St Mary’s Island near Malpe beach, Udupi, Karnataka

Here are bunch of photos of St Mary’s Island, taken by my photographer-friend Nagesh who has roamed this coastline since his childhood (and who is, incidentally, shooting India’s first fully digitally shot movie). Since they are such lovely snaps, I decided to let the story follow the photos.






As I wrote sometime ago, if Karnataka gets its act together, it has everything going for it to emerge as India’s top tourism destination. Here is more proof.

St Mary’s island is a little slip of land about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach in Udupi. As you can see in the photos, God certainly let loose on this one; it is gorgeous and I can say this with the certainty of someone who has seen a fair number of beaches and islands across the world. The island is full of crystallised basalt rock, a unique rock formation found in very few places in the world, the most notable being the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And, the sea between the island and the long curve of the beach at Malpe is placid and gentle (or at least looks that way).

As I stood on this little island last week, it was clear that it is crying out for a bit of tender, loving attention. Here are a few touches I can think of:

  • an audio visual tour of the island, its unique geography and its marine life
  • a weekly experience for very young children to be exposed to the idea of an island (a small experience of Robinson Crusoe)
  • A once in a year weekly festival of crystallised basalt rock (came across a similar idea in the ‘Giant Crystal Project’ in Iceland)
  • An area of the island dedicated to indulging in sustainable water sports – sailing, canoeing etc.

More imaginative minds than mine can surely figure out more options. The island is a treasure and it would be a great feather in Karnataka’s cap if this was not left at the deep state of neglect it is today.

Click here to read all my Karnataka posts.

And here for all my posts on Beaches.


101 thoughts on “St Mary’s Island near Malpe beach, Udupi, Karnataka

  1. OMG! It is breath-taking! Is that place really in Karnataka? I have lived for two years in Bangalore and never ventured around Udupi – seems like I have missed the best 😦 I will try to correct that soon.

  2. A little bit of history here: Many do not know that Vasco Da Gama first actually landed at St Mary’s Island. But somehow not founding it suitable, decided to go down further South to Calicut and finally set foot on land there. St Mary’s or Malpe, therefore, very narrowly missed ‘fame’.

  3. Hari,

    We should chat. I found your post particularly interesting since its’ dated 27 Jan – I was in Malpe and on St. Mary’s myself on New Years’ Eve!

    Two things on your post caught my attention – St Mary’s and your friend’s digital movie – both movies/ high-end audio-video and travelling are my passions (including photography!), but somehow never managed to get my stock out of the closet onto the internet! Will do now..

    The other thing that really got my attention was picture no. 4 from top – HOW did your friend manage to get the emerald water?? None of my photographs are like that! It’s beautiful. Would like to know the secret, though..!

  4. Tapas, I have some good news & some bad news for you.

    First the good news. It will cost you nothing at all – all you have to pay for is the ferry ride to the island.

    Now the not-so-good-news. The catch in this paradise is that there is no accommodation on the island (actually there isnt even a proper loo on the island). You will need to take the last ferry back in the evening.

  5. hi hari,

    I’m a software engineer and part time filmmaker from bangalore. nice to know abt ur friend who is making India’s first fully digitally shot movie? can you plz give me his details so I can contact him and help him out too if possible?

    thanks! 🙂

  6. You make a great point about the bombastic potential of tourism in KA, I am actually working on a paper for my Masters in Gastronomy about the exploration of culinary tourism that would be a success story in the many beautiful, diverse regions you have captured so vividly in those images! Great job – a definte must see when I go back home this Dec…

  7. Hi Meagan – welcome to my blog. Culinary tourism (a.k.a ‘eating loads of local food in places you go!’) is one of my passions. Do share your paper with me, once you are through – I am sure it will be interesting.

  8. i being from malpe….. i know all this places very well….. its one of the beautiful place any one should visit in their life….its just worth it… as a picnic sport…not only malpe….i suggest that the whole of UDUPI is a superb place such as KRISHNA TEMPLE, MANIPAL END POINT,MALPE BEACH etc…… visit all the places…. but keep the CITY CLEAN……

    • Hi Sneha, I am really looking to discuss with someone from Malpe about the possibility of having a small piece of land on Malpe beach for personal use or for running a small guest house/restaurent. In fact, I visited these places and others along the coast of Krnataka very recently (26-27 Dec.’08) with my wife & kids (12 years old daughter & 13 years old son) and I am really fascinated with the beauty of Malpe beach & St. Mary’s island. I am not very sure how can you help me, but I expect a reply from you on my e-mail id

