The coastline of Kovalam has attracted Indian royalty and western hippies alike with aquamarine bays, sandy beaches and sunsets over the Arabian Sea. Spend timeless hours relaxing by the sea, wandering through markets and savouring fresh local seafood.
The name Kovalam translates as "coconut groves" and is so called because of the expansive coconut forests that envelop the town. This region became a holiday destination for Indian royalty in the early 20th century, but did not develop into its modern form until the 1970s when it was discovered by hippies.
Along Kovalam's 11-mile (17-kilometre) coastline, find three major beaches. The smallest and quietest is Samudra Beach, which is popular with fishermen who deliver their evening catches here. Next door is Hawah Beach, with its clean sands and gorgeous views.
Visit Lighthouse Beach, the busy epicenter of Kovalam's coast and its southernmost beach. Set up a rented sun lounge and umbrella, swim in warm shallow waters and join the locals on their evening walks along the seafront. Another popular activity here is a sunset boat tour beyond the bay.
After your beach excursions, explore the rest of the beach town. Walk through the labyrinthine streets to find markets selling silk gowns, hand-woven books and artisanal Tibetan goods.
Appreciate the grand architecture of Halcyon Castle, a stone-built royal residence on the headland between Samundra and Hawah beaches. Go to the promontory above Lighthouse Beach for Vizhinjam Lighthouse, a 118-foot (35-metre) red and white tower. For a small fee, you can climb the spiral staircase to the observation platform and take in sweeping views of Kovalam and beyond.
Wander along Vizhinjam Harbour Road atop a steep embankment for views of Vizhinjam International Sea Port. Be sure to stop by a gorgeous lime-green mosque occupying the port headland.
When you are looking for something to eat, find restaurants within the beach town or along its promenade. Among the options are vegetarian curry houses and European bakeries.
Kovalam is approximately 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Thiruvananthapuram and is easy to get to via taxi, rental car or rickshaw. This area is busiest in the dry season, from September through May.