Kovalam ranks among the top 5 beach destinations of India. Kovalam has been one of the most popular beaches of India from the early seventies with the arrivals of the masses of hippies and is the first topless beach of India. Kovalam first shot into fame during 1970s, when the town witnessed a heavy influx of hippies and since then, it became popular among international tourists. It still ranks high among international tourists who arrives mostly from Europe and Israel. Its is one of the very few tourism destination of India where, tourist laden chartered flights from European countries lands. Thus it will not be an exaggeration to say that Kovalam is one of the most preferred international tourist hot spot of India.
Where is Kovalam?
The beach town of Kovalam is situated by the Arabian Sea in the Indian state of Kerala. The state capital, Thiruvananthapuram is just about 15 Km from the Kovalam beach.
Kovalam, with its crescent shaped beach is undoubtedly the most popular tourist spot of “God’s own country”, Kerala. white and golden sand beaches, crystal clear blue water of the Arabian Sea, gentle waves, endless hours of sunshine, swaying coconut palms along the fringe and ample opportunity of relaxation has given Kovalam such immense popularity among tourists from around the world. It is so popular among international tourists that you will always find white skinned foreigners on the beaches of Kovalam, taking sun bath or ayurvedic messages. Close proximity of Kovalam from state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, which has an international airport gives Kovalam that added advantage for which it is so popular among foreign tourists.
In recent time Kovalam has transformed itself into an acclaimed recuperation and regeneration beach- resort providing a wide variety of Ayurvedic treatments for tourists. A large number of Ayurvedic Salons and Yoga Resorts offers a large gamut of Ayurvedic therapeutic packages, meditation and herbal body toning programmes aimed at rejuvenating naturally. These resorts are now the talking point of Kovalam, attracting tourists from around the world.
Kovalam features three curve-shaped beaches separated by rocky outcroppings in its 17 Km long coastline. These three beaches alienated by stony outcroppings, together form the famous crescent of the Kovalam beach giving it a rare beauty. All the beaches have steep coconut-palm fringed highlands and shining sand.
The southernmost of the three beaches, which is also the largest and the most popular is the Lighthouse beach. The lighthouse beach got its name due to the presence of a 35 meter high light house, adjacent to the beach atop hillock Kurumkal. Though tourists are not allowed to go inside the lighthouse, the memorials of Ayyanappilla Asan and Ayyippilla Asan around the light house are worth a visit. This lighthouse is a local landmark and is one of the oldest lighthouses of Kerala, that guides ships to the nearby Vizhnjam port. Its intermittent beams at night render the beach with an unearthly charm and is a great place to enjoy a quiet evening, with your loved one. The beach is a long sandy strip, safe guarded by life guards who keep a constant vigil along the shore. The leisure options at this beach are plenty and diverse, including Sunbathing, Swimming, Herbal body toning massages and Catamaran cruising. Most of the foreigner’s stay in this Lighthouse Beach, which is the most developed of all the three beaches.
The second largest of the three beaches is Hawah Beach, also called the Eve’s beach. It takes less than five minutes to walk from Lighthouse Beach to the Hawah Beach. It is extremely popular among European women, who throng this beach topless to have a coppery tan on their skin. It was the first topless beach in India. Though topless bathing is banned now except in private beaches, owned by resorts, but you can still find topless or bikini-clad white blond girls on the Hawah beach. In spite of the ban on topless sunbathing, its quite a common sight here and is not only tolerated but well appreciated by the local administration as well. Even naked women taking a sunbath is not a rarity here. With a high rocky headland and a calm bay of blue waters, Hawah beach seems to be a rare painting on a moonlit night, straight from the land of the fairies. The presence of foreign tourists, mostly women, adds to its charm and beauty of the Hawah beach. Life on the beach begins late in the day and carries on well into the night.
The northernmost of the three beaches of Kovalam is the Samudra beach. It is a relatively more secluded and less crowded of the three beaches. You will not find many tourists thronging here. The Hawah beach has steep palm covered headlands, shallow waters stretching for hundreds of meters ideal for swimming and slight blackish sands. The sight of the waves lashing on the rocky headland and fishing vessels & ships on the horizon is simply awesome. Though you will find foreign travelers here as well, but this beach is more popular among Indian tourists, mostly honeymooning couples.
Sightseeing in and around Kovalam
The beauty of Kovalam lies in its crescent shaped curved beaches with rocky outcroppings. Seen mainly as a leisure spot for tourists from around the world, Kovalam does have a few sightseeing destinations as well, that are worthy of visits.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple – Located in the heart of the state capital of Kerala at a distance of about of 17 Km from Kovalam is the shrine of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. This ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is not only a important Hindu pilgrimage destination, but is also a popular tourists destination as well. It is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples or Divya Desams in India and is one of the richest temple of India as far as its assets are concerned. This temple of Lord Vishnu is is currently run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore and its present estimated value is estimated to be in excess of five lakh crores of rupees.
