Today, the popularity of Alibaug lies in its beachside charms, that too, just a hop away from Mumbai. The well-heeled from the metropolis zeroed in on the beaches and green pastures here to build their farmhouses a couple of decades ago. Weekenders followed suit and now they repeatedly grace the vast sprawls of soft sand on offer here.
At Alibaug Beach, you will invariably see scores of people wading through the incessant waves, as the sandy shore and its cluster of buildings slowly but surely recede to the background. Throngs of frolickers walk precariously in knee-deep water, occasionally getting splashed by high, foamy waves, leaving everyone coughing and spluttering. This is truly a thrilling experience–walking across the sea is not something most people get to do every day. For both Mumbaiites and trippers from elsewhere in the country, we tell you how to do Alibaug right.
Beaches in Alibaug are safe for swimming at high tide but require caution during low tide. It is advisable to always be aware of one’s surroundings and to never stray too far from the coast under any circumstances. Be warned that there are no lifeguards. Wearing beachwear is okay, but you would not be able to buy it here. Before crossing over to Kolaba Fort, enquire about safe timings from vendors and locals. It is best to start two hours before the lowest tide sets (it occurs twice a day) so that you have enough time to return safely. You can go one way on foot and come back by the buggy. The time of the lowest ebb shifts by 45 minutes daily. Do not try to cross the sea at or near high tide; it is highly dangerous.
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WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Alibaug offers many beaches in and around the town. Most beaches are safe and clean enough to enjoy gambolling in the water. Alibaug Beach is the most popular of the lot and has tons of visitors. Mornings are ideal for quiet walks and bird-watching. Only those who plan to be in the water throughout should visit the beaches in the afternoons as the sand gets unbearably hot to walk on and there is not much shade to escape the sun.
Water sports such as jet-skiing, parasailing and banana boat rides are avilable at Nagaon, Mandwa and Kihim. Evenings mean big crowds at the beaches – small families, large groups and lonely souls, all flock here to join the fun. A lot of people come to Alibaug to spend a leisurely weekend, but an additional day or two would not exhaust its possibilities.
At high tide you might think there is no beach in Alibaug. The water rushes against the concrete embankment that separates the sea and the many nariyal pani, bhel puri and kulfi kiosks. As the water begins to recede, the emban-kment reveals its stairs looking out to the ocean and the spread of black sand beneath. In the evening, buggies offer rides from one end of the beach to the other, and vendors move across the embank--ment to sell their goods to enthusiastic visitors.
The Kolaba Fort is located just across the Alibaug Beach on a rock jutting out into the sea. It dominates the landscape of the beach and the imagination of its visitors. For most, the fort is the main reason to visit the Alibaug Beach, and rightly so. A couple of hours before low tide, the water becomes shallow enough for people to wade through the sea by foot or take horse rides to get to the fort.
The fort’s construction was commissioned by Shivaji in the 1680s. The edifice is 900ft long, 350ft wide and has 25-foot walls with 17 bastions. It has many shrines, the most important being the 18th-century temple Ganesh Panchayatan. Next to it is a sweet water well.
The fort is located 700m southwest of Alibaug Beach. Tip: Visit only during low tide.
Akshi and Nagaon
Akshi Beach is located south of Alibaug, on the road to Revdanda, 3km from the town. A road through green coconut and betelnut plantations leads to Akshi and the beach itself is lined with suru (casuarina) trees. Travellers and locals who seek tranquility are the main visitors to this beach, and besides the solitude, they are rewarded with fresh nimbu pani and other cool drinks.
Nagaon is further south on the same road, 7km from Alibaug. Keep a lookout for the Shivaji statue and turn right from there to reach the long and clean beach. Lately, watersports including parasailing, jet-skiing and banana boating have really taken off here.
Versoli and Kihim
Versoli is situated on the outskirts of Alibaug, about 2km to the north of Alibaug Beach. It is a lovely walk through green lanes to the beach, from where you can see the Kolaba Fort and two smaller forts – Khanderi and Underi. These forts were built in the late 17th century. Visitors are not permitted inside.
