India: Kihim Beach -
Paradise on the Konkan Coast

What?
Several kilometres of picture-perfect sandy beach just a short boat ride away from Bombay.

Why visit?
Hey, who doesn’t like a beach? 

The beaches in Bombay itself are more like broad open sewers- and crowded to boot, especially at the weekend.

But one of the Maximum City’s best hidden secrets is that you can take a boat from the Gateway of India to a little known beach paradise that resembles Goa 30 years or so ago.

Where?
Just across the water from Colaba, on the Konkan Coast, which runs between Bombay and Goa. Kihim is halfway between Mandawa and  Alibag. Map.


BOMBAY’S BEACHES ARE not exactly tropical island paradises. While they can be fun, what with their ramshackle rides (Juhu beach) and infamous sweat-infused bhel puri (Girgaon Chowpatty), they’re well short of laid back atmosphere, and long on crowds. Oh, and don’t even think about swimming- unless you fancy some nasty bacterial infection, as some beaches go by the nickname of 'poo-poo beach'.

But the Konkan Coast, which basically runs between Bombay and Goa, is a different story. Most of the Coast is still very rural, with long sandy beaches lined by palm trees, yielding pictures fit for your computer’s screensaver. Small villages dot the landscape and impressive bullock carts rule the roads.

The Konkan Coast is truly a rural escape from the mad, in-you-face, urban Indian jungle that is Bombay. This is what Goa must have looked like 30 years ago.

And getting there is really easy. There are boats and catamarans that run frequently from the Gateway of India- Bombay’s signature landmark in Colaba. Many tourists come here to take a day trip to Elephanta, but those in the know, which at the weekends includes upper-middle-class Bombayites, buy a ticket to Mandawa, directly south across the bay.

The boat ride is interesting enough as you will pass some massive ships as well as a variety of other vessels, some less seaworthy than others. Keep an eye out for the view of Colaba on departure and arrival- the only place in Bombay where you can take a picture of both the Taj hotel and the Gateway in a single shot.
Ship ahoy! You'll pass some interesting vessels on the way to Mandawa. 
Mandawa itself is basically just a jetty, but it’s the starting point for a slow journey down the Konkan Coast- if you would want to you could meander all the way down to Goa.


Alternatively, if you’re just looking for a quick break, you could do worse than heading down to Kihim, a small village with an oversized sandy beach just 10 km down the road.

Kihim’s beach is its main attraction- a glorious stretch of sand that, by Indian standards, is relatively clean. Don’t expect any deckchairs-for-hire or umbrella-topped cocktails: the village has a few B&B’s and guesthouses and one or two mid-range hotels, but few other facilities. But it’s a great place to get some fresh air, listen to the birds, and dodge falling coconuts.
Bathing is possible, although given that the Bombay skyline is visible on a clear day you’d probably want to minimize your seawater consumption. Also, there are lots of rocks so be sure to look around for the gaps between them and enter the water there.

Kihim is empathically low-key: during the week you’ll have the place practically to yourself. At low tide you can watch the villagers gather mollusks. Or you can count the shells. Bring a book. Or two.
What's for dinner? Gathering free-range mollusks. 
Count the shells- and wake me up when you're done. 
The end of another long, hard day in paradise. 
Minor Sights’ favourite hangout is Mango Beach House, a family-run mid-range hotel with tasteful grounds and a small swimming pool. But if you’re short on cash there are several low-budget options available, with standards matching their low-budget prices.
Weekends see an influx of visitors (of sorts...) and a single paraglider. 
Although the focus is on chillaxing, history buffs can get their ya-ya’s out, too, as there are several 17th century Marathi forts on islands just off the coast, including the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri, which are visible from Kihim beach. An hour or so further down is Murud-Janjira Fort, being infinitely more famous, having made it into a guidebook or two.


Getting there:
Getting there is half the fun. You take any of the boats running to Mandawa, from the Gateway of India in Colaba, run by three different companies. On a normal day you can just show up and buy a ticket for the next boat. Be sure to splurge on an upper deck ticket (an extra 50 Rs or so) for an unobstructed view and fresh sea breezes.

Once in Mandawa, either charter a local rickshaw, or have your hotel pick you up. The boat companies also provide buses to Alibaugh, and these pass Kihim so you can hop on one of these and ask to be dropped off in Kihim Village, about 1.5km from the beach. Here you will be joyfully received by a rickshaw-wallahs ready to overcharge you for the last stretch to the beach- about 80 Rs in 2014.

Please note that ferries don’t run during the Monsoon, although you can still reach the Konkan Coast by car, making a small detour through Navi Mumbai.

Useful links:
Colaba - Mandawa Ferry schedules
Information about visiting Khanderi and Underi forts.

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