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Lines of men and boys stretch from the sea to the shore, each holding tightly to a section of rope. Grunting, chanting, they pull backwards, together, until finally the net comes into view. This is early morning, Kovalam beach.
If you’re a morning person, it’s an experience not to be missed. In fact, you can have a go yourself – if you're brave enough. Step forward and let the local fishermen welcome you into their throng to drag in the catch – but beware, you will get wet. And you’ll definitely feel those muscles the next day.
Kovalam is almost at India’s most southern point, and the former fishing village is now one of Kerala’s most popular beach resorts. But at the same time it's a really cool beach (well, technically, there are three – Lighthouse, Samudra and Hawah). It has that laid-back, traveller vibe, thanks to the hippies who put it on the map back in the 70s. Less touristy than Goa, and a bit more ‘real India’.
If you’ve been travelling around a bit, a tour of Kovalam is just the thing for some R&R. Little restaurants and hotels are dotted along Lighthouse Beach, the most popular of the three. In the evening, wander along the shore and gaze at the arrays of shiny, plump fish displayed on wooden tables, until you find the nicest looking catch and pull up a chair.
It’s the perfect place for a sundowner – but to be honest, watching a sunset over the sea is just as awesome from a plastic chair on the beach as it is from a posh hotel. Only the drinks might be better.
If you’re looking for wild nightlife, this is not the place to come – most restaurants are closed by 11pm, when everything winds down for the night. Think slow and relaxed. And this is just what you’ll need after a few days of city sightseeing.
One of the best places to go in Kovalam is Lighthouse Beach. As its name suggests, there’s a glorious red-and-white-striped lighthouse rising from the rocks. It makes a great picture postcard, and you’ll get a brilliant view of Kovalam from it. There’s also an observation platform – you can see Poovar in one direction and the Beemapalli mosque in the other.
The waves can be quite strong here, and the sea does get rough during the monsoon season, during which swimming is often off-limits. But there’s always the option of the hotel pool. On calmer days, the sea is a glorious respite from the heat, which can get quite intense, as Kovalam is so close to the equator.
Other must-see Kovalam attractions include Samudra Beach – a serene stretch of coast – and Hawah Beach, backed by a stack of palm groves.
Quick trips can be organised into Trivandrum by crowded bus or taxi – stop off and enjoy a masala dosa and chai, or wander around Chalai bazaar and try your hand at bartering.
One must-do during your Kovalam tour is to take a trip around the backwaters by boat – try Poovar – then stop off and enjoy a meal with some locals on the riverbank. Eating out of a banana leaf really is the best way to avoid the washing up. A trip to see the snap-worthy tea plantations at Ponmundi is well worth it, too.
Watching agile men shimmying up palms to cut down ripe coconuts, fully-clothed adults cooling down in the sea and groups of local children having a kickabout on the beach will be your abiding memories of Kovalam. Have a read of our blogs below to find out more about this chilled-out place.
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Dreamy mountain vistas and palm-fringed beaches aside, India’s food was made for the camera lens.
A cycling tour allows you to soak up the sights at your own pace and really immerse yourself in a destination.
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