Kovalam beach resort has a low-key charm that makes it a nice little spot to kick back and enjoy the traditional pleasures of the beach. Kovalam's reputation as some sort of overdeveloped Costa del Kerala is exaggerated.
Admittedly, Kovalam beach resort is no longer the quiet fishing village that it once was, but traces of that time remain. The daily ritual of the morning catch is still going strong. The fact that it is still a working village gives Kovalam its character. It separates Kovalam from the more touristy resorts on India's west coast, such as Baga and Calangute in Goa.
Things to See and Do
Hotels, eateries and shops line Kovalam's coastline, and the promenade (which might be too grand a word for the ramshackle strip of concrete that runs along the beach) has a pleasant bustle to it, thronging in high season with visitors and hawkers. But everything happens in an enjoyably unpretentious way.
The narrow networks of pathways that connect the beach area with much of the accommodation a little further back are muddy and unlit. Ambling along them with your torch you certainly won't feel like you're in a nightmare of overdevelopment and commercialism.
Aside from sand-based activities, there's not a whole lot to actually do in the resort. Kerala Kovalam tours are more about enjoying the laid-back Indian beach vibe and eating, drinking and shopping in an exotic location while having all the amenities you need at hand.
One positive side of the town's 'commercialisation' is that if you want to spend western cash, top quality accommodation and meals are at hand. If you really take exception to a touristy ambience, just try to schedule your trips slightly outside peak season, when more of Kovalam's tradition as a simple fishing village is evident to the visitor.
Whether you like your beach lively or lonely, there's stretch of sand in Kovalam in India to suit.
The resort's southernmost one is called Lighthouse Beach for obvious reasons: the 35m (115ft)-high construction on top of Kurumkal hillock. It is this crescent-shaped beach that attracts the most tourists, probably because of its aesthetic appeal, but it also boasts the most facilities.
The cove is not entirely given over to leisure and recreation; you will see fishermen hauling that night's dinner out of the sea - one of Kovalam's more picturesque images. Lifeguards operate here and for good reason; tides can result in dangerous currents, so take care when swimming.
Moving northwards, the next cove is Hawah Beach (Eve's Beach) that sits a rocky outcrop way from Lighthouse. Its name is said to come from the topless women who used to sunbathe there, and the place was reputedly India's fist topless beach.
The practice is now banned, apart from where the coastline is privately owned by a hotel. But the lack of flesh on display now doesn't seem to have dented Hawah's allure, and it can still get fairly crowded in high season.
North of the next headland, Kovalam Beach is dominated by the angular chalets of the five-star Kovalam beach hotel Leela above it. The little cove is dominated by coach-loads of excited Kerala day-trippers on weekends. To get there from Kovalam follow the road downhill past the bus terminus.
Keep going north, over the hill, to get to Samudra Beach, cut off from the rest of the shoreline by headland. If you're after sand-based solitude, it's worth the trek. Secluded and serene, the few people you find here are more likely to be catching fish than rays in this part of Kovalam beach resort.
Towards the North and South of Kovalam
It is here to the north and also to the south of the lighthouse, the coastal India's 'proper" can be found, although some of it has been designated private beach for a hotel.
The hardcore 'getting away from it all' brigade could also head 2 km south of Kovalam beach resort to the workaday port of Vizhinjam, famous for its rock-cut temples and sculptures. Throughout the area the sand can be black in parts, owing to its mineral make-up.
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