Alibaug is a beach playground for India's rich and famous, and a refreshing Mumbai getaway. It's possible to enjoy Alibaug in a day. However, it's recommended that you take some extra time to relax there and go beach hopping along the coastline.
Although Alibaug is best known as a beach destination, the town has an interesting and unexpected history that makes it worth exploring as well. Bene Israeli Jews settled in the area, where their ship landed, about 2,200 years ago while fleeing persecution in Palestine. They adopted the local language and culture but kept their religion. Alibaug (meaning "Ali garden") is said to have been named after one of the Jews -- a rich merchant called Ali, who had plantations and orchards.
The Portuguese ruled the region from the early 16th century until they were ousted by the Marathas in the 17th century. Maratha emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj developed Kolaba Fort, near Alibaug, into a naval base. Later, at the beginning of the 18th century, Maratha Navy commander Kanhoji Angre used the fort to launch raids on British merchant ships. The British and Portuguese joined forces to capture the fort but were unsuccessful. It wasn't until the early 19th century that the British finally gained control of the region and fort.
Alibaug is 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Mumbai, on the Konkan Coast of Maharashtra.
How to Get There
The quickest way of reaching Alibaug is by boat to Mandwa Jetty from the Gateway of India in South Mumbai's Colaba neighborhood. It takes about an hour to reach Mandawa Jetty by ferry, or 20 minutes by speedboat. From the jetty, the beach is another 30-45 minutes south, by bus or auto rickshaw. The bus is included in the ferry price.
Ferries operate from morning until evening (around 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) throughout the year, except during the monsoon season from June to September. Services usually resume again in late August, but it depends on weather conditions.
If budget isn't an issue, try Uber's convenient new app-based UberBOAT service. Launched in January 2019, it provides speed boat hire between Mumbai and Alibaug's Mandawa Jetty. The service operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. You can expect to pay 5,700 rupees one way for a speed boat that can fit up to eight passengers. The cost of a larger boat for 10 or more passengers is 9,500 rupees one way.
The 24/7 Ro-Ro ferry service from Bhaucha Dhakka Ferry Wharf (at the dockyards near Mazgaon) to Mandwa can carry up to 500 passengers and 180 vehicles, and will continue to run during the monsoon season. Ticket prices start from 225 rupees per person, and 880 rupees per vehicle.
In addition, older ferries that carry motorcycles as well as passengers also depart from Bhaucha Dhakka Ferry Wharf. The ferries go to Revas Jetty and take approximately an hour and a half to get there.
If you're driving, Alibaug can be reached by road via the Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH-17). The journey takes three to four hours from Mumbai, depending on traffic.
When to Go
Visit Alibaug from November to February, when the weather is the coolest and dry. From March onward, the temperature starts rising before the monsoon starts in June. Due to its close proximity to Mumbai and Pune, Alibaug has become a popular weekend destination and it often gets crowded then. Other busy times are the summer school holidays in April and May, and the festival season over Diwali in October or November. Weekdays are the most peaceful.
Alibaug becomes dangerous during the monsoon when tides are strong and the ocean rough. There have been instances of people getting swept away from Kolaba Fort and drowning. Therefore, it's best to avoid the water at this time of year.
What to See and Do
Kolaba Fort is the main attraction. Most of the time, it's surrounded by ocean. However, you can walk out to it during low tide, or go in a horse-pulled cart. Otherwise, take a boat.
In the center of Alibaug town, the Magen Aboth Synagogue on Israel Ali (the original Jewish lane) still operates.
There are numerous other old forts, churches, synagogues, and temples all waiting to be explored in and around Alibaug. Kanakeshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva on a hill north about 20 minutes north of Alibaug near Zirad, is one of them. Climb the exhausting 700-odd steps up to the top to be rewarded with a panoramic view, and a pretty temple complex with several smaller shrines and colorful idols of Hindu gods.
If you're more interested in fun in the sun, you'll enjoy the wide variety of water sports on the beach.
Nature lovers shouldn't miss the Native Biodiversity Garden adjoining Teenvira Dam on the Mumbai-Alibaug Road. This eco-friendly and sustainable solar-powered garden is both experiential and educational. It's divided into 17 themed sections such as medicinal, butterfly, wetland, spices, and sacred grove. Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily.
Shopping and Relaxing
The newly-developed jetty area at Mandwa Port has recycled shipping containers that have been transformed into a cluster of hip boutiques.
Groovy clothing store and garden cafe Bohemyan Blue is situated on the Alibaug-Revas Road at Agarsure, between Kihim and Zirad. The beer is cheap too! Perfect for a chilled out afternoon. There's also rustic luxury tented accommodations with a swimming pool behind the premises, ideal for glamping. All kinds of activities are offered including yoga, cycling, go-karting, rock climbing , and horse riding.
