The St Mary’s Island Udupi Karnataka are a group of four quaint picturesque islands and is also a geological monument! White sands, blue waters, hovering coconut trees and the monolithic rock formations still tell the tale of the time of separation of Madagascar from India 88 million years ago. According to a folk legend, it is said that Vasco Da Gama first set his foot on this island in 1498 while he was traveling from Portugal. He used this island as a pitstop before proceeding to Kozhikode in Kerala.
The four islands that form the group are namely- Coconut Island, North Island, South Island, and Daryabahadurgarh Island. This is an unspoiled stretch of beaches as there are no staying options or shops available which makes it possible to keep the beaches clean and less crowded. Also, read our article on 10 best things to do in Nisargadhama Coorg and Chelavara Falls and its travel guide.
Table of Contents
Geological Importance of St Mary’s Island
All the four islands that form the St Mary’s Island Udupi exhibit a unique feature of columnar basaltic lava rock formations. The Geological Survey and the Scientific Studies conducted by various institutions like IIT Bombay etc say that these rock formations were made by sub-aerial subvolcanic activities that took place 88 million years ago when Madagascar got separated from India, as earlier Madagascar formed a part of India. This can be supported by the fact that similar formations can be found in Madagascar as well. These crystalline formations are found everywhere on all the four islands.
General Information about St Mary’s Island
The western beaches are replete with shells of varied colors, sizes, and shapes while eastern beaches flaunt white sands and blue seas. Basaltic rock formations are found everywhere and thus they make swimming dangerous in the seas. So, you cannot swim on these beaches. Also, these islands are completely uninhabited, thus unspoiled nature throngs all around. But, that also means that there are no shops and staying options on these islands. To reach these islands one has to go through the Malpe town and Malpe Beach.
How the St Mary’s Island got their name?
As naming has always been, the history or folk legends result in the name of the respective place. In the case of St Mary’s Island Udupi, it is a folk legend. The folk legend goes like- Vasco Da Gama in his journey from Portugal and pursuit to find a route to India, first pitstopped at St Mary’s Island Udupi in 1498. When he reached here, he fixed a cross and named it O Padrao de Santa Maria and dedicated it to Mother Mary. After this, he proceeded further towards Kozhikode in Kerala. Thus these group of islands started being called St Mary’s Island Udupi.
What is the best time to visit Udupi?
The best time to visit Udupi is in the months from October to March. October to March is winters and spring. Winters are the best time to visit Udupi as it has optimum temperatures for sightseeing and enjoying water adventure activities at the beach. Summer is not a good idea as it has high temperatures during the day which soar up to 40 degree Celsius. Nights are relatively cool. Monsoon again is not suitable as the islands are closed down during the monsoon seasons due to unpredictable rains and storms. The island opens up during mid-September for visitors.
Winters in Udupi stretch from October to February. This is the best to visit the islands as the temperatures are favorable. The temperatures in these months range from 10 to 30 degree Celsius. Winters are also the time for many colorful festivals like Ram Navmi, Diwali, etc.
Monsoon in Udupi stretches from July to September. In monsoon, the ferry ride to the islands is closed. It is done while keeping the safety from rains and storms in mind. Plus visiting any other parts of Udupi is also not much favorable as the region receives a good amount of rainfall and thus your plans might get spoilt due to some unplanned rains.
Summers in Udupi start from March and stretch up to June. The summers here are hot and the temperatures soar up to 40 degree Celsius. But, early summers like March face better temperatures. Thus, the islands can be visited during March and months from October to March witness the majority of visitors.
So, we suggest months of October to March the best time to visit the islands.
Festivals celebrated in Udupi:
Udupi is the cultural capital of Karnataka. The city celebrates festivals with much pomp and show and these celebrations are more than a good enough reason to visit Udupi. What’s great is the majority of the festivals are celebrated during the months from October to March, which is also the best time to visit Udupi. Festivals like Shivratri in February, Ram Navmi and Holi in March, Dussehra in October and Diwali in October/ November. All of these festivals are colorful and have many mythological stories attached to them. Holi and Diwali are the major festivals. Diwali is the Festival of Lights and every home, office, and the temple is decorated with lights. The festival is so grand that India when seen from space through Google Earth, India shines in the night sky.
Grand festival of Paryaya is also celebrated in this time every two years and October to December witness a lot of cultural ceremonies on Malpe Beach, in which artists from far and near participate. Even foreign artists take part in these cultural ceremonies.
How to Reach St Mary’s Island Udupi:
St Mary’s Island Udupi can be reached via a ferry that runs from 9 am to 6 pm from Malpe Fishing Harbour. The St Mary’s Island Udupi are about 6 km from the Malpe Fishing Harbour and St Mary’s Island to Udupi is about 15 km. Ferry service is quite frequent and a ferry leaves every half an hour for the islands. The ferry ride costs 300 INR from one side per person and it takes roughly 25-30 minutes to reach the islands. If you do not prefer the Malpe Fishing Harbour, the boats for the St Mary’s Island also leave from Tegma Jetty. Malpe Fishing Harbour is 5.6 km from Udupi. Udupi is easily accessible by road and rail. Though, the nearest airport is Mangalore which is 60 km from Udupi. Its connectivity through various modes is as follows:
Udupi has its bus stop and many travel companies that operate taxi services. The city is well connected by buses and taxis with all the major cities of India. Buses both private and government are functional and ply to and from the city. The major cities nearby are Mysore, Murudeshwar, and Mangalore. St Mary’s Island distance from Mangalore is 65 km and it is 100 km from Murudeshwar. There are direct buses that ply from these and other major cities. Cabs are also a good option.
