Kovalam Tourism, Kovalam Trivandrum
Kovalam Beach was the beach resort of the Maharaja's of Travancore. Western tourists discovered its charm in the 1960s and 1970s when like Goa. Soon it became a hippy hang-out and started attracting backpackers and package holiday makers.
Today, Kovalam Beach is one of Kerala's most popular tourist destination. It is rated among India's most visited beach resorts.
Kovalam consists of four distinct coves, each with markedly different characters.
Lighthouse Beach is the largest and most developed. This is where most foreign tourists congregate. It takes about five minutes to walk from one end of the bay to the other. You can walk along the sand or on the paved esplanade which fronts a long arc of hotels, guesthouses, handicraft shops and restaurants.
The red-and-white-striped lighthouse on the promontory at the southern end of the beach opens for visitors every afternoon. You can scale the 142 spiral steps and twelve ladder rungs to the observation platform. On clear days, views extend over the beach as far as Beemapalli mosque in one direction and south to Poovar in the other.
South of the lighthouse, a tiny white-sand cove opens into a much larger beach, overlooked by a scattering of upmarket hotels. It can be accessed via the lane that peels off Lighthouse Road before Varma's Beach Resort. Many tourists mistakenly believe this is a private area, but it isn't.
Hawha Beach (Eve's Beach)
Heading in the opposite direction takes you to reach Hawha Beach (aka Eve's Beach) - almost a mirror image of busier neighbour Lighthouse Beach. The beach is backed for most of its length by empty palm groves. In the morning before the sun-worshippers arrive, it functions primarily as a base for local fishermen. You can see them with hand-haul their massive nets through the shallows, singing and chanting as they coil the endless piles of the rope.
North of the next headland, Kovalam Beach is dominated by the angular chalets of the five-star Leela above it. Home to a small mosque, the little cove is dominated by coach-loads of excited Kerala day-trippers on weekends. To get there from Kovalam Trivandrum follow the road downhill past the bus terminus.
A short walk further north, Samudra Beach was until recently a European package tourist stronghold. The large resorts Kovalam clustered just beyond it, on the far side of a low, rocky headland. Nowadays the beach host mainly metropolitan Indian and Russian holidaymakers.
Beaches North of Kovalam
The hectic National Highway connecting Kovalam and Trivandrum gives an unrepresentative impression of the belt running north of Samudra Beach. Immediately west of the road, hidden from the traffic by dense palm groves, lies a string of typically Kerala fishing villages, opening on to undeveloped Pozhikkara Beach.
The area can be easily reached on foot from Kovalam. Head north from Samudara Beach along near-deserted sands for forty to fifty minutes until they are broken by salt-water lagoon at Pachaloor, a quite hamlet sandwiched behind the sea and highway.
Beaches South of Kovalam Beach
Golden-sand beaches fringe the shore stretching south from Vizhinjam, interrupted only by the occasional rock outcrop and tidal estuary. This dramatic coastline, with its backdrop of thick coconut plantations, can appear peaceful compared with Kovalam. But it is actually one of the most densely populated corners of the state.
Fishing villages, dominated by outsized churches and garishly painted Hindu temples, line the entire 25 km of road that winds south along the shoreline. In the last decade, virtually every metre of land backing the prettiest stretches of coast has been bought up and built on.
Nellikunnu and Pulinkudi
Five kilometres south of Kovalam, at Nellikunnu and neighbouring Pulinkudi, low, terraced cliffs enfold a sequence of beautiful palm-backed coves. Each of these coves is overlooked by its own luxury resort complex. Nearly all of them follow the same formula, focusing on ayurveda panchkarma treatments, with accommodation provided in individual thatched, air-conditioned "cottages" or antique wooden houses relocated from Kerala villages.
It is worth renting a scooter and exploring the back lanes and secluded beaches of this distinctive area which part of Kovalam tourism. The place gives us a dream like mix undeveloped Malayali fishing villages and fine wellness retreats. One of the region's most memorable views can be enjoyed just north of Chowara village, 8 km south of Kovalam.
You can see an oddly proportioned kneeling Christ statue surveys the sands from atop a rocky cliff. Beyond it, an endless sandy beach yawns south to the horizon, scattered with hundreds of wooden boats.
Chowara Beach peters out 12km further south at Poovar, where the Neyyar River flows into the sea. Before some cataclysmic event threw up a sandbar here, a harbour used to overlook the river mouth. Some historians claim it may have been the port Orphyr- famous in ancient world as a source of spices, slaves and gemstones.
The backwaters behind the sandbar today shelter a cluster of luxury hideaways. It is only reachable by boat, and these make comfortable bases for forays beyond the tourist belt at the southern tip of Kerala. Non-guests may travel out to them, but will have to pay for the transfer.