Mumbai's 18-year-old contemporary art gallery, The Guild, relocated to Alibaug in 2015. Visit it on Mandwa Alibaug Road at Ranjanpada. Also located on Mandwa Alibaug Road at Rajmala is Lavish Antique Clocks, which sells more than 100 types of clocks modeled on antique timepieces.
Dashrath Patel Museum, at Bamansure near Chondhi Bridge, showcases the works of this groundbreaking Indian artist. It includes painting, ceramics, photography, and design.
Nostalgia Lifestyle is another trendy Mumbai business that's moved to Alibaug at Zirad. They stock a gorgeous range of indoor and outdoor furniture, water features, paintings, home decor, and swimwear.
Where to Eat and Drink
The new Mandwa Port precinct at the jetty has a cool seafront restaurant and bar called Boardwalk by Flamboyante. Kiki's Cafe and Deli also faces the ocean there, and is a popular breakfast spot with funky decor.
Hotel Sanman is the place for mouthwatering local Konkani-style seafood. This restaurant has been in business for more than 35 years. It's located in Israil Lane, opposite Chirag Executive in Alibaug town.
Other Beaches Near Alibaug
Apart from the main beach at Alibaug, which actually isn't very appealing, there are several other beaches in the area. These include:
- Varsoli, on the northern outskirts of the Alibaug town center.
- Kihim, 20 minutes north of Alibaug.
- Awas, adjoining Kihim beach to the north. It's lesser frequented and quieter, about 30 minutes from Alibaug.
- Akshi, about 10 minutes south of Alibaug.
- Nagaon, 20 minutes south of Alibaug. It's sometimes referred to as "mini Goa" during peak season.
Most of the beaches have become polluted and touristy in recent years, with activities such as camel cart and horse rides (they don't operate during the monsoon season though). Water sports have proliferated at most beaches including Varsoli, Nagaon, and Kihim. Nagaon beach also offers boat access to Khanderi and Undheri forts.
Akshi is the best bet if you're after a secluded beach, especially during weekdays. It's popular with nature lovers and bird watchers. Kihim is also known for birds and butterflies.
Where to Stay
There's a range of accommodations around Alibaug, from luxury resorts to basic cottages by the beach. The cottages are popular with groups, as the whole property can be fully booked for privacy.
- Near Alibaug: the Radisson Blu Resort comes fully-equipped with a health spa, perfect for pampering. Rooms cost upwards of 6,500 rupees per night for a double.
- Near Varsoli: If you're looking for a reasonably-priced place right on the beach, you can't go past Sanman Beach Resort. It's an offshoot of Sanman restaurant, so you know the food will be tasty!
- Near Kihim: Outpost @Alibaug is a boutique family-friendly resort, slightly inland amid nature, that was previously called the Windmill Resort. U Tropicana Alibaug is another popular resort a few kilometers from Kihim beach. The beautiful Mango Beach House at Kihim is a short walk from the beach and has a swimming pool. Rates start from about 5,000 rupees per night. Casa de Kihim has a handful of attractive wooden huts in garden setting a couple of minutes walk from the beach. If you're after a budget cottage close to the beach, Sanidhya is popular. Alternatively, there's nature and delicious food at the rustic homestay Mauli Village, inland from Kihim Beach. Mama's House is a modern Greek island themed homestay with a swimming pool on the Alibaug-Revas Road.
- Near Awas: Jogalekar Cottage is a hit with families. There's also Ghanvatkar Bungalow at Zirad, which is inland from Awas beach. It's good for a budget stay and has a swimming pool. Mango Farm House at Awas has four luxurious cottages (eight rooms) with pool on a coconut plantation near Zirad, priced from 4,500 rupees per night.
- Near Nagaon: Sidz has comfortable cottages inland from Nagaon Beach, ideal for groups or families. Iora Cottages has colorful budget accommodations made out of up-cycled shipping containers about 10 minutes walk from the beach. Dolphin House Beach Resort is a decent budget place just around the corner from the beach. Nagaon Eco Center has tents and huts under the trees right on the beach. There are numerous other budget home stays and cottages set back from the beach as well.
- Other Locations: If you're after a boutique private villa close to Mandwa Jetty, Ccaza Ccomodore is the place!
For more private bungalows and villas, take a look at the listings on Airbnb.
What Else to Do Nearby
About 40 minutes south of Alibaug near Revdanda is historic Chaul village, where the Portugese settled and constructed a fort in the 16th century. The district is now renowned for its many quaint old temples.
A small community of Portuguese-speaking Christians lives across the river at Korlai village. The Portuguese built a companion fort on a hilly outcrop at Korlai and you can hike up to the ruins of it. A functional lighthouse is another attraction there.