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 everyday.

This sea crossing is not unusual at this beach. Walking on the water is a daily pilgrimage – the walk, or the wade rather, being undertaken to the Kolaba Fort. Tourists wait for the low tide all day long, while the locals knowingly look at the sea and can predict when the time for the crossing will come. Visitors amble around, looking longingly at the fort, which is tantalisingly close to the beach. The water is deep and the fort remains inaccessible most of the day. As the water drains from the narrow divide between the beach and the fort at low tide, people start walking towards the edifice. For those who are unable to make it on foot there are a few horse-driven buggies. A leisurely walk on the broad walls of the fort, surveying the Alibaug coast and the sea beyond, gives visitors an insight into the guile of the Marathas, who built their stronghold at such a strategic location. No wonder that they were considered so fearsome by their enemies during the late 17th and the 18th centuries CE when they ruled over major parts of Maharashtra.

Both the Kolaba Fort and Alibaug town owe their existence to the Marathas. Kanhoji Angre, an important admiral of Shivaji, created Alibaug town and its port. Kolaba Fort was built by Shivaji to mainly counter the prowess of the Siddis of Murud-Janjira, in addition to the Portuguese, Dutch and English forces.

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.

ORIENTATION

The name Alibaug refers to two entities in Raigad District of Maharashtra: a small town and a bigger taluka administrative region). Creeks border the Alibaug Taluka to the north and the south. On the west is a long shoreline stretching from Rewas to Revdanda. Alibaug town is right in the centre of this western shore. The Alibaug Beach is about a kilometre south of the town centre and the Kolaba Fort is less than a kilometre from the beach. The taluka has many other beaches on its shores: Versoli, Kihim, Awas, Sasavne and Mandwa are to the north of Alibaug Beach, and Akshi and Nagaon are towards the south.

The bus stand marks the centre of the town. The offices of the boat services (PNP, Ajanta, Maldar) to Mumbai are located here. It is also the place to find autos as well as shared tempos.

For taxis, contact Sahara Travels Tel: 02141-227711) or Alpesh Tours Cell: 0976543606, 09209036006), or ask your hotel. Alibaug does not have too many taxis; the fare is around 1,800–2,000/ 80 km per day. Most hotels are located near Alibaug Beach and the bus stand.

BEACH WATCH

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 2 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.

Punit Paranjpe
Visitors enjoying a quiet evening on Kihim Beach
Visitors enjoying a quiet evening on Kihim Beach

THINGS 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 birdwatching. 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. Watersports 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.

Alibaug Beach

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.

Kolaba Fort

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 (Rs. 200 per person, 30 minutes wait) to get to the fort.

The fort’s construction was commissioned by Shivaji in the 1680s. The edifice is 900 ft long, 350 ft 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.

Location 700 m SW of Alibaug Beach Entry Indians 5, Foreigners 100 Videography 25

TIP Visit only during low tide

Akshi and Nagaon

Akshi Beach is located south of Alibaug, on the road to Revdanda, 3 km 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, 7 km 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. Aqua Splashh (Cell: 09673769269) offers three rides for 600.

Versoli and Kihim

Versoli is situated on the outskirts of Alibaug, about 2 km 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 11 km 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

Awas and Sasavne beaches are further north, 18 and 20 km 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.

SHOPPING

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 (400–600 or more per dozen). Cashew is another famous commodity (400–600 per kilo). Most of the shops are centred around the bus stand.

Courtesy Countryside the Farm
Balcony overlooking a manicured garden, Countryside The Farm
Balcony overlooking a manicured garden, Countryside The Farm

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.

Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Tel: 02141-302400; Tariff: 10,000– 60,000) is a sprawling property on the banks of Veshwi Lake with restaurants, bars and much more. So is U Tropicana (Tel: 232143; Tariff: 6,500–7,500) in Chondi Naka, with all modern comforts.

