20 beach breaks to kick off 2021


Get your dose of Vitamin Sea with these gorgeous seaside getaways that offer whatever your holiday heart yearns for—be it food, culture, vibe, the surf or simply solitude.

Top beach getaways

SOLITUDE

GOA

You’ll be glad to know that it’s still possible to find quiet stretches of sand in Ashwem, Mandrem and Tiracol, where you can spread out your yoga mat for early-morning Surya Namaskars. Keeping with the ambience, photographer Denzil Sequeira has turned his family home in North Goa into a boutique stay, with five villas and a bunch of tents. Elsewhere Goa (doubles from Rs14,300; aseascape.com) prides itself in keeping things low-key and private, which is perhaps why Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie chose to vacation here when they last came to India.

GOKARNA, KARNATAKA

Photo: Rahulnath
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This rocky town on the coast of Karnataka is popular with pilgrims, but there is another meditative experience to be had. Check into Kahani Paradise (doubles from Rs20,000; kahaniparadise.com), a six-bedroom luxury villa that lords over the coast from its hilltop perch. If the 3.5-hour drive from Goa sounds like a bit too much, get yourself a chopper that will land right on the property. That time you save can fetch you leisurely walks down the beach, or long yoga sessions in one of the most popular beachside wellness retreats in India. 

MARARIKULAM, KERALA

Sunsets are great, but have you spent a cool January morning watching fishermen pull in their catch as the sun comes over the treetops? If a do-nothing beach break is what you’re looking for, get yourself on a flight to Kochi and drive one hour south to Mararikulam. Stay at Marari Villas (doubles from Rs13,000; mararivillas. com) where each of the three villas comes with its own private pool.

ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS

How about kicking off the year with thousands of strangers? India’s most popular scuba destination is in prime shape at this time of the year. Up the ante with a night dive (certified divers only), or drive to one of the many nesting sites here and watch Olive Ridleys come in to hatch. Stay at Barefoot Resorts (doubles from 1Rs1,500; barefoot-andaman.com). It’s the first eco-friendly resort of the islands, located just off the pristine Radhanagar Beach. From kayaking and trekking to bodyboarding for kids, this one packs it all. And then there is the diving.

ZANZIBAR

Two flights from Mumbai will get you to this archipelago off Tanzania, where you can pack in a range of experiences. Park yourself in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island’s most popular attraction. Take at least two days to take in its mosques, spice bazaars and the gorgeous Palace Museum (zanzibartourism.go.tz). Savour the flavourful street-food that’s a mix of African and Middle Eastern influences. Then go snorkelling off Chumbu Island. Park yourself at the Baraza Resort & Spa, Zanzibar (doubles from EUR960/ Rs86,000; baraza-zanzibar.com), which does well to recreate Omani opulence.

MALDIVES

Photo: Rahulnath

Sitting at the southernmost end of the Maldives, the Raffles Maldives Meradhoo (doubles from Rs1,09,353; raffles.com) is designed for solitude. Pick from one of the lavishly appointed villas and residences on the main island. Or if you want to truly cut off, check into any of the 16 villas on the Overwater Island; they come with a private pool. For absolute privacy, splash out on the Raffles Royal Residence. It’s a three-bedroom affair that can open up into six and comes with its own private beach, pool and barbecue restaurant. 

FOOD

ALIBAUG, MAHARASHTRA 

A Maharashtrian thali at Kasturi in Alibaug. Photo: Salil Deshpande

Take the new Ro-Ro car ferry from Mumbai to get to Mandwa in an hour. En route to Alibaug, stop at Kasturi (8806232200), a spotlessly clean Malvani restaurant run by a women’s cooperative, for the best fish thali in the area. Else, there is always Sanman (9049499883) right in town. Stay at By the Beach (Rs75,000 for the entire villa; saffronstays.com), a five-bedroom villa with a private pool, a short hop from Mandwa jetty. Tip: the car-ferry saves you two hours on the road, but is booked out early.

BEKAL, KERALA

For a quieter break, drive 50km from Mangaluru airport to Bekal, where you can treat yourself to the finest Malabar biryani or the mud-baked herbal chicken, which tastes much better than it sounds. Take your time to explore the 17th-century Bekal Fort with an impressive martial history and equally impressive views. Stay at The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal (doubles from 10,999; thelalit.com), where the chefs will put the best of Kerala on your plate.

VIBE

VAGATOR, GOA 

View of Vagator Beach from Chapora Fort. Photo: Matthew Williams-Ellis Travel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

They say the party really began in Goa on the beaches of Anjuna and Vagator, so can there be a better place to kickstart 2021? Most of the old clubs and restaurants in the north are back after the lockdown, such as Thalassa (thalassaindia.com), but there are new ones, too, including Bomras (bomras.com), which has now moved to Anjuna. Stay at the party-hard W Goa (doubles from Rs17,773; marriott.com); their new beverage ambassador will whip up innovative cocktails with organic ingredients.

LAMU, KENYA

Cap your Kenyan safari with a beach break in Lamu. The oldest continuously inhabited Swahili settlement in East Africa has yet to be gentrified, which allows you a peep into life in small-town Africa. There are no cars in Lamu Town, but you can always hire a donkey to get around. If you miss your creature comforts though, Shela village near Old Town has several Med-style boutique hotels and clubs. Stay at the beachfront Peponi Hotel (doublesfromUSD250/ RS18,440; peponihotel.com) where you can watch the dhows sail by all day. 