      • Hi Krishna, real estate rates have touched the roof there. But you may get a place somewhere interior with hard bargaining. I am visiting there soon. Can check with local people. Do let me know how many cents area you are looking. You cannot build anything upto 500 meters from the shore because CRZ rule. You can call me on my mob. no 09820703242 during 12th to 19th July. Bye thanks

    • That’s right, apart from that one should visit Balarama (Lord Rama) temple and Ananteshwara (Lord Shiva) temple which is stone throw away from Malpe beach. You should wait to see the sunset in Malpe beach and go for paragliding/waterschooter and also taste local fish dishes, cabbage manchurian, tender coconut etc. Best time Nov/Feb.
      But right now I am on my way to Malpe to enjoy some monsoon. All are welcome. cheers.

  9. Yes, Udupi is on the way to Murudeshwar, if you are going from Mangalore. Udupi is an hour north of Mangalore on the coast. If you keep going further up north from Udupi, your reach Murudeshwar.

  10. I just saw St. Mary’s Beach name on the udupi station from my train on the way back from Ernakulam and was excited to visit it. The facts from these lines above has made it now irresistable. i wish to visit Ududpi in next month and I request you all especially Hari and Sneha to give me some guidelines about where to stay with my family and how many days to plan the visit are required. this will be of real help if you can. I was a bit worried about the tour b4 visiting this site but now after having read all these informations I am sure I and my family will get a great holiday in Udupi. Pls try and give me some good hotel names and locations from where beach is clse by. Thank you so much – Nishant

  11. Nishant – welcome to my blog. For all the information you might need on planning your holiday, click on the links below.

    If you still have doubts, I suggest you post a question on the HolidayIQ’s Udupi forum. The thousands of travellers that visit daily should be able to answer all your doubts. The link is here.

    Have a good trip.

  12. Hi, glad to be here. I am from Udyavar around 10 KM awasy from St. Marys island. Have been to the island 3 or 4 times. Very nice place to be. Rare rock formations, beautiful beaches and a lovely palmgrove.

    You have covered the place so nicely. The photographs are splendid. During my childhood days I was dreaming that this would soon become a famous tourist spot. Unfortunately the tourism authoritie’s response has been very cold.

    All what is need of the hour is some basic facilities to the tourists such as regular ferry boat trips, proper jetty facilities both the sides, a cafetaria in island, a wash room and a sweet water shower.

    Will anybody act on this?


  13. Hey Robert, thanks for dropping by. Yes, I met more of such dreamers among your compartriots while on this trip and I can empathise with your view. Your conutryside is so gorgeous that not putting up basic tourism facilities is pretty crazy. But so it is. Maybe, it is time for all the good people living in that region to shout a bit about this.

  14. Hi,

    Nice pictures. Its been quite a long time I was planning to visit St Mary’s Island. Can you tell me how to reach there from Mangalore? I’m in Bangalore now and planning to visit Mangalore this weekend. Tell me what would be the best time to reach the Island and also how to reach there.


  15. Hey Naveen. Get to Udupi and take a ferry from the boat jetty near Malpe. Any auto chap should be able to take you there. I went at about 1 pm in the afternoon and got back by about 4pm. Take water with you.

  16. Hey !! this place is truly beautiful . . !! i like this gal and she posted some pics of St Mary’s island in her profile . . looked so beautiful . . made me curious to know more about dis place ,truly breathtaking views. Iv decided im coming here with ma frnds soooooon , verrry sooon !! 🙂 and that would be 4 of us !!!

  17. Had gone to Udupi on 27th Dec 2007 with parents ! Have to say – The St . Mary’s Island is really something ! A gem hidden on the west coast of Karnataka !And the best part i loved was the shell beach ! you could walk on the beach and there were only small soft pieces of fragmented shells and no sand to stick to your feet !!! Had a splash there and loved every moment of it !!!!

  18. Hi
    I differ from most of you regarding “development” of the island. We all love it for being what it is – nature at its best. At the most, a couple of toilets, but built in a style that merges with the landscape. For the rest please leave it as it is.
    Alas! that is not to be. I have just read the politicians have already arranged for lakhs of rupees to kill it in the name of progress.
    We Indians don’t know how to preserve our assets.

  19. Sujan – welcome to the Long Hol. I, of course, disagree with you that ‘development’ is bad. While that is a fashionable theme these days with many, I think sensitive development can make the place immeasurably richer for all of us, without spoiling an iota of its intrinsic glory. Of course, India’s governments are generally poor at doing this. From my perspective, instead of wringing hands, it is imperative for citizens to demand better implementation. And, ensure it happens.

