Last Updated on May 27, 2023 by Ellen
A short ferry and bus ride south of Mumbai took us to the old forts and beaches in Alibag, India. We stayed in a comfortable, dry, clean one-bedroom Airbnb a few kilometers inland from the beaches for five nights. Good thing, too – because we were both sick!
The self-COVID test came back as negative, so it must have been a cold or strep throat or something we travelers are exposed to in new places. Still, we are thankful for our second COVID boosters in Malaysia, and we’re thankful the ‘colds’ weren’t worse — just knocked us out a couple of days.
Old forts and beaches in Alibag
Since we were convalescing half of the time of our short visit, we saw just one old fort and a couple of beaches in Alibag. Plus, it rained a lot since it was the end of monsoon season.
This post will focus only on Kulaba Fort and Alibag and Varsoli beaches.
Of all the forts we’ve seen in the world on our travels, this one stands out for its crazy unique location!
Accessible by foot at low tide, it’s a short walk across the sand to the entrance. It’s on an small lump of land and rock on a wide stretch of flat beach.
The entrance fee is way higher for us foreigners, as we’ve noticed is always the case at historic sites in India. No big deal – 300 rupees is $3.75 and we are happy to pay it for the privilege to explore it. (The price was 25 cents for Indians.)
People live on this tiny island and work as ‘caretakers’ of the fort. By that, it’s likely they simply make sure nothing dangerous is afoot, as there really isn’t much left to care for. Perhaps more trails are easier seen once monsoon season is over, but while we were there, much of the island was overgrown.
If you want to visit and your timing doesn’t work out for low tide, horse-drawn carriages gallop across the beach. We don’t know what the real price is for this service. Theo searched Trip Advisor and found nothing recent that seemed reliable.
Quick, funny story
We did offer one young man 500 rupees ($6.14) to take us there and back – more for the experience than for needing the service. He agreed, said he’d wait 30 minutes, but we told him we wanted an hour, so he said 1,000 rupees. We agreed — and then a bunch of other Indians came out of nowhere and got onto the carriage!
We backed out and simply walked across. But we learned a lesson – when arranging for a service of that sort in India, the price must include exclusivity.
On the walk back from the fort, there is a colorful sign on the beach that makes a good photo. As a friend pointed out, this type of location sign is popular in Mexican towns. Now we see them in other places, too, such as Alibag, Mumbai, and Boracay Island in the Philippines.
Camel rides and ATV rides and double-bicycles rentals are pushed incessantly by locals trying to earn a living. There are plenty of hawkers selling snacks and drinks.
Alibag Beach is littered only along the rocky part by the seawall. I didn’t see too much trash in the water or the sand, or around the fort. I saw people in the water, but I didn’t go swimming.
The beach is a short walk from Alibag proper, which is a bustling, dusty town that reminded me a little of Caticlan on Panay Island in the Philippines.
Away from the beach, the landscape is gorgeous. The area has hiking trails that must be great – the area is a popular getaway spot from mega-Mumbai. But since we were under the weather, and the weather wasn’t great, we could only enjoy looking at the land from our rental.
North of Alibag Beach is Varsoli Beach. And as far as beaches go, this one is better. It’s less crowded, larger, and you can see Mumbai’s southern skyline way off in the distance to the north.
Hawker stands are found just off the beach. ATV, bicycle rentals are plentiful, and you can get a camel ride here, too.
We were happy to pay two enterprising boys 100 rupees ($1.25) for use of a tandem bike around the beach for a little while. We easily explored the entire stretch!
There is a bit more litter around this beach that seems to wash in with the tide. But, much cleaner than Mumbai.
Our Airbnb host recommended a restaurant a short walk from the beach that we enjoyed. Vasco de Goa had a view of the sunset over the beach and reasonably priced good food (for its location), with an attentive staff.
Old forts and beaches in Alibag
There are other old forts and beaches in Alibag (map) that we didn’t get to see. Still, I feel like I had a pretty good overview of the area and it was nice to rest for a couple of days in a comfortable rental.
Next stop: Pune!