The temple is a blend of the Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture. In the sanctum sanctorum, Sri Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha, having five inward facing hoods. The Lord’s right hand is placed over a Shiva lingam. Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi the Goddess of Earth, two consorts of Vishnu are by his side. Brahma emerges on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of the Lord. The deity is made from 12,000 saligramams, brought from the banks of the Gandaki River in Nepal. The deity of Sri Padmanabha is covered with, “Katusarkara yogam”, a special ayurvedic mix, which forms a plaster that keeps the deity clean.The main idol, which is about 18 ft long, can be viewed through three different doors. The head and chest are seen through the first door; while the hands can be sighted through the second door and the feet through the third door.
Only those who profess the Hindu faith are permitted entry to the temple. Devotees have to strictly follow the dress code. Men need to wear mundu or dhoti (worn around the waist and going down up to the heels) and should not wear shirts of any kind. Women need to wear sari, mundum neriyathum (set-mundu), skirt and blouse, or half sari. Dhotis are available for rent at the temple entrance. Nowadays temple authorities allow wearing of dhotis over pants or churidhar to avoid inconvenience to the devotees.
Akkulam – Situated at a distance of about 24 Km from Kovalam, Akkulam is a backwater destination and a beautiful picnic spot. The spot is developed on the banks of Akkulam Lake, which is an extension of the Veli Lake. Akkulam is dotted with fish ponds, wade pools and beautiful landscaped gardens. The calm and serene natural beauty of the place coupled with a sprawling children’s park with several new rides, snacks bar, paddle pool, musical fountain and a swimming pool equipped with glider and other playing facilities has transformed this place into a popular sightseeing destination for tourists and a major picnic spot for locals. The boat club at Akkulam is a major point of attraction for water sports enthusiasts operating speed, safari, pedal and row boats on Akkulam Lake. A traditional style Kettuvallam(house boat) is also available for overnight stay.
Napier Museum & Art Gallery – Situated in the heart of the city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) at a distance of about 18 Km from Kovalam is the famous Napier Museum & Art Gallery. Built in the latar half of the 19th century, this Indo-Saracenic architectural masterpiece with with Gothic roof and minarets is a popular sightseeing spot. Interestingly, the museum building sports a rare combination of Kerala, Mughal, Chinese, and Italian architectural styles. This exceptional piece of architecture set amidst green surroundings and platonic gardens with natural air conditioning system showcases Kerala’s rich cultural heritage.
The museum is a treasure house of a rare collection of archaeological and historic artifacts, ancient ornaments, bronze idols, ivory carvings and a chariot as well. The Sree Chitra Art Gallery inside the Napier Museum features a rare collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, Roerich, and some fascinating works from the Rajput, Mughal, and Tanjore schools of painting.
Another attraction at the museum is the oriental collection, which comprises of paintings from Japan, China, Bali, and Tibet. This collection is a treat to your eyes and acknowledges the art and culture of these countries.
Tourists visiting Napier Museum must spere at least half a day to have a real taste of the richness of Kerala’s culture. The museum can be visited on all days from 1000 – 1645 hrs. However the museum remains closed on Mondays, Wednesday forenoons, January 26th, August 15th, Thiruvonam and Mahanavami.
Ponmudi – At an average altitude of 1100 mt. above sea level, Ponmudi is a popular hill station of Kerala. This awe-inspiring hill station, located at a distance of about 67 Km from Kovalam, is an ideal weekend destination. Though this splendidly beautiful hill resort can be visited on a day tour from Kovalam, but it would be a great idea to stay here overnight and enjoy its scenic splendor and natural beauty. The fact that Ponmudi being a part of the Western Ghats mountain range that runs parallel to the Arabian Sea, makes it one of the very few hill resorts that lies close to the sea.
Ponmudi is connected to Trivandrum by a narrow winding road having 22 hairpin curves, offering unique scenic views and making the journey a thrilling experience. The long and winding hairpin curves make the trip to Ponmudi an unforgettable experience. The hill resort of Ponmudi is blessed with salubrious greenery and the place has many wonders in store for travelers and nature lovers. Those who have their spirits for adventure in place can indulge in trekking and hiking. The hilly region is also occupied by spice and tea plantations and is dotted with numerous waterfalls, view points and small rivulets. An ideal hill station for long walks and treks. Ponmudi is the home of many beautiful mountain flowers and exotic butterflies as well.
The sightseeing options in this hill resort are numerous including valleys, lakes and plantations. The chief attractions of Ponmudi are the Golden Valley, Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, Echo Point and the Mini Zoo. Agasthyarkoodam, one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats, attracts tourists, hikers and trekkers alike. Meenmutty Falls is yet another appealing spot in the area.
Varkala – It is another sea side resort of Kerala at a distance of about 37 Km from Kovalam. This little known offbeat beach resort is fast gaining popularity because of its secludedness and auyrvedic therapies. To know about Varkala in details, click here
How to reach Kovalam?