Kihim is situated 11km from Alibaug to the north; to get here turn left at Chondhi on the Alibaug-Rewas Road. The beach is a stony long stretch with white sand. It is dotted with farmhouses and thick vegetation. The laid-back village wakes up in the evening to host picnicking crowds, who come to enjoy the clean waters.
Awas and Sasavne
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Awas and Sasavne beaches are further north, 18km and 20km respectively, from Alibaug. They are both huge, playground-like beaches, their waters full of fishing boats whose flags flutter joyously in the breeze. Along the shore are the bungalows of Mumbai’s elite, who go to the beaches for their evening retreat, and longingly gaze at the illuminated Mumbai shore-line across the water.
WHAT TO BUY
Try the mangoes, especially the famous Alphonsoes or hapus, during the season (April to June). Though Alibaug is north of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, the main centres of Alphonso cultivation, it does get a good crop of mangoes (Rs 400–600 or more per dozen). Cashew is another famous commodity (Rs 500–700 per kilo). Most of the shops are centred around the bus stand.
WHERE TO STAY
Alibaug has a lot of mid-range and budget accommodation, and an offering from Radisson in the high-end. The area around the Alibaug Beach has the most number of hotels; other places to stay are to be found in Versoli, Kihim and en route to Mandwa. Weekends are busy throughout the year, and it’s advisable to book in advance.
WHERE TO EAT
In the evening, the beach at Alibaug is dotted with food stalls selling panipuri, bhelpuri, and the like. There are also Chinese and south-Indian dishes on offer. There is no big restaurant at the beach, and the eating experience has to be the roadside kind, but be mindful of COVID-19 protocols at all times (check out our guide on travelling during the pandemic and our special story on following COVID-19 protocols on the road). Restaurants at Guruji, Meera Madhav and Big Splash dish out the usual Mughlai and Chinese fare.
For more local flavours, including Konkani fish preparations, crab and thalis, you can try Hotel Sanman. Bohemyan Garden Café on Alibaug-Mandwa Road has great ambience and superb coastal cuisine and fusion food. They also have a gift shop. Kiki’s Café and Deli serves great pizzas.
Radisson’s Aparanta Restaurant is a fine-dining establishment that serves Mediterranean, Continental, Oriental and Indian cuisine. For typically Indian flavours, Kokum & Spice is your best bet.
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Mandwa Jetty (19km)
Mandwa is the first port of call in Raigad District, across the sea from Mumbai, and thus the first choice for Mumbai’s well-heeled to build their home away from home in. From Alibaug, the road to Mandwa turns left before Rewas and winds its way through small hills on the left and the sea to the right. The jetty is a small but busy structure with a beautiful curving beach on both sides. Boats to and from Mumbai run morning to evening and are the favoured mode of transport between Mumbai and Alibaug.
Rewas Jetty (23km)
Rewas is the terminus of the Alibaug-Rewas Road; the jetty is located at the edge of the Rewas-Dharamtar Creek. There are ferry services to Bhaucha Dhakka in Mumbai through-out the day. From the jetty and the nearby isolated beach, you can see the shore of Uran across the sea. A small market for local fruits, vegetables, fish and crabs adds local flavour to this old port.
Air Nearest airport: Mumbai (113km/3hrs) connected by flights from all over the country.
Rail Nearest railhead: Pen (4km/1hr), but Panvel (78km/ 1.5hrs) is better connected.
Road It’s a relaxed drive down NH66 to Vadkhal Naka via Karnala and Pen. Where NH166A curves left towards Goa, take the straight road over Dharamtar Creek to Alibaug via Poynad and Khandale. Bus There are state transport buses to Alibaug from Mumbai Central and Borivali
Sea Frequent boats and launches for Mandwa Jetty leave from Gateway of India (50mins–1hr) between 6.00am and 6.30pm. Ticket fare generally includes a free coach ride from Mandwa Jetty to Alibaug (19km/ 30mins)
P.S. These services are discontinued in the monsoon.