Get away from it all at this hideaway resort on the "best beach in Asia" in the off-the-beaten-track Andaman Islands”
Its beautifully designed cottages and villas are hidden among 7 acres of grounds, their hardwood walls and conical thatch roofs blending into the tropical foliage. You get basic comforts (modern plumbing, hot water, and air-conditioning or ceiling fans), a restaurant/bar and an exhilarating closeness to nature. The Barefoot philosophy means a minimal environmental footprint, so only indigenous materials are used, rainwater is harvested and most staff are local. Venture out and you can kayak through mangrove creeks, snorkel or dive the reefs, and camp on a deserted island; stay put and there's yoga, Ayurvedic spa treatments, birdwatching and a blissful beach. Barefoot at Havelock is perfect if you're looking for an unpretentious hideaway on one of the world’s last undeveloped tropical islands.
- Having revisited in 2015, the unspoilt Andaman Islands remain one of the few tropical island groups undiscoverd by the masses
- Barefoot is the only hotel set on the quirkily named Beach No. 7 - "the best beach in Asia" according to Time magazine
- An ideal spot to relax, meditate and commune with nature
- A great base for adventures, with hiking, fishing, kayaking and some world-class diving on the doorstep
- The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable
- Quite cut off from the rest of the world, with little phone signal and no internet, but that's what makes the islands so special
- Secluded Barefoot is on the other side of the island from towns, so you'll need transport (perhaps a moped) to reach 'civilisation'
- Unfortunately for divers the last El Niño caused extensive coral bleaching - they are only just starting to grow back
- The nocturnal forest sounds can be irritating if you're a light sleeper
- This is the tropics, so expect the occasional shower even in the dry season
Best time to go
Diving is best between November and April. Game fishing is best from mid-January to mid-March, which is also when turtles nest and dugongs come to feed on the sea-grass at Beach No. 7.”
Our top tips
- You'll need at least a week here, as it's such a long haul to reach the islands. Leave your laptop and mobile phone behind, and take off your watch and shoes when you arrive...
- Hire a moped, it’s a really fun way to zip around the island, catching the sun rising on one coast and setting on the other
- Eco Beach Resort
- 19 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Yoga pavilion
Scattered amongst tropical foliage and connected by winding pathways, the cottages and villas are constructed from natural, regenerable materials and raised on stilts - for a (literally) minimal footprint!
We stayed in one of the simple air-conditioned Nicobari Cottages, though we actually preferred their traditional structure and design. Lovely and cool inside, we slept in a beautiful big wooden four-poster (netted) and whiled away our afternoons on the porch’s comfy daybed. The leaves of the thatched ceilings sometimes shift to show a little sky; if raindrops fall, staff come to add another layer. The innovative step-ladder entrance folds back on itself, to prevent friendly wildlife from inviting themselves in.
Squarer and more contemporary, the air-conditioned Andaman Villas have wood-shingled roofs and large floor-to-ceiling windows behind sliding shutters. A terrace runs along each building, and bathrooms have glass-roofed showers with jungle views; the skylight can be raised to let in fresh air.
The fan-cooled Duplex Cottage is ideal for honeymooners or families, with a mezzanine-level bedroom and bathroom, and an upper-level day room that's open to the rainforest on 3 sides.
More stylish still is the fan-cooled Nicobari Villa: formed from a pair of connected Nicobar-style circular structures to make an unusual hideaway for 2. One half contains a four-poster bedroom and a small sit-out leading to a private courtyard. The other half contains an ensuite with circular shower and sliding doors to the deck. Throughout, curved louvred shuttered walls flip open or shut for ventilation or privacy.
- Extra beds
- Mosquito net
Lunches and dinners include northern and southern Indian food, plus many Thai dishes. There’s also a good range of pasta, as the sous chef is from Italy.
Of course, being on an island, seafood features most prominently. The nightly special has usually been brought straight of the fishing boat - perhaps a large lobster or crab, whole fish steamed in banana leaves, or huge tiger prawns. An amazing treat for the tastebuds. If you get lucky on your own fishing trip, your catch can be cooked to order - grilled, fried or curried.
The Lounge bar has Indian wines, beers and spirits. The bartenders are fantastic, mixing up any number of cocktails. One bartender even grows his own mint for the mojitos. Low-level tables and bolstered divans are filled with guests chatting, playing games or reading, lit by aromatic candles. A small kitchen serves Indian snacks such as grilled kebabs with marinades.
