As I watched my giggling daughter run circles from the sand into the waves of the Arabian Sea gently lapping at its shores, I realized how much of a beach baby she is. She only started walking a couple of months ago, yet this past weekend when we took her to Varkala Beach in Kerala, India, she was nothing short of fearless, stampeding into the water triumphantly. Luckily, she had enough sense to keep her head above water when she hit a dip :).
We stayed at the Akhil Beach Resort, which was just a short walk through a picturesque Kerala village and past tiny shops selling colorful scarves, dresses, and jewelry, and a short walk down a bluff down to the Cliff Beach. The resort itself was adequate with clean rooms and attentive and friendly staff. What attracted me to the resort was that it has a nicely sized sparkling blue swimming pool, which indeed was the main attraction for our eight and ten year old nephews whom we brought along with us. The resort was also a short 5-10 minute auto-rickshaw ride away from the Varkala train station, which made it convenient for us to travel to with our nuclear family plus our nephews and my mother-in-law.
Varkala Beach is a very Bohemian hang-out that attracts a lot of “disaffected Westerners,” as my husband puts it. Many Westerners hang out there in between visiting an ashram, attending yoga classes, or receiving ayurvedic treatments. For that reason, it’s an incredibly warm and laid-back atmosphere, and we encountered numerous families with young children and babies enjoying the beach. Up the cliff from the beach toward the hotel there is a small walking path lined with open-air cafes, restaurants, and shops set up with tables to enjoy the views of the sea and beach below.
We also took a leisurely cruise in the palm-lined backwaters that Kerala is known for, complete with a traditional southern Indian lunch served on a banana leaf. The boys had a great time peering over into the water and searching for an occasional jelly fish. We left around 11am and returned by 4pm before all the fishermen set out for the evening, and even though Veda slept for the first hour, the boat ride did get a little tiring for all the kids. It’s beautiful and peaceful out there, but they all started getting antsy toward the end, so I’m glad it wasn’t any longer.
Compared to other beaches I have visited in Kerala, Varkala is great and baby-friendly for the following reasons:
1) The soft and sandy beaches are kept clean of garbage
2) Even during high tide the water is quite shallow on the sandy shore, which is great for wading toddlers
3) I can wear a bathing suit and comfortably play with my baby in the water and on the beach without attracting the attention of too many local lurkers who don’t often see women’s legs
4) The chilled out atmosphere makes it possible to indulge kids in an all-day onslaught of beach and pool play while grabbing a bite to eat of local or international fare in wet hair and wet swimsuits