Guhagar beach in the morning is a picture of tranquillity. Coconut and betel plantations give way to an expanse of white sand that is bare, except for a distant jetty scratched into the blue horizon. Flamboyant white-bellied sea-eagles soar across the sky, watching fishermen disentangling their nets before heading out to sea.
Guhagar shot to prominence two decades ago when the controversial Enron Power plant being constructed there unceremoniously tossed it into the headlines. That was a pity. It could have done with being undiscovered a little longer. The village’s quiet streets follow a recurring blueprint—colourful bungalows with plantations in their backyards overlooking the sea. At the centre of the village is the Vyadeshwar Temple, which comes alive at Holi every year with parades and traditional dances. Friendly locals welcome visitors into their homes to eat, if not to stay (for a small price) and swap stories of city life for trivia about the notorious power plant, ancient walls (some say they are thousands of years old) discovered in the sea, or the oldest trees in their gardens. They recommend beaches to visit, sightseeing activities, and places to eat, without any of the competitiveness typical of a tourist hub.
The village functions on an economy based on coconuts, and there are no five-star suites or six-course meals to be found here. What can be found are stunning beaches, vibrant houses and chatty village folk.
Behind Hedvi temple, the Bamangal blowhole propels the crashing waves several metres upward in a rare natural phenomenon. Photo: Shamshad Khan
Guhagar and the surrounding villages have gorgeous beaches that, for the most part are devoid of plastic waste and tourist hordes. Take an early morning walk on Guhagar beach and stroll along the water, sparing a glance at the 4 km-long Enron Jetty to the right. To the left is a beach called Asgoli, where fishermen busily go about their morning routine. It is possible to catch a glimpse of eagles gliding close to the shore. Amongst the tall trees at the entrance to Guhagar beach is a large play area for kids with swings, slides, and see-saws occupied by squirrels. A number of small stalls nearby sell coconut water and an assortment of fried snacks.
In the evening, drive to Hedvi (15 km south of Guhagar), a little stretch of beach hidden beyond a maze of tiny roads just wide enough for a car. Barely half a kilometre long, Hedvi is an untouched beach, with no crowds or stalls. The only structure around is a small temple. Climb past the boulders behind the temple to see the Bamangal blowhole, an interesting rock formation in the cliff that channels water into the rock and throws it out in a natural fountain several metres high, during high tide. Along the way to Hedvi, consider stopping at Velneshwar, another quiet, white-sand beach with a colourful blue-pink temple and some refreshment stalls.
The fishing village of Anjanvel (18 km north of Guhagar) is like a series of postcards of houses with colourful doors, egrets atop a lazy buffalo, and shy school children. Trek up to Gopalgarh, Shivaji’s once-impenetrable refuge (watch for a rock staircase cut into the winding road to make the hour-long climb easier). Ahead of the fort is the Anjanvel lighthouse (Open 4-5 p.m., usually closes 30 min before sunset, entry ₹10), just past it are tall yellow grass fields which, when the breeze blows, reveal a stunning view of the rocky shoreline.
For a trek of the more spiritual variety, take the ferry to Dabhol from Dhopave Jetty (2 km from Anjanvel; approach roads can be in a bad condition) and plod your way up to the Chandika Devi Mandir (an hour-long trek). Once you’ve paid your respects and turned around, look for a series of steps leading down, inviting the more adventurous to explore a small wood.
The Shiva Temple at Velneshwar is surrounded by groves of coconut and betelnut trees. Photo: Y & S Creators/Alamy/Indiapicture
Guhagar, like most places in Maharashtra, comes alive during the Holi and Ganesh festivals. The Durgadevi and Vyadeshwar temples turn into bustling centres of cultural activity. There are traditional dances, prayer ceremonies, and seemingly endless revelry peppered with colour. During the rest of the year, small groups of pilgrims pass through, occasionally led by a priest with a painted face and a monkey dyed blue.
There’s no luxury to be found in Guhagar, but that doesn’t mean travellers can’t have a comfortable stay. Most accommodation options are on the main street, which is also the market area and runs parallel to the beach.
Homestays are plentiful and cheap (approx ₹750-₹1,000). While most offer minimal amenities, the rooms are scrubbed and the sheets clean. In some cases, there are no attached baths. Houses where boarding is available are easily identified by signboards at their gates, usually in Marathi. It’s an economical and altogether authentic experience, though possibly not for everyone.
Hotel Nisarga is a colourful, family-run hotel with simple, clean rooms and family cottages (1 km from bus stand; 097657 85200; www.nisargresortguhagar.com; doubles ₹1,300; cottages ₹2,200).
Hotel Annapurna in the Guhagar market area has spacious rooms. Bathrooms are clean and there is air-conditioning. (02359-240512; 094230 48165; hotelannapurna.net; doubles from ₹1,700).
