Bohemian Masala, Varkala beach
Budget accommodation doesn’t get much better than this. Bohemian Masala offers an imaginative alternative to the somewhat homogenised options on Varkala beach, a backpacker colony teetering on the edge of a cliff that has spectacular ocean views. Brush the banana leaves aside in its lush tropical garden and pass under the net-covered lanterns at night. The terracotta-coloured cottages have been designed with a lot of love by owners Susan and Danesh. Services include yoga, meditation and an Ayurvedic treatment centre. A new organic restaurant is under way. There are also simple huts, should your budget be very tight. Peace and tranquillity is free and in abundant supply.
• +91 999 5050104, thebohemianmasala .com. Cottages £12.50-£45 MR
Fort House, Kochi (Cochin)
Strictly speaking, Fort House is more jetty-side than beach-side hotel. It’s a lush little haven right on the waterfront of Fort Kochi offering great views over the enormously wide harbour, and just a short walk from the neighbourhood’s spectacular Chinese fishing nets – with all the attendant bustle of traders and stalls. Sixteen rooms give on to charming gardens that are dotted with terracotta sculptures, offering slightly rickety accommodation in an old Dutch colonial building; the neater if less characterful boarding is in a block built about five years ago. There’s an Ayvuredic spa and a waterside restaurant serving the coconut-rich cuisine of the Malabar coast as well as pasta options. Just across the road a small theatre stages nightly performances of Kerala’s traditional and riotously elaborate Kathakali dance dramas.
• +91 484 22 17 103, hotelforthouse.com. Doubles from £35 room only HOB
Karikkathi Beach House, Kovalam beach
Mr Sajjad has built two beach-facing properties south of touristy Kovalam. Simplicity, seclusion and a breathtaking location make it feel marvellously romantic. Each house has two double rooms and the whole property can be booked for groups or families. Home-cooked meals are served on the shady terrace.
• +91 471 272 0238, karikkathibeachhouse.com, Rooms from £67 a night; house (sleeps four) from £135. All prices full-board MR
Motty’s Homestay, Alleppey beach
Motty enjoys meeting people, and his guesthouse has therefore become much more than a business; it is a hobby. Affable, informative and with a passion for his hometown’s heritage and architecture, he has furnished his guesthouse with antiques and artwork. Doors, shutters and fittings were all salvaged by Motty and lovingly restored. Don’t miss his workshop, it’s a mini museum. His wife Lali cooks delicious south Indian cuisine and provides cookery classes. Borrow one of Motty’s bicycles, explore the town or visit Alleppey beach. Surprisingly, it’s not unlike a typical British seaside resort with a dilapidated pier and ice-cream stalls – and instead of donkey rides, you can amble along on a camel. Two canals run parallel through the city and pass rambling old warehouses before they connect the coast with Kerala’s famous inland waterways. This makes Alleppey a perfect access point for the coast and the backwaters.
• +91 477 2263535, alleppeybeach.com. Doubles £70, including breakfast and dinner MR
Kadappuram Beach Resort, Nattika beach, Thrissur
Kerala is the heartland of Ayurveda medicine and healing, and Kadappuram Beach Resort, 25km from the cultural capital of Thrissur, caters specifically for Ayurvedic rejuvenation. The predominantly female/European clientele follow a 14-day programme in an intimate resort built around a lagoon right next to the spectacular Nattika beach. The 12 cottages are constructed from natural materials and come with huge verandas and four-poster beds. The standard programme includes daily massages, steam baths and prescribed treatments. The garden has more than 300 species of plants and 600 coconut trees and includes a spacious yoga studio. Vegetarian cuisine is served buffet-style with Ayurvedic beverages for a complete health bonus.
• +91 487 239498, kadappurambeachresorts.com. Rooms £60-£95, winter, £45-£55 monsoon season. Ayurveda £40 per day. Includes yoga and meditation, meals and snacks MR
Kannur Beach House, Thottada beach
For a true homestay experience, try the easy-going charm of Kannur Beach House, where Rozi, Nazir and their three children make you feel at home immediately. All guest rooms have balconies and ocean views. Home-cooked Malabari cuisine is served at a long table under a canopy of bougainvillea, where guests and the family eat together. For some solitude, take an early morning walk around the lagoon and see if you can spot kingfishers, herons, kites and cormorants. Settle into a hammock at sundown, rock gently under the palms and watch the light turn the beach golden.
• +91 984 718 4535, kannurbeachhouse.com. Single room £22, double £30, includes breakfast and dinner MR
Waves Beach Resort, Adikadalayi, Thottada
Dreaming of a private beach but travelling on a budget? Waves Beach Resort might be just your place. The pleasant and understated resort was recently established by Seema and her family on a cliff top. Guests can opt for the large bungalow, one of four octagonal-shaped cottages or a homestay. Ocean breezes are combined with home-cooked meals, which are all included in the price. The best feature is the private beach at the end of the cliff path.
• +91 949 5050850, wavesbeachresort.co.in. Double-room homestay £20, double-room cottage £25, double-room bungalow £30, all full-board MR
Costa Malabari 2, Kannur
Set in a wild garden on top of a cliff with views of dramatic coves and rugged peninsulas, Costa Malabari 2 is one of three properties belonging to the insightful owner Mr Kurian and his partners. Rooms are spartan, but open the shutters and the sea air will keep you cool and comfortable. Bold visitors can climb down the slightly precarious steps where there is a good chance of finding the beach deserted – quite an achievement in India. Sublime home-cooked food served on banana leaves is another highlight. Take a coastal walk, explore the village or try to witness a Theyyam ritual: a dance performance unique to the area. Some of the properties even remain open during the monsoon.
• +91 484 237 1761, [email protected]. Rooms £15pp per night full board MR
Kanan Beach Resort, Nileshwar
North of the town of Kannur, much of the Keralan coast is still very undeveloped by tourism. So there are glorious, empty beaches and quiet rivers and estuaries that seem a world away from the crowded backwaters of the more Catholic south. A small complex of white cottages with traditional wood-tiled roofs, Kanan Beach Resort backs on to a long sweep of golden sands just beyond the small town of Nileshwar. Fishermen launch their boats here, herons and egrets stalk the shallows. Paths run between the beach and the resort’s gardens – complete with coconut palms and hammocks. This is a simple-yet-stylish outfit, its 10 generously sized bedrooms opening on to wide decks. You sink into the peace here, lounging by the pool, taking Ayurvedic treatments in the small spa or pottering to the sea. You won’t find much in the way facilities for visitors beyond the hotel but the genial staff will arrange temple visits and rice-barge cruises on the waterways.
• +91 467 22 88 880, kananbeachresort.com. Doubles from £73 room only HOB
Nirvana Cottages, Bekal
Dating from 1650, imposing Bekal Fort stands high above a curving, palm-fringed beach. It’s an important historic site, well conserved too, but there was little else to bring tourists to this part of far northern Kerala until a few years ago. Now a few high-end hotels have been developed – along with this less costly little resort. Dramatically set just below the fort and adjacent to a mosque, Nirvana Cottages is a complex of six traditional Keralan-style houses built of the same pink laterite stone as the great 17th-century monument and dotted around a two-acre coconut grove with paths leading to the sea shore. The pleasingly simple rooms range from standard (and a bit of a tight squeeze) to luxury (at more than double the price) while facilities include Ayurvedic treatments, restaurant and, unusually, a cricket bowling machine.
+91 467 22 72 900, nirvanabekal.com. Doubles from £18 for standard rooms and from £50 for luxury accommodation, including breakfast HOB
• This article was amended on 7 October 2013 to correct the telephone number for Motty’s Homestay.