Stretching along 7500km (4660 miles) of sun-toasted tropical coastline, India’s beaches swing from deserted white-sand wonders and golden surf beauties to lively pilgrimage strands and palm-dusted hippie-vibe havens.
Silky-sand Goa and backwater-laced Kerala are the country’s beach queens, but there are plenty of other seductive Indian sands worth seeking out. The fast-growing surf scene will delight travelers keen to ride the waves; diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and countless other water sports cater to active souls; and there are endless opportunities for toes-in-the-sand sun salutations in the birthplace of yoga.
Although local clean-up initiatives are on the rise, India’s ongoing beach-pollution issues often mean plastic and toxic waste washing up across the country. Do your bit by exploring responsibly, supporting sustainably run businesses and joining beach-cleaning projects. These are India’s best beaches.
Surrounded by palm-forested headlands on Karnataka’s isolated far-north coast, Gokarna’s luscious sand-and-rock coves have morphed into some of India’s most beloved beaches, yet still retain their laid-back, off-grid beauty.
South from spiritual Gokarna town (a major pilgrimage destination), honey-hued sand ripples into the turquoise Arabian Sea, with perfect swimming and fuss-free guesthouses, like Namaste Yoga Farm, mingling with surf schools, yoga shalas, swaying hammocks, kayak-hire shops and more. Golden-blonde Kudle and Om Beaches sit 5km (3 miles) south of town; from Om, you can walk along a coastal path to roadless, escape-it-all Half Moon Bay and Paradise Beach.
Thottada & Bekal, Kerala
Northern Kerala’s Malabar Coast, between Kozhikode (Calicut) and the Karnataka border, remains blissfully unexplored. Head for secluded Thottada Beach, just south of Kannur, where a low-key homestay scene has grown up overlooking powder-soft golden sands, and days start with Keralan breakfasts at family-owned addresses like Blue Mermaid and Costa Malabari. From November to April, you might be welcomed at a local theyyam, an ancient temple ritual performed in a sacred grove.
Further north, the Bekal area has a sprawling 17th-century fort overlooking miles of flaxen beach, and a few exquisite top-end hotels including sustainability-driven dream Neeleshwar Hermitage. Kerala’s untouristed northern backwaters trickle inland – savoring the calm, sunrise glow aboard a thatched-roof kettuvallum (houseboat) here is unforgettable.
Goa’s mellow southern beaches rank among India’s most beautiful, though they’re no secret. Feasting on deliciously spiced seafood, trying out water sports, lazing in rainbow-colored beach huts and catching the sunset are the draws, making South Goa a delight for families, backpackers, couples or anyone keen to just relax on the sand.
Almost on the Karnataka border, Palolem is one of Goa’s dreamiest beaches – a sun-yellow sweep lapped by calm waters perfect for kayaking, swimming and paddleboarding, with a buzzy yoga scene, seasonal beach-hut accommodations and endless activities, such as Goan-cooking courses and organic-farm visits.
Lovely neighboring Patnem has more of a go-slow feel, and its own clutch of bamboo huts and yoga escapes. A few kilometers further north sits serene, family-friendly Agonda, a delectable stretch of golden sand framed by coconut palms, stylish beach huts and a bit of surf; walk over to lagoon-fringed Cola Beach, one of Goa’s more hidden-away delights.
Kovalam (Covelong) & Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), Tamil Nadu
For a taste of South India’s thriving surf scene, don’t miss the once-sleepy fishing village of Kovalam, 30km (19 miles) south of Chennai (Madras) along Tamil Nadu’s east-facing coast. The golden-beach scene here revolves around the pioneering Covelong Point surf school, founded back in 2012; now it hosts a music-surf-and-yoga festival each August and offers kayaking, paddle-boarding, diving, windsurfing and a B&B too.
There’s more surf in Mamallapuram, 20km (12 miles) south of Kovalam, a beach-hugging pilgrim town and low-key travelers’ hub, where a string of Unesco-listed Pallava temples and rock carvings create a magical backdrop to gleaming sands.
Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep), Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Flung 1400km (870 miles) east of mainland India in the remote Andaman Islands, Havelock is a salt-scented, jungle-wrapped jewel, beloved for having some of the most spectacular beaches and diving in South Asia. Turquoise waves wash onto salt-white sand watched over by primeval forest, with bamboo huts and dive schools dotted along the eastern shoreline, and there’s wonderful snorkeling and swimming (though do check locally about crocodile warnings).
On Havelock’s southwest coast, unbelievably beautiful Radhanagar Beach is a vision of silken sand and flaming sunsets, with a couple of upmarket hotels, including tourism pioneer Barefoot at Havelock. Or escape inland to chicly designed Jalakara. Getting here is half the adventure: fly into Port Blair, then it’s a two-hour ferry to Havelock.