Hotel Sea View (Cell: 09850552003; Tariff: 2,200–7,000) is right on the beach with a superb view of the Kolaba Fort. Guruji Holiday Resort (Tel: 222266/ 85; Tariff: 1,400–2,200) is located just a wee bit away from the beach. Hotel Meera Madhav (Tel: 225279-81; Tariff: 1,100–2,200), near the ST bus stand, is a tidy place located right in the centre of Alibaug town. The Sanman Beach Resort (Tel: 228118; Cell: 09373919292; Tariff: 3,500–4,000) is located on Versoli Beach, with good food as well as nice views.

Hotel Big Splash (Tel: 226800-03; Tariff: 2,900–3,800), a bit flashy as the name suggests, is in Alibaug village, on the road to Thal. Sai-Inn Holiday Resort (Tel: 232801-03; Tariff: 4,000– 7,000) is located in Chodhi village on Alibaug-Rewas Road. The resort is spacious and nicely designed with a swimming pool. Countryside The Farm (Tel: 237123, Cell: 09373357212; Tariff: 4,800–5,500), on Mhatre Road in Saswane village, is just 2 km from the Mandwa Jetty. It offers both cottages and tents and home-made coastal delicacies. Outpost@Alibaug (Tel: 232885; Tariff: 4,500–7,000) is in Mapgaon, about 5 km from Kihim Beach. It is a boutique resort with lots of activities.

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. 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 in Alibaug that serves Mediterranean, Continental, Oriental and Indian cuisine. For typically Indian flavours, Kokum Spice is your best bet.

AROUND ALIBAUG

Mandwa Jetty (19 km)

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. A taxi will drop you here for 1,400, while shared tempos will charge 30 approximately.

Rewas Jetty (23 km)

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 (2 hrs/ Rs. 55) throughout 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. A taxi will get you here for 1,400; it is 30 approximately by shared tempo.

The Founder of Alibaug

Kanhoji Angre, the man who founded Alibaug, belonged to the Angre family, who were appointed com manders of the Maratha Navy during Shivaji’s reign. He was a much-revered and much-feared sarkhel (Maratha navy chief), so powerful that Alibaug was almost an independent principality under him.

Punit Paranjpe
Samadhi of Sarkhel
Samadhi of Sarkhel

Unfortunately, as Angre’s sevengenerations-removed descendant Shahjirao Angre laments, the town has not remembered the sarkhel and his towering achievements too kindly. Kanhoji Angre lies buried a mere 5 mins from today’s bus station at Kelkar Naka. The memorial there, dedicated to Darya Samrat Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre, is raised, black stone structure, crumbling under the effects of the monsoon and improper upkeep. Just outside the stone boundary that encircles the samadhi thrives a busy market. You might also like to visit Angre’s home, a brisk 5-minute walk from his samadhi, where remnants of 17th-century architecture ornate and beautifully carved wooden doors) and objects still occupy pride of place. However, note that entry is strictly at the discretion of the property’s present owners.

FAST FACTS

When to go September to April is the best time to go; mid-June to August is rainy. During monsoon, the region can be gorgeous, even though a tad inundated

Tourist Office

MTDC Main Reservation Office
CDO Hutments, opp LIC Building
Madame Cama Road,
Mumbai
Tel: 022-22044040, 22845678
W maharashtratourism.gov.in
STD code 02141

Region Konkan

Location On the Konkan Coast, just south of Mumbai, across a narrow stretch of the Arabian Sea

Distance 113 km S of Mumbai

Route from Mumbai NH17 to Vadhkal Naka via Pen; SH to Alibaug via Poynad and Khandale 

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Mumbai (113 km/ 3 hrs) connected by flights from all over the country. Taxis cost around 3,000–3,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Pen (43 km/1 hr), but Panvel (78 km/1.5 hrs) is better connected. Taxis cost about 2,500–3,000

Road It’s a relaxed drive down NH17 to Vadkhal Naka via Karnala and Pen. Where NH17 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 (50 mins–1 hr) between 6.00am and 6.30pm. Tickets, 100–200 include a free coach ride from Mandwa Jetty to Alibaug (19 km/ 30 mins)

TIP These services are discontinued in the monsoon