This resort has an awful lot going for it. I think one of the marks of a great hotel or resort is how comfortable and carefree they make you feel without appearing doing so. As I reflect on my experience at this resort it is easy to identify what qualities really stand out for me: the service, the people, the accommodations and the grounds.
My 6-night sojourn here began under difficult circumstances. My luggage was lost somewhere along the way to India from New York. Several members of the staff made it their personal responsibility to help me recover my luggage, including Athulya at the front desk, John Maliakal, the general manager, and others from the restaurant, all working their connections. Their many, many hours of help over the 3 days that it took went well beyond what one would expect from any hotel or resort staff.
They were just as attentive to other needs that I informed them about. When I had a problem with the A/C in my cottage two people were at my doorstep within minutes to get it sorted. When I was needing water or mosquito repellent they where there in jiffy.
The heritage cottages there have the distinction of possessing wonderful character alongside very comfortable accommodations. While each seems to have their own front patio and outdoor bathroom no two appear to be the same in all the other ways. The layout, the design and the materials used for each cottage and the way they are situated differs in such a way that the you don't feel any part of the typical cookie-cutter resort. I stayed in the Papaya cottage which is back away from the ocean. While it would have been nice to have had an ocean view at times, I can honestly say that I didn't feel like I was missing out in any way. I had both the sounds of being in among the trees as well as hearing the ocean waves crash against the surf in the background. Coming from New York City, where sounds and noises come at you from nearly all turns, it was nice to have this tranquil balance of sounds from ocean and land. So if you have concerns about not sleeping well due to crashing waves I suggest something a little further back from the ocean front cottages.
Inside the cottages the rooms are comfortable and well appointed. The bed and linens are soft and high quality. The cottage could have had a sofa so that more than one person could sit together. The open air bathroom was particularly special, in that it was well laid out, spacious, allowed plenty of outside light in, and still maintained full privacy if one choose, even from a traveling companion. (It seems like the trend now in top hotels is to have see-through or translucent shower and bathroom walls. It's a nice idea of sorts, but is almost always poorly executed from my experience. When traveling as a couple who really wants to have full and constant view of bathroom and shower from all the other parts of your room? Hopefully this trend will subside real soon, and just leave it to the Niraamaya's of the world to have them tastefully done.)
The food here is generally great. I did eat my first night at the seafood restaurant. It was tasty but didn't rock me. Most of the other days were following an Ayurveda cleanse diet. So I had my own menu prescribed by the spa for that. There was variety on my special menu and many tasty dishes among the choices, though sometimes what I had was bland due to my prescribed diet. But after hearing other guests rave about things they had ordered from the regular menu I broke the diet and joined in my last night. That last meal was quite fantastic. And now I wish I had only broken my diet a few days earlier since I am a serious foodie and feel like I missed out.
I participated in daily ayurvedic spa treatments and yoga. Beforehand I had only had a couple of ayurvedic massages in my entire life and so knew very little of the practice. While I felt enhanced by and benefited from the ayurvedic treatments I feel in the end that I went a little overboard with it. They take their practice there very seriously and have beautiful and good facilities to perform the treatments. Don't hesitate ever to let them know if something is too much for you. They will adjust according to your preference. As far as the yoga goes this was really my original reason for choosing this place. The yoga platform is insane. Bordered by the ocean practically on 3 sides the beautiful platform sports classic columns at each corner. I had my own personal instructor every day at sunset. She really helped me to understand what I was doing with yoga instead just trying to follow strict form as is generally the norm in the West. I am basically at intermediate level, so I came away from this experience with a much richer understanding and respect for yoga. In the end I only wish I had done yoga twice a day.
All in all this was a big highlight of my adventures and experiences in India. The resort does a great job of offering luxury and refinement within heritage accommodations. I have visited a couple of other 5-star Heritage palace hotels in Rajasthan and this easily exceeded those. While I cannot compare it with the numerous resorts that seem to dot the coast in Kovalam I do think this is an exceptional choice that most people will come away from as having had a wonderful and memorable experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Now re-opened under a new management as Surya Samudra Private Retreats. Relais & Chateaux Luxury heritage beach resort. Adjoining two pristine, unspoilt beaches and completely secluded from the busy tourist areas of Kovalam. Enjoy complete privacy and serenity. Stay in a carefully restored traditional Kerala tharavadu dwelling. At our Spa Niraamaya, highly trained therapists pamper you with herbs, oils, and concoctions that relax your body, revitalise your mind, and renew your spirit. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Surya Samudra Private Retreats Hotel Kovalam
- Surya Samudra Beach Garden Hotel
- Surya Samudra Beach Garden Spa
- Niraamaya Retreats Kovalam, Kerala