“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller
People say “save the best to last” and that was certainly the case on our last stop in Kerala, the Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra in Kovalam, a member of the renowned and prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel group was quite simply out of this world.
A very warm welcome and fresh coconuts to sip while the seamless checking in process took place was a great start in the open-air standalone lobby at the top of the resort. Whisked off in a golf buggy down the hillside we arrived at our bungalow and were greeted with the most amazing coastline scenery. It actually took my breath away that we were still in Kerala as I had not expected such a dramatic private beach setting, but then it is God’s Own Country after all.
The award winning resort is set across twenty-two acres of manicured gardens littered with hammocks and Indian Hindu statues including a large elephant-headed Ganesha. The gardens lined the rugged cliff tops with two private beaches either side of the accommodations accessed via steps at either end. Little cottages are nestled in staggered clusters across the property with the restaurants, bars and infinity pool overlooking the beach and reception, fitness suite, small gift shop and spa located at the top of the resort nearer the entrance driveway.
Overlooking the sea-facing infinity pool, the all-day dining restaurant Cafe Samsara offered traditional Kerala fare as well as international cuisine. It was great food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed some fab tropical sundowners at the beachside Madira Cocktail Bar which overlooked the sea, a perfect spot to watch the sunset. Essence Asian restaurant was a quaint little restaurant with panoramic sea views from its cliff top location, the food was delicious and the setting rather romantic.
Our picturesque little cottage was built in the style of a traditional Keralite heritage home and had a wooden four poster bed curtained in muslins drapes and an open roof bathroom. The spacious accommodation was decorated with Indian teak furniture offset with a mix of pure white linens and rich, colourful silk textiles, ornate split doors and a private terrace with outdoor furniture which overlooked the sea and terraced gardens.
We visited the Spa Niraamaya which is alleged to be one of India’s top wellness facilities to experience a traditional Ayurvedic massage. The spa was located in a beautiful setting that was unfortunately spoilt by renovation work when we visited, lots of men banging and a strong smell of varnish that tarnished the supposive tranquil experience. The menu offered a range of authentic treatments and therapies and after a tricky telephone booking procedure we finally secured two appointments.
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic full body healing systems developed in India thousands of years ago (about 5000 years). Ayurvedic works on the belief that health and wellness is a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit and we had to meet the Spa’s doctor to go through an obligatory consultation process before we began.
The therapeutic whole body massage (abhyangam) took place on a wooden table (I had the additional thin mattress that was offered). It was a slippery business involving lots and lots of herbal oil that had a distinctive aroma. The treatment is designed to nourish and revitalise the body tissue and draw out the toxins, it was probably the most brutal massage I had ever had and the whole experience was quite intense but I was definitely knot free and invigorated at the end, the other half did not enjoy his experience quite so much.
India is the birthplace of yoga so naturally we had to take a class there. I dragged the other half to a complimentary sunset yoga class which took place at the outdoor Yoga Pavilion on the clifftop overlooking the sea. As we maneuvered ourselves into the required poses, the sun was setting over the sea in our peripheral vision, pretty special stuff. Cooking classes, cultural shows and guided local trips such as visiting the local fish market were also available but we were on sightseeing overload and choose to just chill.
After the six days of endless travelling through various parts of Kerala this resort was the most amazing place to end up and just relax in probably the best scenery I encountered in Southern India (tea plantations were pretty spectacular too). I would thoroughly recommend this hotel, which centres on the art of wellbeing, to anyone thinking of booking a place to recharge in Kovalam.
The Nitty Gritty
Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam, Kerala.
Telephone: +91 80 4510 4510
Spa website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check-out 12:00 noon
Amazing beach location
Good food options and the cocktail bar
No service charge at restaurants (discretionary gratuities can be left at check-out)
Complimentary fast wifi
The Not so Good……
Spa booking process was painful and the overall experience disappointing
Spa was noisy due to renovations and smelled strongly of varnish
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.
Read my previous Kerala posts In Pictures: A Postcard From Kerala, India, Discover Kerala: Faces of India, Discover Kerala: Cochin, Review: Vivanta by Taj – Malabar, Cochin, Discover Kerala: Munnar, Review: The Fog Resort & Spa, Munnar, Discover Kerala: Thekkady, Review: Greenwoods Resort, Thekkady, Discover Kerala: Kumarakom, Review: Kumarakom Lake Resort and Discover Kerala: Kovalam