India is one of those places that so many people dream of visiting. However, that dream often dies when children come on the scene. Everyone says “NO, you can’t go to India with kids!” Actually, you can. I won’t lie, a trip to India will be challenging, but it will fill your heart and soul like no other place on earth. Kerala, in the South of India, is a wonderful mellow introduction to India for the whole family.
From lazing on beautiful beaches, hiking in mountainous tea plantations to exploring the jungle and cruising the backwaters, a trip to Kerala is a dream for outdoor families. Without massive highways or crowded cities to contend with, a visit to South India can be full of quiet serenity, which is usually not synonymous with travel in India!
1. Relax on Kerala’s Beautiful Beaches
One of the most difficult parts of traveling to Kerala for most families will be the flight. Unless you live in Asia, flights are long and the jet lag can be tough. Start your trip with a few days of relaxation at one of Kerala’s beautiful beaches to wash away the travel exhaustion. Try Kovalam for family friendly resorts or Varkala for a more laid back hippy vibe. Some of the most beautiful places in Kerala are on the coast.
2. Cruise the Backwaters in Alleppey
One of the quintessential things to do in Kerala is going back in time by cruising the many waterways that line the backwaters. Float through the day watching the lush palm-fringed landscape go by, searching for wildlife, while taking in traditional village life as you pass by. Cruising the backwaters is one of the most tranquil things you can do in India. Yes, even with kids! Take a small canoe adventure out into the tiny waterways to get a closer look at the local schools and daily life of these water villages.
3. Search for Tigers in Periyar
Periyar National Park is one of the most popular national parks in southern India and top Kerala destination for visitors. The main excursion here is a slow boat ride (packed with locals) through the artificial lake searching for wild animals on the shores. While tiger sightings are rare, there are an abundance of other animals to see. While this is not the most serene way to see the park, it can be a fun excursion for animal lovers.
In addition to the boat tours, there are a range of eco-tourism activities that allow you to really get out and explore the jungle. These include hikes through the forest with reformed poachers, bamboo rafting, jungle patrols at night, bullock cart rides and tribal heritage visits. Jungle treks are restricted to children 12 years and above, however there are small walks that children of all ages can participate in directly outside of the official fence line of the park.
4. Trek Among Tea Plantations in Munnar
Staying high in the hills of Munnar, you can get first hand views on how tea is grown, processed and sold. Munnar is one of the best places to visit in Kerala for trekking through the steep tea plantations visiting local waterfalls and tea shacks tucked away in the mountains. Hire a local guide who will teach you about the different teas as well as the medicinal plants that grow wild through these cool and misty hills.
5. Tour a Spice (& Rubber Tree) Plantation in Kumily
Arouse your senses in Kumily with a walk through beautiful and fragrant spice plantations to learn more about the growing, harvesting and processing of spices. The peeling and drying of cinnamon, and the painstaking task of hand-pollination of vanilla can be seen, as well as the labor intensive picking of cardamom seeds. Look out for trees with plastic bags hanging on the trunk – these are rubber tree plantations. Stop and check them out if you can, they are fascinating!
6. Explore the Jewish Quarter of Fort Cochin
Known as the “Gateway to Kerala”, Cochin has had eclectic influences throughout its history. Arabs, British, Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese have all left their mark on this quaint town. One of the most vibrant is the old Jewish Quarter that can only be reached by walking through myriad of shops and roadside stalls. Ignoring the sellers, look for small details on the buildings showcasing the Jewish history of this area. Spend plenty of time here as Cochin is loaded with some of the most popular Kerala points of interest.
7. Let the Littles Drive a Rickshaw in Cochin
Totally not legal in your home country, but as you will see India’s rules are often flexible! There are an abundance of very friendly, kid loving auto drivers in Fort Cochin who will let your little sit up front and pretend to drive (actually steer!). The kids will have a blast doing something they have never dreamed was possible. The grown ups will sit in the back envious that they can’t do the same. Enjoy being shown around town by your novice rickshaw walla!
