Kovalam was missed the last time we visited Varkala. But a travel show on a travel & lifestyle channel featuring the luxury properties of this beach town left me starry eyed & craving for a luxury weekend getaway to Kovalam. The proximity to Bangalore & reasonable airfares are a positive, but the luxury properties would burn a hole in our pockets. So, we would occasionally visit the booking websites to check the prices.
One such evening, after office,sipping on my coffee & surfing channels on television & looking at a booking website for a closer to home staycation like Yercaud or Yelagiri, I typed Kovalam, not with much of a hope of finding a good deal but to browse through some photographs. With a bang appeared Leela Kovalam & Taj Vivanta with prices slashed to less than half. It took me sometime to believe my eyes. So I checked on my husband's phone too to confirm. And it was true. I immediately booked a Garden Villa for 2 nights & flight tickets to Kovalam.
The trip was planned 1.5 months in advance. However, friends & family showed their apprehension as we were travelling in the peak monsoon to a place in Kerala that receives frequent rain. But that was immaterial since we had visited Varkala & Goa in the monsoons & have absolutely loved it. We infact travel to Goa once a year & prefer monsoons.
Trivandrum was reached in an hour on a morning flight from Bangalore & in 20 mins drive through lush greenery we reached The Leela Palace, Kovalam. The first reaction from me was a gaping mouth & fluttering eyes. A huge uphill campus, bright & naturally lit lobby with traditional Kerala decor of gold. Before we got our villa, we took a little tour of the restaurant & bar on the sea facing deck & the seating area on the hill. The best part of the property was the lawn on the hillock facing the limitless sea & 2 wooden benches facing the horizon. I took an instant liking to this place & grabbed my seat quickly. During our stay I would sit on one of the benches during some part of the day & stare into the limitless ocean & think nothing but how small we are in existence compared to the vast emerald sea. Yes! This place turns you philosophical.
The leela palace is a destination in itself with a real castle on the premises. The Halcyon castle was a castle of yore now after a legal battle between the hotel authorities & government that has claimed a part of the campus, the Halcyon Castle is a police checkpost. The other part of the castle is a gothic architecture, a little dilapidated housing a family of peacock that are very human friendly & occasionally visits the hotel & visited our balcony too. The property gives you innumerable peaceful view points to sit & stare at the sea. The restaurants & bar are at the main building atop the hill, however the garden villas are situated down hill, we would always get a buggy as soon as we call. Kovalam being a small beachfront, the other beaches are within a close proximity of the property & we could walk to the popular Lighthouse Beach through a steep slope that opens on to the beach. We had our lunch on both the days at Lighthouse Beach that has innumerable beach cafes & restaurants. German Bakery has the best view amongst the others. German Bakery is quite Indian that serves Surmai & Mackerel grilled to perfection. But what I loved the most was their freshly baked banana & chocolate cakes & waffles. We visited another small eatery with a forgettable name on day 2 for a late lunch & put our tongues on fire with the Kerala style mutton pepper fry. But was supremely tasty and followed it up by jumbo prawns in Garlic butter sauce. The view of lighthouse from the beach is stunning. The towering structure looms large with a shadowy reflection on the sea.
The food at Leela palace is an expensive affair. We had a complementary breakfast that was okayish. Since we have had better breakfast buffets at smaller hotels. Foodwise, the best meal at Leela was on our last day for lunch where we ordered a simple pizza which was quite flavourful. We tried their beach front Oriental restro for a dinner & the food was quite ordinary. But the chocolate mousse stole the show at the end with its sinful taste & innovative presentation. We also tried their bar that was overpriced & food & drinks were small in portions.
We didn't venture to the popular tourist destinations around & near trivandrum due to a bandh & some disturbances within Trivandrum for which the hotel asked their guests not to venture out to Trivandrum. So poovar & padmanabhaswamy temple that was part of our itinery was missed. Though we don't regret since the evenings were spent on the private beach of the property, lazing on the loungers.
Kovalam trip was quintessentially meant to be a relaxing trip & my husband would remind me that every time I cribbed of having missed a boatride at Poovar. Overall we returned having tasted luxury & solace in one of India"s leading beach properties.