With around 7,000 kilometers of coastline, India is a vast country. There is a well-established tourist trade on the beaches of Goa but it is wrong to think that there aren’t other places with equally good beaches.
It is just that India’s huge population works far too hard to take a week’s holiday by the sea; life is often too difficult for ordinary people to be able to afford the expense.
The huge numbers of overseas visitors have so much to see and do in this fascinating country that the majority completely forget about the beach.
The climate of India dictates the best time to visit, with the annual monsoon rains never failing.
They tend to begin during May and finally disappear in the autumn.
This is not the best time for the beach, but outside those weeks, temperatures are such that the beaches and warm seas are a relief.
There are domestic flights which offer the quickest way to get across this vast land.
Here are the best beaches in India:
1. Somnath Beach, West Gujarat
Gujarat is perhaps best known as the last refuge of the Asiatic lion, but this beach and the temple of the same name are two other reasons for a visit.
It is not a place for swimmers because the waves are strong, crashing into the coastline and the temple.
Joggers enjoy this stretch of grey sand early in the morning.
Later in the day, when temperatures fall, sunset is a great time to look out over the Arabian Sea.
During the day, families can enjoy a picnic, with the cool breeze moderating temperatures somewhat.
2. Tarkarli Beach, Maharashtra
Fine white sand is a feature of this beach, with its waters a great place for parasailing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
It’s quiet all year round, with visitors able to enjoy local history as well as the beach.
Just to the north, there is Sindhudurg Fort, which dates back to the 17th Century.
Views from the top of its walls out to sea are stunning.
There are quiet backwaters and busy villages just inland to enjoy as well.
The contrast between the hectic daily lives of locals throughout India and this beach could not be more marked.
3. Ganpatipule Beach, Maharashtra
This unspoiled beach on the Konkan Coast is truly exotic; a wonderful place within the state.
Those in search of tranquility, people who love a beach anywhere, and pilgrims are regular daily visitors but the numbers do not overwhelm here.
The temple of Swayambhu Ganesh is well visited; pilgrims regard this as the holiest of places and even non-Hindus pay their respects.
Ganpatipule has a beautiful and extensive range of flora which includes both mangroves and coconut palms.
4. Mandrem Beach, North Goa
The former Portuguese Colony of Goa has earned a worldwide reputation for its beaches.
It would be a fruitless exercise to include too many of its beaches at the exclusion of the rest of India.
Mandrem is largely a secret – remarkable, given visitor numbers to Goa.
It is in the north and attracts those interested in yoga and meditation.
You can enjoy a spa and massage and be certain that the place is not too crowded.
Surfers and swimmers can expect great conditions.
All in all, a great beach to visit.
5. Colva Beach, South Goa
Colva Beach is the most beautiful beach in Southern Goa; soft white sand with coconut palms stretching from Bogmalo to Cabo De Rama.
It was formerly a place that attracted high society back in colonial days.
Now it is the same as other parts of this coast, with overseas tourism an important factor.
There are regular parties and the nightlife is very vibrant.
One local attraction is the ‘Menino Jesus’ Statue at the Church of Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Piedade (Our Lady of Mercy) which was built in 1630.
6. Gokarna, Karnataka
Gokarna is a great beach escape with the added advantage of beautiful blue, warm waters.
There are a number of stretches of powdery white sand and if it is not too hot, why not walk around and explore them all? It is a very informal place with basic cafes and scenic coves.
If you are feeling lazy, take a short boat trip to a very secluded stretch of sand – Half Moon Beach.
The seafood here is excellent and if you decide you want to stay for a few days, it is possible to book a homestay with a local family.
7. Kaup, Karnataka
Kaup is on the Netravati River in Southern Karnataka.
The colors that confront you are beautiful – the gold of the sand, blue of the water and green of the casuarina trees.
Sunset is a great time here and there are few better places from which to enjoy it than at the top of the old lighthouse.
