Kovalam – the hippiest beach of Kerala

Kovalam Beach comprises of three crescent shaped beaches, each of which has something unique to offer. While some offer unmatched natural beauty, the other has watersports in its kitty, while another is just for a laid back vacation. Nestled inside Kerala, the god’s own country, Kovalam is one experience that must not be missed.

Table of Contents:
Kovalam at a glance
  1. How to reach
  2. where to stay
  3. Best time to visit

My Experience of a Kovalam
  1. The Hawah Beach
  2. Adventure Sports in Kovalam
  3. Kovalam Town
  4. The Lighthouse Beach
  5. The Samudra beach
  6. In conclusion

Kovalam is a small coastal town in the southern Indian state of Kerala, situated 16 KM south of the capital, Thiruvananthapuram. The town derives its name from the endless lines of coconut trees on the shore. In fact the word ‘Kovalam’ itself means a groove of coconut trees in Malayalam.

The laid back town, hosts not one but three breathtaking crescent shaped beaches, Lighthouse Beach, Samudra Beach & Hawah Beach, all lined together along the coastal line of 1 Km separated by rocky outcroppings. The crystal clear water of the Arabian sea, the sand, mouth-watering sea food and various adventure sport options, makes it a paradise for every beach lover.

Hawah Beach (aka Kovalam Beach)

Kovalam used to be small fishermen village untill it shot into limelight in the early seventies. That is when the hippies discovered it on their way to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and it became a part of the famous Hippie Trail. Since then Kovalam hasn’t looked back. It became a tourism hotspot which is often referred to as the ‘Hippie Beach Town’.

How to Reach:
Thiruvanantpuram, the capital of Kerala is the gateway to Kovalam.
Frequent Trains and Flights are available from across the country for Thiruvanantpuram.
If you donot wish to stay in Kovalam, it can easily be visited as part of a day trip from Thiruvanantpuram via Bus, Auto rikshaw or Rental Cab.
Where to Stay:
Accommodation in Kovalam is not an issue at all. There are so many hotels/B&B that there is always a vacant room somewhere. All hotel aggregators like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, and have options of booking hotels online.

Best Time to Visit:
The Best time to visit Kovalam is from early November through to March when the temperature is low and the sky is clear. Monsoon arrives in June and stays till August. This season sees low tourist turnout, but the greenery is unmatched during these months. September and October have unpredictable weather owing to the north western monsoon. Avoid the summers at all cost, that set in by April to the end of May, the temperature and humidity will kill you.

My experience of Kovalam:

As part of a day trip from Thiruvananthapuram, we had clubbed together Poovar, Padmanavapuram Palace and Kovalam. It was a bad but necessary decision considering the time crunch that we had. After completing a one and half hour backwater cruise in Poovar and a hour long excursion of Padmanavapuram Palace, we reached Kovalam towards the fag end of the day, at around 3 PM.

It ended up being a good decision because this was a lean hour at the beach, the crowd was thin and we literally had the whole beach to ourselves.

Hawah – The Adventure Sports Beach

Hawah Beach is the most commercial among all three beaches in Kovalam. This beach boasts of strong currents and the hippie life. Buoyed by its presence on the ‘Hippie Trail’ of the 70’s, a lot of backpackers from around the world come to Hawah in search of the ultimate tropical paradise, and Hawah doesn’t let anyone down.

It boasts of a shallow sea, rocks and coconut trees; all the best things that a beach can offer. After frolicking a bit in the water and being whistled back multiple times by a lifeguard, I rented a beach chair with an umbrella, treated myself with a coconut and lied down. It seemed like the whole ocean was at my feet.

As the sun started to descend and the heat reduced tourists and locals started pouring in. The beachside businesses started picking up pace. Water sports folks convincing people to board a jet ski or take a cateraman ride, vendors slicing open tender coconuts, photographers running around with cameras and messuers offering their services. The typical commercial beach vibe was back.

There are lots of fooding options in and around Hawah beach. Thanks to the influx of western tourists, continental cuisines have found a strong footing here. Apart from the continental stuff, fried fish, grilled lobsters and Kadala is everywhere, so is cotton candy and coconut water.

I tried Kadala, a spicy street food prepared with chickpea (kadala), various spices, green mango, and tomato. The spice qoutient a bit on the higher side for my taste buds, however food is always good when you have the sea for company.

Kadala by the sea

Adventure sports in Kovalam:

Hawah beach is not only a beach bum’s paradise, but an adrenaline junkie’s dream destination as well. I witnessed quite a few people trying out surfing on the waves, which seems to be a very popular activity on this beach. On talking to some locals, I found that there is an artificial reef because of which many surfing enthusiasts find the environment competitive and come in troves, during the high tides. There are a few surfing training institutes here as well.

