Places to visit in Kovalam, South Kerala
Kovalam is undisputedly South Kerala's most popular tourist destination. The small town has a special place in Kerala's tourist circuit as it is synonymous with swaying palm trees and tranquil spotless beaches. The hippies discovered the beauty that Kovalam is back in the 1970s, and since then, tourism has never looked back. Significantly lesser-known than Goa, Kovalam has its own share of cafes, restaurants and hotels lined up across its shoreline. The beaches are calmer than those in Goa and thus offer a perfect opportunity to swim and surf. In this article, we take you through various things to do and places to visit in Kovalam.
Once a pretty fishing village with serene beaches, Kovalam today bustles with tourism. The town has been built in an old-fashioned unplanned way back from the beach. Due to this, the beach areas are super-crammed, and access to beach-side properties is via a maze of narrow lanes. Having spent three days circling this town on our two-wheeler, we are confident that this article will act as a complete guide for anyone who wishes to visit Kovalam.
BEST TIME TO VISIT KOVALAM:
Kovalam enjoys tropical weather throughout the year. The months between November to February are the best time to visit Kovalam as the temperature is moderate and conducive for beach hopping and sightseeing. March to May is the low-season time in Kovalam as it gets hotter and the best time to visit if you want to ditch the crowds. June to September is monsoon when the town has a different charm altogether with all the greenery and rain-washed glory.
HOW TO REACH KOVALAM:
Kovalam is just a stone's throw away from Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), the Kerala state's capital town. Hence, reaching Kovalam by covering the odd 20 kilometres southwards from Trivandrum has never been difficult.
The nearest airport to Kovalam is Trivandrum International airport (about 20 mins away).
The nearest railway station to Kovalam is Trivandrum central railway station (about 25 mins away).
From the airport or railway station in Trivandrum, you can quickly get taxis and auto-rickshaws for Kovalam. The drivers quote double the tariff. So, keep your bargain skills up. You can also enquire the closest bus stand and choose to take a bus. As for the journey, smooth, straight roads lead to Kovalam from Trivandrum, making the journey comfortable.
As per our usual standard, from Trivandrum airport, we went straight to a motorbike rental agency and rented a two-wheeler for the entire duration of our South Kerala trip. For travellers, who intend to change location every few days, this is our best advice – get yourself a two-wheeler or a self drive car. It saves a lot of internal transfer cost for sightseeing as well. We reached Kovalam in about 35 minutes riding our rented two-wheeler.
PLACES TO VISIT IN KOVALAM:
Though being a small town, Kovalam has many beaches dotted on its shoreline, each unique in its own way. For clarity on locations, let us begin by listing the Kovalam beaches starting from up north and slowly moving towards the south.
1. The Northern trio: Samudra beach, Ashok beach and Grove beach
Samudra beach is the northernmost beach of Kovalam and attached to the same banks as the Ashok beach. In fact, there's just this one stretch of beach, the north of which is called Samudra beach and the south is called Ashok beach. Both these beaches receive a lesser number of tourists than the other famous beaches in south Kovalam.
Samudra beach is a dedicated spot for the fishing business, and every morning, you will find local fishermen arranging their fishing nets and boats to leave on a fishing voyage. The beach shore is seldom seen during high tide, and the crashing waves directly hit the rock formations. It is the best beach in Kovalam to just lie down and relax to the sound of waves. You can even opt to swim, but don't venture too deep and stay away from the big rocks towards the end. A few sea-facing restaurants dot the Ashok beach's rear end, with Kerala Government's KTDC Samudra Hotel in the backdrop.
Grove Beach (also spelled Grow beach) is separated from the Ashok beach by a small peninsula of rocks that is easily walkable. In fact, the parking area for all these three beaches is the same, and you can just stroll peacefully from one coast to the other, not realising that you are on a different beach. There's a mosque right on the Grove beach, and this again is a fishermen beach. You will find yourself surrounded by plenty of local boatmen on this beach, coercing you to take a motor-boat ride where they promise you to show all the Kovalam beaches. They even offer parasailing and snorkelling packages.
2. The Southern trio: Kovalam beach, Hawa beach and Lighthouse beach
The southern trio beaches are separated from the northern trio beaches by a cliff that houses the 5-star hotel The Raviz and the Halcyon Castle, a family retreat built by the royal family. The Kerala government has now sold the castle to the Raviz group; hence only tourists staying in The Raviz have access to the castle.
Like the northern trio, the three beaches of the southern trio, namely Kovalam beach, Hawa beach and Lighthouse beach, are all located close to each other, and you can easily hop from one coast to the other. First things first, the approach road to all these beaches is narrow and extremely steep (70-degree angle; not exaggerating!). Hence, be really careful with your vehicles while driving down to these beaches. The lanes, as well as the shorelines, are filled with shops and cafes and restaurants and hotels and whatnot.