Udupi is well connected via railways with the rest of the country as well. The city has its railway station and the distance of the islands from the Udupi Railway Station is near about 15 km and the next nearest railway station from the city are Mangalore Railway Station and Surathkal Railway Station which is about 52.72 km. These railway stations have trains connecting them with the rest of the country. Cabs can be taken to reach the desired destination from these stations.
Udupi does not have an airport in the city itself but the Mangalore International Airport is just 63.22 km from the St Mary’s Island and another airport connected with the city is Agatti Aerodrome. The distance from Agatti Aerodrome to the islands is 243.15 km. You can easily find direct flights from all the major airports and connecting flights from all the airports to the Mangalore International Airport. The Mangalore International Airport and Agatti Aerodrome are also connected via direct flights. After reaching the airports you can easily find bus, rail and cab services connecting to the Udupi city and then further to the St Mary’s Island Udupi.
Commuting within Udupi:
Commuting within Udupi is best done via cabs if you want hassle-free transportation. Or you can also try the autorickshaws. They are fun and cost-effective. Another mode of transport is the local buses but we would not recommend using the local buses. But you can try walking your way around the city. It gives a flavor of the local life and the day to day activities and a peek into the local markets.
Tips For Visiting St. Mary’s Islands Udupi:
Here are a few travel tips to keep in mind for a happy and comfortable visit to the islands.
- Avoid wearing fancy footwear and sneakers or sport shoes as the last few feet of the distance involves wading. Wading will wet your shoes and you might catch a cold and it is uncomfortable anyways.
- There is no multitude of shops on the islands. Only a lone shack, which serves some juices, water, and basic snacks.
- Due to the lack of shops and staying options, it is an offbeat destination and not many people go there. So, do not be alarmed if you do not find many people there.
- Do remember to carry your water bottles as there is only one shack that serves water there and do carry hats and sunscreen to beat the heat.
- Languages Spoken in the area are Tulu, Kannada, and English.
- Also St Mary’s Island Udupi are closed from June to September due to monsoon season.
Entry Fees and St. Mary’s Island timings:
There are no entry fees for the islands but the tariff for the ferry that takes you to the islands is 300 INR per person. Once you reach there, there are no shops to empty your pockets but you need to carry sunscreen, hats, and water for your visit pre-handed. The total duration of the visit is 2 to 3 hours included of the travel on the ferry which in itself is about 1 hour to and fro both inclusive. There are no timings for the visit but the ferry timings are from 9 am to 6 pm.
Places to visit near St Mary’s Island Udupi:
- Malpe Beach
- Vadabhandeshwara Temple
- Daryabahadurgarh Fort
- Malpe beach:
Malpe Beach is a paradise with white sands and blue waters of the Arabian Sea with palm trees swaying and welcoming all. This place is still less frequented by tourists and you can explore some quiet moments by the sea beach with your friends and family. This place is great for water adventure sports and swimming and even better for watching a beautiful sunset. The beach is set between the Swarna Nandi River and Malpe Port. Malpe Beach is one of the best beach to visit in Karnataka. The beach also hosts several cultural programs during winters and artists both foreign and locals participate in them.
Time Required: 2-3 hrs
Timings: It is open throughout the day and the best time to visit it is during winters that are between October and January.
Entry Fee: No entry fee
Distance (From Udupi Railway Station): 10 Km
Transportation Options: You can reach the beach by cab, an autorickshaw or the local buses.
- The visit to the beach can be coupled with a visit to Vadabhandeshwara Temple which is just 1 km away.
- St Mary’s Island Udupi can be reached from here.
2. Vadabhandeshwara Temple:
Situated near Malpe Beach, it is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Balaram, the elder brother of Sri Krishna. The temple was built by the Madhvacharya who also built the famous Sri Krishna Temple of Udupi. This place has a folk legend associated with it- According to the legend, Madhvacharya had a vision of the Lord Krishna on the seashore near the temple. The place is considered a sacred spot and is marked by a shrine built for Lord Subramanya there. Madhvacharya is the founder of the Dvaita philosophy.
Timing: 6 am to 8 pm. But the evening is the best time to visit the temple as after visiting the temple you can have a view of the sunset from the beach nearby. Also, you can attend the evening aarti ceremony at the temple.
Festival: Mahalaya Amavasya is celebrated at the temple and thousands of devotees visit the temple on this day and take a bath in the sea.
Distance: 10 km from Udupi Railway Station
Entry Fee: No Entry Fee
- Visit during the evening time is suggested due to evening aarti ceremony and sunset view.
