Homestay - Ganesh House, (it is 2 minutes walking distance from Samudra beach (Grow beach),and 15 minutes sea way walking distance from light house beach.), ☎ +91 9995012627,+91 9446 557372 (email@example.com), . Ganesh house is one of the family based home stay near Samudra Beach KovalamRs:950-2000. edit
Muringa Vila, (Located at Kovalam's Main Beach (or Leela Beach) right behind the Ganesh Temple.), ☎ 9656170759, . A small family run guest house with stylish apartments (some with kitchen) and The Little Shanti Coffee Shop, serving local and international foods on their sea- view terrace. All rooms with private bathrooms and sea facing balconies.edit
Chalet Resorts, Kovalam Beach (50 metres walk from the Eve’s beach, Lighthouse beach and Ashoka beach), ☎ +919847022037 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 12Noon; checkout: 11AM. Offers clean and cozy rooms.850-2000. edit
Hotel California, At Ayur Arya Ayurvedic centre, Lighthouse beach, Kovalam, ☎ +91-9947359808 ([email@example.com]), . checkin: 24 hrs; checkout: 24 hrs. Clean, spacious rooms with fan has an attached bathroom (shower, toilet) and a terrace with views of tropical garden. The Arya Ayurvedic centre also offers massages and ayurvedic treatment packages supervised by qualified doctors. The centre also has a vegetarian restaurant, Ayur, with open kitchen in the garden.Double room around Rs. 900/night.. edit
Beach Florra Inn, Kovalam Hotels (Beach Resort), Light House Beach, Kovalam (20 metres walk from the Light house along the tiled pedestrian pathway), ☎ 9895909494 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 12:00pm; checkout: 12:00pm. The hotel is perfect for holidays and beach vacations. It is located right on the beach front with beautiful view of the beach and the Light house offering simple, clean and cozy rooms with homely ambiance.1000-3500. (8.385505,76.979474)edit
Greenshore Apartments, Lighthouse Road (100 Metres West of lighthouse opposite Rockholm junction), ☎ 0091 471 2480106 (email@example.com), . * Green Valley Cottages, (firstname.lastname@example.org). Room service with good vegetarian restaurant right next door. Located next to the remnants of a former rice paddy field just off the beach.Rooms from Rs.500 per night. editRooms from Rs.500 per night. edit
Hotel Shirleys Beach, Temple road Kovalam (near avaduthura devi temple), ☎ +91 963 32 00 137, . A family run place. The rooms are spotless and well managed.They also conduct fixed departure tours which are so cheap and they also run their houseboat company in alleppey.its all under one roof!From Rs, 600/-. edit
Devi Beach Resort, Lighthouse beach Kovalam (Next to Spice Village restaurant), ☎ +91 0471 3191807 (email@example.com). a brand new hotel opend December 2011 with basic large rooms which are spotless, ideal for those with difficulties using stairs the hotel has 5 ground floor rooms and 5 first floor rooms ideally situated for the beach and overlooking paddy fields each room has western style en-suite shower room and private balconyfrom 2400INR. edit
Kovalam Beach Hotel (A Superior Heritage Boutique Hotel), ☎ +91 471 248 3200 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Arabian Sea View AC room from Rs. 3,000 onwards, very good guest satisfaction rating. edit
The Leela Kovalam (The Leela Kovalam), ☎ (+91) 9895758991 (email@example.com), . The Leela Kovalam-Beach View roomRs.8000 per person sharing a Beach View room. edit
Turtle on the beach is a new 4 star boutique luxury hotel.
Taj Green Cove Resort Located on one of India’s most popular beaches the property is spread across 10 acres of land, offering a breathtaking view of the backwater, lush landscapes, coconut palms, and unspoiled beaches. The resort is located on the most northern beach of Kovalam.
The Leela Kempinski is a 5 star hotel with a private beach. The Heritage wing houses the famous Halcyon castle, the honeymoon palace of Travancore Queens which costs almost thrice than other rooms. Almost all suites are sea facing, as sea surrounds all the three sides of the property.
Travancore Heritageis a seaside resort in Chowara near Kovalam. It is built with traditional Kerala style architecture in 15 acres of land, landscaped with coconut palms.
Varma Beach Resort & Cottage, Lighthouse Road, Kovalam, ☎ +91 471 2480478 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Varma Beach Cottage is located at Lighthouse Beach; Varma Beach Resort is located on top of a cliff behind the lighthouse. edit
The Leela Palace Kovalam, . Soothing décor, warm aesthetics, and graceful elegance. Natural richness in every amenity, every detail. Spoil yourself in Indian opulence found only at The Leela Kovalam. edit
Agastyaa Heritage Centre -http://www.unnidoc.com/ experienced and friendly staff. Treatments individualised for care of patients different health concerns.
The lighthouse beach (hawa beach) is the safest to Swim. The waves are gentle and there is not much depth in the ocean. The lifeguards are here to overlook the behavior of the waves and to alert the swimmers. They are not kidding, so watch out to their alerts.
Vizhinjam - Head down to the harbor at sunset for some spectacular shots of the area with the seaside Mosque in the background. The atmosphere is quite lively with fisherman heading to and from the sea. Note: Once the sun is down, it is probably best to head back to Kovalam unless you are with a guide. While hostility/violence to foreigners is VERY rare.
Poovar - You can take a scenic and serene 1 hour (round trip) boat ride from Poovar along the Neyyar River backwaters to reach the amazing Golden Sand Beach. Cost will be around Rs 1,500
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