Mumbai: If you have exhausted your options for sightseeing in this bustling metropolis, or, if you are in dire need of some solitude-seeking, soul-searching serenity, the bucolic coastline of Maharasthra – the third largest state in India, the capital of which is Mumbai – is a fantastic option. Maharashtra is sadly overshadowed by the beaches of its much smaller cousin Goa, with loads of tourists and weekend trippers heading off to this southern paradise, while skipping the equally beautiful and at times, even more peaceful seashore havens of Maharashtra.
However, with over 700 km of palm fringed coastline on the Arabian seas, Maharashtra has a lot to offer. While beaches like Alibaug, Kashid, Harihareshwar and Ganapatipule list among the all-time popular ones, there are myriads of hidden gems that are a sheer delight to discover and drop by. Having criss-crossed this state over the last many years, I personally prefer the beaches south of Mumbai to its northern counterparts, most of which are defined by incredibly long sandy stretches (that make for lovely morning or evening walks), whitish-brown sands, acres of coconut and palm plantations zealously hiding the beaches and finally, the quintessential hills that act like sentinels and prominently mark the boundaries of one beach from another. Thus characterized, the following is my personal pick of the 5 must-see far-from-the-madding-crowd beaches in this beautiful state. While it is a wonderful experience any time of the year, autumn to spring (October – April) is undoubtedly the best time to revel in these blue waters. The closer ones can be checked in as a day –visit from Mumbai, while it is highly recommended to stay for a weekend to better savor the beauty of the beaches.
Around 2.5 hours from Mumbai, Akshi lies just south of Mumbai’s favourite weekend destination Alibaug, but is far more serene, less crowded and separated by a creek / stream. It is a lovely walk from the estuary of this stream all the way down to the end of the beach. The grey white sand here is very firm, yet has a silky softness to it – a walk around sunset is highly recommended. Makes for the quickest day trip from Mumbai – there are wonderful cottages to stay as well right on the beach.
- Distance: 96 km from Mumbai via State Highway 104, 125 km via the Mumbai – Pune Expressway
- Where to stay: Beach View Cottage; many more options available at Alibaug, 8 km north of the beach (but is a less serene option for holidaying)
- What else: Nagaon is yet another jewel of a beach south of Akshi and worth a visit; otherwise there’s Alibaug in the north – Mumbai’s most popular weekend seaside retreat
Just south of Akshi lies the haven of Nagaon (not to be confused with Nandgaon beach in the further south). It is one long stretch and is fringed with casuarina trees all along – the closest you can come to sandy-sunny inner peace without discarding the trivialities of civil life. You can spot the early morning fishermen hauling in their fresh catch while softly treading on your wandering thoughts. In the highly unlikely event that you are still not satiated in your thirst for the Arabian, head south to Revdanda beach, another photocopy of Nagaon. Homestays and hotels abound nearby, making for a peaceful weekend here
- Distance: 98 km from Mumbai via State Highway 104, 127 km via the Mumbai – Pune Expressway
- Where to stay: Shintrewadi is the closest stay from the beach – the sprawling backyard of the hotel opens onto the beach. The arrangement is basic, but clean and comfortable. Once again, if you prefer the hustle and bustle or outright luxury, head north to Alibaug which has multipl options including a Radisson
- What else: Head south to Revdanda or north to Akshi; winter times see the local villagers hosting their own version of a cricketing league on a beautiful playground just off the beach – it makes for an amusing watch. There are also the ruins of an old Portuguese fortress right on this beach, but, unfortunately, they are mostly in ruins
A small but incredibly beautiful beach, Korlai has a lot to offer. It is a dwarf when compared to Akshi or Nagaon, but comes with a lighthouse and a derelict Portuguese fortress to explore. It was an erstwhile Portuguese outpost on the seas from long ago – all that remains today are broken walls holding centuries of memories, a whitewashed chapel standing out against the azure skies, a towering view of the nearby villages and of course whistling winds that breeze by as you sit underneath a shady bower, listen to a deeply melancholic cooing dove and almost think of becoming a poet, dazed in the romanticism of the place. Overall, there are lots to walk around the fortress and the hills on which it is sprawled. Take some time to appreciate the aerial view from the fortress of the small but beautiful Korlai beach and the meandering road nearby. Once you are satiated in the fortress, you can exercise your lungs by climbing up a nearby lighthouse, and then cap it all by plunging / walking on the nearby sandy scimitar of the Korlai beach. 3 hours from Mumbai and makes for a wonderful day trip.
- Distance: 112 km from Mumbai via State Highway 104
- Where to stay: Best options would be along Alibaug and Nagaon in the north and Kashid in the south, which are not very far off options
- What else: Kashid beach is a popular destination, around 15 kms to the south of Korlai. The Phansad wildlife sanctuary is also close by for those enthused by wildlife
The queen beach of them all, I can never stop recounting the beauty of this beach. An immensity of a stretch, time just passes by as you watch the slow activities unravelling around you. On a windy day, you can actually see the fine white sands scurrying along the beach and forming wavy striations on the long sandy expanses. One of the most fecund beaches in the state in terms of tiny marine life, a plunge in the clear waters is a must. Finish your dip with some fresh off the tree coconut waters and spicy fish fry at one of the many shacks close to the beach. For the devoutly theistic ones, there’s a popular temple nearby dedicated to Ganesha.
- Distance: Roughly 200 km from Mumbai
- Where to stay: Plenty of homestay options along with resorts such as the Exotica and the Pearl. It would be a good suggestion to book in advance especially on long weekends, as this place is gradually increasing in popularity
- What else: There are quite a few temples around Diveagar (the Ganesha temple being the most popular). Harihareshwar and Srivardhan are other options lying south within 50 kms
Okay, this one is a bit far from the city and can be seen in conjunction with Ratnagiri or Panhala – popular tourist locations close by. The reason for entering this list is the remoteness of the place with only one resort (the Oceano Pearl) nearby. Well, if you are lucky, you can actually have the resort and the beach all to yourself! It is one of the most pristine yet remote beaches I have uncovered along this coast. Sit on the rocks at one end of the beach, marvel at the entire place, write your worries on the sands, then take a long walk to touch the rocky walls on the other end of the beach. Finally, catch a ruddy sunset in the evening, while you lose yourself in a solitary dusk broken by the sounds of the crashing waves alone…then walk back to see the blue waters erasing all your scribbled worries to call it a day. That’s Ganeshgule for you, helping you reclaim your life, one wave at a time…
- Distance: 360 km from Mumbai
- Where to stay: Oceano Pearl is the only accommodation available here and is situated right next to the beach. Alternately, head to Ratnagiri, about 25 km to the north for plenty of options
- What else: Ratnagiri has lots to see nearby including Ratnadurg fort (a famous bastion of the Maratha empire, Thebaw palace – the residence of the exiled Burmese king and a few other beaches, though not as pristine as Ganeshgule