Some brave souls surfing on the waves

Hawah beach also has Para sailing, jet skies, catamaran rides, banana boat rides, etc which are also very well liked by tourists. Motorboat rides to the lighthouse beach is also offered from Hawah beach.

I am not too big on the adventure sports front, so as lame as it might sound, I preferred just sitting on the beautiful beach, and relax.

The Kovalam Town:

My next destination was Lighthouse beach. While motorboats ply from Hawah to Lighthouse, I preferred to take the road. This way I could experience the town as well. As I left Hawah, the first thing I saw was the Kovalam Art Gallery, a beautiful red building. Its only after walking through the town thta I realized that there are many Art Galleries in Kovalam, atleast one on every main road. I happened to take a peek into a few of them and saw some fascinating paintings. Some basic, some complex, some incomprehensible. There are just so many of them that an art lover could throng this town for days, but still won’t be satiated.

The Kovalam Art Gallery located near Hawah Beach

As I kept walking it became more and more aparent that everything has been built back from the beach and not the other way around. It seemed like the town was only established after the beach became popular. The buildings are crammed in tightly, so much so that many of the hotels don’t have wide enough roads for cars. Rickshaws and Hand Carts rule these narrow alleyways. The roads turn into a maze very quickly, but since all roads lead to the beach, its not very easy to get lost here! 

After my short detour I came back to the main street, looked towards the sky to check where the lighthouse was and continued walking towards it. After a slight uphill climb, I reached the humble gate that led into a lighthouse complex.

The Lighthouse Beach – Unmatched natural beauty:

The beach is beautiful, fringed by palm and coconut trees, clean bay with a postcard worthy lighthouse at one end and an array of vibrant shops and restaurants lining the walkway behind the sand. The main attraction of the beach however is the Vizhinjam lighthouse which was built in the year 1972. At 118 ft, it is the tallest lighthouse in Kerala which is built on top of a small hillock. The Vizhinjam Lighthouse is open for visitors on all days except Monday from 10 AM to 12:45 PM and 2:30 PM to 6 PM.

Once we entered the lighthouse complex, even before we could ascend the lighthouse, I was treated with this amazing view from the base of the steps. The unhindered waters of the Arabian sea, all the way to the horizon, the sky and surf everything came together to paint an amazing picture.

A spiral staircase leads to the top of the lighthouse and it looked particularly scary. I don’t know if this is just me or if it happens with everyone, a spiral staircase always tends to scare me. I had already chickened out once in Hawah Beach by not participating in any of the adventure sports, I didn’t want to bail out of this. Thus, I suppressed my apprehension and climbed up the stairs.

Once I reached the top, I was panting like anything. My heart beat was going all over the place. Not sure if it was just the climb or the anxiety as well. The first look outside though made me forget my whole ordeal. The view and the gusty wind on top, made the whole climb worthwhile.

The beach as seem from the top of the lighthouse

After spending a few minutes, I came down and explored the entire lighthouse complex, seeing the sea from every angle possible. Through a small clearing in the trees, I saw another beach. Much smaller than both the stretches of the Kovalam beach we had just seen. The best part of it was, there were hardly any people there!

The Samudra Beach – Relax and Unwind:

It wasn’t very well accessible, with small rocky tails leading into the beach. There were small boats of fisherman lined up along the sand. It was almost evening and the sun was on its way out. Some local boys, were playing volleyball in the beach, while some fishermen were packing their ropes and nets, preparing for the sail they would set in the night.

The sun settling beyond the sea

This beach was the least commercial of all the beaches, with almost no tourists. It felt odd to be on a beach in India and not be surrounded by the crowds. No cankering of the vendors. Sitting quietly on the sand, listening to the sound of the waves, as they crash on to the rocky beach.

Samudra Beach was like a time capsule, that transported me to the old times, when Kovalam used to be a small hamlet. Fishermen and nature, the only two variables in this beautiful equation. No signs of commercialisation beyond or ahead. I could stay here forever.

In Conclusion:

Sea, sun and sand isn’t something new for me. My hometown is very close to a magnificent beach town Puri, where I visit at least a couple of times in a year. I enjoy the sight of waves crashing, creating thick white froth. Sometimes the waves seem to be roaring and at other times barely rolling. That’s one reason why I like the beach, its always a mystery.

What fascinated me about Kovalam is that along with the mysterious sea, the shore itself is wrapped up in layers. The fact that such a short shoreline can have such contrasting vibes is such a fascinating revelation. Each beach was like an enclave hiding a completely different experience than the other.

The god’s own country Kerala, keeps amazing me, with every day providing a different experience. Travel magazines have very rightfully coined Kovalam as the ‘Paradise of the South’.

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