Breakfasts alternate between spicy sambhar (lentil curry) with idlies (steamed rice cakes) or dosas (pancakes), and a full English menu.
If you fancy eating out, head over to Beach No. 5 where there's a sociable vibe amongst the various eateries (15-minute moped ride). The pick of the bunch is Full Moon Café: always rammed, great beachside setting, really lovely owners and the best grub (fresh, imaginative seafood dishes, tasty twists on Indian classics and fresh-squeezed juices).
- Organic produce
- Vegetarian menu
- The Andaman’s pristine waters are one of the last frontiers for scuba diving. Reefs abound with colourful fish, turtles, sting rays, dolphins and the occasional dugong. Barefoot have a professional dive centre offering PADI courses and recreational dive trips off Beach No.3
- Snorkelling is also great here: Beach No 7 has sea-grass beds or head though the mahua forest to Barefoot Cove’s pretty reef and lagoon. Alternatively, take a dunghi (long-tail boat) to the deserted Elephant Beach, with its unspoiled reef
- Take the dunghi and fishing for your dinner, or land a catch from Barefoot's custom-made speedboat
- Borrow a kayak from the dive centre and explore the island’s surrounding mangrove creeks and shallow reefs. We took an incredible nighttime guided kayak tour; the sky twinkled with thousands of stars and the sea's dazzling bioluminescence did its best to compete
- The bamboo and thatch pavilion offers Ayurvedic treatments (and longer programmes) overlooking the forest and lily pond, and yoga is available most of the year
- Resident field guides organise steep but rewarding nature hikes which take you among birds, butterflies and orchids to the hill overlooking the cove
- Island-hop. Button Islands’ Marine National Park has spectacular snorkelling; overnight trips include remote Long Island (with barbecue) or Barren Island, India’s only active volcano. There are also longer eco-tours to the Andamans' various conservation bases
N.B. Please note that some of these activities are not available during low season - check when you make your enquiry.
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Plantlife / flora
- Scuba diving
- Scuba diving courses
- Well being
Though there are few facilities specifically geared for kids, all ages are welcome and adventurous youngsters will love kayaking and snorkelling.
Dedicated babysitters are not available, but staff are happy to entertain children while you're away on that romantic evening walk.
Family friendly accommodation:
The Duplex Cottage has 2 double beds (sleeps up to 6), and all cottages and villas can take an additional mattress. Maximum 2 children per cottage or villa.
Havelock Island, in the Bay of Bengal, is 1.5-3.5 hours by boat from Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands. Port Blair is easily accessible by air from mainland India.
You will receive a free permit on arrival at Port Blair Airport; please note that if you mention going to the Andamans when you get your tourist visa, some embassies may request that you obtain the permit then, which can delay the visa process. Nationals of Pakistan, Bangladesh and China must apply for the permit in advance, which can take up to 6 weeks.
Fly to Chennai (Madras) or Kolkata (Calcutta) in India and then take a domestic flight to Port Blair.
From the Airport
Daily afternoon ferries will transfer you from Port Blair to Havelock Island pier; from there it's a 30-minute taxi ride to the resort. Choose from government ferries (around USD46pp in 2015) or slightly pricier catamarans (operated by private firms). We prefer the catamarans as they are faster and more comfortable than the ferries. Barefoot can arrange all the necessary transfers and ferry tickets for you to take the stress out of the connection.
You can also charter a private long-tail boat (called a dunghi) between Port Blair and Havelock (around USD125 per one-way trip for up to 6 people, including the taxi transfer to the resort). Be warned, though: this is for the intrepid kind only - you're liable to get soaked, so get into your swimwear before you board and keep your valuables in a waterproof bag. You'll also need to brace yourself for a no-frills ride with bench-style seating, a noisy engine and big waves. The journey time is approximately 3-3.5 hours. It's a real Andaman experience!
Barefoot is the only hotel on this side of the island, so you'll need to use mopeds, tuk-tuks or buses to get to the small town or more popular beaches.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to the Andaman Islands and getting around
- Port Blair 60.0 km IXZ
- Beach 0.1 km
- Shops 6.0 km
- Restaurant 6.0 km