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Havelock Island (officially renamed Swaraj Dweep), in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is renowned for its pristine beaches. Each beach at Havelock Island is commonly referred to by a number and you'll find most Havelock Island hotels grouped along the stretch of road from the jetty, from beach three to beach five. Beach five (also known as Vijaynagar Beach), on the eastern side of the island, is most developed and is where most of the action happens. Over the other side, to the west, pristine beach seven (also known as Radhanagar Beach) is one of the best beaches in India and was once voted the "Best Beach in Asia" by TIME magazine. Beach five has brilliant sunrises, while beach seven has spectacular sunsets.
You'll find that rates vary widely, depending on the time of year. Peak season is from mid December to mid January, and you can expect to pay 30-40% extra during this period. The best weather (and diving conditions) occurs from mid January to mid May. Discounts maybe offered during the monsoon season, from June to September.
Best Luxury Hotel: Taj Exotica Resort and Spa
This gorgeous new eco-friendly Taj property is the first five-star hotel in the Andaman Islands. It's fringed by mangroves and nestled amid thick foliage on 46 acres of land bordering famed Radhanagar Beach. Although the beach can't readily be seen from the property, the waves can be heard. Guest are accommodated in spacious and modern thatched villas on stilts. Highlights include an Olympic-length infinity swimming pool, intimate and informal community dining, and diverse experiences for guests (star-gazing, forest hikes, cycling, kayaking, yoga, mangrove restoration, and fun children's activities). Numerous initiatives have been undertaken to protect the environment such as no plastic, biodegradable toiletries, and glass bottles for filtered bore water.
- Rates: From about 41,000 rupees per night for a double, including tax and breakfast.
Best Boutique Hotel: Jalakara
Jalakara (meaning "fountain" in Sanskrit) is a chic new boutique villa hotel in the jungle that offers immersive experiences. It's a cool concept -- a blend of the informality of a private villa and service of a small hotel, with the aim of being a "house party experience" where guests naturally meet over sundowners or a coffee. The British-designed property is situated in the middle of the island, on what was originally an overgrown banana and betel nut plantation backing onto a rain forest. It has three rooms, three suites, and a private villa. An in-house chef prepares an enticing array of innovative dishes for guests and cocktails are a specialty at the bar. Cooking lessons are offered, and there's a spa with a focus on yoga and massage therapies for well-being. Radhanagar beach and the harbor are 15 minutes away.
- Rates: From about 14,000 rupees per night. Breakfast is included but tax is extra.
Best Beach Location: Silver Sand Resort
One of the oldest and most popular resorts on the most popular beach (beach number five), Silver Sand is also among the most expensive options for staying on Havelock Island. In terms of appeal, it's perfect for holidaymakers wanting a peaceful stay as it has its own private bit of beach. Guest accommodations consist of 39 luxury air-conditioned wooden cottages. It's worth nothing that the resort is divided into two parts by a road. If proximity to the beach is a concern, do book one of the newly-built Andaman Lagoon rooms, as they're positioned on the beach side of the resort. Modern sea view rooms and suites are also available in the same area for those who want to splurge. The rather dated (and cheaper) garden-facing Andaman Cottage and Villa rooms are all across the road, on the other side of the resort. Facilities include a swimming pool and restaurant/bar. Unlike many hotels on Havelock Island, beach chairs and umbrellas are provided too.
- Rates: From about 12,000 rupees per night for a double garden-facing Andaman Villa, including tax and breakfast. Expect to pay about 17,000 rupees per night upwards for a beachfront Andaman Lagoon room. Packages, including special honeymoon deals, are offered.
Best Beach Cottages: Munjoh Ocean Resort
Munjoh Ocean Resort was renovated in 2016-17 and undoubtedly has the most stunning cottages on Havelock Island. They're set under a crop of coconut trees a couple of minutes walk back from a private beach, near beach number five. Some of the cottages have two bedrooms, making them ideal for families and friends. The property is beautifully landscaped, and the staff are helpful and efficient. If you're in the mood for romance, request a candlelit dinner under the stars. Bicycles and scooters are available for those who want to ride around the island, and there's also a dive center inside the resort. Unfortunately, there's no swimming pool though.
