The small fishing village of Kovalam in Kerala, off the Arabian Sea, is also among the state’s best-known beach destinations. The pristine spectacular beauty of the area inspired Travancore’s Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi to use Kovalam as the site for her beach resort Halcyon Castle in the 1930s. But the Kovalam Beach was finally put on the tourist map when it became a part of the Hippie trail in the 70s, connecting India to Sri Lanka. Today, it remains a scenic location that rejuvenates Indian and international travellers, as they seek out Kerala’s many famed Ayurvedic therapies.
The beach is not a continuous stretch, but in fact consists of three shores areas—the Lighthouse Beach, the Hawah Beach, and the Samudra Beach. While the first of these locations gets its name from the Vizhinjam Lighthouse that towers over the landscape, it is rumoured that Hawah Beach or Eve Beach was so christened because of the many topless sunbathers who flocked to its shores. All the three beaches converge at Kovalam’s famous crescent, where the beach never ceases to live up to its name, which means a grove of coconut trees. For as far as the eye can see, coconut trees stretch across Kovalam’s beaches, framed against the sea, sand, and sky.
WHAT TO SEE
While the village is best known for its world-famous beach, there is more to Kovalam as well. History, religion and culture meet on its shores, which remain an unspoiled celebration of Kerala’s natural beauty.
Lakes, rivers, piers, and dams: Both the Vellayani Lake and the Valiyathura Pier are the sites to visit for stunning sunsets. The latter is also where you can best experience Kerala’s fabled catamaran culture, made famous in tourist literature. But manmade structures like Neyyar Dam and Aruvikkara Dam are magnificent awe-inspiring locations too. No visit to Kovalam is complete without a visit to these dramatic structures that are an integral part of modern Kovalam.
Halcyon Castle: Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s beach resort of 1932 has now been converted into a luxury hotel. But it remains a poignant reminder of how European architecture styles were adopted by the Maharajahs of Travancore for hundreds of years in their ancient courts.
Kovalam Art Gallery: Just off Hawah Beach, the Kovalam Art Gallery pays homage to Kerala’s legendary tradition of art and culture. This is epitomized in the Raja Ravi Varma paintings displayed in the gallery, which also boasts of collections from world-renowned artists such as Nicolas Roerich and Svetlova, whose work was also strongly influenced by India.
Dravidian temple art: The temple art of this region is at least a century old. While the 100-year-old Shri Padmanabhswamy Temple stands out as an exemplary example of Dravidian temple art, the Thiruvallam Parasurama Temple has a history that goes back to the twelfth century and is a protected architectural site. The still unfinished eighteenth-century Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Temples, which you may stumble upon close to the Vizhinjam Village are India’s smallest rock shrines.
WHAT TO DO
Kovalam is where you spend time at the beach—sunbathing, surfing or engaging in other beach-related activities. But you could add another dimension to your visit with a day at the fishing village of Vizhinjam, a visit to the art gallery, or exploring the region’s temple art. You could also immerse yourself in the state’s age-old ayurvedic practices.
Our tip: If you enjoy surfing, it’s a good idea to visit Kovalam during the National surfing contest. The event is usually held in March.
What to eat: The one cuisine item you must try on any visit to Kerala is its diverse, unique preparations of fish. For vegetarians, it is the best place to explore the Malayalee art of making avial. Only in this part of the country will you find a generous sprinkling of coconut over most vegetarian dishes. Like in the rest of India, a thali is a good option for those who want to sample a mix of the state’s offerings. Wash it all down, with one of the many varieties of Kerala payasam available here. They make the best desserts.
What to buy: Oils and spices are the things to buy at Kovalam. Oils and remedies drawn from the state’s rich Ayurvedic tradition are renowned throughout Kerala, but especially in Kovalam. Eucalyptus oil is a useful takeaway. But if you want something representative of the state’s culture, a Kerala lamp is a good idea. When it comes to clothes, watch out for the distinctive Kerala sari.
Getting around: The easiest way to get around Kovalam is to hire a cab for a day. Another more adventurous and less expensive mode of transport is the humble autorickshaw. But be prepared to haggle long and hard to get the best price for your ride.
Where to stay: Most tourists visiting Kovalam choose accommodation at its many resorts and homestays. So, when arranging your accommodation, check for locations with the best views. Later work with your hosts to arrange transportation to visit the town’s top sites.
Our Tip: If you want to explore Kerala’s different cultures, it’s also a good idea is to live in Thiruvananthapuram or in Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and drive down to Kovalam for a visit. But if you are on a romantic holiday or simply want to destress, Kovalam is a great place to stay.
The best time to visit: Most tourists visit Kovalam during the winter months between, November and February. But visiting Kovalam in the monsoons July-September can make for a memorable experience too.
How to get there: Kovalam is best connected to the rest of India by road. You could approach it just as easily from either Kerala or the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. If Thiruvananthapuram is only 16 km or half an hour away, Kanyakumari is just a two-and-a-half-hour journey. While backpackers and young people usually catch a bus to Kovalam, families and couples often prefer to hire a taxi. The nearest railway station is the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station. Kovalam is closest to the Trivandrum International Airport.
very good hotel with swimming pool. very good quality of food. stff were very cooperative. next time i will visit this hotel only. miss Thusra was contacting daily for any trouble or any inconvenience. but no we enjoy kerala very much. my grand son/daughter came from U.K. and they were also very happy.
Mahesh from Bengaluru, India
Kanchanupes from we have booked the ticket form Delhi to Cochi, india
Very nice place
Anand.nagaraj777 from Anand Parbat, India
thanks a lot, doly ma'am to provide me with amazing kerala packages. we strongly recommended this travel company..
Kapil from Jaipur, India
nice soothing and peaceful place.beach is a great attraction .a day you can visit trivandrum and visit the famous pathanabha temple