The Kerala backwaters is a stretch of placid waterbody connecting pockets of village localities running parallel to the Arabian Sea. The backwaters in Kerala are home to a variety of ecosystems along with a rich habitat of birds in the evergreen rainforests. The wetlands around are internationally recognised.

             A canoe cruise P.C: CanoeKerala

The only way to travel through the Kerala backwaters is through water transport – canoe/kayak cruise or houseboat rides. In this article, we’ll explore how the canoe cruise in the Kerala backwaters different from the houseboat rides.

But before that, just think about this scenario - As you row a boat through the backwaters in Kerala with the help of oars, a gentle splashing sound keeps coming to your ears and cools down your soul, but will it be the same if you are riding on a houseboat? We, guess, not.

Canoes: Canoes are narrow wooden country boats found in the backwaters in Kerala. They are operated with a pair of wooden oars.

Kayaks: Kayaks are smaller in size than canoes. Only 1-2 persons can sit in as well as operate a kayak with the help of either one oar with two blades fixed on each of the two sides, or, two oars.

Houseboats: The houseboats are motorized boats upto 7-8 rooms for staying in, having attached kitchen, dining and bathrooms. You can spend nights inside a houseboat.

So, among these three, houseboats provide the most premium, most comfortable experience of Kerala backwaters ride, but we will share how canoes or kayaks can provide you with the most natural, most earthy experience of travelling in the Kerala backwaters.

The 6 most important differences between the canoe/kayak ride and houseboat ride are as follows:

  1. 1.    The feeling of belongingness to the immediate natural setting around you:

Canoe cruise in the Kerala Backwaters help you to feel belonged to the natural environment around you – the backwaters, canals, local birds, insects, and fishes in the water. You can feel that your soul has become one with the ecosystem around you. The rustic nature around will cast a magical spell on you.

Sunsets from a Kayak  P.C: CanoeKerala

  1. 2.    You can interact more with the authentic local village life around the backwaters:

Unfortunately, the houseboat rides won’t allow you to access the local villages that are settled in remote creeks along the backwaters. You will be missing out on interesting interactions with the local villagers, toddy tapping sessions, and spice collecting and sorting activities that are the core local life experiences in Kerala.

The canoes/kayaks, on the other hand, will take you to the interior villages and introduce you to the Kerala local life. You can be a part of the village activities while sharing your stories with them and vice versa.

  1. 3.    Observing the biodiversity and natural ecosystem in the Kerala backwaters:

The Canoe cruise in the Kerala Backwaters or Kayaking in Kerala will encourage you to observe the biodiversity and natural ecosystem around, especially, Kumarakom Backwaters. Kumarakom Backwaters is known as a bird haven. Canoeing/Kayaking in Kerala can bring out the birder in you with the tranquil, noiseless rides that won’t shoo the birds away.

In this aspect, the houseboats have demerits. Though the motors in them don’t make noise, the whirring cause slight disturbances in the wildlife around and they choose to keep away from those large boats.

  1. 4.    More accessibility to the narrow canals and creeks through canoes and kayaks:

Houseboats don’t get in the narrow canals and creeks of the Kerala Backwaters; therefore, you might miss close interactions with the environment. The joys of the adventurous rides along the narrow canals and walks over the muddy banks can only be enjoyed if you are choosing a canoe/kayak. Riding close to the narrow canals in the Backwaters of Kerala is a rewarding experience as you can come close to the feel of going along with the flow of the water.

  1. 5.    Canoe/Kayak rides support sustainable, responsible eco-tourism in Kerala:

Canoe/Kayak rides are synonymous with the concept of eco-tourism where you get to interact with the local people and in the process get to know more about the place. The best way to explore the local life experiences in Kerala is to get on board with the canoe cruise in the Kerala backwaters or set for solo Kayaking.

As you explore around interacting and sharing with the local people, Kerala local life gets benefitted and you, too, return home with an experience of a lifetime. If you support sustainable tourism and want to bring a change by practising responsible tourism, choose canoe/kayak rides in the Kerala backwaters.

  1. 6.    Safety issues:

When it comes to safety issues, undoubtedly, houseboats win. The houseboats are safer compared to the canoes/kayaks. Although the canoes/kayaks provide life-saving equipment in case of drowning accidents, that’s less compared to the houseboats. Canoes/Kayaks in Kerala are for adventures and every adventure involves a pinch of risk, isn’t it?


Our team, Canoe Kerala’s only aim through this article is to share the differences between houseboat rides and canoe/kayak rides in the Kerala backwaters. We hope that after reading this you can choose the best option for you based on your travel persona – for a comfort loving travel you can choose houseboat, for quenching your thirst for adventure, you can choose a canoe cruise or a kayak ride in Kerala.

Houseboats moored in the Kerala Backwaters 

You might want to consider us for your next canoe cruise in the Kerala Backwaters, not only for us being the top-ranked canoe experience service but also for our consistently genuine efforts to connect travellers to the local life in the best possible ways.