Varsoli Beach is a strip of bliss south of Mumbai and north of Alibaug. From the Gateway of India, Mumbai, a one hour ferry and a 30 minute drive south you will find a local piece of India in a palm tree grove. As I write this, I’m lounging on the terrace of the Sanman Beach Resort overlooking the Arabian Sea and palm trees. The weather is perfect, not the sultry humidity when we first arrived three days ago, but a perfect 87 F in the shade.
The Sanman Hotel was opened in 1981 in the nearby town of Alibaug. Ran by owner, Mangesh, his wife, two brothers, and online bookings handled by Ketan, and the rest of the staff; all are extremely helpful and gracious. The Sanman Beach Resort is a newer endeavor consisting of three large rooms and three bungalows. There are constant improvements being made and landscaping was being worked on while we were here. Soon to be completed, there will be a wandering path between the bungalows. The accommodation is comfortable, though rustic to western standards. They are renowned for having the best food in Alibaug cooked by the owner himself. They serve the millionaire Bollywood crowd at the Mandwa Club, known as the Beverly Hills of Mumbai. I recommend everything, though especially the Prawns Masala. If you’re sensitive to hot spices ask for little spicy. Most of the food is prepared in Alibaug so order early and be prepared to wait about an hour, and it’s worth it!
As we were relaxing on the roof top deck, we heard sounds of a parade in the distance. The sounds drew nearer and our gracious young host informed us it was the last day of a festival celebrating the elephant head god, Ganesh. We walked down the front drive to a group of worshipers who invited us into their celebrations. Dance, chant, and feed each other fruit! They were very inviting and loved having us there. After chanting with the Ganesh statue made of sand, mud, and coconut husk, it was carried out into the ocean to become a part of the greater spiritual energy we were drinking in.
After sleeping in and a breakfast of eggs panjuri and breads, we took off in one of the manager’s fathers rickshaw for a little tour of the nearest town, Alibaug, and it’s many small temples. Another visual story of drive by travel photography!
The rest of that first full day was spent swimming in the bath water temperature ocean and studying that Ganesh sculpture a little more up close. Oh yeah…relaxing, napping, enjoying the view and another excellent dinner from our Sanman Beach Resort rooftop. Thanks to the owners fine cooking as written up in this great article.
We awoke from another long, comfortable, and quiet sleep to an adventurous, wandering day through Alibaug. From the resort, we reached a busy neighborhood road leading into town. In less than 15 minutes, we were in the hustle and bustle of bright colors, smells, and shopping finds.
We found ourselves at the beach again chatting with a local couple before deciding to pay $12 for a horse cart ride across the beach to an island lookout. This was possible due to the extreme tide changes and constant level of the muddy sand on this coastline.
Our young driver waited for us as we toured around the small island where a fort was built by Portuguese visitors. The traditional Hindu temple I’m sure predates the fort and was well preserved. Though I’m not sure the significance of the sea turtle at the entrance to the temple that points towards the shrine, it’s gorgeous, don’t you think?
Now back onto the ferry boat and into the craze of the city. At least this time on the ferry we didn’t get any jeering. Instead met a student abroad from Santa Rosa Bay Area. Small world for sure, as always! Onto the next leg of the journey, book the local train to the hills east of Mumbai.