When people who haven’t been to India picture it in their heads, I am almost positive they don’t picture a laid-back surf town. Maybe they’ve heard of Goa, famous for it’s beaches and parties, but Kovalam is a completely different kind of vibe. Instead of trance and acid, it’s slow, relaxed, and reggae fills the air.
After exploring Fort Cochin and feeling more acquainted with Kerala, we hopped in the car and drove four more hours south to Ben’s old home on Kovalam’s lighthouse beach.
A couple years ago Ben’s company built an artificial reef here and since there have been surfing competitions and lots of people taking advantage of playing in the waves. It was nice to finally see something he built after hearing so much about it for the last year.
Kovalam is most definitely a hippie surf town. A teensy tiny hippie surf town. I have no clue how Ben managed to live here for a year (during monsoon even!). The layout is basically only the semi-circle of lighthouse beach and the very narrow walkways behind the beach shops, so you might not even need these Kovalam beach tips, but I’m dishing them out anyways.
Get your Beauty Sleep at:
Budget accommodation seems to be non-existent this time of year with tourists in full swing. My boyfriend stayed a quite a few guesthouses here until he found a permanent home. Some of his favorites: Chinnus Nest, Orion Beach Resort, and Pappukutty Beach Resort are all around 2,000 rs per night. A little higher in price range are: Varma Beach Resort & Cottages (very soft beds!), Turtle on the Beach, and of course the Leela (all your rupees gone).
We stayed at the Ocean Park Beach Resort. 1,500 per night for A/C, rooms were basic with a balcony that did not face the sea. There are so many properties that it isn’t necessary in Kovalam to book ahead. The beach is very small so you won’t be walking around with your luggage too long before you find a place that suits you.
Instagram collage, if you aren’t following me yet, you can now>>
German Bakery, which is a name you’ll see all over India serves up pretty good intercontinental food. I loved the baguettes with herb cream cheese, but the menu is nothing too special. Swiss Café does a scrumptious schnitzel and rosti with cheese and bacon, but don’t order the “chicken allacheese”. Too. Much. Cheese. That’s saying something because I have a pretty tight bond with cheesy goodness. Coconut Grove added a few extra beers to the bill that weren’t ordered but do a mean Kerala golden fry fish or any seafood for that matter. For a yummy breakfast or brunch, try Puppie’s Café. Some of the goodies there are: tomato soup, a real imported hotdog (OMG!), burgers, coffee, and real slush puppies! We stayed just above Spoonbill, so ate there a number of times. My favorite was the Om rice, which had an egg cracked over it. We also did a lot of people watching and even a little work from Beatle’s. Try the chicken burger or Kerala’s version of fish curry rice. All beachfront restaurants that serve seafood will lay it out on ice for you to pick what you want.
you might not understand why a hotdog is so special, but it’s one of my favorite foods and in India they are scarce! To the right is Keralan fish fry (spicy!)
fish on yo head
The sunset looks best from…
Lets be honest, the sunset looks the same from a shit beach hut as it does from a five star hotel, but… nothing beats drinks at the Leela. It’s a stunning hotel with rooms at almost 300 dollars a night. Luckily, you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the infinity pool and bar. Happy hour is from 4-7 (buy one get one free). That makes this is the perfect place to watch sunset and sip very strong mojitos. The mosquitos were on the hunt though, so load up on bug spray!
How to Kill Time in Kovalam
BY FAR the most fun you’ll have is body surfing all day long. Just wear sunscreen. It’s incredible how after being in the sun in Goa all year, I still managed to get a completely roasted, glowing red face in Kovalam. I forgot how close to the equator it was! The waves are HUGE. Be really careful because they will rock you and you can seriously hurt yourself. One of Ben’s friends nearly broke his back.
When Babu came into the waves he said, “the lifeguard told me not to swim because there are many sharks!” We had to laugh because really they just figured he couldn’t swim well enough and would drown. If you have a board or want to rent one, you can surf! They have body boards as well for 100 rs.
