If you mention Manoribel to someone who grew up in Mumbai decades ago and went there, they'll paint a very different picture of what it was like then, compared to today. Indeed, Manori beach was isolated and far removed from the city. Now, it's just a short journey from Malad, in Mumbai's northern suburbs, via ferry. Apart from the location, depending on who you talk to, they may even tell you tales of misspent youth, and debaucherous photographic and film shoots. It's a huge difference to the laid back family destination that Manoribel has now become.
One of the best things about Manoribel is that it has a diverse range of accommodations, for all budgets and needs. There are 11 cottages, two apartments, and eight rooms distributed over the whole of the property. This gives guests ample space and privacy. The accommodations are also a mix of air conditioned and non air conditioned.
Rates start from around 1,800 rupees per night (including tax) for a double non air conditioned room and go up to 5,000 rupees (including tax) for an air conditioned apartment that sleeps four. Discounts are given during the week.
Which accommodations should you choose? I stayed in Cottage 1, which was situated to the side of the property and back from the beach. Although it was air conditioned, I didn't find that I needed it as the cottage remained surprisingly cool even in the heat of the day in November. While I loved the cottage's outlook, the main drawback was that the gate providing beach access was over the other side of the property. Hence, in terms of strategic location, cottages four to seven are best positioned. The hotel's website has a handy map showing the layout.
Being an older hotel, the accommodations are rustic in style. However, when I stayed there just after the monsoon, the interiors had been freshly painted and were spotlessly clean.
The only issue is in terms of the cumbersome booking process. The hotel has a separate booking office in Mumbai, and requires rooms to be paid for in advance in order to get a confirmed reservation. Although it's not usually necessary during the week (I was there mid-week and only a few cottages were occupied), it's particularly important for weekend stays.
Manoribel's Toddy Tapper restaurant will delight seafood lovers. It's run by a lovely team of East Indian Christian women (the original inhabitants of the area) and specializes in traditional East Indian cuisine, which has a coastal Portuguese-Koli influence.
Some people complain that the food is costly - the set menu is 450 rupees (veg) and 500 rupees (non veg) for lunch and dinner, per person. However, the servings are so generous, they can easily be shared between two. A la carte dining is also offered. I order the stuff promfret for lunch (350 rupees) and it was almost as large as both my hands, and delicious! For dinner, I followed it up with fish curry and prawn curry, as part of the set menu. The fish curry contained two large pieces of fish, and there must've been a handful of prawns in the prawn curry. It was a real treat to get such fresh and plentiful seafood, and of course I ate until I could barely move!
Manoribel is a wonderful place to simply relax in a hammock outside your cottage or in the coconut grove, or go for a beach walk. Yet it also offers an impressive array of facilities including board games, basketball, table tennis, darts, children's play area, tree houses, and conference room. Therapeutic massages are possible on weekends. If you're feeling energetic, you can take a bicycle and explore the nearby villages. Manoribel is such a eclectic place, plants are also cultivated and sold there!
The real charm of Manoribel lies in the fact that it's so close to Mumbai but is located amongst nature in an undeveloped area off the mainland, where time seems to stand still. Tensions easily melt away. If you're a creative type, inspiration will flow. And, if you're in search of spirituality, the towering golden Global Pagoda in Gorai isn't far away.
Don't forget the mosquito repellant though. The mosquitoes were numerous, huge, and thirsty for blood!