Types of kerala boat in backwaters

man rowing boat in kerala backwaters

Kerala, the land of the green coconut groves and paddy fields is always an attraction for people from all around. The never-ending stretch of beaches, lakes, backwaters, and hill stations adds to its beauty. Backwater tourism is one such area that pulls a lot into it with different types of boats. The Kerala boat moving around the water bodies create the complete picture of Kerala backwaters. 

Kerala Backwaters have a different variety of boat types such as Kerala houseboats (boat house), Shikaras, Motorboats, Small Canoes, which are popular in the crowd.

 Kerala Boat House

Traditional Kerala boat house

Kerala boat house image

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Backwaters of Kerala are rich with beautiful house boats that offer a soothing ride through the waterways. The modern houseboats in Kerala are the modified version of Kettuvallams that was used earlier for the transport of goods and materials from Alleppey to other ports. Boat houses are huge, slow-moving boats made up of wooden planks held together by ropes made from coconut husk. The roof and side walls are finished with bamboo poles and palm leaves. Cashew nut oil is used to give a protective coating to the exterior of the boat. The interiors of the houseboats are designed in such a way that the rich culture and heritage of Kerala stand out well, and they are well furnished and maintained with all amenities like that of a hotel or villa. The construction of these Kerala boat houses is inspired by the traditional Kerala architecture. These Kerala boats will be around 60-70 feet long and 15 feet wide. 

A typical Kerala boat house in Alleppey backwaters

The traditional houseboats in Kerala consist of bedrooms with an attached bathroom, living space, kitchen, and balcony. Houseboats are available in different types, from one-bedroom boat to ten-bedroom boat. Boat houses have a larger capacity to accommodate more people and will be stable over the waters. Houseboats in Kerala are also available with TV and internet facilities thus making you feel that you are not away from the outer world. Delicious food, usually prepared in Kerala style will be served onboard. So one can enjoy the beautiful backwaters along with the tasty Kerala food in this Kerala Boat


  • They will be bedrooms, toilets, bathtubs, etc. available within this Kerala boat
  • Some Kerala boats have fully air-conditioned rooms
  • Kerala style freshly cooked food will be available onboard
  • Day and night cruises will be available for house boats
  • They are more secure compared to Shikaras, motorboats, or any other Kerala boat


  • They have a limited travel route
  • Speed is restricted up to 20 km/hr
  • Comparatively costlier than other Kerala boats

Kerala Shikara boat

Tourist boat in Kerala- Shikara boats

Shikara boats, adopted from the Kashmir style, these boats are used in Kerala backwaters for sight-seeing. As they are budget-friendly some people prefer shikara rides through the waterways. They are comparatively smaller than the house boats and motorboats, with comfortable seating arrangements for the travellers. These boats are made of wood material that doesn’t decompose in constant contact with water. 

Shikara boats are preferred among people who want to closely watch the village lifestyle. As the traditional backwater villages lie along the sides of small and narrow canals they are not accessible by boat house trips. Shikaras are well suited for the journey through these small pathways of backwaters. The real beauty of backwaters is within its villages.

Taking an early morning ride over the shikaras through the backwaters will let you enjoy the cool breeze from the waters along with a beautiful sunrise. As the sides of shikara boats are open it provides the best sight-seeing experience. Shikara boats can accommodate around 4-15 people at a time. They are charged on an hourly basis thus making it cheaper than boat house and motorboats. The cruising times are from 8 am to 6:30 pm.


  • Best opted for sight-seeing
  • Well maintained with comfortable seating arrangements
  • Better suited for Canal tourism
  • Wide travel courses 
  • More affordable than motor boats, houseboats, and other Kerala boats
  • Will be quicker than boat house, 40km/hr


  • There won’t be rooms or toilets inside Shikaras
  • They are open type, thus no air conditioning
  • Food will not be served inside Shikaras
  • Night cruise will not be possible
  • Lesser secure compared to other Kerala boats like boat house and motorboats, etc. 

Kerala Motor boat


Motorboats are considered to be another means of transportation across the backwaters. They are found to be a more economical means for travel across the waterways. Motorboats are relatively smaller in size than houseboats but bigger than Shikaras. These boats are more opted by people who have limited time to spend on backwater cruising.

Motor boats in Kerala backwaters

Motorboats are fully covered thus offers more safety than the Shikaras. There will be life jackets, fire extinguishers, and emergency first aid kits available inside the boat. Motor boats offer more secure transport along the waterways. They are used only for sight-seeing purposes with a capacity to accommodate around 60 people onboard. These boats are hired on an hourly basis. One can move freely inside motor boats as they have suitable safety stratagems. These Kerala boats won’t be any rooms or toilet facilities available inside the boat, but there will be two cabins. One will be the engine driver’s cabin and the other will be for the guests. The engine sounds can be a bit noisier compared to other boats, thus causing disturbance throughout the journey. Motor boats will be available only for a day cruise, as night cruising through backwaters is strictly prohibited. The cruising times are from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. There won’t be food served inside the motor boats.


  • More suitable for sightseeing
  • Speed ranges can be up to 50km/hr
  • Some are available with Toilets facilities
  • Separate guest cabin available
  • Safer than Shikkara
  • More spacious interiors, people can freely move inside 
  • Better suited for Day Cruise
  • Wide travel itineraries
  • More Capacity is offered compared to Shikkara, up to 60 people can travel at a time.


  • Comfort will not be same as Shikkara or boat house
  • Engines can be noisy
  • There won’t be rooms or toilets 
  • Air conditioning will not be available
  • No food will be served onboard
  • Night cruises and stays are not available
  • Less maintenance is given compared to houseboats or shikkaras

Small canoe boats:

Canoes are small narrow, light-weight boats that are used by the natives of backwater villages for domestic purposes like travelling across the water bodies, fishing, etc. These Kerala boats move across the waterways in the direction of flow with the help of paddles. 

small canoe boat along kerala backwaters

Canoes are also common among the tourists as there are canoeing facilities offered through the small and narrow canal of backwaters. One can enjoy a calm and slow pace canoeing experience through the backwater canal where the real beauty exists. Only a limited number of people can take a canoe ride as they are not wide and spacious like other boats. 


  • Sight-seeing to the best extend
  • Very cheap compared to other means
  • Covers a lot of small canals
  • Best for an early morning cruise or evening cruise


  • Capacity is very smaller
  • Less secure
  • There won’t be any other facilities within this Kerala boat


Alleppey boat houses have gained fame among tourists from different places who prefer backwater rides. One can book houseboats in Alleppey within budget rates through online services, where you can find different types of boats. 


5 Responses to “Types of kerala boat in backwaters”

  1. delina says:


  2. Sudhir Watwe says:

    Maximum two days stay ,for a senior citizen couple ,Mukti sharing preferences,
    From any Aleppo Kumarakom start ,preferred day o start from 3 to 7 June 18 any day ,
    Pl quote your most eco price

  3. Jathin says:

    U r article is beautiful , but ‘pros’ means advantages or the positive side & ‘cons’ means the opposite of pros .. please check ur content before publishing….

    • Ujesh says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Jathin. We have updated the article with the latest information. Please feel free to go through it. 🙂

  4. Hal Michaels says:

    I am looking for a shikara or motor boat to rent monthly please…

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