Kerala beaches are amongst the best in India and are an excellent alternative to Goa. Some of the beaches remain relatively deserted. Yet, in case you don't want to relax, you'll find plenty going on at others. This Kerala beach guide will point you in the right direction of the most suitable beach for you. The best time to visit weather-wise is from September to March. However, you'll get some fantastic off-season discounts (sometimes up to 50 percent) during the monsoon.
Best for Action: Kovalam Beach
If you want action, you'll definitely find it at Kovalam Beach—the most popular and most developed beach in Kerala. Often likened to Goa's Calangute and Baga beaches, Kovalam is located not far from the capital, Trivandrum. It's actually made up of two main coves—Hawa (also referred to as Eve's Beach) and Lighthouse Beach. Lighthouse is the biggest and busiest of the two, with its promenade lined with open-air restaurants. Kovalam is a popular surfing destination in India. If you'd prefer somewhere a little more secluded, you'll find nearby Samudra Beach to be a better option.
Best to Chill Out: Varkala Beach
Varkala Beach is the pick of the beaches in Kerala, in terms of ambiance and facilities. Although more and more tourists are flocking there every year, it's still less crowded than Kovalam and the scenery is striking. The beach lies at the bottom of a long stretch of cliff that's bordered by beach shacks and shops. You can stay right on the cliff, overlooking the ocean, or set back from it. It's incredibly romantic! Lots of young foreigners and couples enjoy this beach.
Best for Serenity: Marari Beach
Quiet Marari Beach is located not far from Alappuzha (formerly Alleppey), making it convenient for those who'd like to spend some time at the beach in between going on a houseboat trip along the backwaters. A big attraction here is the earth-conscious Marari Beach Resort. It's set on a sprawling property filled with coconut groves and lotus ponds, and among other things offers Ayurveda treatments and yoga classes on the beach.
Best for Culture: Kannur
Off the beaten track in India, the small town of Kannur, in northern Kerala, is known for its secluded beaches, mysterious masked spirit-possession theyyam rituals, and handloom weaving. Kerala Tourism has a comprehensive calendar of theyyam events. There are some delightful, laid back (and inexpensive) beach houses in the Thottada Beach area, such as Kannur Beach House, Waves Beach Resort, Chera Rock Beach House, KK Heritage Homestay, and Seashell Beach Home. Kannur district is also home to Muzhappilangad Drive-In Beach. You can drive all the way along its extensive stretch of sand.
Best for Luxury and History: Bekal Beach
Bekal Beach, in far North Kerala (around a 90-minute drive from Mangalore airport in Karnataka) is famous for its old fort—one of the largest forts in Kerala. The beaches are clean and unspoiled, but luxury hotels have already started moving into the area, making it the place for a pampered getaway. The most popular resort is the gorgeous Taj Vivanta. It's possible to stay there for around 9,000 rupees per night, depending on the season. The secluded LaLiT Resort and Spa Bekal is located on a private beach with backwaters running through it. However, it's more pricey. Room rates start at 19,000 rupees per night.
Best by Boat: Cherai Beach
The 10-kilometer long Cherai Beach makes an appealing side trip from Kochi. It's located on Vypeen Island, which can be reached from Kochi by ferry and then a bus or auto rickshaw ride through the villages and paddy fields—yes, it is isolated. A substantial portion of the main beach was recently beautified, which included the addition of a new walkway. One of the remarkable sights there is beach and lagoon so close together. If you explore some of the surrounding lanes, you'll get great views! Stay at Les 3 Elephants, a peaceful backwaters eco-resort.