Celebrate this Diwali by hightailing it to the nearest beach
Kerala: Bekal Beach
Fewer people venture to the northern end of God’s Own Country. And those who do, stop to gape at the 17th century Bekal Fort, that looms over the Arabian Sea. There’s much joy to be had on the pristine beach just under the fort as well.. The most popular point on the beach is a park, about a kilometre from the fort, with many rides, sculptures, murals, and walkways. If you want some peace and quiet head to the section of the beach closer to the fort. Avoid bathing or swimming as the sea is rather rough.
Getting There: Kasaragod, 16km from Bekal, is the nearest town. The nearest airport is Mangalore, 50km from Kasaragod.
Where To Stay: Several hotels are strung out along the beach. Vivanta by Taj – Bekal (vivanta.tajhotels.com), the Lalit Resort and Spa (from Rs15,000; thelalit.com), Hotel Bekal Palace (from Rs 3,000 doubles; hotelbekalpalace.com) are the main hotels here.
Maharashtra: Harihareshwar Beach
The gentle beach that arcs away gracefully from the edge of Harihareshwar town in Maharashtra is all yours for the greater part of the day. The northern part of the beach, adjoining the popular temple, is visited by only a handful of people. The southern strip, far removed from the temple and overlooked by the government tourist lodge, is quiet and serene. If you want some excitement, you can go for speedboat rides from here.
Getting There: Harihareshwar is about 200km from Mumbai.
Where To Stay: The MTDC resort at Harihareshwar is a good enough excuse to visit Harihareshwar. The cottages (Rs 1800; maharashtratourism.gov.in) are scattered along a forested incline that goes down to the sea. To stay near the temple, you can check in at the Harihareshwar Beach Resort (Rs 3,000 for AC double; harihareshwar.com).
Tamil Nadu: Mahabalipuram Beach
If you hate to lie low during a weekend visit to the beach, then Mahabalipuram has the right recipe for you. Wander among the Unesco World Heritage monuments and marvel at the Five Chariots, the world’s largest bas-relief called Arujuna’s Penance and the Shore Temple. It is hard to avoid the pesky guides and souvenir sellers though. Walk past the rows of souvenir stalls to reach the beach, which can be crowded during weekends. Swimming is allowed but avoid the rocky areas.
Getting There: Mahabalipuram is around 50km from Chennai.
Where To Stay: You can either stay in town or the relatively crowd-free northern end where most of the beach resorts are located. TTDC’s Hotel Tamil Nadu Mamallapuram (from Rs 3,000 doubles; tamilnadutourism.org), Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay Mamallapuram (from Rs 6,500; radissonblu.com), Grand Bay Resort and Spa (from Rs 7,000;grandebayresort.in) and Hotel Mamalla Heritage (from Rs 2,600 for a deluxe room; hotelmamallaheritage.com) are the main options here.
West Bengal: Mandarmani Beach
For a relaxed weekend, escape to Mandarmani, a relatively new beach resort in West Bengal. Watch the setting sun gild the Bay of Bengal with its hues; take quiet strolls by the beach or enjoy sea food delicacies at the shacks on the beach. Avoid swimming too far out in the sea as there are strong underground current in some places. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try jet-skiing, banana boat rides, and speedboat rides.
Getting There: Mandarmani is about 170km from Kolkata. You take any Digha-bound train from Kolkata and alight at Contai station, about 17km from Mandarmani.
Where To Stay: Some of the popular hotels in Mandarmani are Victoria Beach Resort (Rs4,590 doubles; victoriabeachresort.in), Hotel Sonar Bangla (from Rs 4,277 doubles; hotelsonarbangla.com), Digante Resort (digante.com/) and Eco Villa Resort (from Rs 1,800; ecovillaresort.com).