By Air –Trivandrum International Airport is located in Thiruvananthapuram at a distance of only 13 Km from the tranquil Kovalam beach. This international airport is the second busiest airport of Kerala and has three terminals. Terminal 1 and 2 serving solely domestic flights, whereas, Terminal 3 serving international flights. A prepaid taxi is perhaps the best way out of the airport to the Kovalam beach. Charges could range anywhere around Rs 350. Private cabs may charge less but it’s hard to get the right deal. Auto rickshaws at the exit may be another option. For budget travellers, who are not in a position to afford much can buy an easy ride to Kovalam via the swanky new shuttles launched by KSRTC.
By Rail – Trivandrum Central (Thiruvananthapuram) Railway Station at a distance of about 15 Km is the nearest rail head of the exotic beaches of Kovalam. Well laid network of trains connects Thiruvananthapuram to various Indian cities, like Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati and others. From the railway station you will find taxis, buses and autos to reach Kovalam.
By Road – A good network of good conditioned roads connect Kovalam with several tourist destinations within Kerala and several other South Indian states of Karnataka, Tamilnadu and even Andhra Prdesh. State buses and Inter State buses can also be availed to reach Kovalam.
Where to stay at Kovalam?
Kovalam is indeed a tourist’s paradise in every respect. May it be its natural and picture perfect beauty, or its varied leisure options, or fun activities, or adventure sports activities or even staying options to suite every kind of travelers. From international foreign tourists to domestic budget travelers, Kovalam has staying options for all. Only a very few of the innumerable hotels and resorts of Kovalam are mentioned here. Apart from those listed below, there are many good hotels and resorts available for accommodations here.
The Leela – This exclusive luxurious hotel set on a cliff-top overlooking the pristine beaches of Kovalam is one of the top ten hotels of Kovalam. The resort is known for its world class dining, seamless service, palatial accommodations, soothing decor, warm aesthetics, and graceful elegance. And, of course, nobody understands opulence and unstinting luxury quite like The Leela. With a wide variety of luxurious rooms and suites to suit varied tastes and needs, The Leela is one of the best places to be in Kovalam.
For booking, contact at – 0471 – 3051234. To know more about Hotel Leela and avail its online booking facility, log on to its website at http://www.theleela.com/locations/kovalam
Chalet Hotel and Resort – This is another good budget staying option to enjoy the serene beauty of Kovalam. This resort is on the picture perfect beach of Kovalam itself. The hotel offers 15 Deluxe twin bedded rooms (A/C and Non A/C). All the rooms are facing the sea with a view of lovely swaying Coconut trees. All rooms have their own private sun view balcony and are with the best of modern comforts for relaxation.
For booking, contact at – 09847022037, 0471-2481343 / 2481344.
To know more about this hotel and avail its online booking facility, log on to the hotel’s website at: http://www.chaletresorts.chobs.in/index.aspx#sgnpnl
Hawah Beach Resort – Located on the famous Hawah beach of Kovalam, this splendid resort is synonymous with hospitality. Being situated on the golden sands of the beach the resort is indeed a nice place to enjoy the beauty of the beach and the sea.With uninterrupted views, enjoy the sea breeze and spectacular vision of the sun setting over the sea from the spacious private balconies of the rooms. Well furnished rooms with locally carved furniture and modern amenities makes Hawah Beach Resort a very popular destination for accommodation.
For booking, contact at – 09895588056, 0471 – 2481951 / 2482026.
Hotel Sea View Palace – Situated on the popular Lighthouse beach of Kovalam, Hotel Sea View Palace is all set to make your vacation memorable with a touch of homely stay right on the beach front. Considered as one among the top 5 budget accommodations for all seasons at Kovalam, Hotel Sea View Palace is the ideal place to be in for that illusive peace of mind and tranquility. Moreover you have the option of relaxing on white sandy shores with coconut trees and refreshing tropical breeze. The skilled staff here serves you with grace and warm hospitality to make your stay a memorable experience. With 26 well furnished rooms on three floors and the sea facing Santana restaurant at the beach front in the traditional Kerala hut style is all set to make your staying here a memorable experience to cherish lifelong.
For booking this hotel, contact at – 09895909494. For online query and booking, log on to: http://seaviewpalace.in/.
Some of the prominent star category hotels and resorts of Kovalam includes: (i) Kerala Tourism Development Corporation run, Hotel Samudra (contact phone number – 0471-2480089, 2481412). For online booking and query, log on to: http://www.samudrakovalam.com/. (ii) Turtle on the Beach (contact phone number – 0471-2514000). For online booking related queries, log on to: http://www.turtleonthebeach.com/. (iii) Taj Green Cove Resort (contact phone number – 0471-2561000, 2454008, 2335444). For booking related queries, log on to: http://www.kovalam.com/taj-green-cove-resort-kovalam-kerala-india.html