This was the only chain hotel on an itinerary booked for us by Imagine India. Having read the reviews over the last few months I was getting a little bit worried that the Leela might not live up to 5 star expectations. There were a few niggles but overall very positive.
Check-in. They gave us coconut water and shell garlands as a welcome, but the actual welcome from the front-desk reps was otherwise quite dry and unsmiling. We were taken by buggy to our rooms which were in the "garden pavilion" area of the hotel. This is outside the main property over a road leading to the local mosque and local beach.
For our taste we were very glad to be in the Garden Pavilion rooms. Might not be for everyone I understand. There is a small pool and sun bed area with lovely garden featuring hammocks. It felt very private and I was happy not to be in the main block. No rooms above you and just one immediately ajoining neighbour. You have your own little garden at the back and good terrace facing the pool. I walked up to breakfast/reception etc but others would prefer a buggy. Usually these came within 5 minutes of requesting, though a friend did have to wait 20 mins on one occasion. Room was large and nicely laid out - high ceilings and spacious with good furnishings. Air-con was reasonably quiet and best of all - total-black out shutters! The main downside here is arguably the proximity to the mosque - enjoy the 5 am call to prayer. I didn't. That said, I think the main block will easily be within hearing of this delight as well...
I didn't get the feeling (per other reviewers) that these rooms were in any need of renovation. In fact I found those comments quite surprising given the quality of our room/bathroom. Possibly these rooms are newer than the main block? I don't know.
Private Beach - towards the end of the season so possibly a bit quieter than usual. I got bed/umbrella at the beach front every day with no problem at all. Guards are constantly moving any non-hotel guests off this area of the beach. I didn't experience any hassle at all in this area - nobody tried to sell me anything. Equally nobody tried to serve me any drinks either! I had to go up to the Tides Restaurant to ask for drinks, which they then happily brought to my bed. On one occasion they had no towels.. but that was rectified within about 10 minutes.
Sea - this is a major issue... at some points during the day there was a lot of litter in the sea (plastic bags, paper, vegetable matter!). If you went a bit further out it looked cleaner. But seriously off-putting. I did go in a few times but felt nasty. Its better late in the afternoon - I guess the tide plays a part. I felt like getting a net and fishing the worst of it out - I don't think it would be impossible to make a positive impact here. Obviously the hotel alone can't solve this issue, but I think they could improve the situation somewhat.
Breakfast - Terrace Restaurant. Buffet style - plentiful and very varied. One of the best I have ever had. Easy to get a table (apart from 2 days when they had a conference on and then I felt a bit uncomfortable in my holiday gear surrounded by men in business attire). Area is surrounded by netting to make sure no crows can get near the food (crows are abundant in Kerala it seems, and they can be quite agressive). Loved all the fresh fruit and different lassi's etc. Really looked forward to breakfast every day. We did have lunch there a couple of times but found it to be small portions with high prices (a haloumi cheese and roast vegetable salad featured a triangle of cheese no bigger than 3 cm). I wouldn't bother.
Tides Restaurant - AWFUL. Thai "specialities" were either too garlicky, too full of chilli or too salty to properly taste. There is no proper spicing here. We complained and they had to take 3 dishes off our bill. The "Sula" wine index is interesting too. You can buy it for 650 Rps in a government off-licence. In the nearby Taj hotel they were offloading it for 1900 but in Tides... 2490! Anyway, its the food I really have an issue with. I ordered lunch here one day - a cheese and vegetable sandwich was advertised. What I got was 2 slices of white sliced loaf, barely toasted, with liquid cream cheese stuff and cucumber with a couple of slices of tomato! Amazing! That is "salad" not "vegetables". Poor value and poor food. Couldn't do worse if they tried!
Evening room service - we had dinner on our terrace on one night. That was because on the first of every month you cannot buy alcohol anywhere in Kerala. So we got wine/beer for our mini-bar instead and ate "in". This came from the Terrace Restaurant and I have to say it was very good indeed. The shame is that the Terrace is both buffet AND a-la-carte in the evening. Other than Tides there is no other a-la-carte evening option. And it seems annoying that you could be paying for waiter service whilst everyone around you is bobbing up and down and weaving around tables on their multiple trips to the buffet. I want either one experience or the other.
Bar - the main bar (I think it is called the Sky Bar) was really nice. Good cocktails, great views out to sea.
Pool - lovely. The main pool was delightful. The small pool near the garden pavillion side was very private but not so nice to swim in (it is up to 9 ft deep but I couldn't see the bottom - so the water must have been a bit murky!)
Gym - well equipped and decent effort at air-con. The gym instructor was there most of the time if you needed any guidance. 2 treadmills, 2 crosstrainers, several bikes and plenty of weights.
Spa - not quite London prices for their most basic massage. But the rest of the menu is quite eclectic and interesting, but pretty much London prices I would say. My friend did enjoy her experience there though. They also offer free 1/2 hour yoga sessions every day - but I think that is more to get you to buy in to one of their yoga packages.
We did not opt for the "club" level at the Leela and I was a bit worried about that decision before we left. In the end we were glad that we hadn't bothered. I think the Leela main hotel is doing a decent 4/5 star job without that upgrade. You are there for the sun and the sights after all, and everybody gets to enjoy the same experience on that front. Restaurant may be better there (could not be worse than Tides) but part of the pleasure of a holidy is eating out, and there are some decent options for this a short tuk-tuk ride/walk away.
Check-out. Slow. I got a learner. My friend was checked out within 5 mins but for some reason it took nearly 15 minutes for me.
I would go back as I think this is the best hotel in Kovalam.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Leela Raviz Kovalam - Indulgence is an art you will perfect at The Leela Raviz Kovalam while staying in any of our 183 rooms and suites. With a seamless blend of modern technology and traditional grandeur, the soothing décor of each room whispers warm aesthetics. Each room opens out to a breath-taking view of either the ocean or garden. All rooms are provided with luxury amenities to cater to discerning tastes. Unwind with exquisite facilities like an HD LCD television and a broadband connection for hi-speed internet. The Club rooms offer valet services, a gourmet corner with a fine selection of spirits, softdrinks and snacks and have luxurious bathrooms with a walk-in shower and a private infinity pool. Awake to auburn sunrises in the horizon or soak in the sun under azure skies at the infinity pools. Get a taste of the vacation of your dreams at The Leela Raviz Kovalam. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Leela Kovalam Beach Hotel Kovalam
- The Leela Kempinski Hotel Kovalam
- Hotel Leela Trivandrum
- The Leela Kovalam Beach Kerala