You have to envy the travellers who discovered Kovalam back in the 1970s. Before the appearance of the crowds and sunbeds that nowadays spill over the resort’s quartet of beaches, not to mention the warren of hotels, shops and restaurants crammed into the palm groves behind them, this must have been a heavenly location. Four decades of unplanned development, however, have wrought havoc on the famous headland and its golden sand bays. Virtually every conceivable patch of dry ground behind the most spectacular of them, Lighthouse Beach, has been buried under concrete, but it’s still a popular base for Ayurveda and yoga. The proximity of Kovalam to the city means domestic tourism is booming; closest to the bus and taxi stand, Howah Beach in particular attracts a lot of day-trippers, who leave behind a trail of rubbish.

Visitors should be aware that due to unpredictable rip currents and a strong undertow, especially during the monsoons, swimming from Kovalam’s beaches is not always safe. The introduction of blue-shirted lifeguards has reduced the annual death toll, but at least a couple of tourists still drown here each year, and many more get into difficulties. Follow the warnings of the safety flags at all times and keep a close eye on children. There’s a first-aid post midway along Lighthouse Beach.

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