- You can also couple the visit with a visit to Malpe Beach which is nearby.
3. Daryabahadurgarh Fort:
Daryabahadurgarh Fort is a fort on the Daryabahadur island- one of the four islands that form the St Mary’s Island Udupi. The fort was built by Basavappa Naik of Bidanur. This rocky island also has the basaltic rock formations that these islands are so famous for. You can also visit an old factory of Mangalore Tiles and a few temples around the fort.
Distance: 2 km from Malpe Beach
Timing: 9 am to 5 pm.
Things to do in St Mary’s Island Udupi:
Malpe Beach from where rides to St Mary’s Island Udupi are taken, is an excellent beach with calm waters and offers an exciting variety of things to do.
- Jet Ski or Water Scooter Rides
- Banana Rides
- Speed Boat Rides
- Speed Boat Cruise to the islands
- Boating in the Backwaters
. 1. Jet Ski or Water Scooter Rides:
Jet Ski or WaterScooter Rides are fun adventurous rides that include speedboat, motorcycle and water skiing characteristics. The best option is to jet ski to the St Mary’s Island Udupi, which are approximately 6 km away from the Malpe Beach.
Parasailing in Malpe Beach is one of the best things to do on Malpe Beach. It includes parasailing over both the sea and the beach. Parasailing is best done during the evening. The mesmerizing view of the beach and the sea with the beautiful silhouettes backdrop of the sunset is a sight to remember.
3. Banana Rides:
Banana rides are rides on an inflatable boat that looks like a banana and then these banana boats are fastened to a speed boat which pulls it on the water at high speeds. These rides are extremely fun and do not require any skill. But do hold on to the boat firmly as the speed boat tries to topple the banana boats and thus dropping the passengers in the water. Don’t worry it’s safe and you are always wearing life jackets.
4. Speed Boat Rides:
Speed Boat Rides are an ideal way to explore the beach. These high-speed boats take you through the water and the strong wind gushing through you is an experience you must collect. The waters are calm and the activity is extremely safe.
5. Speed Boat Cruise to St. Mary’s Islands Udupi:
Another interesting way to reach the St Mary’s Island Udupi other than jet ski is the speed boat cruise. You can use the speed boat instead of using a ferry too.
Always dreamt of trying yourself at surfing, then Malpe Beach is the place for you. Here you can get surfing lessons from the experts.
7. Boating in the Backwaters:
Another exotic and relaxing experience that you must have is boating in the calm backwaters nearby.
Food in Udupi:
It is an Irish proverb that Laughter is Brightest where the Food is! The proverb is so true that food is happiness and Udupi restaurants excel at delivering this happiness. Udupi is famous for its chain of restaurants nationwide and few restaurants within Udupi serve delectable delicacies. Some of the mouthwatering delicacies one must try on his trip are- Spiced Rice, Menaskai (Sambar), Tambuli, and Bakshya, Upma, Idlis, a wide variety of dosas, Rasam, Payasa, Goli Baje, Kheer, Pelakai Halwa ( Jackfruit Halwa), and the list is never-ending. Although they are numerous restaurants, we are mentioning three of them:
Genre: South Indian
Timings: 8 am to 9:30 pm in the night
Price: 200 INR for two people
Address: State Highway 37, Dr. V R Rao Commercial Complex, Tenkpet, Chitpadi, Udupi – 576101, India.
Woodlands is an authentic South Indian restaurant with the best Udupi food preparation in the city. Their food has rich South Indian flavors and spices which make the food best in class. Do visit the place and taste its specialties and savor the taste of South Indian food.
Genre: Multi Cuisine
Timings: 9:30 am to 11:30 pm in the night
Price: 500 INR for two people
Address: Opp. Kalpana Theatre, Udupi District, Karavali, Udupi, India.
Thamboolam serves Non-Vegetarian food and all types of thalis. They specialize in multiple cuisines and serve delectable delicacies. Their seafood is appreciable and Matka Biryani is very tasty. Do visit the place if you feel like having something else than South Indian having good taste.
3. Mitra Samaj
Timing: 10 am to 10 pm
Price: 400 INR for two persons
Address: Car Street, Near Sri Krishna Temple, Udupi, India. The unique feature of this place is that they do not use onion or garlic in their food. So, this place is a good idea if you are fasting or simply abstain from these or try it simply for the sake of taste. It is situated near Krishna Temple, so you can visit this restaurant while your trip back from the temple. You must try South Indian delicacies of the restaurant.
TrueLinkz opinion on St Mary’s Island Udupi:
According to us, a trip to St Mary’s Island Udupi and the nearby beaches, forts, and temples is a must-visit if you are looking for some seclusion and offbeat places to visit. This place may be a bit crowdy during peak seasons, but usually, it is quiet and serene. The major highlights are crystalline rocks of the islands and adventure sports and cultural programs of the Malpe Beach. It is a great place for backpackers who are visiting nearby cities and those who like to explore offbeat locations. for more details click here Also, read our article on 10 best things to do in Nisargadhama Coorg and Chelavara Falls and its travel guide.