- Rates: From about 12,000 rupees per night for a double, including tax and breakfast.
Best Secluded Hotel: Barefoot Resort
A reliable favorite, particularly for honeymooners, Barefoot Resort is one of the few hotels located at secluded beach number seven (Radhanagar Beach). It's not actually on the beach, but rather about five minutes walk away through the jungle. The first eco-friendly resort in the Andaman Islands, it's a place where you can truly get away from it all. There's no TV, Internet, or phone network. Do prepare to be isolated! The resort has 31 thatched wood cottages, tents, and villas distributed over its lush seven acres of grounds.
- Rates: From 11,500 rupees per night for an air-conditioned tented cottage and 15,500 rupees for an air-conditioned Nicobari Cottage. Tax is extra.
Best Beach Bar with Live Music: Seashell
Seashell is a rustic village-like beach resort, with 30 timber duplex villas and cottages surrounded by coconut trees. Located in the vicinity of beach number three (Govindnagar Beach) near the jetty, it has a tiny patch of sand peppered with hammocks and patio seating. If staying at a hotel with a bar is important to you, look no further than Seashell. The property has an atmospheric sea-facing bar with live music nightly, which you won't find elsewhere on the island. There's also a separate swimming pool and play zone for kids, two restaurants, and an in-house dive center.
- Rates: From about 9,000 rupees per night, including tax and breakfast.
Best Value for Money: Dolphin Resort
Although you'd hardly know it from the careful way it's been maintained, Dolphin Resort is a government enterprise! Situated on the seafront near beach five, all lodgings are in newly constructed single story and two story cottage only meters from the beach. And, the beach is an attractive private one. What more could you want? There's also a restaurant (simple buffet lunch and dinner is served), bar, and conference hall on the premises. The only drawback is that there's no room service. It's best to book 2-3 months in advance.
- Rates: Expect to pay 5,000 rupees per night, including breakfast, for one of the new cottages. Cheaper rooms are available from 3,000 rupees per night. Tax is extra.
Best Backpacker Vibe: Emerald Gecko
Emerald Gecko successfully blends backpacker accommodations with fabulous (and reasonably priced) food. It's frequented mostly by foreigners. Unlike many other hotels, it has a prime location right on the beach -- at the far end beach number five, on the most bustling stretch in Havelock, jam-packed with resorts, bars, restaurants, shops and the bohemian traveler-set. If you'd prefer to stay in a pretty cottage in the jungle, near Kalapathar Beach in the corner of the island, check out the Flying Elephant by the same owners. Yoga and meditation classes, and guided jungle walks, are offered.
- Rates: Choose from a selection of bamboo beach huts (1,648 rupees plus tax), bamboo bungalows (2,638 rupees plus tax), and bamboo lodges (3,188 rupees plus tax).
Best for Diving: Island Vinnie's (Dive India)
If you're serious about scuba diving or want to learn, Island Vinnie's is the place for you! It's a full-service dive hotel, with the most experienced dive team in the Andamans, situated at beach number three (the only suitable beach for diving). The hotel itself is nothing flashy. Instead, the main attractions are value for money, a wide range of activities, delicious food at the Full Moon Cafe (many people say it's the best restaurant on the island) and a great social atmosphere. This is not a hotel where you'd want to chill on a hammock all day! Three types of accommodations are provided -- standard and upgraded huts, and tented cabanas. They were all rebuilt and upgraded in 2017, including a new toilet block. Note: due to increased demand, from December to April room bookings are only taken from people who are intending to dive.
- Rates: If you're on a budget, the very basic standard huts are cheaply priced at 600 rupees a night with shared bathroom. Including all meals, they're 3,400 rupees a night for a double. The upgraded huts are 1,800 rupees per night. The tented cabanas have attached bathrooms and are priced at 3,500 rupees a night, going up to 6,300 rupees a night for a double with all meals included.