    Here is a thought. Just like there is Intach for advising & helping preserve built heritage, maybe we should develop an organisation for helping preserve and developing our natural heritage.

    • I am of the same feeling. Can you share the information on buying a piece of land there. I too am trying and will share the information, whatever I get.

  20. hi,
    planning for this there anything els around to see?wil 2 days be sufficient?wats the budget approx?

    • hi Hari ,
      Planning a trip in Dec 09 wid fmly friends….for the nth time …the snaps are awesome !!! just been to Himachal- Sangla kanda-Kinnaur- Spiti-Chandratal … mid July ….am aldready planning for Dec 09 trip…..after reading all the blog info and holiday iq forums ….I think we shall stay at Udipi and go for a full day to Malpe beach early morning ….since Paradise resort is too expensive …i wud believe the snaps u have uploaded wud be clicked arouns afternoon time …take care

  21. Hey hari, It is rather suprising to me a native of udupi , my mother was, I have been to this place. Believe you me, If I had the influence with the politicians and had the mullah, I would have turned this place into an un forgetable experience to the tourist. But it is all the maor suprising that a person from Kerala has to project this, not that there are no keralites in Mangalore and udupi. Thank u Hari.

  22. Hi Hari,
    i intend going to Mookambika from Blr & after the darshan wanted to stay in some scenic place for a couple of days.. which place would you suggest?

  23. Hi Hari
    v are leaving for kukke on 24 dec09 .From there v are visiting udipi.Could u pl let me know how v cld go around udipi sight seeing without wasting time on wrong routes i mean to say which are the places which shd b seen which are far away from krishna temple and close by to udipi.I wld b greatful if u cld guide me in this matter bcause i have to b in blr by sunday

    • economy hotel in proper malpe-hotel karthik luxury hotel- hotel beach paradise-with some 4 km distance hotel karavali-in udupi city various hotels(7 km from malpe)

  24. hii

    well yea ive heard that st mary’s is out of the world…….but hey what about other beaches of karnataka like gokarna, kumta etc

  25. St. Marys is a beautiful place and must be protected.

    The last thing St Marys Island needs is ‘facilities’. The main attraction to the island is its raw beauty and untouched state, which is a rarity in India.

    I hate to say it, but the biggest threat to any Indian tourist destination is Indians themselves. Sorry, but this is the truth. The typical Indian tourist has no regard for the places they visit. Nor do they have any respect for the cities they live in. They will litter and trash the place as if their own mothers would magically be sent down to clean their fitlhy messes after they leave. They have no sense of pride or respect for their public places. Just visit ANY Indian tourist destination for the proof of this statement.

    It is a shame. Hopefully one day the general Indian public will learn to respect public spaces – whether it is a tourist destination or their own neighborhoods.

    There is no point in designating or promoting any Indian tourist destination until this fundamental problem is resolved.



  26. Hi GIndia

    Welcome to The Long Hol.

    I find this kind of argument intriguing – “we must protect India from Indians”. I am not sure who the ‘we’ are and not sure why this ‘we’ are better suited to ‘protect’ India from Indians.

    I think people are pretty much the same everywhere in the world. What is different is the quality of leadership. So, instead of ‘protecting’ India from Indians, it might be more useful to work towards educating people on the glory of India’s natural heritage and working with ‘Indians’ on ensuring that things remain pristine. The way to do this to make it more accessible to larger number of people while sensitising them to the need for sustainability & preservation. An excellent starting point might be to involve young students from the Udupi / Mangalore region to become stewards of this treasure.

    In a completely different context, I see this happening with Delhi’s metro rail. Delhi’s citizens are generally considered not very civic-concious. However, the metro is kept spic and span and runs smoothly on time. What has made the difference is leadership. It can be done in India – for Indians.

  27. Dear Hari,

    It is a nice photo shoot

    I am happy to see a lot of response here regarding the Island, facilities there and development.

    There are a lot of promises from the part of govt. but yet to form a solid structure. In news:

    The current status in news :

    I represent the technical agency presently entrusted to handle the development activities there in the Island and the beach.

    At present we are planning at the Island
    1. stalls & Toilets
    2. Path ways
    3. Boat jetty on both end

    Our present Limitation
    1. No sweet water available from the Island. we tried with the help of geologists, but failed. A well with fresh water was there 40 years back when there was a habitation of 4 families. The same was later over used by the coconuts tree planters.
    2. Plastic and other non-degradable waste by the tourists. We already removed tones of waste from there, still unable to control.
    3. Not to mention, Projects funds are released slowly

    We already have a Master plan submitted without altering or destroying anything of natural Island structure.

