I stayed in Nariman Point while in Mumbai, so I was well-positioned for an early start at the Elephanta Caves. The tourist destination is serviced by regular ferries, departing every 30 minutes from India Gate.
The first ferry service departs at 9AM, so be there around 8:45AM so you can purchase your ferry ticket (from the counters beside the police check-in at India Gate) and it costs 150 rupees return.
Once you have enjoyed the caves enough, the first ferry back to Mumbai will depart at 12PM.
Online you will find websites giving information about two ferry services: luxury and ordinary. There is no such thing, you just get on any boat that will take you!
The boat ride is about 60 minutes – then as you disembark, a small toy-train will be there to take you 250 metres to the ticket counter (or you can walk, as I did). The cost is 10 rupees for the train, make sure you have change!
You must pay a 5 rupee tax fee at the base of the hill, then you climb the stairs (yes keep going until there are no more stairs!). There you will find the ticket booth, pay your 250 rupees (if foreigner, else 10 rupees for locals).
I spent about 35 minutes around the caves, there are five of them in total and in very close proximity to one another.
Here you can see my wallet at the foot of the statue – this is to give you some perspective on the size of these things, carved from the rock face itself without the aid of modern tools. Think about that for a minute.
The Archaeological Survey of India is really putting in effort to ensure that these monuments are preserved, restored and maintained – here are some workers cutting stone for restoration and preservation purposes.
Once you have enjoyed the caves enough, the first ferry back to Mumbai will depart at 12PM. Leave yourself 15 minutes to head down the stairs again and walk back to the ferry. Don’t worry, they don’t usually leave until the boat is somewhat full.
You can be back by 1PM, just in time for lunch. I found a great chicken kebab just around the corner from India Gate, cost me 140 rupees and kept me full for the rest of the afternoon!