8. Go Fishing in Cochin
A must do in Cochin is a visit to the Chinese Fishing nets. It is fascinating watching the fisherman maneuver the huge nets which date back to 1400 AD. The nets operate on a system of balance and counterbalance and is extremely labor intensive. Rather than just observe from a distance, walk right up to experience it yourself. For a small fee, the fishermen will let you help hoist up the nets or drop them down depending on the time of day. The workers are great sources of information as well about the history of the nets and their daily fish catch.
9. Catch a Kathakali Performance
Kathakali is an ancient form of theater and dance that is traditional to Kerala. The movements of the dance are subtle, think eye movements, yet tell a meaningful mythological story. The performers are required to undergo intense training, including hours of eye exercises when learning the art of Kathakali.
The performers begin preparing their makeup hours before the show each night. Arrive early to watch the transformation from regular person to Kathakali performer happen before your eyes. Often the performers will also allow a quick peak behind the stage to see the various costumes that will be presented later. This is a mesmerizing event that is worth the price and touristic feel.
10. Get Dizzy on the Playground
Let kids be kids with some downtime at the old school playground in the center of Fort Cochin. This all metal playground with several versions of the merry-go-round, swings and the giraffe slide will keep the kids happy for a while. Bring the mosquito bands in early morning or late afternoon as there are lots!
Kerala may not be known for the traditional images of India, colorful orange and red sarees flowing through dry barren fields or the Taj Mahal, but it is encapsulated with beauty and represents an India that you may never have known existed. With it’s lush hill stations (towns), jungles and beautiful beach resorts, Kerala will leave a lasting impression on little (and big!) travelers long after they depart.
Kerala takes the prize in India for having the best boutique hotels. Read about our top 3 favorite hotels in Kerala.
Have you been to India? Would you take your kids there? Tell us what you think about Kerala with Kids.
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49 thoughts on “Places to Visit in Kerala with Kids”
That beach photo with the waves crashing and the sunset is fabulous!! It’s lovely! I’ve not been to India…
That’s just beautiful. I’ve always wanted to go to India. You’re kids are so lucky to get to experience so many wonderful places.
Thanks! Well my son was actually born in India when we were there as expats so he’s had double doses of it! But he doesn’t even realize yet how lucky he is to have been so many places already!
I’d love to check out the spices. Buying fresh spices to bring home is one of my favourite travel souvenirs so this would be a must-do for me!!
The spice plantations were super cool. Seeing nutmeg on the tree, cardamom and cinnamon bark. We al really enjoyed that aspect of the tour!
I’d love to visit India someday, but it’s hard to know where to start. Thanks for sharing some tips.
If you aren’t a seasoned traveller to developing countries Kerala is a great place to start. It’s so much more mellow than the rest of India. But you also loose out on some of the large tourist attractions.. Start south and then head north!
Forget kids…these are activities I’d actually like to do.
It’s pretty much what most tourists do in Kerala, but since many people think you can’t do it with kids I focused on that aspect! But yes, these are awesome adult activities too!
I think this is one of the most charming parts of India. Glad you took your kids. Did you visit other area with them?
My son was born in India and sworn his first few years there so we went all over! This recent trip to Kerala was a return visit to India after 2 years away. It was a great reintroduction for all of us!
Kids or not, Kerala looks like a place in India that I would enjoy (I generally avoid large, busy cities and prefer scenic regions).
It is a perfect introduction to India! Mellow, relaxed and super friendly people.
Awe! You make it look as if it might even be MORE fun to travel to Kerala with kids!! I can’t wait to get my chance to visit India, I’ll definitely be looking into these activities, with or without kids. 😀
Haha! It actually could be only because Indians adore kids so much. Traveling with my son really has opened a lot of doors!
Lovely ideas and what an exotic trip. Sadly your son won’t remember much but he will inherit your wanderlust.
He was born in India, so even if he doesn’t remember this specific trip or his first two years of living there, it’s a part of his soul! We actually don’t travel so that he remembers things – I can barely remember my first trip abroad 15 years ago, but I will always carry with me the send of adventure, the feeling that i had seeing places new and unheard of and i always have the photos! hah. But yes, he had already inherited my wanderlust. He already has his own massive travel to do list!
I have heard so much about Kerala…they actually get bloggers to go there, I heard. It looks like a good place, with or without kids. That beach photo is awesome! How did you do it?
