For 99% of visitors to Andamans, the island of Havelock is a symbol of the Andaman archipelago. For them the Andamans are Havelock, and Havelock is the Andamans. And this is not surprising. 99% of the tourists who come to the Andaman Islands are Indian tourists, most of whom, visit no other islands, just Havelock.
The Andaman Islands are the only affordable tropical islands easily reachable for Indian residents, which they can visit without leaving India. Of course, there are Laccadive Islands too (Lakshadweep), but those are much more expensive, although geographically much closer to mainland than the Andaman Islands. In the same time, Havelock is the most developed island with the largest number of accomodation options and offers the best connection with the capital, Port Blair.
All Indian tourists, whom we met for 5 weeks on the archipelago, praised Havelock as heaven. But Western tourists we met, were much more skeptical about the island. Most foreign tourists did not consider Havelock the most beautiful place on the archipelago, and some people directly called it the worst place they visited.
So what is really the truth about Havelock? Heaven or hell?
Is Havelock heaven or hell of the archipelago?
The truth is, that Havelock is both a hell and a paradise in the same time and this guide is probably the only place, where you can read about negative things. We do not need to sell any tours or services to you, so we can afford to be always open, straightforward and if needed be, critical. We visited the Havelock island at the end of our Andaman adventure, during which we visited 12 islands. Therefore, we have a good base to compare islands of this nice archipelago.
Beaches, nature and the world underwater - that's why Havelock can be considered a paradise.
The quality, price and availability of accommodation + transportation to Havelock + heaps of Indian daytrippers - these are the reasons why heaven can turn into hell for you.
The question, of course, is not whether to visit or not to visit the island. Yes, you should visit the island. You just need to prepare well to meet the reality with the right expectations. Read on, we will advise you how to minimize hell and maximize paradise 🙂
Beaches in Havelock are beautiful. No doubts about it. However, beaches on other islands of the Andaman archipelago are also magnificent. The only difference is that beaches on the Havelock and, to a lesser extent, beaches on Neil, get crowded by Indian daytrippers.
But no worries, there is a solution. These beaches are long and Indian tourists, for some reason beyond my knowledge, tend not to walk much. 95% of them do not move far away from a place where they were brought by their arranged transport. Only 5 out of hundred will bother to walk further along beach. Fortunately for us, lovers of peaceful shadows under a lonely palm tree, it is enough to walk some 0.5 km along the coast, and easily you'll have the beach, the ocean and the coast just for you.
The most beautiful beach on Havelock is undoubtedly Radhanagar beach. A few years ago the Times magazine called it the most beautiful beach in all of Southeast Asia. (The guys from The Times were here long before Indian mass tourists came here.) Yes, Radhanagar beach is really a wow! White sand, turquoise sea and a green ideally C-shaped coastline. Like on a postcard. (Anyone remembers postcards here?)
Elephanta beach is a place designated for practicing water sports. Indians are riding water scooters here and the bravest ones, in lifejackets, holding a certified guide's hand, swim with a mask and snorkel. They are brought here by motor boats from the port. There is no road leading to the Elephanta beach, thus you can either take a boar or walk to reach it.
May we suggest our readers to rent a motorcycle or take a bus or jeep in the direction of Radhanagar Beach and get off at the place where a turn to the right on follows a narrow path through the plantations. No worries, it is clearly market, with small bus shelter and two kiosks selling soft drinks. The road through the plantations will soon change to a path through pretty nice jungle. You should not get lost, the route is clearly visible and there are a few signs along the way. However, I would not recommend to cross through the rain forest right after the rain. The track gets very muddy and slippery.
After 40 minutes walking, you will find yourself on the beach. Turn left, walk past the entertaining Indians and continue 300-500 meters more to the left. Where you'll see a small stream flowing into the sea, there you will find an ideal place for snorkeling. Enjoy and let us know how was it!
Kalapatar Beach and further south-west
The island of Havelock is quite large, so it will not be a problem to avoid tourist crowds. Take a motorcycle, drive to the Kalapatar beach and continue further to the south-west. Here you can wander around local villages and watch how people gradually change the rainforest into agricultural lands. These quiet, tourist free areas of Havelock are pretty charming.
Judging by price to quality accommodation on the Havelock island is quite expensive and in high season, it is difficult to get a reasonable room. We met the Czech family, who also visited Havelock with two children. They spent 4 nights on the island, and every night they had to move to some other places. Any accomodation that was available, was free just for one night and booked out thereafter. Nightmare! Therefore, it is advisable to book accommodation well in advance. And choosing the right one from a distance, is not easy. Do not be surprised if you find yourself in something that looks like a better tent or upgraded wooden shack, with 50 or more euros a night price tag ... Dedicate some time to read other tourists' comments about specific hotels on booking.com, agoda or similar portals.
There is just one accommodation we can honestly recommend for its great value for money:
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Hell #2: Transport
We have dedicated chapter about transport and getting around the Andaman Islands here.
Also a separate chapter we devoted here to the topic of buying tickets for ships and ferries around the archipelago.
Now specifically about Havelock: all the people we met, who landed in Port Blair and went to the harbor, in the hope of buying a ferry ticket to Havelock, were left empty-handed. In high season, tickets for a cheap, but good, state owned transport are sold very quickly. Tourists, who managed to get tickets, got up at 5 am and by 6 o'clock they were waiting in front of the gate, to be among first when counters open at 9 am. After another hour of waiting those lucky ones got the. Please note, this only works on Mondays and Thursdays, see the section on ticket purchasing for details.
What are the options:
A) If your time is limited to the Andaman Islands, and you want to be confident that as soon as you arrive in Port Blair you board a ship to Havelock and more importantly secure a return back to Port Blair, you are better off buying tickets from private carriers. Makruzz and Green Ocean are 4 times more expensive then state vessels, but available online.
B) If you have come to the harbor and the tickets to Havelock are sold out, take a ticket to Neil, spend a night or two there and buy a Havelock ticket at Neil.
C) Of course, tickets do not have buy tickets personally. Ask your accommodation or travel agent, to buy tickets for you. Going fee is 150-200 Rupees per person, but you may be charged more if the transaction goes thru more that two hands. Even after the brokerage fee has been added, the Havelock ticket will still be half price compared to private ones.
This works well for Indian residents. For non residents there is a typical Indian bureaucracy hook: if ticket is sold to foreigner, his/her RAP (Restrictred area permit) number must be provided. So someone, who buys that precious ticket for you, must have a copy of your permission or at least your RAP number. You got it, right? You will only get permission after arriving in Port Blair, so the option of buying tickets for a state boat from a comfort of your home country is a no go.