Much of India is surrounded by ocean and the country has some incredibly scenic beaches that offer everything from solitude to parties. The best beaches in India can be found on the west coast, with Goa being the most famous beach destination. However, there are other places to consider as well, especially if you want to get away from the tourist trail.
Of note, in October 2020, eight Indian beaches were awarded Blue Flag certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Denmark. The beaches are Puri Golden Beach in Odisha, Shivrajpur in Gujarat, Ghoghla in Diu, Kasarkod and Padubidri in Karnataka, Kappad in Kerala, Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh, and Radhanagar in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Blue Flag certification means these beaches are clean, safe, and environmentally-friendly.
Best Spectacular Setting: Varkala, Kerala
Varkala beach lies about an hour north of capital Trivandrum in Kerala and provides a relatively peaceful alternative to the now commercialized Kovalam. The setting of this beach is striking enough to take your breath away, with a seemingly endless paved stretch of cliff bordered by shacks on one side and views that extend over the Arabian Sea on the other. It's the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate, with yoga and Ayurveda being popular there. Plan your trip with this Varkala beach travel guide or discover other top beaches in Kerala.
Best Goa Substitute: Gokarna, Karnataka
Think Goa has become too overcrowded and commercialized these days? Gokarna is a small holy town in northern Karnataka, with four of India's most secluded beaches nestled nearby. It draws both pious pilgrims and laid-back travelers with equal enthusiasm. Go there to get a feel for what Goa was like in its heyday, although time is limited as developers are already seeing the potential of this area. This Gokarna beach travel guide has all the details.
Best Picturesque Beach: Palolem, South Goa
Palolem is arguably Goa's most picturesque beach. It's a mile-long, semi-circle shaped beach enclosed by a thick forest of coconut palms. The beach continues to grow in popularity every year and is the most lively beach in South Goa. However, it still retains its relaxed vibe, as permanent structures aren't allowed to be built on it. Find out what you need to know in our Palolem beach travel guide.
Best for Chilling Out: Agonda, South Goa
If you're looking to get away from it all, Agonda Beach in South Goa is for you! Stay in a hut right on the beach, and enjoy the stillness and serenity. The rear of the beach is lined with shacks and small shops but apart from that, there's not much else to do there except eat, drink, swim, and chill. Our Agonda beach travel guide will help you plan your trip.
Best for Travelers and Musicians: Arambol, North Goa
Transformed from sleepy fishing village to the trendiest beach in Goa, Arambol has really started attracting the crowds (unfortunately, perhaps to the point of saturation). It still has a traveler vibe though, with live music and jam sessions on the beach. Plus, plenty of alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and reiki. It's possible to walk south from Arambol to quieter neighboring Mandrem beach. Check out these photos of Arambol beach to see what it's like there.
Best for Party People and Backpackers: Anjuna, North Goa
The original hippies may have moved on but that doesn't mean the party is over at Anjuna; legendary shacks Curlies and Shiva Valley still hold parties. Anjuna is also close to HillTop in Vagator, where big trance parties usually take place on weekends and New Year's Eve. Their Facebook page has the details. Most importantly, Anjuna has plenty of backpacker hostels and guesthouses where you can stay cheaply and socialize with other travelers.
Best for Action: Baga, North Goa
For sure, Baga Beach in North Goa may be commercialized and busy but for those who like action, it’s one of the most happening beaches on the coast. Water sports, para sailing, beach shacks, bars, clubs, and fine dining restaurants—you’ll find them all there! These days, Baga attracts a predominantly Indian crowd, who come for the mainstream music and discount drinks along Tito's Lane. Read more in our Baga beach travel guide.
Best for Culture: Pondicherry
Pondicherry, with its pervasive French heritage, is a union territory on the coast of Tamil Nadu in east India that's ideal for culture vultures. The historic French Quarter in town is a highlight, while nearby Auroville and Paradise beaches are great for swimming. Also check out the pristine beaches at Mahe, Yanam and Karaikal—also part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. Here's where to stay near the beach in Pondicherry.
Best for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: Tarkarli, Maharashtra
If you can't make it to the Andaman Islands, the vicinity of Tarkarli beach in southern Maharashtra has one of the best coral reefs on the Indian mainland. This area is yet to feature on the tourist trail and receives few foreigner visitors, although it is increasingly drawing domestic travelers from the state. The simple homestay accommodations right on the beach are a delight. Locals can often be seen unhurriedly riding bicycles or walking to get around. Plan your trip with our Tarkali beach travel guide.
Best for Learning to Surf: Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu
One of the top places to visit near Chennai, Mamallapuram is less than an hour down the coast. The town has thriving backpacker and surfing scenes, making it an ideal spot to linger a while and get surfing lessons. The UNESCO World Heritage group of monuments (including the Shore Temple and Five Rathas) and stone sculpting industry add interest. This Mamallapuram beach travel guide has more information.
Best Remote Beach: Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island
Once voted Asia's Best Beach by TIME Magazine, Radhanagar Beach is situated on Havelock Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are sprinkled across the Bay of Bengal. The islands are a Union Territory of India. Radhanagar Beach (also referred to as beach number seven) is renowned for its calm, still water and fine white sand. See these recommended Havelock Island hotels for all budgets and plan your trip with our comprehensive guide to the Andaman Islands.
Best for Families: Kovalam, Kerala
The most developed of Kerala's beaches, Kovalam is located not far from Trivandrum. It's made up of two coves—Hawa (also referred to as Eve's beach) and Lighthouse. Lighthouse is the biggest of the two, with its promenade lined with open-air restaurants. The lighthouse atop this beach provides fantastic views, especially at sunset. In addition, it's something fascinating for kids to learn about. There are water sports and surfing too. Here's our pick of Kovalam beach hotels for all budgets.
Notable for being the longest Drive-In Beach in Asia and one of the best beaches in the world for driving, Muzhappilangad lies between Kannur and Thalassery in northern Kerala. This crescent-shaped beach extends for about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), and it's possible to drive for 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) directly on the sand. The beach is protected by giant black rocks that keep the surf gentle. Other attractions are boating, water sports, and adventure sports such as paragliding, parasailing and microlite flights. Getting there is easy now that Kannur airport is open.
Best Offbeat Beach: Chandipur, Odisha
Listed by Lonely Planet as one of the world's most unusual beaches, Chandipur is unique in India for its disappearing sea. At low tide, twice a day, it recedes for up to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles)! This means you can explore the seabed, having fun chasing red crabs and collecting shells and driftwood. Chandipur is located in Odisha's Balasore district, about four and a half hours north of capital Bhubaneshwar. The only drawback is the lack of quality accommodations there. Odisha Tourism's Panthaniwas is the best positioned property but facilities are basic. Discover more things to do in Odisha.