What an education for your child? I liked Kerala and found it very interesting. And I would have liked it as a kid, too!
It’s such a different side of India that needs more attention!
We’ve never been to India, but I’d love to see it some day. Maybe after my younger turns twelve, so that we could go on the jungle trek! I love your photos and your suggestions. I would especially love to see the Kathakali performance, since I’ve heard a lot about it, and see the tea plantations!
We were sad to not be able to go on the jungle trek but their suggestion that my son was tiger meal sized made me glad for the rule!
What an awesome trip. I’ve added it to my list. Did you guys see a tiger? Any sightings reported?
How awesome would that be!
No no tiger! We did see a lot of animals on the boat ride. From our hotel we also saw wild buffalo which was cool.
Kerala looks amazing! We’ve yet to visit, though it keeps popping up on our radar, but you’ve really opened our eyes to the amazing things to be seen! We definitely had a slightly different picture of it!
First of all, your son is just too cute! Second, I love that you’re showing people that everyone can travel, even people with kids. It may be harder, but it’s possible and people have to stop using it as an excuse to not travel.
I like your honestly there by saying it was a challenge but it looks as if you pulled it off. Never mind the kids, I’d love to trek through the tea plantations! We’ve been surrounded by coffee in Colombia, it’s my turn – I’m the tea drinker!
India is not easy even for the most well travelled. And even for us after living there for years there are always frustrations, but it’s definitely possible and can be so fun!
I can see why traveling in India might intimidate parents, but there’s a lot to be said for exposing kids to a country with such different sights, culture and foods. What an education it would be, if for nothing else than to show just how privileged we are.
Speaking of food, how spicy was the food in Kerala, and did you have any problems with it?
Thanks for linking to #TheWeeklyPostcard.
The food in Kerala is actually a lot less spicy than up north. For kids, it will still have different tastes they may not be used to. We were lucky that our son loves fish and seafood so he was fine in Kerala. Also Indians are amazing for making things plains of you need it, so my son would get up and go order his own breakfast at the hotel/home we stayed at!
As for other food issues, we had none! I was shocked! My son accidentally drank bath water once and he was munching away on medicinal plants on our hike through the jungle (as guided by the guides!) and no one got any funny tummies! It feels a lot cleaner in Kerala than other parts of India.
I want to drive a rickshaw. I wonder how much it would cost to get him to let an adult drive. As a sort-of adult, I would love to do almost everything on this list.
I would love to go trekking to try and see a tiger in the wild.
They probably would let you drive one! We drove rickshaws across India for charity so we have had our fill.. But you can also find a rickshaw lessons school and take lessons for a day! We did that before our 2 week journey!
That looks so interesting! I was just talking about how I wanted to travel to India, and I have also heard that southern India is one of the best places there to visit. I would love to learn more about the Kathakali performances, tea plantations, and riding in the boat looks great. Your kids are cute by the way : )
Thanks Natalie! Kerala is a great place to start a visit to India. The country can be very shocking to the system so it’s good to start slowly!
Nice to read your blog Karilyn 🙂 This was a nice post because it included a lot of cool things to do even as an adult sans children, and I rarely hear about Southern India! I could definitely go for a visit to a tea plantation!
Thanks for stopping by Francesca! All the things here were things I did without my son the first time I went to Kerala, so it’s definitely good either way!!
I have been to India, also Kerala. It is great and as you write; relaxing, jungle, backwaters and teaplantations!! You can explore and experience so many different landscapes and sights in just 2 weeks.
I don’t have kids but they will love it too! 🙂
It is such a great destination in India – with or without kids!
Hi, I really love your ideas! We are a family of 5 (us parents and 3 kids – 6, 9 and 11 yo) and would love to go to Kerala in July. I am worried about the monsoon. How bad is it? Is it just a daily shower that comes and goes or it is raining non stop for days? Another question: we will have 2 weeks to spend in Kerala. What would your pick be? We have been to tea plantations in Sri Lanka so no need for us to go and see them again in India. Thank you heaps, I am really looking forward to your comments! Anke
HI Anke! First congrats on planning a trip to India with kids! Second.. yes.. monsoon is serious business in Kerala. I have been to Kerala in August and it was a mess. I was soaked every single day. We still did things like the boat tour and pottered around, but we were literally soaked the entire time. If you are set on going to India during July I would look towards either the north, or the east coast. On that monsoon trip we went to Goa (super wet and flooded), Kerala (super wet!), Madurai (not too wet, occasional showers), Pondicherry (not wet at all), Mammalapuram (dry) and Chennai (dry). Otherwise, the great things about kerala – the beaches, the backwaters and the mountains will all be pretty soggy.
