Famed for its pristine beaches, laid-back resorts and diving sites, the most visited island in India’s Andamans is a haven for environmentally-minded travellers.
Paradise can be found not too far from the hustle and bustle of India’s densely populated cities. Considered the jewel of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Havelock Island is a tiny strip of land surrounded by the clear waters of the Andaman Sea, resulting in miles of uninterrupted coastline, often populated by wandering elephants. Whether you’re looking to sunbathe and paddle in sparkling, turquoise shallows, or try your hand at water sports like scuba diving or kayaking, get ready to experience some of the most renowned white-sand, palm-fringed beaches in Asia – and the world.
Like a lesser-known Galapagos, the Andamans are home to a stunning array of biodiversity. You’ll find over 5,000 animal species, from endangered sperm whales to a tiny, red-crested bird known as the Andaman treepie. Easily reachable by private cruise or government ferry, the sun-soaked island is home to the amazingly photogenic Radhanagar Beach, lush mangrove forests that can be visited by boat, and rainbow-coloured underwater coral, making this a snorkeler’s paradise. Note that there’s no nightlife on this island, and it’s the perfect place for a digital detox – you’ll be hard pressed to find decent internet and phone coverage.
How do I get there?
Port Blair is the capital city in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and it has the archipelago’s only airport. Several companies run direct routes from major cities within India’s mainland, including Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Nonstop flights will take anywhere from two to four hours. From Port Blair, you have a few options for getting to Havelock, including helicopter, with limited capacity so make sure you book in advance; government ferry, which operates three crossings a week; and private boat companies like Makruzz, which take 90 minutes.
When should I go?
The Andaman Islands experience mild winters and hot summers, making it an almost year-round destination to visit. From October to February, you can enjoy temperatures from 30-35C (86-95F) – ideal for enjoying the idyllic beaches. Divers and snorkelers can’t go wrong planning a trip anytime from October to May, when underwater visibility is at its clearest. You’ll want to avoid the July to September monsoon season, though, which brings nonstop downpours, making for choppy seas and fewer tourist services.
What’s a must-visit beach?
Surrounded by tropical jungle and swaying coconut trees, the setting for gorgeous Radhanagar Beach has earned it multiple ‘best beach in Asia’ accolades, including by Time magazine. There’s no coral, but the water is tranquil and heavenly for swimming, and it’s surrounded by dense forest that you have to walk through to get there. There’s a treehouse restaurant serving light meals and cold drinks behind the beach, as well as a few market stalls for refreshing coconut drinks – grab one and find a good spot for watching the sunset. Then, just a 10-minute walk away lies the picturesque freshwater lagoon known as Neil’s Cove, where you might find crocodiles.
What should I eat?
Havelock is a seafood lover’s dream. Eat like a local and dine on piping-hot fish curry, poured over steamed rice. Hit up Red Snapper, in Wild Orchid Resort, for buttery, melt-in-the-mouth lobster or a rotating catch of the day. Or look out for the kitschy painting of a rotund chef that signals Fat Martin’s, a laid-back backpacker staple, for milkshakes and South Indian dosas and dahls.
What activities shouldn’t I miss?
Havelock might be best-known for its beaches, but it would practically be a crime to not head inland to explore its untouched jungle landscapes. Jump on a kayak to wind through muggy mangrove forests, or combine trekking with beach time on a pair of guided hikes that end in the emerald-watered Kalapathar or Elephant Beach, named for the wild elephants that have been known to grace its shores. Don’t ever pay to swim with elephants there, as that stresses the animals. Instead, spot stingrays and clownfish on a snorkelling or diving excursion (the uninitiated can take certification courses), or get your fill of aquatic wildlife aboard a glass-bottomed boat cruise.
What souvenirs should I buy?
Pick up handicrafts made from coconut shells – like bowls, dishes or hanging plant holders – or woven souvenirs made from the silky threads of the tropical, fibrous jute plant.
Top hotels in Havelock Island, Andaman Islands
Right on Radhanagar Beach, this luxury resort offers unparalleled access to the island’s biodiversity. Private villas, set onto stilts, are inspired by the indigenous Jarawa tribe and offer maximum privacy. The hotel has made a commitment toward sustainability, with rainwater harvesting, partial solar energy and their own biogas facilities. Staff are happy to organise a number of family-friendly activities and outings, from mango picking and shell handicraft lessons to beach picnics or supervised scuba diving sessions.
Just over a mile from Kalapathar Beach, one of the island’s most stunning, white-sand shorelines, this comfortable, five-star resort also has its own private beach within walking distance. It offers plush, wood-panelled rooms, suites and private cottages that are perfect for unwinding. Find bliss at the on-site Coral Spa for a full-body massage before padding down to the resort restaurant, which serves up a tasty blend of Indian, international and Andaman fare.
Surrounded by coconut and palm trees, with its own private beach and two swimming pools, this resort complex makes for a luxurious watering hole. The hotel offers free pick-ups from the Havelock jetty and organises a bunch of excursions, both in the hotel and out. Choose from scuba diving and snorkelling, parasailing, jet-skiing, boat rides and trips out to the island’s main attractions, including Elephant Beach. Or, there’s always time for one of the hotel’s rain parties for private groups, where you can dance under an artificial storm.
How to get around
You won’t find transport apps like Uber or Ola in the Andamans, but there is no shortage of local taxi companies to arrange either one-way drop-offs or full-day cars with drivers. You can also flag down the ubiquitous three-wheeler auto-rickshaw or even rent your own scooter.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Sophie Izzet.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.