RTW TRIP VARKALA BEACH, KERALA, INDIA DAY 104 TO 109: GOA’S BUDGET FOODIE COUSIN
Goa seems to get all the attention when it comes to beach time in India, but our next destination was just as good, if not better, depending on what you like about beach towns.
Varkala is a small town catered to mostly western tourists, with a decent beach with strong waves. Hovering over the beach is a giant cliff with a bunch of restaurants and small shops. We spent a lot of time walking up and down the small street comparing menus, and eventually getting to know certain staff members at our favorite restaurants.
While there are a variety of beaches in Goa, we felt this beach was more chill. Most people would spend the day at the beach and then head to one of the many restaurants in the evening.
Our usual routine involved us getting up in the morning, grabbing brunch at one of the restaurants, swimming and reading at the beach, going up to one of fave places for sunset drinks, and then heading to another restaurant for dinner.
We originally planned to stay here for a couple days, but after a short jaunt in Trivandrum, we decided to stay here longer. In total, we stayed in Varkala for almost two weeks, which went by surprisingly fast.
We stayed in a couple place here:
The first was Bamboo Village, which was located along the walking path of restaurants, but on the quieter end. We got a great deal for a double room with shower, and deck. The staff were friendly, the room was quiet and basic, an excellent choice for those on a budget. When we left for Trivandrum, and then decided to come back, we wanted to return to Bamboo Village, but they were fully booked, so we ended up at Heavenly Breeze Guesthouse. This was as basic as our first place, but had a kitchen, a dorm, excellent wifi, with very sociable staff. It was double the price as Bamboo Village when we stayed, but then again, we were staying there over Christmas holidays, one of the busiest times of the year for South India. I am pretty sure this is the only place that has a kitchen and a dorm, so if that is your thing, this could be an excellent choice.
The beach itself has decent sand, a few dogs, lots of people playing frisbee, and some rough waves. I love a calm beach, so luckily there were pockets of water that were somewhat tranquil. There is also Black Beach, which is a bit further out and completely private. There are a couple bar/restaurants if you get famished.
For me, Varkala probably had the best western food in all of India! Of course they serve Indian food as well, but take advantage of eating the western food here, as it is dirt cheap and delicious. You can head into town for thalis at Sree Padmam Restaurant that has crazy crows bothering you if you sit outside by the ghat, but the Indian food wasn’t fantastic and wasn’t much cheaper than the food closer to the beach. I found the only plus here was that you can rub elbows with the friendly locals here.
Here are our absolute cliffside restaurant faves:
– Clafouti Restaurant: This restaurant reminded me of the seafood restaurants in New Jersey. The place seemed somewhat modern, but lacked character. This place was particularly popular with families and older adults, and probably had the best seafood in town. The chefs here REALLY knew what they were doing. I loved their mahi mahi, which was cooked with some chili, ginger, lime, and cilantro. So bright and fresh. Their tuna salad was also probably the only place that gave you excellent chunks of fresh tuna. If the environment didn’t transport me to America, I probably would have eaten here more often.
– Trattorias Restaurant: Hands down, our favorite place in Varkala. The Nepalese staff here were awesome and so kind to us! There are two floors: Upstairs is great during the day to stare out into the ocean, while downstairs is best for evening dining, as they have mood lighting and excellent people watching. Everything we had here was delicious, at pretty cheap prices! Our favorite meals were the Hawaiian pizza, the steak, the coffee shakes, and the delicious ad fresh prawns.
– My Place Restaurant: The ONLY place we went to for sunset drinks. This place is right at one of the stairways to the beach and probably has the best view of the swimmers in the water at sunset. Get their tasty vegetable pakoras to accompany your drinks.
– Garden Bistro Lounge and Cafe: I loved parking it here for lunch. We could do a lot of research here, as their internet was pretty fast and reliable. Not only that, they made the best vegetable momos I have had in my life. I’m sure they were authentic, as the friendly staff were all from Nepal.