Ayurveda is most popular in Kerala and Kovalam is a fantastic place to get treatments from facials to massage at very competitive prices. You’ll find tons of options along the beach. I talk a little more about Ayurveda back in my Kochi post.
Believe it or not, I actually do work (cough couch mom & dad) so spent some time on balconies typing away and people watching. There are an interesting number of old European women here… I’m told they come to find the “beach boys” and take them home at night. Seriously, it is so funny to watch these encounters.
You can’t come here without shopping for overpriced junk treasure. Almost everything along this beach is even more expensive than Goa, which is saying something. The gem shop owners are downright thieves. So much of what I saw were fake gems/silver and the real ones were quoted at unreasonable high prices. I pride myself on being a good negotiator but these guys were not budging and it’s no fun to negotiate when they start so astronomically high that you know it’ll never get down to a fair price. I did end up buying a present for my mom that was probably double what it should have cost, but just too perfect not to buy. The shop owners win again.
Most popular items to buy: gems, chrystals, sarongs, blankets/towels, “India” shirts, shoes, and Indian and Tibetan trinkets. Further up in the back-alleys are some fairer priced shops. Go exploring!
“IRISH STORYTELLER HERE: Tonight 7:30 pm. A tale from Nigeria. A story from Georgia. AND a scary story set in Australia. FREE ADMISSION. FREE STORYCAKE.”
Unfortunately, we were at the hospital while the Irish man told what I can only assume were the BEST stories I’ve now missed, that would have potentially changed my life. I don’t know how I’ll ever get over not finding out what story cake is, I love Nigerian tales.
Moving back to (less important than story cake) Kovalam beach tips…
You could take the tiny little hike to lighthouse beach and see the view from above, I’d share a photo of that… but I really just couldn’t be bothered to walk up there. Did I mention how hot it was!? Plus I had done enough walking/sightseeing trying to find a non-existent fort in Fort Kochi.
All and all, Kovalam is a fun beach and a great place for a week or two vacation. Unfortunately, we have a 24 hour drive home we keep dreading. Each morning waking up, thinking, “Lets just stay one more day”. If you stay over a week you might want to get off the beach. If you walk behind the shop in the windy lanes, you’ll eventually get out to a main road where you can take a rickshaw to other beaches, temples, or into Trivandrum.
random elephant on our way to the Leela for drinks
one of Ben’s friends who was a good source of entertainment!
RANDOM fact: While laying on the beach, I began to see an odd number of men with prosthetic arms/hands. Ben explained that they lost hands and arms due to dynamite fishing. Such a shame.
The people of Kovalam are incredibly nice- but maybe that is because many of them knew Ben quite well. If you have to choose between Kovalam and Kochi, definitely spend your time in Kovalam. The dogs are as nice as the people (even if one sunk his teeth into Ben’s leg). Once we were back from the hospital, the same dog rested his head on Ben’s lap as if to say “my bad, dude”.
Typically, you don’t need to worry about beach dogs biting you, but they are very territorial. One dog that Ben used to have living with him, Flea, followed Ben. By doing so, he crossed into another territory and boozing Ben tried to protect Flea from his attacker. Obviously, it didn’t work out well for Ben. The next day Flea followed me back to the room and slept in the bed while I worked. He smelled like fish… but was so darn cute I couldn’t kick him out. FYI if you get bit you should get in cleaned immediately, receive a tetanus booster and a 5 shot rabies series over the next month.
Flea and Ben before the bitchy drama started (see what I did there?)
girls get stared at for bikinis, but men wear lungis sometimes just a wee bit too high, *Ben
For girls: on the beach it’s okay to be in a bikini but this isn’t Goa… when you get back up on the sidewalk or cafe’s cover up! Kerala is a much more conservative state. You need to hide your boobs, butts, and your beers! Don’t even think about lighting up a joint. As much as the vibe seems to permit it, the restaurant owners will not.
I mentioned previously in my post on Kochi that the police questioned why Babu and I were out and about together. They were overly suspicious. It’s actually become a problem because Ben may leave for Delhi from here, and we know that Babu and I won’t be able to cross borders to Karnataka together. Only time will tell, until then we will just keep staying “one more day”.
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