SURFING

MANGALURU, KARNATAKA 

Midway between Udupi and Mangaluru lies the coastal village of Mulki, where the ‘Surfing Swami’ set up India’s first surf school in 2004. The Mantra Surf Club (doubles from Rs3,900; surfingindia.net) can teach you how to stand up, paddle and ride to the shore in just three to five days, while the 7-, 10- and 30-day courses will give you some serious skills. It’s a good way to burn off the calories you will pack by way of the Mangalore buns at the 98-year- old The New Taj Mahal Café or the always-fresh fish thali at Machali (7795957575).

KOVALAM, KERALA

The candy-cane-coloured lighthouse gets all the attention, but it’s the easy swells that bring first-time surfers to the beaches near Kovalam. For 15 years, the Kovalam Surf Club (kovalamsurfclub.com) has been training kids as young as five—and even persons who are blind—to ride the waves. Still unsure? The club offers 90-minute lessons, so you can literally test the waters before you commit. If things don’t work out, there’s always the infinity pool at the Taj Green Cove Resort & Spa, Kovalam (doubles from Rs15,000; tajhotels.com) all the better to soak in the sea and sky.

RAMESWARAM, TAMIL NADU 

The drive is over three hours from Madurai airport, but once you get to this exotic strip of sand on the southern tip of the peninsula, you will remember none of it. Pristine waters, a clean beach and a stiff breeze make it somewhat of a kite-surfing capital of India. Hit up Quest Adventure Sports Academy (quest-asia.com) for stay and surf packages. Bunk up at the Hyatt Place Rameswaram (doubles from 4,400; hyatt.com), which puts you within minutes of the area’s most popular shrines and the haunting needle-tip town of Dhanushkodi.

VARKALA, KERALA

An hour’s drive from Thiruvananthapuram will get you to one of India’s most popular surfing destinations. The swells are gentle at this time of the year, perfect for surfing newbies. Bunk up with Soul & Surf (doubles from 5,100 for minimum three nights; soulandsurf.com), which combines the charms of a boutique homestay with all the thrills of the full-blown surf school that it is. S&S also offers yoga and meditation lessons and the most stunning views of the Arabian Sea from its clifftop perch, which are no less therapeutic. Or try Privasea Villa (doubles from Rs9,999; privaseavarkala. com), a single-key beach cottage, which comes with a chef-concierge and a private rickshaw.

JEFFREYS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA

We would recommend a two-flight trip to South Africa only because what lies at the end is worth all the fuss. J-Bay consistently ranks among the world’s top five surfing destinations for the quality, range and sheer size of the surf—we’re talking 12-ft waves in peak season. But worry not, there are several spots and surf schools where you can get your very first taste of life on the board. Check into the Diaz-15 House on the Bay (doubles from Rs12,830; diaz15.co.za), and check out to kick off your road trip up the Garden Route. 

CULTURE

KONARK, ODISHA

Those who would like to start 2021 with the blessings of the Sun must head to Konark (64km from Bhubaneswar). The Sun Temple is spectacular any day of the year, but a visit on Makar Sankranti (14 January) is considered particularly propitious. From February, the beaches near Konark get busy with thousands of Olive Ridley turtles coming in to nest. Your best bet here is the pet-friendly Lotus Eco Beach Resort Konark (doubles from Rs5,000; orchidhotel.com), right by the Kushabhadra River estuary.

MAHABALIPURAM, TAMIL NADU 

There are 40 reasons to drive to Mahabalipuram, and they are all etched in stone. The Group of Monuments, as they are known, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 7th century. The postcard favourite is the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, but the Descent of the Ganges, a sprawling open-air rock relief on the shore, is no less impressive. The Ivy Villa, a Balinese-style one-bedroom property, on Airbnb (doubles from Rs13,571; airbnb.com) is ideal for a couple.

THARANGAMBADI, TAMIL NADU

Despite being the first Danish trading post in India, Tharangambadi, formerly Tranquebar, has managed to remain quaint and low-key. That means you have largely crowd-free access to the beaches and the 17th-century Fort Dansborg and its museum, whose collection includes artefacts from across the seas. Parts of the town have been restored and can be explored on foot or a cycle. Book yourself at The Bungalow on the Beach (doubles from Rs5,040; neemranahotels.com), which is exactly what it claims.

KOVALAM, TAMIL NADU

 An easy- breezy drive down the East Coast Road gets you to the crowd-free beaches of Kovalam (Covelong). En route, stop by at the Dakshinachitra Heritage Museum (dakshinachitra.net), a living open-air precinct of 18 homes that gives you a peep into the lifestyle in Southern India. Then, park yourself at Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa, Chennai (doubles from Rs11,500; tajhotels.com). Spend your mornings walking through the fishing village and soak in some of the hurly-burly.

VISAKHAPATNAM, ANDHRA PRADESH 

The year 2021 will mark 50 years of the sinking of PNS Ghazi off the coast of Vizag during the Bangladesh Liberation War—one of India’s finest naval victories. For maritime history geeks, what better time than now to head to the headquarters of India’s Eastern Naval Command? The city has everything from a massive naval dockyard to a submarine museum. Stay at THE Park Visakhapatnam (doubles from Rs7,300; theparkhotels.com), for its sea views and the Beachside Bar & Club that takes the party to the sands. 

 



Updated: January 5, 2021 — 12:37 pm

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