You have to envy the travellers who first discovered KOVALAM back in the 1970s. Before the appearance of the crowds and sunbeds that nowadays spill over the resort’s quartet of beaches, not to mention the warren of hotels, shops and restaurants crammed into the palm groves behind them, this must have been a heavenly location. Four decades of unplanned development, however, have wrought havoc on the famous headland and its golden sand bays. Virtually every conceivable patch of dry ground behind the most spectacular of them, Lighthouse Beach, has been buried under concrete, along with most of the area’s Keralan character.
With charter flights from Europe suspended, Kovalam feels decidedly down on its luck these days, dependent on an unlikely mix of hedonistic British fifty-somethings and middle-aged German and Scandinavian ayurveda tourists – although it is hoped that the construction of an off-shore artificial reef may attract surfers and thus reverse the decline. The good news for budget backpackers is that the slump has sent room rates plummeting.