In other parts of India it’s hit or miss during monsoon. In Mumbai, it might rain for an entire day or week, or it may not rain at all. You just never know. But you can almost guarantee that Kerala will be soggy from June to the end of Aug.
If you are set on Kerala, I would spend a few days in Fort Cochin, a day on a boat on the backwaters, normally I would suggest a few days at the beach (Varkala),but not sure how that will be with the rains. We loved our stay in the middle of the jungle where there is an option for an elephant ride. It was in a house basically – Malabar House Serenity. We also loved loved our time at Periyar which I would highly recommend. We loved our hotel – https://nobackhome.com/travel-memories-n-is-for-niraamaya-retreats/ – again I’m not sure how easy it will be to get there in the rains as the roads are barely passable in the dry season! If you have other questions, let me know!
Hello, loved reading your post. We are off to Kerala next week with our three girls,9,7,5… It’s nice to hear that I am not the only adventurous mum out there. We travelled extensively in India pre children , but this is our first trip back with them, I am a little nervous but very exited…..we are going to Kochin, periyar, allepey and the beach. What activities would you recommend in periyar? we have three nights there and haven’t booked anything yet…was wondering about the best things to do…elephant rides, bullock carts and the rafting all sound child friendly but not sure what they will,be allowed to do…hotel said book when we get there…would you agree.?..
Any other tips would be most appreciated, …especially worried about mosquitos but going armed with lots of spray.xx
If you have time, order the mosquito repellent wrist bands. My son wore those the entire trip on both ankles and wrists and only got one bite… On his cheek of course! In India you can asp pick up Odomos at the chemist shops. It’s great and smells good! Probably full of chemicals but it works. And, if your hotel doesn’t provide them, pick up the plug in repellents to put next to the bed at night. We found doing those things really helps.
As far as things to do, places to stay.. We loved niraamaya near Perriyar. A bit pricier, but amazing. Set in the jungle with access to great jungle walks. At Perriyar it’s hard with little ones under 6 bc they won’t let them do the jungle hikes. We did a boat ride and a small hike on the perimeter of the fence which was great.
If you want an elephant ride, head to the serenity house in the middle of nowhere (amazing house with a pool and swing!) where you can hire a local elephant for a day to spend with you guys. You cans ride her to the local water hole and bathe her. My son absolutely adored it.
And of course do a boat ride on the backwaters. I have lots of India articles. Let me know if you need more advice!!is love to follow your adventure if you are on Instagram, tag me!
Thanks so much, will try and post some pics, prob when we get back….the elephant tip sounds fab…I read about somewhere called elephant junction, is that the same place?…will felt some bracelets too.x
I wouldn’t go to the elephant parks. The elephants are not treated well at all. Try to find locals who own their own.
Kerala is one of the beautiful destinations in India. It offers several attractions that make the trip most wonderful and unforgettable. I heard a lot about Kerala backwaters that they are just close to heaven. Houseboat cruises over these backwaters make the trip more amazing. I hope I would be there one day. Your post was also excellent that containing amazing information. Thank You 🙂
i heard kerala is beautiful place.so i am planning to travel in kerala with my kids and wife.i read this article it is very helpful for first time visitor in kerala. thanks for sharing this information.
An elephant ride is something that the world is waking up to as being wrong. Can you look an elephant in the eye after the ride? But how do you finance their protection?
I don’t even know what you are talking about but yes, the world is waking up to the treatment of elephants, but I’m pretty sure I don’t mention anything about that here! But I’m in India right now and honestly they still use elephants in all their ceremonies and it’s not changing anytime soon.
Kerala is such a beautiful place. Every tourist should visit it once. The best time to visit kerala in monsoon.