– Amantha Restaurant: Tucked behind the main strip of restaurants and run by an adorable family, this restaurant was mostly frequented by backpackers. I know I said to eat non-Indian food here, but you should definitely make an exception for this place. From the road, it looks like a bit of a rundown outdoor restaurant, but it has tons of backpackers and non pretentious characters. We only discovered this place the second time we came to Varkala, otherwise I would have been here more often. The masala dosa is excellent, their coffees are cheap, and their thali may have been the best thali we had in all of India. I think I can say this as we had our fair share of thalis up to this point. Their thali was cheap, filling, and tingled my tastebuds. A must if you come to Varkala!
Costs for Day 104:
4500 for 2 nights in Munroe Island
Tuktuk to Monroe Island train station 40
Train to Kollam 20
Train from Kollam to Varkala 90
Tuktuk from Varkala train station to Bamboo Village Guesthouse 70
Bamboo Village Guesthouse 750
Toilet paper, toiletries 67
2 Beer, water, fries at Blue Marine 270
Hungry Eye Restaurant 2 Beer, coffee shake, aloo ghobi, naan, prawn pad Thai 680
Total cost for Day 104: 6507 rupees/ 2 = $50.83 per person
Costs for Day 105:
Clafouti Restaurant: Tuna salad, coffee, water, Sprite, cheese and tomato sandwich 370
Bamboo Village hotel 750
My Place Restaurant fried rice, fruit salad, water, beer x2 560
Toilet paper 30
Trattoria Restaurant: Prawns with veg and salad, penne pomodoro, beer, lime soda, chocolate ball 890
Blue Moon Cafe: beer 150
Total cost for Day 105: 3005 rupees / 2 = $23.48 per person
Costs for Day 106:
Trattoria Restaurant Cheesy breakfast (cheese and tomato jaffle, hash browns, oj, and chai) and Healthy breakfast (fruit salad with muesli, honey and yoghurt, apple beer carrot juice, coffee) 400
Sree Padmam Restaurant: veg thali x2 and water 180
My Place Seaside Cafe: beer and pineapple/papaya juice 260
Hungry Eye Restaurant: Veg Au Gratin, filet mignon, lime soda, beer and free limes! 550
Bamboo Village 750
Total cost for Day 106: 2190 rupees / 2 = $15.11 per person
Costs for Day 107:
Bamboo Village Hotel 750
Garden Bistro Lounge and Cafe: Veg Momos, cheese and tomato sandwich, coffee 260
Hungry Eye Restaurant: aloo ghobi, naan, potato egg tuna salad, water 300
My Place Restaurant: beer and green tea 210
Trattorias Restaurant: Arrabiata, pineapple pizza, 2 beer 660
Total cost for Day 107: 2210 rupees / 2 = $17.26 per person
Costs for Day 108:
Bamboo Village Hotel 750
The Garden Bistro: veg momo, veg burger, coke, coffee 380
My Place Restaurant: 2 beers, lime soda, veg pakora 480
Clafouti Restaurant: mahi mahi, veg butter masala, 2 naan, beer, Diet Coke 700
Total cost for Day 108: 2360 rupees / 2 = $18.43 per person
Costs for Day 109:
Bamboo Village Hotel 750
Garden Bistro: Potato cheeseburger, fries, fried rice, coke, water 440
My Place Restaurant: beer, veg pakora, and coke 480
Trattorias Restaurant: jumbo prawn, beer, lime soda, marguerita pizza 810
Total cost for Day 109: 2510 rupees / 2 = $19.61 per person
What I learned: I think most, if not all the bars and restaurants are not allowed to serve beer, so they will either serve them to you with newspaper covering the bottles, or serve them in giant mugs. They may also store your beer bottles under your table. No need to worry as it is totally normal for Varkala!
Actual dates of travel: Dec. 16-21, 2015