    Then too…
    here I welcome the Ideas from the readers and the author of this blog for our master plan for the Island. If possible – may not be immediately but surely when more funds are allotted- will accommodate those ideas too.

    I will be happy to see all your queries directed to my mail at

    Rajith A M
    PRO, UNK

  28. Hey Hari,

    We did a road trip in Karnataka recently and were really pleasantly surprised to see the variety offered by Karnataka be it the st mary’s island, Hampi, Kemmanagundi or Murudeshwara. Every place had something unique to offer..

    We also made a small website for the same…visit the same if you have time..

  29. Hi,

    This place is just awesome!!!

    i will be visiting Udipi in the next 2 weeks. I definately want to go to St. Mary’s island.

    From what i understand the only ay to get to St. Mary’s island is via sea (ferry/ fisher men boat). Is the ferry service open during monsoon? If yes, is it safe!

    Is there absolutely go food available there??
    Is it safe for only 2-3 ppl (read women) on the island?


  30. Hi Priya,

    there are regular ferry service from malpe harbour to st mary’s island…and its as safe as it can be in anywhere in india!!

    but not sure whether monsoons would be a good time to visit the place…

  31. The season ends on 15th May every year and the Island is closed for tourist till the end of monsoon.

    The Island is safe. The deaths and accidents occurred in the past are due the disobeying of warnings by the tourists and heavy consumption of alcohol before boarding the boat.

  32. I remember being on this island many times, this place has to be properly marketed, Litter bugs have to be fined, since fresh water was there before, i see no reason why its no there now, with little effort, I agree Govt cant do everything, But every time i visited, i was on the will of few boat mann to carry me to the island, This has to change, With proper boarding and food facilities.

  33. I will be visiting Udupi in September 2010 and am eager to visit St Mary’s Island. Will it be opened for tourists by then?

    • ya sure……….i think its better to go there after the mid of september bcoz as i know every services are starts after that………….visit and enjoy

  34. Hey.. Awesome pics… I am actually revisiting your blog for info on these islands.. Would like to know if there is an option of camping on the islands.

  35. Hi Last month I have visited ST.Mary’s Island and its simply awesome .One of the wonderful spot where u can enjoy the core.One should visit there.To reach Island there s a boat facility named JAI HANUMAN Contact No:+919845201221

    • Yeah last month i have visited St.Mary’s Island with ma frens and i really enjoyed the place .lots of fun in malpe beach and specially the island.

      • Hi Hari,
        Wonderful pics of island and good website with lots of information.Keep goin on….

  36. Hi Hari,
    Wonderfull pics!! Somewhere in comments above it was mentioned that the Island closes in Monsoon. Can you tell me the month it re-opens?

  37. Hai Mr. Hari,
    I was just searching information on Malpe. Thanks.
    I have been thinking of visiting there for about last 15 years and any way in a plan to go there day after tomorrow, Oct 1. And can I know where should we have to turn to Malpe beach going via Mangalore? Udyavar or before or after that? What about the food availability nowadays?

  38. Hi Hari,
    I am visiting this place in the month of october for Dasara. Is that possible for seeing sunset. as you said the ferry will stop at before 5:30. cant we stay little longer up till sun sets like 6:30.
    Please reply soon so that i can accordingly.

  39. Hi I am from malaysia, just came back from st mary. Simply love the place. So magical to see all the rocks. The place rocks. Will go again before flying home!!

  40. hi hari,
    Im planning to visit malpe with my frnds the next weekend.. Apart from the calm beach and palm trees stuff which every have posted I would like to know more about the water sports available over there.. like…
    1) what are the various kinds of water sports available ?
    2) what would be the approx tarrif for them?
    3) will those water sports be available only for the guests of certain resorts or will they be available to everyone who visit the beach?

    Waiting for ur reply as we dont hav much time…

    Thanks in advance !!!

  41. Hey.. jus wanted to know whether thr is an option to stay for a week or two .. i mean accmodation? Pls do let me know. Thank you!

  42. Last month we had been to St.marys island to study the different plant vegetation. Wow! its heaven. Nice experience and worth visiting.

  43. Hi,I plan to visit the place with a friend of mine. Its so beautiful that I badly wanna spend a week there. Since there is no accommodation,is it possible to set up a tent there?

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