10 best beaches in Kerala, India

written by
Ties Lagraauw

updated 29.06.2023

Kerala, one of the most visited areas in India, has a profound effect on visitors. From the emerald-green backwaters of Alleppey to the palm-fringed beaches of Kovalam. Kerala is an exotic wonderland that excites and touches your senses in equal measure. Nothing compares to feeling sand beneath your toes as you stroll across one of Kerala's stunning coastline gems - and there are so many beautiful spots beach lovers will not want to miss. These top 10 beaches in Kerala offer an unforgettable coastal getaway.

#1 Kovalam Beach, Kovalam

This is probably one of the most visited Kerala beaches. Kovalam consists of four coves, each with markedly different characters. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to walk from one end of them to the other, but there’s no shortage of potential pit stops along the way to restore your energies.

Kovalam Beach is the third of the coves and is dominated from on high by the angular chalets of the five-star Leela resort.

Coachloads of excited Keralan day-trippers descend here on weekends, but at other times it offers a peaceful alternative to the Kerala beaches further south.

Rough Guides Trips: check our Magical Kerala trip where you visit the best places in Kerala

Main beach in Kovalam, Kerala, India © Shutterstock

Main beach in Kovalam, Kerala, India © Shutterstock

#2 Lighthouse Beach, Kovalam

The largest and most developed cove at Kovalam, known for obvious reasons as Lighthouse Beach, is where most foreign tourists congregate.

Lined by a paved esplanade, its seafront of shops and hotels extends along the full length of the bay, overlooked by the eponymous lighthouse at the southern end.

You can scale the 142 spiral steps and twelve ladder rungs to the observation platform for a fine view of one of Kerala's best beaches.


Lighthouse beach, Kovalam © Shutterstock

#3 Hawah Beach, Kovalam

A small rocky headland divides Lighthouse Beach from Hawah Beach (or Eve’s Beach) – almost a mirror image of its busier neighbour, although backed for most of its length by empty palm groves.

In the morning, before the sun-worshippers arrive, it functions as a base for local fishermen, who hand-haul their massive nets through the shallows, singing and chanting as they coil the endless piles of rope.

Rough Guides Trips: check our 12-day Unmissable India trip where you visit the best places in India.

The Hawah Beach at Kovalam in Kerala, India © Shutterstock

The Hawah Beach at Kovalam in Kerala, India © Shutterstock

#4 Samudra Beach, Kovalam

The most northerly of Kovalam’s quartet, Samudra Beach, was until recently a European package-tourist stronghold but it remains one of the best beaches in Kerala.

Nowadays the large hotels clustered just beyond it, on the far side of a low, rocky headland, host mainly metropolitan Indian and Russian holiday-makers.

Sunset From Samudra beach © Shutterstock

Sunset From Samudra beach © Shutterstock

#5 Papanasam Beach, Varkala

This beach in Kerala, 4km from Varkala town itself, is dramatically set against a backdrop of superb, burnt-clay-coloured cliffs.

Tightly crammed along the rim of crumbling North Cliff, its row of restaurants and small hotels stare out across a vast sweep of ocean – a view that can seem almost transcendental after sunset, when a myriad tiny fishing boats light up their lanterns.

Known in Malayalam as Papa Nashini (“sin destroyer”), Varkala’s beautiful white-sand Papanasam beach (also known just as Varkala beach) has long been associated with ancestor worship.

Devotees come here after praying at the ancient Janardhana Swamy Temple on the hill to the south, then perform mortuary rituals on the beach, directed by specialist pujaris (priests).

A beautiful landscape with a house in the seashore of Papanasam Beach, Varkala, India © Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Papanasam Beach, Varkala, India © Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

#6 North Cliff, Varkala

Few of Varkala’s Hindu pilgrims make it as far as the North Cliff area, but this little hidden Kerela beach is well worth the trip.

The focus of a well-established tourist scene, bamboo and palm-thatch cafés jostle for space close to the edge of the mighty escarpment that plunges vertically to the beach below.

Several steep flights of steps cut into the rock provide shortcuts from the sand, or you can also get here via the gentler path that starts from the beachfront.

North Cliff beach in Varkala, Kerala, India © Shutterstock

North Cliff beach in Varkala, Kerala, India © Shutterstock

#7 South Cliff, Varkala

Dotted with mid-range hotels and guesthouses, the clifftop area running south of the main beachfront – known locally as South Cliff – is a much quieter neighbourhood of leafy lanes and large residential houses.

The beach below, one of the most fabled in Kerela, is reached via rock-cut steps from several of the hotels.

It largely disappears at low tide, but offers a blissfully secluded spot to swim when the water recedes.

Varkala South Cliff beach © Shutterstock

Varkala South Cliff beach © Shutterstock

#8 Cherai Beach, Kochi

The closest beach to Kochi worth the effort of reaching is Cherai, 25 km north of the city on Vypeen Island.

A 3km strip of golden sand and thumping surf, it’s sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the sea and a very pretty backwater area of glassy lagoons.

Chunky granite sea defences prevent the waves from engulfing the ribbon of fishing villages that subsist along this strip, which is thought by many as one of the best beaches in Kerela.

Nowhere, however, is the sand more than a few metres wide at high tide, and the undertow can get quite strong.

Rough Guides Trips: check our Kerala, God’s Own Country trip where you visit Kochi.


Cherai beach, Kochi © Shutterstock

#9 Marari Beach, Mararikulam

Fourteen kilometres north of Alappuzha a number of high-end eco-resorts have sprung up in the fishing village of Mararikulam.

The attraction here is that there’s little to do except lounge on the uninterrupted stretch of white-sand beach, one of the finest in the Kerela.

Beach of Mararikulam, Village in Kerala, India © Shutterstock

Beach of Mararikulam © Shutterstock

#10 Valiyaparamba, Hosdurg Taluk

If you were overwhelmed by the crowded backwaters in the south and are yearning for quiet white-sand beaches and coconut trees, push on 50km north of Kannur to one of the quietest stretches of coast in the state.

The Valiyaparamba backwaters centre on a small, 30km delta fed by four rivers and their various bands and tributaries.

Though local ferries crisscross this fascinating necklace of lagoons and islets, and a few companies organise houseboat trips from Ayitti Jetty, Valiyaparamba holds comparatively few permanent dwellings and traffic on its waterways largely consists of country fishing boats.

It makes a wonderful region for off-track explorations; foreign tourists are few and far between.

Valiyaparamba sunset © Shutterstock

Valiyaparamba sunset © Shutterstock

Explore Kerala beaches with Rough Guides

Southern India is a feast for the senses. The lush greenery of tea plantations, the colourful spice markets and plantations - our tailor-made trip to Kerala is nothing short of highlights. Take a houseboat trip on the Kerala backwaters before finishing your trip with some leisure beach days.

For more practical guidance that will help you make the most of your trip, have a chat with our local India experts, who can help you plan your dream trip.

Ties Lagraauw

written by
Ties Lagraauw

updated 29.06.2023

Ties is a true world explorer - whether it be for work or leisure! As Content Manager at RoughGuides, and the owner of Dutch travel platform Reis-Expert.nl, Ties is constantly on the move, always looking for new destinations to discover.

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