Beaches, backwaters, boutique hotels—there’s lots to love about Kerala. From island escapes to art hotels and earth-friendly resorts, God’s Own Country has just the keys you’ve been looking for.
13 Kerala hotels to book
Spice Village, Thekkady
A pioneer in best practices for sustainable tourism in Kerala, CGH Earth’s properties include Spice Village, a 12-acre resort that is as gentle on the environment as on the guests. The retreat is a four-hour drive from Kochi airport. The hotel group emphasises an eco-sensitive approach across its diverse portfolio, from immersive forest lodge Wayanad Wild (doubles from Rs7,000 per night until 10 November) to elegant seaside escape Marari Beach (doubles from Rs7,500 per night until 10 November). Almost everything that goes into a property is procured, crafted or manufactured locally. Spice Village takes design cues from the native Manan tribe, such as thatching the cottage roofs with elephant grass for natural cooling. The furniture is upcycled pinewood, and the welcome garlands and the notepads in the rooms are handmade from old fabric and kitchen waste in the hotel’s paper-making unit. The philosophy of procuring all produce from a 50-mile radius, including veggies and spices from the hotel’s organic farms and fresh catch from the river, is manifested at The 50-Mile Diet restaurant, while Tamarind Restaurant serves local and global fare, and Woodhouse Bar is named for the forest ranger who used to live there. Detox with the help of herbal teas and Ayurvedic consultations, or sweat it out on the tennis and basketball courts. The hotel hosts cooking classes and arranges for naturalist walks and spice plantation tours, but above all, make time for the nearby Periyar Tiger Reserve. Doubles at Spice Village, Thekkady from Rs5,850 per night until 10 November 2020. Website.
Taj Green Cove Resort & Spa, Kovalam
Twenty minutes after stepping onto the tarmac at Trivandrum airport, waltz into the 16-acre Taj Green Cove Resort & Spa in Kovalam for a complete reset. Balinese-style villas are set on a hillock overlooking a lagoon and the ocean. Ayurvedic and wellness consultations are on hand. Babysitting services are available and the kids can bond over board games in the activity room. All-day diner Jasmine Bay has Asian and Continental fare, Curries focuses on Kerala and other Indian specialities, Bait dishes out vegetarian platters and wood-fired marinades and Neera Bar plies you with signature cocktails. Take a country-boat ride in the evenings on the lagoon or lay back on the day beds on the beach for maximum tranquility. Doubles from Rs10,500 per night for a Superior Cottage Sea View. Website.
Kumarakom Lake Resort
Perhaps all you need to know about this backwaters resort by The Paul Resorts & Hotels, is that Prince Charles celebrated his 65th birthday here. Make like the royal couple and stay in the Presidential Suite, done up with traditional woodwork, murals and antiques, with a private infinity pool on Vembanad Lake. Many of Kerala’s traditional 16th-century homesteads have been transplanted from their original locations to be reassembled into the resort’s villas, suites and rooms. In fact, signature restaurant Ettukettu is actually an eight-sided mansion commissioned as a royal gift to a martial arts tutor, now dedicated to serving up regional and international delicacies. Unwind at the rustic-style tea shop followed by drinks at the sunset-facing seafood bar. Ayurvedic consultations are on offer, as well as a business centre, indoor and outdoor spaces for events (such as a 100-seater boat on the lake), and a travel desk for taking in all of the sights and sounds. Doubles from Rs15,500 per night, with an offer of a third night free for a two-night booking at either Kumarakom Lake Resort or Forte Kochi. Website.
Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, Kochi
A business hotel that’s just as good for leisure travel, the Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty offers everything from an adjacent convention centre with three helipads to a traditional snake-boat ride. Located about 45 minutes from Kochi airport on Bolgatty Island, the 3,000sqm property offers a vast array of indoor and outdoor spaces for hosting a wedding or business event. The sprawling, 264-key property overlooks Vembanad Lake. Suites and villas come with plunge pools and private access. There’s plenty of local flavour, beginning with the meals at Malabar Café. The dinner-only Colony Clubhouse and Grill relies on sustainable seafood practices and the tradition of cooking over open fires, burning embers and smoking grills. Step out to explore the city or really, just luxuriate in the island life. Doubles from Rs10,000 for a King Bed with City View. Website.
Niramaaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam
A clifftop Ayurveda retreat that’s flanked by calm beaches, Niramaaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam fuses traditional and natural healing aids for a restorative holiday. The hotel is a 30-minute drive from Trivandrum airport. One of three Niramaaya hotels in the state (the others are in Kumarakom and Thekkady), Surya Samudra is also a Relais and Châteaux property. The architecture draws from the heritage of ancestral Kerala homes that were painstakingly dismantled and reassembled here. There are rooms and cottages set among coconut groves, but also a bungalow for two (the resort also offers wedding packages), a three-bedroom family pool villa, and a sea-facing traditional stone house. The sea-facing, all-day diner Cafe Samsara offers Indian and international fare, alongside Essence that serves up Southeast Asian specialities and seafood, and a poolside bar. Step out for a tour of the local fish market and a boat ride through the backwaters, or stay in for yoga sessions and a weeklong cooking course. Doubles from Rs9,499. Website.
Wake up to tropical-garden views at Trident, Cochin, situated an hour’s drive from Kochi airport, on Willingdon Island. The 77 rooms and eight suites are decorated with local artefacts. Regional flavours are on offer at Travancore restaurant, which also serves European and Asian dishes. Head to The Cochin Trader Bar for cocktails and enjoy the al fresco dining at The Seafood Grill Restaurant. Have a casual work catch-up at The Patio, or host a formal event at the meeting spaces and banquet halls. Whether on a business or leisure trip, slot in some self-care time to check out the hotel’s Ayurvedic offerings. And don’t hesitate to chat with the concierge for shopping recommendations or a customised tour. The Trident Holidays package offers doubles from Rs9,000 per night for a minimum two-night stay; valid for stays until 31 March 2021. Website.
O by Tamara, Trivandrum
The 152-key O by Tamara is located 5km from Thiruvananthapuram airport, and offers rooms and suites with soundproofed windows with pool or city views. Light falls through the glass roof of the all-day dining restaurant O Café, which has indoor seating as well as a landscaped deck overlooking the pool. International cuisines and live cooking counters are on offer. Or pick up a coffee and pastry to go from LBV, which has baked goods, beverages and sorbets available round the clock. Rooftop bar and grill Take-off is expected shortly. For hosting corporate and social events, a 10,000sqft convention centre is on hand, and the business centre throws in a dedicated elevator and a bar and lounge. The festive package, priced at Rs4,998 per night, includes breakfast and a major meal for two adults and two kids aged under 10, complimentary laundry, flexible check-in and check-out timings, and a complimentary third night’s stay on booking for two or more nights. Website.
Forte Kochi Hotel, Kochi
Located an hour’s drive from Kochi airport in historic Fort Kochi, this boutique hotel by The Paul Resorts & Hotels used to be part of a palatial Jewish residence. A mansion originally built by the Portuguese, the architecture also includes Dutch and British influences. The 27 comfy rooms have colonial-style decor, with four-poster beds, coloured window-panes, and wicker sofas. The Jetty, the in-house restaurant, toasts its multicultural heritage with a menu offering British, European and Indian dishes—make space for the Kerala specialities and seafood. The travel desk can help with tours, or just explore the neighbourhood. Fort Kochi is excellent for leisurely walks, shopping and sightseeing; don’t miss the Chinese fishing nets at sunset. Doubles from Rs7,500 per night, with an offer of a third night free for a two-night booking at either Forte Kochi or Kumarakom Lake Resort. Website.
