The idea of a beach in India usually conjures up images of Goa, but in January 2018, we decided to explore some of the lesser known beaches of southern Maharashtra recognised more for their plentiful sea forts, clear waters and excellent Malvani cuisine. An 11-hour drive from Mumbai, Malvan is accessible by car or bus, on highway 66, or by train, which affords a different scenic view, especially of the ghats.
Our first stop was Harnai and from our homestay perched up on a hill, we had a birds eye view of the beautiful Anjarle beach and Suvarnadurgh fort. We spent that evening on Anjarle beach, a wide expanse of pale caramel and black sand and calm waters. By a stroke of luck, the beach was completely empty and we had it all to ourselves as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon. The vista was a breathtaking teaser that made good on its promise as we journeyed on.
We reached Malvan in the afternoon and immediately set about exploring the old town with quaint little streets; homes that have been there forever with large coconut trees swaying over them; and thrown into this the new shops, cars, pedestrians and tourists jostling for space. The meditative scenery on our drive was similar throughout – the jagged rocky outcrop of the coastline punctuated by tiny fishing villages, miles of coconut and palm and gently winding roads that curved in and out of the hills.
Just a few hours out of city, the gray skies of Mumbai gave way to a lovely blue punctuated by cloud streaks and the promise of technicolour sunsets.
After a few missed turns we reached Chiwla beach in Malvan and were greeted with a sight that left us speechless. Chiwla beach is a large crescent shaped cove with white powdery sand and turquoise waters, the kind one expects to see in the Andamans or exotic south asian beach retreats, certainly not on mainland India! Beyond the sand there were numerous trees with small homestays and beach shacks peeking through. It was not a sight we expected in Malvan, a large town quite famous for water sports and inundated with tourists. But the beach was clean and the water, incredible.
Bhogwe is relatively unknown and under visited. Shielded on one end by high cliffs and thick foliage, the beach at Bhogwe is nothing short of paradise.
Making a mental note to return, we drove back up north to Naringre in search of our homestay, salivating at the thought of the authentic Malvani lunch waiting for us. We had the most delicious meal of Komdi wade: a Malvani style chicken, thick and flavourful with undertones of coconut, served with small fluffy fried dumplings made with wheat; fried brinjal that had been coated with the malvani masala and rawa (semolina), and rice, all topped off with homemade sol-kadi. We seriously contemplated moving homes if it meant we could be closer to Priya, who cooked us our meal. Stuffed and happy, we spent that day and the next in a salubrious stupor plied with generous glasses of chilled kokum juice.
Next on the agenda was a boat ride from Tambaldeg, to float down the river, following it to the point where it flowed in the sea. Hemmed in on both sides by dense mangroves, it’s beautiful; reminiscent of Kerala’s backwaters. As we rowed gently down the river to the sea the sun began its slow descent transforming the clouds into hues of pink, purple, and orange.
The next day we drove to Bhogwe as our last beach stop, a couple of hours away. Just south of its more famous neighbour Tarkali, Bhogwe is relatively unknown and under visited. Shielded on one end by high cliffs and thick foliage, the beach at Bhogwe is nothing short of paradise. Life here follows its own pace, dictated not by rush hour and meetings, but by the soothing rhythm of the tides. The sandy beach extends as far as the eye can see and we spent our days in Bhogwe exploring corals for hidden treasures, diving into the clean blue waters, chasing crabs, and taking leisurely barefoot strolls on the beach, our minds wandering to rawa fried prawns that awaited us at dinner and promises of yet another stunning sunset.
Dapoli (Anjarle beach), Naringre (Tambaldeg beach), Malvan (Chiwla beach), Bhogwe and Sawantwadi (Vengurla beach). You could also decide to stop at more popular places like Murud, Kashid, Harihareswar, Ganpatipule, Tarkali or Devbaug, all beautiful beaches but a tad overcrowded on weekends.
Where to stay and tips
At Harnai we recommend staying at SaffronStays Villa 270°. This homestay property has 5 independently villas, beautifully located at the top of a hill with commanding views of Anjarle Beach and Suvarnadurg Fort. For an interesting experience visit the Harnai Fish market which takes places between 4 and 6 pm everyday at Harnai beach to see all sorts of exotic species including Shark, Octopus, Eel and Lobster being traded traded in a chaotic but fun market.
Naringre is a great stop if you are looking for a taste of life in a Konkan village and Village Nirvana a cute little farmstay there offers some of the best Malvani food you have ever had.
Malvan has a number of hotels in various budget ranges and a number of homestays around Chiwla Beach. Don’t miss a trip out to the Sindhudurg Fort, perhaps the most popular of Maharashtra’s sea forts.
At Bhowge stay at the Samant Beach Resort which has beautiful wooden cottages by the beach. Bhowge beach is fairly secluded and out of the way so make sure you take everything you need!