Without a doubt Kerala’s most developed tourist destination, Kovalam was once a tranquil fishing village, but today it is a busy beachside tourist base. When tourism got going in the area, there weren’t any clever building regulations in place to stop development from imposing on the natural surroundings and way of life. As a result, the most popular beaches are crowded, the hotels and restaurants stretch right up to the shore, and it’s not very clean in the most popular areas. But don’t write it off completely: there are still some fabulous hotels in the area and quieter corners. Additionally, Kovalam is conveniently close to Trivandrum airport, making it a good start or end point on any trip to Kerala and the rest of India.
Travelers are attracted to the shores of Kovalam due to the low tides and lovely shallow waters. The royal family also had a large hand in boosting tourism to the region, and Kovalam became frequented by elite and aristocratic European families. The Keralan government promoted it enthusiastically during the 1990’s and Lighthouse Beach became world-renowned.
Kovalam is all about relaxing on the beaches: heavily developed Lighthouse Beach to the south, Hawah Beach right next door, and the cleaner, more pleasant Samudra Beach to the north, lined with coconut palms. Water sports are popular, and wooden boat rides in traditional Indian catamarans are a highlight. Apart from the beaches, you can sample Kovalam specialties such as fried chicken in a spicy red Masala paste, or visit one of many upmarket beachside restaurants to sample seafood caught freshly that afternoon.
Mararikulam in the Alappuzha district is known as a humble and beautiful fishing village, and happily, the laid-back vibe and way of life has been largely preserved over the years. Fishermen go out onto the waters off the Malabar Coast day after day while the women take care of the family and home. Mararikulam (also known as Marari) offers visitors an endless stretch of superb beaches lined with swaying palms. The coast’s unique ecosystem includes over 300 plant species, three turtle species, ten frog species, and close to 100 types of colourful butterflies.
Ecotourism is thriving in Mararikulam, where efforts to conserve the beach and surroundings have not gone unnoticed. The town was recognised in 2007 with the Skal International Ecotourism award. This is not a bustling tourist centre, rather this virgin territory is where you’ll find Keralan hospitality and small town charm. Even the most recent addition of beachside hotels has not ruined Marari’s sleepy feel, because local regulations ensure that they’re low rise, discreet, and blend in with the lovely natural surroundings. Come to Marari for space, nature, and silence. If you’re lucky enough to meet the local “Chaiwala”, he’ll serve you a village tea with a traditional Marari pouring style.
A small and quaint rural village in Kerala’s Ernakulam region, Neeleswaram is not a typical tourist hot spot, rather, it is a quiet place to celebrate religion, culture, river life, and nature. Nestled in the foothills of the western ghats, it is bordered by the Periyar river to the south and surrounded by rubber plantations. Neeleswaram is in close proximity to Kottappuram along the river, which is the access point for travel by boat through the Kasaragod backwaters. Bekal is only an hour away.
Neeleswaram is proud of its beautiful sacred groves, or Kavus. These picturesque forest retreats are cool, verdant, and rich with flora and fauna. So valued are the Kavus for culture and recreation in Neeleswaram, the government has taken measures to protect the rare and precious turtles, birds, bats, and rich medicinal plants that inhabit them.
Here, colourful cultural festivals are frequently celebrated with song, dance, and bright traditional clothing, and the residents perform Theyyam, a ritualistic art form. The most well known festivals are the Pooram and Kalasam festivals. In the town itself, you’ll find many lovely temples, an old palace that now functions as a thriving folklore centre, a weaving street, and old market stalls.
Close by, Thaikadapuram offers beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches but without the throngs of people and hassle that comes with the more popular Keralan beaches. The area is home to the Olive Ridley turtle, a tiny and rare Indian species.