Konkan Coast, Maharashtra
Venture almost to the Goa border to uncover the emerging southernmost reaches of Maharashtra’s Konkan Coast, where centuries-old forts loom over gold-black beaches shaded by coconut palms and casuarina trees.
Low-key Tarkali, just south of Malvan, is a fishing and cashew-growing area with a sun-soaked beach, a growing number of guesthouses and the ruined 17th-century Sindhudurg Fort just offshore. There’s good diving to underwater caves, courtesy of the marine-biologist-led IISDA, along with other water sports, and you might spot dolphins. With flights to Sindhudurg airport launched in 2021, this pocket of Maharashtrian paradise just became much easier to reach.
Varkala & Kovalam, Kerala
Southern Kerala’s twin beach towns, dotted on either side of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), reveal some of India’s most popular sands after Goa – and for good reason.
Varkala combines a lively backpacker/surfing scene with the serenity of an important temple town. Rust-red laterite cliffs cascade down to a series of lemon-yellow beaches, with trinket shops, yoga schools and mellow restaurants precariously perched above. Stay at stylish Soul & Surf or buzzy Mad About Coco, head to sandy strands outside town for tranquillity and explore the nearby backwaters.
Home to ayurvedic retreats, a candy-striped lighthouse and a trio of smooth, cream-colored beaches, Kovalam has a relaxed, tropical feel and wide-ranging appeal, with accommodations running from Mediterranean-vibe Paradesh Inn to sumptuous five-star Leela.
From party vibes in Baga to yoga stretches in Mandrem, the action-packed northern half of Goa’s 160km (99-miles) coastline is crammed with striking beaches. While things here feel overly developed for some travelers, it’s still possible to escape the bustle by exploring with your own wheels.
Lively Anjuna is a slender strand bordered by cliffs and coconut trees, with a famous Wednesday flea market, while scenic Assagao, just inland, has become a mellow yoga hub known for its Portuguese-style architecture. Arambol (Harmal), Goa’s northernmost developed beach, has a budget-friendly feel beneath earthy-red cliffs, and laid-back Mandrem’s gleaming-white sands offer a blissful escape from it all, with yoga, beach-shack restaurants and huts overlooking a small river.
If you’re here for Goa’s nightlife, the party beaches of Vagator, Calangute and Baga and keep things rumbling on, even during the off-season between May and October.
Puri, Odisha (Orissa)
In Puri, one of India’s holiest Hindu towns meets a beachy hangout for off-the-beaten-track backpackers on Odisha’s southeast coast.
Once a 1970s hippie-trail haven, the town centers on the unparalleled 12th-century Jagannath Temple, where devotees gather for the Rath Yatra festival (July/August). There's also a dynamic beach festival in November.
The wide, dusty-blonde beach is dotted with fishing boats, though you’ll find umbrella-shaded lounging space around the community-operated Model Beach. Within easy reach lie Konark’s unmissable 13th-century Sun Temple (with its erotic carvings), holy Bhubaneswar and Ramchandi beach, home of the India Surf Festival.
Mandarmani, West Bengal
Strung along the steamy West Bengal coast, 150km (93 miles, or four hours’ drive) southwest of Kolkata (Calcutta), Mandarmani fishing village has morphed into a relaxed coastal resort. The rolling, unpolluted, 15km (9-mile) sandy beach here melts into the distance, and is known for its populations of tiny sand bubbler crabs. Join the fiery east-coast sunrise to spot local fisherfolk bringing in the day’s catch, and explore neighboring sands like Digha and Tajpur.
Often overlooked by travelers in the rush to explore the backwaters, central Kerala’s dazzling gold-tinged coastline is a beach-lover’s dream, particularly around increasingly popular Marari, north of Alappuzha (Alleppey). An endless white-gold beach trickles down to sunsets blazing over the Arabian Sea, and there’s a sprinkling of original places to stay, such as boutique-inspired Marari Villas. Just south, Kattoor retains its small-village feel, with empty sands and peaceful homestays.
Rushikonda, Andhra Pradesh
One of only eight Indian beaches awarded a sustainability-focused Blue Flag, wild-feel Rushikonda is the loveliest stretch of sand in Andhra Pradesh. Backed by lushly forested hills, 10km (6 miles) northeast of lively Visakhapatnam, this curving, 3km-long (2-mile) yellow-gold strand is perfect for a paddle – though swimming is banned due to dangerous east-coast currents – and has surfboards and kayaks available to rent.
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