St. Mary’s Islands are just offshore and worth a visit.
They comprise a four-island archipelago dating back millions of years, with the lava rock columns very impressive.
Vasco da Gama was thought to have visited in the late 15th Century.
8. Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach, Kannur, Kerala
Muzhappilangad is the only drive-in beach in Asia.
It is parallel to National Highway NH-17, four kilometers between Thalassery and Kunnur.
April is a great month to visit this lovely beach because there is a festival.
It includes car and bike stunts, so appeals largely to the younger element because it can be fairly raucous.
Black rocks surround the beach, offering it some protection from strong currents.
It is good for both sunbathing and swimming, a peaceful spot where it is very easy to relax.
9. Marari Beach, Kerala
Marari Beach is the perfect base for those wanting to combine the beach with Kerala’s backwaters, which are the main reason for tourists to visit the state.
It is just under 100 kilometers from Kochi, the state capital.
You can happily relax there and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Regular rainfall means the vegetation is lush.
The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is definitely worth a trip and you can watch the locals making a variety of things from coir – the fibrous cover on coconuts.
10. Dhanushkodi Beach, Ramesawaram, Tamil Nadu
Dhanushkodi is the closest point of India to Sri Lanka.
It is where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean.
There is not much more than beautiful sand and blue sea but what more do you need from a beach location? It is said that Lord Rama, Lord Hanuman, and his army built the ‘’Setu” bridge to Lanka.
After cyclone destruction in the 60’s, the small town of Dhanushkodi was abandoned but that has never deterred people who want to enjoy the lovely sands and picturesque views of the deep south.
11. Ramakrishna Beach, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
This beach is just five kilometers from the city of Visakhapatnam.
Row after row of beach shacks provide lovely local cuisine and drinks.
The seafood is especially good.
It is a good spot for families and a popular family beach for sunbathing, swimming and water sports.
Some Indian families travel a significant distance to get here.
There are plenty of attractions close by as well, including the Kali Temple, the Aquarium, and two museums, Visakha and Submarine Museums.
12. Yarada Beach, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh on the Bay of Bengal is blessed with a lovely unspoiled coastline and Yarada Beach is certainly among the highlights.
None of the beaches are famous for parties or water sports; it is their beauty and serenity that make them attractive.
The longest beach road in India is in Andhra Pradesh but you will not find huge crowds heading for the beach.
Dolphin’s Nose Lighthouse on top of Black Mores Hill is worth a visit.
It provides a chance to get even more impressive views of the area.
13. Puri Beach, Orissa
Puri Beach is not only a beautiful stretch of palm-fringed sand, it attracts pilgrims who come here in homage to Lord Jaganath.
The white sands meet the waters rolling in from the Bay of Bengal resulting in locals and visitors alike loving the beach.
Sunrise and sunset are both spectacular and the resulting photographs will take pride of place in your album.
There is a small fishing village nearby where you can expect to enjoy wonderful prawns and a range of fish.
The Sun Temple is 35 kilometers from the beach but you may like to take the time to see it.
14. Mandarmani, West Bengal
This pristine beach is about four hours south of Kolkata and a huge contrast from that enormous chaotic city.
There was once a tiny fishing village, but development has seen it growing.
The 13 kilometers of beautiful sand is the main reason for its popularity.
You are likely to see a huge number of tiny red crabs scrambling over the sand; they are harmless and will do their best to avoid you.
The water is calm and therefore good for swimming.
Sunrise and sunset are great times of the day to be on these lovely sands.
15. Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
No coverage of the Sub Continent’s beaches would be complete without mentioning the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
Their beauty has remained untouched and the sands are certainly among the highlights.
Radhanagar Beach on Havelock Island is probably the top beach and recently earned the title of ‘Asia’s best beach’ from Time Magazine.
Water sports are forbidden so it is exclusively for those wanting to relax.
You can swim but not before 8am and not after 4pm.
The restrictions are worth it.