Kovalam beach is a crescent-shaped beach, again full of fishermen with their fishing boats lined on the shore and the boatmen haggling tourists by offering them a motor-boat ride.
A small stretch of rocks separates Kovalam beach and Hawa-Lighthouse beaches. Hawa beach and Lighthouse beach are a part of the same crescent shoreline. The northern part of the crescent is the Hawa beach, and the southern is the Lighthouse beach. The rocks that separate Kovalam beach from Hawa beach is called Edakallu rock garden, the sunset viewing point as per the Google maps. However, ironically this point does not give you a good sunset view.
Hawa beach and Lighthouse beach are relatively cleaner than the Kovalam beach. Nevertheless, they are just another crowded beaches with lots of people lazing on the sand or playing in the water and the vendors asking if we want a sunbed to lie down and relax. Psst! At the end of the Lighthouse beach is a cliff that houses the Vizhinjam Lighthouse. The deep red and white colour lighthouse stands tall in contrast to the deep blue sky as a backdrop. The Lighthouse beach can also be approached by climbing down the slope from the Vizhinjam Lighthouse. The below photograph is taken from the lighthouse end of the Lighthouse-Hawa beach with Edakallu rock garden towards the left end.
Note: The names' Northern trio' and 'Southern trio' are not the official names and have been given by us. You can visit all these six beaches in 2 hours unless you decide to participate in any water activities at any of these beaches.
3. The secret beach
Well, there's no name to this beach, and hardly any tourists visit it except the one's staying at Rockholm at the Lighthouse beach. So, we named it as a secret beach. However, we spoke to one local at the beach who declared its name to be 'Chairman' beach while others call it Rockholm beach. This beach lies a short stretch of shoreline that lies between the Lighthouse cliff and the cliff housing the Inspection Bungalow. Basically the hill with lighthouse separates Lighthouse beach and this secret beach.
The Secret beach is secluded and is only visited by locals in the evening to play football. There's no proper well-marked approach way to this beach. Rockholm at the Lighthouse beach has built its own path to this beach. The locals trail down a rocky hillock at the back of this beach. But, once you're at this beach, you mostly have the entire stretch to yourself. The beach is clean, and the sea is shallow and calm - excellent for swimming. The sunsets are amazing too, and you can click the lighthouse with the setting sun, something you cannot do from Lighthouse or Kovalam beach. We watched all our sunsets in Kovalam from here.
Tip: Wait till it is slightly dark, and the beam of the light from the lighthouse shines through.
4. Chowara beach
Chowara beach is the southernmost beach of Kovalam. It is located about 10 kilometres away from the popular Lighthouse beach. There are several accommodation options at Chowara beach, and many others are coming up. You could book one of these if you have already seen the northern beaches on a previous trip to Kovalam and wish to spend some peaceful time away from the tourist-infested southern trio beaches. Luxurious wellness retreats are located at Chowara beach, and hence it is popular amongst foreigners, who spend 14 to 28 days at the retreats to receive Ayurvedic treatments.
Chowara is basically a fishing village that is now slowly developing into a major tourist destination in Kovalam. It is also popular amongst religious visitors as a famous temple (Aazhimala temple), and a church (Analothbhava Matha church) is located right at the beach. The beach is sheltered by numerous coconut trees that make it stand out from the other beaches in Kovalam. The long stretch of beach is broad, clean and receives gentle waves that make it ideal for swimming and sunbathing.
Non-beach places to visit in Kovalam
1. Vizhinjam Lighthouse
If there's one thing that you could visit in Kovalam, visit the Vizhinjam Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located on the top of a cliff right beside the Lighthouse beach. The cylindrical red and white tower of the lighthouse can be seen from far off places in Kovalam. The lighthouse, which is still functional, was built in the year 1972. Tourists are allowed to climb to the top of the lighthouse, which is 118 feet tall, and enjoy the panoramic view of the Arabian sea, the nearby beaches and the town of Kovalam from atop. A lift is installed in the lighthouse that goes up to a certain level, after which you will have to climb the stairs.
The view from the top is stunning. You can see the vast ocean in the front, Kovalam beach to the right, and the secret beach, the mosque and the Vizhinjam harbour to the left. The road leading to the lighthouse is narrow; however, you can drive a four-wheeler right up to the entrance. The lighthouse in itself is spectacular, especially during the night when the distinctive light beam spreads afar at regular intervals.
Due to the 2020 pandemic, the lighthouse was closed for tourists on our visit. Nevertheless, we admired it from afar and clicked a lot of photographs. We also came to know that a musical fountain show is organised on some days during the evening at the lighthouse, which we are sure must be fantastic.