Hindustan Resort is a little away from the beach. It is a complex of cottages with gardens, a small play area, and the occasional rooster (7 km from Guhagar market, along the road to Anjanvel; 096739 42323; www.hindustanresort.com; doubles ₹1,500).
Hotel Rajgad 1 km from the bus stand, is a popular choice, offering air-conditioned rooms and beach-facing cottages (097646 65775; www.hotelrajgadguhagar.in; doubles from ₹1,300).
The catch of the day at Asgoli beach is often on the menu at restaurants in Guhagar. Photo: Shamshad Khan
Traditional Konkani food and local renditions of Punjabi and Chinese cuisine are available in the area and are, for the most part, appetising. Several homestays offer home-cooked meals and the signboards outside say so. Let them know in advance if you want to eat seafood (thali for ₹200-₹300). That apart, sample thalipeeth, a savoury multi-grain paratha (served with curd and green chilli pickle) that is ubiquitous in the region, along with a glass of sol kadi (a chilled drink of kokum and coconut milk) at the vegetarian restaurant Hotel Suruchi (Guhagar market; 094200 51737; meal for two ₹200). For fresh fish, visit Annapurna (02359-240512; meal for two ₹450) just ahead of the rickshaw stand. The perfectly-spiced surmai fry (₹200) and spicy prawn curry (₹225) go down well with bhakris, which are local chapatis made of rice flour.
Since coconuts and Lord Ganesha form a large part of Guhagar’s culture, modaks (a preparation of jaggery-soaked coconut pulp in a sweet rice dumpling) are the dessert of choice and also a favoured breakfast item. They are only made to order, ideally a day in advance, a minimum of six at a time (approx ₹150-₹200 for a dozen). You can pack them to take home, but they’re best eaten fresh, with a teaspoon of ghee.
Awaiting the ferry from Dhopave to Dabhol. Photo: Shamshad Khan
Guhagar is a small coastal village in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. It is around 290 km south of Mumbai, and 42 km east of Chiplun.
Air The closest airport to Guhagar is in Pune, around 280 km away.
Rail Chiplun is the closest railhead, and there are several overnight trains available from Mumbai. An auto-rickshaw from Chiplun to Guhagar costs approx ₹900.
Road Guhagar is 290 km/5 hours south of Mumbai along NH17. Well-maintained roads and the backdrop of the Sayhadris make for a fantastic drive. Leave the highway at Chiplun and get on to the Chiplun-Guhagar road, which is a beautiful 42-km stretch.
Having a car is the most convenient and enjoyable way of exploring the area, because the roads are great except for the stretch leading to Velneshwar beach. It is also easy to find rickshaws to take you to popular spots like Anjanvel (₹500-₹750 return) and Velneshwar (₹550 return within a few hours). State Transport (ST) buses are the cheapest option (approx ₹15) though the driving is rather aggressive.
Need to Know
The nearest petrol pump (Indian Oil) is around 10 km from Guhagar along the Chiplun-Guhagar road. Various banks including the Central Bank of India, the Union Bank of India and IDBI have ATMs in Guhagar market and a State Bank of India ATM about 10 km away on the hilly road leading to Anjanvel (just ahead of Hindustan Resort).
General and medical supplies are available at Guhagar market, which shuts by 8.30 p.m.
Guhagar’s weather is warm most of the year, with maximum temperatures from November to April hovering around 34°C. Between December and February, the minimum temperature may go down to 18°C. Those seeking solitude and green foliage will enjoy a visit during the monsoon months as well. Avoid going in the post monsoon, high humidity months of September and October.
Appeared in the November 2012 issue as “Beach Haven”.
The Mango ManIn Palshet, about 12 km south of Guhagar, lives a man who can proudly claim that everyone in the area knows his name. Shrikrishna Okh is well known as Mahajan and asking for him by that name promptly gets you directions to Amrakunj, his ancestral bungalow, built near the foot of a 130-year-old mango tree. Okh owns a mango plantation that has expanded from a dozen trees when his father bought the place about 60 years ago, to more than 2,000 trees today. The 73-year-old is happy to share all he knows about mangoes, laterite soil and the problems of owning a grove. He’s a sprightly gentleman who regularly treks up giant rocks to the very top of his plantation to oversee cultivation and the sowing of new seeds. During mango season (March to May), it’s a delight to see his front porch stocked with boxes of Alphonso mangoes for sale. Travellers planning a visit can call Mr. Vilas Okh on 0-96572 70402 for more details.
is a stand-up comic and humour writer. He can often be spotted scrounging for plug-points in coffee shops, or wandering sleepily through airports across the country.
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