St. Mary’s Islands: How About Visiting an Island Near Udipi, Karnataka?

by Jane Sophia
St. Mary's Islands

How about visiting St. Mary’s Islands that is very close to the world famous pilgrimage city Udipi in coastal Karnataka? Are you surprised that an island exists near Udipi in the Arabian sea? I too was surprised when I read about a news item in the Times of India a week back.

I quickly read the short article in TOI and later did a Google about the:

My research findings further surprised me. There are actually four islands off the Udipi coast. St. Mary’s Islands, that is also known by other names ( Coconut Island and Thonsepar) is an archipelago comprising of four small islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe beach in Udupi, Karnataka.

St. Mary's Islands 1

The four islands are:

I have visited Udipi more than 30 years before but I did not know about this paradise St. Mary’s Islands in the Arabian Sea then. Islands never fail to captivate me. I go crazy when I visualize lying in a cottage near the water and hear only the sound of waves in the night.

St. Mary’s Islands.

Here is an interesting story behind the discovery of the little St. Mary’s Islands in India which is very close to the mainland.

St. Mary’s Islands was discovered by none other than the legendary Vasco da Gama in 1498. As a typical Christian missionary, he planted a wooden CROSS on the beach and named it as “O Padrão de Santa Maria” which later got the present name St.Mary.

Some interesting facts about the St. Mary’s Islands:

  • They are uninhabited (no one lives there)
  • No building and hence no shops. Not even drinking water is sold or found
  • No fences whatsoever. It is a real free island to roam and gaze at the blue Arabian sea water.
  • No stray dogs, goats, and chickens

St. Mary's Islands 2

The exact location of St. Mary’s Islands:

St. Mary’s Islands takes about 20 minutes boat ride from the Malpe beach which itself is only 5 KMs away from the Udipi town, Karnataka.

The nearest airport is at Mangalore which is 63 km from Udipi. If you are traveling by train, the nearest railway station is Udipi which is 56 km away from Mangalore towards Bombay, India.

Don’t image St. Mary’s Islands as a big island where you need local transportation to move around. It is only 300 meters in length and the width is only 100 meters.

How to reach St. Mary’s Islands?

The 6 KMs distance from the Malpe beach is serviced by regular ferry rides. Depending upon the number of tourists visiting the Malpe coast, the frequency of the boat rides increases or decreases.

Best time to visit St. Mary’s Islands

I would visit the islands only during December and January when it is not hot; else, the rest of the months can be scorching.

What can you see in St. Mary’s Islands?

  • Seagulls
  • Egrets
  • Brahminy kites
  • Sandpipers
  • Bee-eaters

Therefore, it is an ideal spot for avid ornithologists and habitual bird watchers.

Basalt Rock Formations:

Strangely, due to prolonged sea erosion, the island is littered with odd shaped basalt rock. I read that it is a unique phenomenon in India.

Kulkunda cattle fair.

Every year, a cattle fair is hosted on this island due to virtually no hurdles.

The Malpe Beach

As I mentioned above, the Malpe beachfront is only 5-6 km away from Udipi. It is classified as a natural port though there is no real commercial trading activity taking place.

The beach is nearly deserted most of the times due to scorching heat. The sand looks white and the blue backdrop makes it look more so.

Udayavara River

It is also called the Malpe river and it flows around the beach.

Once you book your cottage, you can indulge in lazing around or take part in many of the aqua sports that include:

  • Jet Skiing
  • Speedboat sailing
  • Surfing
  • Parasailing

 Getting around the Malpe beach.

  • Visit the Kaup beach that is some 20 km away from the Malpe coast. Visitors wait in the queue from 4.30 pm to go up the Kaup lighthouse which seems to be the only entertainment here.
  • Go to the Delta Beach at Kodi Bengre which is about 9 km away.

Paradise Lagoon.

This is the biggest tourist attraction near the Malpe beach. The paradise resort and spa are spread over a large area enclosed by the backwaters on three sides. It is just 14 km from the Udipi town and 8 km from the Malpe beach.

The resort must be cool because it is enshrouded by green coconut trees. There is a lovely swimming pool abutting the backwaters.

St. Mary's Islands -Kaup

Staying options in Paradise Lagoon.

The sprawling resort offers different kinds of luxury rooms and boathouses that include the following:

  • Standard Rooms
  • Premium rooms
  • Deluxe rooms
  • Waterfront rooms

All these rooms vary in size and facilities. The standard rooms can only accommodate 2 persons and the other classes of rooms naturally can house more. All the rooms are of course air-conditioned and come with free breakfast.

All the rooms offer a splendid view of the backwaters and the coconut groves.

Naturally, this is in high demand, especially with couples because of the privacy. The other features of 67 feet houseboat accommodation are:

  • Sundeck
  • Two spacious rooms with air-conditioning
  • Superb view
  • Houseboat cruise


The predominant cuisine will be of South India, though the Chinese cuisine is liberally available in and around Udipi, a traditionally vegetarian bastion. Both the River Side and the Bay Side restaurants serve a fair dose of seafood.

How do you spend time in Paradise Lagoon Spa Resort?

Paddle Boating is available to the staying guests free of cost. There is the swimming pool to splash around at any time of the day as the water is always warm except during the winter.

Have yourself pampered in the Ayurvedic spa or go fishing with the local fisher folks.

There are a few indoor games too at the spa such as table tennis and a pool table which is my favorite indoor game.

Are you game for a trip to Udipi and the St. Mary’s Islands?

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