Entrance fee to the Vizhinjam lighthouse – INR 20 per adult, INR 10 per child, INR 50 for foreigners
Vizhinjam lighthouse timings – 10 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM
Note: Vizhinjam lighthouse is closed on Mondays
2. Vizhinjam harbour
Vizhinjam harbour is a vital fishing harbour located 5 kilometres south of the Lighthouse beach. If you have been to Marine Drive in Mumbai, you know how it will feel being at the Vizhinjam harbour. The harbour is a key point in connecting the shipping business between India and the Middle East. You will find several big and medium-sized ships anchored here. A port is also being built near the harbour by Adani Group.
Vizhinjam harbour is an excellent sunset destination. There's even a viewpoint called Evening Park that has lots of seating area installed by the government for visitors to watch the sunset. We also felt that the harbour is a good sunrise point as well. The best part is that it is never crowded so you can have a peaceful time here, unlike the Southern trio beaches. We just felt that the place needed some cleanliness and wasn't very well maintained. But full marks for the location and views.
3. Aazhimala Siva temple
Aazhimala Siva temple is located at the northern end of the Chowara beach in Kovalam. It is popular amongst Shiva devotees who flock to the temple from far and near. Even if you are not a religious person, we would highly recommend visiting the temple, for it's located right on the beach and has a 58-feet tall statue of Lord Gangadhareshwara (a form of Lord Shiva) with the Arabian Sea in the background. The Aazhimala Siva temple is the only place in Kerala where the sea is not eating into the coast but is actually receding.
Just a 15-minute visit to the Aazhimala Siva temple will make you feel peaceful and rejuvenated. The constant sound of the waves crashing the shore and the utter silence in the temple has such unique power to calm your senses. This temple is best visited in the morning (Kovalam becomes really hot after 10 AM) or evening. Even if the temple is closed during your visit, you will be able to enter the Siva statue premises, as there is another entrance to visit only the statue. You can combine the visit to the Aazhimala Siva temple along with the Chowara beach.
Aazhimala Siva temple timings - 5:30 AM to 11 PM and 5 PM to 8 PM
Other places to visit in Kovalam
All the above-mentioned sightseeing places can be covered in a 2-3 day visit to Kovalam. But it is always better if you could spend more time. If you are someone who is on an extended stay in this town, we also recommend visiting the picturesque Juma Masjid mosque near the Vizhinjam harbour, the Vizhinjam harbour statue, which is a look-alike of the Christ the Redeemer, the Marine Aquarium and the Rock-cut cave temple (that again are very popular).
Spend your mornings visiting the in-land destinations and evenings at the beaches, watching the beautiful sunset from various viewpoints. Afternoons can be spent indoors getting an Ayurvedic spa treatment or simply relaxing on a hammock under the coconut trees' shade. You can even take surfing class offered by the surfing school at Kovalam beach.
Here is a map of places to visit in Kovalam that will give you a better idea -
WHERE TO STAY IN KOVALAM:
The town of Kovalam brims with hotels and resorts. You can find accommodations suiting all budgets; however, they tend to fluctuate between seasons. But why stay away from the beach in this beach town. The beach-side resorts and hotels are also aplenty, and it can get really confusing when it comes to selection.
We highly recommend staying at Rockholm at the Lighthouse beach near the Vizhinjam Lighthouse. What we loved about this luxurious property is that it is located just a stone's throw away from the happening (and crowded) areas of Kovalam (Read: Kovalam beach and Lighthouse beach). Yet, it is tucked in a cosy peaceful corner beside the lighthouse with access to a private beach. And we can bet that no other property in Kovalam can offer the sea views that Rockholm at the Lighthouse beach provides. All their rooms are sea-facing and provide an excellent view of the blue waters of the Arabian sea. You can literally spend your entire time in the balconies that the property boasts of. More about it in our upcoming blog!
AYURVEDA IN KOVALAM:
Innumerous Ayurveda centres mushroom around the Kovalam beaches offering Ayurveda treatments and cure for all illnesses in a perfect holiday setting. Well, Ayurveda is Kerala's biggest tourist attraction, especially for foreign tourists. However, we suggest that you be on your guard and do not falls for spurious Ayurveda centres. Opt for the ones run by qualified physicians or run by reputed practitioners. Enquire everything before you go for treatment. The authentic centres use genuine Ayurvedic massage oils, do not reuse the leftover oil on other customers, have a certified masseuse (always a female masseuse for women and a male masseuse for men), and have a dedicated room and massage table for the treatment. As mentioned earlier
WHERE TO EAT IN KOVALAM:
All the hotels and resorts have their own restaurants that offer good Kerala food, particularly seafood. However, there are lots of independent restaurants lining the Lighthouse beach and Kovalam beach to interest you in alternative cuisines if you want a change. There's a Swiss Café serving Swiss specialities and a German Bakery known for its coffee, cakes and other snacks.
We hope this article answers all your questions about planning your own trip to Kovalam. If you have already been to Kovalam and think that we missed out on some critical information or a place to visit, please let us know in the comment section below.
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