The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal
Wrapped by the Nombili River, with an internal lagoon overlooking white sands, The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal is perfect for water babies. Located in Kasaragod, about a 2.5-hour drive from Kannur airport, the resort offers a clean break from routine. Private jacuzzis feature in all 38 suites. Events can be held in over 3,500sqft of conference and banqueting space. The bar and multicuisine restaurant take their name from the river, and you can amp up the romance by kicking back with organic wines and local delicacies on a houseboat or the beach. Ask the concierge for bespoke tours and make use of the 24-hour transfers and butler service. Perhaps best of all, diversity and inclusion are keystone for the brand, making their properties safe spaces for everyone. The Unlock Festivities campaign offers doubles from Rs8,499. Website.
Kayal Island Retreat, Alleppey
A little over an hour from Kochi airport, Kayal Island Retreat is every bit the cocoon with its secluded life on Kakkathuruthu island. Four tastefully done-up cottages come with open-to-sky showers. The kitchen makes prime use of the fresh seafood and local veggies, and there are post-yoga aloe shots and salads for the health-conscious. The surrounding waters of Lake Vembanad seem like a static mirror–make the most of your stay with dawn and sunset boat rides. There is surprisingly enough to do on an isle no more than a kilometre wide, perhaps partly because its vivacious owner Maneesha Panicker also excels at customising tours at Silk Route Escapes. Pick the uncommon pleasure of watching a female Kathakali exponent perform at the boutique property, visit the studio of the artist whose bovine sculpture sits on the lawn from its former days as an art residency, and get to know the practices and folk arts of the villagers. Doubles from Rs7,900 per night, inclusive of breakfast, boat ride and village walk. Website.
Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Cochin
A great choice for both business and leisure travellers, Taj Malabar Resort & Spa sits on Willingdon Island, about an hour’s drive from Kochi airport, with views of the harbour and the Arabian Sea. The rooms and suites overlook the port or backwaters. There’s lots of sightseeing and shopping to do in the city, and plenty to explore in the hotel’s menus if you’d rather stay in. Go for Kerala’s famous appams and mutton stew at all-day diner The Pepper, soft-shelled crab with coconut soup at seafood restaurant The Rice Boat, Thai and Chinese dishes at Pavilion, seafood grills and kebabs at the bayside Dolphin’s Point and infused-vodka cocktails at the Mattancherry Bar. And step aboard the three-bedroom yacht Taj Cinnamon Coast for high tea or a barbecue. Doubles from Rs10,000 per night for a Premium Sunset Room. Website.
A backwaters boutique resort, Purity is one of two Malabar Escapes hotels that are also Relais and Châteaux properties (the other being Fort Kochi’s The Malabar House). Fronting Lake Vembanad, Purity lies an hour-and-a-half from Kochi airport. Contemporary art and antiques delightfully accentuate the 14 rooms and suites, all of which have verandahs and terraces with water views. Some of the suites also include spa beds. The Purity Kitchen riffs off local flavours for meals, and offers hour-long interactive cooking demonstrations of Kerala cuisine. Morning yoga is complimentary, and guests can request classes or a retreat. Make the most of the backwaters with evening canoe rides, day cruises and cultural tours of life along the waterways. Doubles from Rs12,000. Website.
Mandalay Hall, Kochi
A 200-year-old building in Kochi’s historic Jew Town that was restored and opened as an art hotel in 2019, Mandalay Hotel has just reopened to visitors with Vol.2 of its art residency. The art hotel has five suites that can be booked as rooms, or as galleries to host events. Each room features installations by resident artists selected by curator Bose Krishnamachari. In Vol.2, the hotel features site-specific and temporal works by Malayali artists Anju Acharya and Dibin Thilakan. Mandalay Hall also has a restaurant serving contemporary Kerala cuisine, an in-house design store, and an antique jewellery boutique. Located in Mattancherry, the hotel is within a 10-minute drive of sightseeing, shopping and socialising in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam. For stays in November and December 2020, doubles start from Rs10,000 per night. Website.