This India family travel blog has been random, unpredictable and not entirely free from disasters, but our last stop of our 1 month in India, Kovalam, was the perfect ending to a fantastic trip. A time to relax on the beach, enjoy the pool, eat good food, and play with the kids in the surf without any pressure. The inevitable problems we face on a trip like this don’t spoil it, they are challenges to be overcome and they make the best stories. It seems that the tougher and more challenging a country is for travellers, the more we love it. We really love India.
We’re not on holiday. We don’t think travel and holiday are the same thing at all. On holiday most people seek rest, relaxation and pampering but that’s not what we do. We are trying to find travel experiences that we can learn from and develop a depth of knowledge about the destinations we visit. I’m still working on our websites and trying to raise and educate two boys as we pick our way around the world. I do get a holiday from cooking and cleaning and that’s what I wrote about in Travel is Great for Mums, but I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say is, Kovalam almost gave us a “normal” holiday for a few days, we dropped our packs, stopped looking for the next place to discover and just enjoyed.
Lovely little Kovalam is absolutely the sort of place you’d come on a family holiday, and many do, it is quite simply beautiful. Kovalam isn’t tough.
Accommodation and food are good, the beach is gorgeous and the pace relaxing. Even the wi-fi works in Kovalam, making for a stress-free stay.
The beach is stunning and the lighthouse looks as if it’s been planted on top of the rusty-red rocks purely to look good on holiday photos. The colours are so bright and sharp it could be a child’s drawing. The sea is blue and the waves are ideal for children to play. The sand is fine and has sparkling black grains running through it, the beach slopes away gently giving shallow areas for paddling. The lifeguards keep swimmers under their watchful gaze in the middle of the beach, the surfers take the edges. You can hire body boards and have an hour of fun for 100Rps.
At the north end of the beach fishing boats and nets stand on the sand, waiting to be used again.
Behind the beach the simple huts have gone, replaced by rows of small restaurants, hotels and guest houses. This isn’t modern development as you’d see on the Costas, it’s very Indian and quite charming. Tiny shops, Ayurvedic massage establishments, yoga centres and tailors workshops hide in the incredibly narrow lanes between buildings. If you keep strolling down the rabbit hole, you’ll find yourself somewhere green, there are still coconut palms, vivid blue kingfishers and Kerala’s famous watery landscape hidden back there.
On the beach local fishermen work, taking boats out into the night or harvesting fish close to the shore. These old men with their strong, sinewy legs topped with colourful lungis, must have seen enormous changes in their lifetimes.
The hotel we stayed at, was rather good for just 900 Rps ( 9 pounds) per night. We had 3 beds, a bathroom with working shower, a great pool, good mosquito screens on the windows and a lovely, cool balcony space with furniture and fan. The wi-fi was the fastest we’ve had in India ( excluding the power cuts that plague this country). We would recommend it to other travellers and consider Kovalam one of the cheaper places we’ve stayed on our 1 month trip.
But no post of mine would be complete without a few problems, so here they are.
We spent longer here than we expected. The Nepal earthquake meant a last-minute flight change for us, we should have left Kovalam for Kathmandu, instead we flew to Europe.
We got sick, 2/4 down with a fever and GI problems ( a doctors visit in London confirmed a virus), we’re both on the mend now. I was very glad to have my travel ear thermometer and a month’s supply of paracetamol. ( Part of our Travel Medical Kit).
Boo was chased by dogs while he was playing beach cricket, he’s been scared of dogs for years,so that wasn’t good. I really don’t like stray dogs, you just can’t trust them, but in Kovalam they’re trying to treat them well and many have rabies vaccinations as shown by coloured collars. On the whole the dogs were extremely docile.
Staying in Kovalam
We loved it in Kovalam and we’d come back again tomorrow if we could. It was great for the kids and relaxing for the grown ups. Even getting here was easy, we took the 2AC chair class train from Ernakulum ( Cochin), it took around 5 hours and was totally painless.
Trivandrum International Airport is just 15Km from Kovalam. We flew from there direct to London on Etihad, very cheaply. Check Skyscanner to find great deals, our post on tips for using this search tool could save you money (click through).
To get from Trivandrum Internaional Airport to Kovalam beach is a simple, low cost, taxi ride.
Food and Drink in Kovalam
Make sure you try some local specialities while you’re in southern India, there are interesting dishes here that many won’t have heard of, mostly vegetarian, light and cheap. I’m working on a post about food in this part of the world.
With fishermen operating from the beach right in front of the restaurants, it’s no surprise that fresh seafood features heavily on the Kovalam menu. Pick your fish and have it simply prepared, or go for a fish or seafood curry, the choice is yours.
There are endless food options, expect to pay from a minimum of 70Rps (70p) to 150 Rps (1 pound 50) for a vegetarian curry. Around 250Rps for a meat based curry. Fresh fish is available at market prices and could cost you a fair amount of money. You will find western dishes, pizza and pasta in a number of restaurants.
Many restaurants back from the beach serve Indian “pure veg” food. They won’t serve eggs, although curd and paneer do feature. We noticed, at Lonely Planet pure veg restaurant, that vegetable oil was the only cooking oil they used, this could be a safe bet for vegans. We had a few good breakfasts at Lonely Planet.
Alcoholic Drinks in Kovalam
Just for the record, Kerala isn’t dry. Licensed restaurants ( these tend to be the larger, more up-market restaurants and hotels) and “beer parlours” can serve alcoholic drinks openly in Kerala but many small eateries will serve beer disguised as coffee.
There are plenty of accommodation options. It would be lovely to have a sea view, it’s a view worth having and you will be able to watch the fishermen on the beach in the early mornings and the sunset in the evenings. There are many hotels on the beach, some fairly upmarket. Jeevan Ayurvidic Beach Resort is a good one, right on the beach, we ate there a few times and were charmed by their friendly staff.
Many more hotels lie behind this front row, one built next to the other in an interesting jumble. Many have great, clean pools and sun loungers. You will only be a very short walk from the beach.
To find latest deals on accommodation in Kovalam and Poovar ( a beach resort area to the south), check Agoda, our most trusted booking engine. Don’t forget they offer reward points, we’re finding those very useful.
Want to read more about our experiences in India with a family? You could click the India tab under categories or head to our general India Travel advice page