Varkala Beach (Papanasam Beach) is a nice respite from India’s typical hustle. // © 2015 Creative Commons user zz77
Feature image (above): Kick back on white-sand beach of Agatti Island, about 285 miles off the coast of Kochi. // © 2015 Creative Commons user swissfrog
It’s difficult to imagine a spot in India that isn’t packed with people — especially when it comes to India’s beaches, which act as necessary respite from the baking sun. Still, a vacation where you’re fighting for a spot on the sand isn’t much of a vacation at all.
To save you some energy, we have rounded up a list of beaches to visit that still remain relatively off the radar.
Agatti Island, Lakshadweep
Approximately 285 miles off the coast of Kochi lies beautiful Agatti Island. Its Indian Ocean location gives the island an almost Maldivian quality, with striking blue water and sugary sand. The island is ringed with beautiful coral reefs, making it a top spot for divers and snorkelers. The island is open to visitors, though there are certain restrictions in place.
Visitors are required to obtain an entry permit from the Lakshadweep Administration. In order to secure a permit, travelers must have a confirmed place to stay. The hotel to book on Agatti is Agatti Island Beach Resort, which has nine beach huts and 10 beach bungalows lining the sandy bay. Choose from either the standard or deluxe cottages. All rooms overlook the beach and lagoon and are eco-friendly.
Agonda Beach, Goa
As far south as one can go in Goa is Agonda, a long, quiet stretch of beach. Though the water might not be ideal for swimming, the beach itself is pristine and quiet and is lined with budget beach hotels and bungalows.
For something a little more upscale, visit H2O Agonda, a collection of upscale beachside cottages with an Ayurvedic health spa on premises. Agonda evokes more of a local, tranquil vibe, as opposed to other nearby, more popular beaches in Goa. If you need a dose of party, head to Palolem beach, around20 minutes away.
Ezhimala Beach, Kerala
Steeped in history, Ezhimala Beach in Kerala is about 35 miles from the Kannur town. The secluded beach is surrounded by coconut trees and dotted with sculpted, ancient stone pillars. Dolphin sightings are not uncommon in this part of India, as well.
The hills surrounding the beach are famous as being the former capital of the ancient Mushika Kingdom. Legend has it that Lord Buddha had also made Ezhimala a stop during his travels.
Karmatang Beach, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
For a real change of pace and scenery, head out into the Bay of Bengal to visit the Andaman and Nicobar islands, an archipelago of 362 volcanic islands. Only 37 of the islands are inhabited and the one to know is Karmatang Beach, located 150 miles from Port Blair. This rugged beach is known not only for its natural beauty and isolation, but also for its sea turtles, which return each season to lay their eggs. On the beach enjoy activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving and boating.
For those in the mood to stay dry and explore the native forests, trek around Mount Harriet and Madhuban. To reach the archipelago, fly via Kolkata or Chennai into Port Blair. There are also passenger ships available to Port Blair twice per month.
Marari Beach, Kerala
A sleepy fisherman’s village, Marari is a good beach spot for travelers seeking tranquility and nature. Few hotels exist here, but two to know are Marari Beach Resort and Erandia Marari Ayurveda Beach Resort.
Marari Beach Resort offers garden villas, garden pool villas and deluxe pool villas, and is ideal for those who want to completely disconnect. Aside from relaxing on the beach and exploring the nature trails around the resort, guests can take cooking classes, rent bicycles, relax at the swimming pool or visit the nearby village.
Erandia has just 13 deluxe rooms and a full menu of traditional Ayurvedic therapies. The beach is quiet and clean, and the water is safe for swimming. Other than the few hotels in the village, there isn’t much else going on, so be prepared to park yourself in a beach hammock and kick back for days.
Varkala Beach (Papanasam Beach), Varkala, Kerala
Kerala’s claim to fame is its network of backwaters, which provide a calm escape from the frenetic hustle of India’s cities. But Kerala also has one of India’s most beautiful beaches, located in the small town of Varkala.
Varkala Beach, also known as Papanasam Beach, is renowned for its medicinal and healing properties, as it is home to a natural spring. Not to miss is the 2,000-year-old Janardhanaswamy Temple, which guards over the beach from a cliffside perch. The beach is busiest from December through February, and travelers may want to avoid visiting during monsoon season, which starts in June and may last until end of November.