Kovalam beach is Kerala's most famous beach town. Unlike quieter Varkala, it's well and truly been discovered and developed. It's brash and at odds with the rest of Kerala. The action congregates around two main beaches -- Hawa (also called Eve's beach) and Lighthouse (the biggest and busiest of the two) -- with a walkway along the seafront. Samudra beach is separated by a large promontory, and is relatively free of tourists.
There's no shortage of hotels in Kovalam beach, but these are among the best ones to suit all budgets. If you're looking to save money, travel to Kovalam during the May to September monsoon season, and you'll be able to enjoy discounts of 50% or more on room rates. This makes luxury hotels much more affordable.
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If you're looking for luxury in Kovalam, the boutique Surya Samudra is the most indulgent property you'll find. Set on 20 acres of landscaped grounds atop a cliff, it has 31 heritage cottages (think terracotta roofs, wooden pillars, and tiled floors), a reputable Ayurvedic spa, two restaurants, and infinity pool. The cottages, which come with open-air bathrooms, are very private and there's plenty of space to spread out. The sea facing ones are particularly captivating.
- Rates: From about 10,000 rupees per night, plus tax, for a garden view cottage during the monsoon season. This increases to around 15,000 rupees, plus tax, during peak season.
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The very popular Leela is looking a bit tired these days but the atmosphere and views are magical, making this hotel very high on romance. The hotel is located on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean and has its own private beach. It's a substantial property with 183 rooms. The beach view rooms have their own sun deck, while the peaceful garden view rooms are located in a coconut grove right near the water. There's a stunning infinity swimming pool as well.
- Rates: It's possible to pick up a double room for around 8,000 rupees per night, plus tax, during the monsoon. Otherwise, rates go up to 12,000 rupees or more plus tax, depending on the time of year.
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The popular Taj Green Cove hotel is now known as the Taj Vivanta. Although it still has the same lush hillside location near Samudra beach, it wears a revitalized new look. The hotel has 59 cottages spread over 10 acres. It's peaceful and relaxing. A highlight is the hotel's beach-side restaurant called Bait, which serves up fresh seafood. However, the hotel isn't a beach resort. The ocean is around a 10 minute walk away, and the beach is submerged from March to November, so most guests prefer to relax by the infinity pool amid nature.
- Rates: Expect to pay 8,000 rupees plus tax for a double room during the monsoon season. Otherwise, rates go up to 14,500 rupees a night, plus tax.
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Turtle on the Beach faces Hawa beach (Eve's beach). It has a Zen feel, with large Buddha statue and lounge that overlooks the sea from a height. There are 44 rooms and suites spread over six categories. The 2,480 square foot Sky Suite has a private terrace with outstanding views and a Jacuzzi. There's also an Ayurvedic spa on the premises, along with swimming pool and health club, and four restaurants. Do note that unlike its name may imply, the hotel doesn't have beach access. However, it does provide a free shuttle bus to the beach.
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- Rates: From around 5,000 rupees plus tax during the monsoon season, increasing to 7,500 rupees plus tax upwards in peak season.
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This value for money resort is owned by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. It's located next to the Taj Vivanta at quieter Samudra beach, and has a very picturesque setting with beach access. The hotel is old, but it's cleaner and better maintained than many state government-owned properties in India. Foreign guests may find the service and facilities to be lacking though. The hotel caters primarily to Indian families. It doesn't have a bar, and alcohol must be consumed away from the restaurant. Rooms are basic but functional. However, what's really appealing is that they face the ocean. There's a swimming pool too.
- Rates: From 3,600 rupees per night, plus tax.
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The best thing about Hotel Sea Rock is its fabulous, convenient location on Hawa beach. The hotel has a terrace restaurant overlooking the ocean, and airy sea facing rooms with balconies. Note that there's no elevator though, and food in the restaurant is quite expensive.
- Rates: 2,000- 5,000 rupees per night, plus tax.
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Tucked away in a quiet lane just behind Lighthouse beach, Johny's Beach House is an oasis of a guesthouse with flourishing tropical garden. The owner, Johny, is the perfect host and can't do enough for guests. Each room has its own balcony, and the top floor ones have a sea view. The beds have soft mattresses and the bathrooms are new. There's even a shared kitchen, lounge, and games room for guests to use. You'll feel right at home!
- Rates: 2,000-3,000 rupees per night, plus tax.
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Beach Florra Inn is situated on the beachfront at the far end of Lighthouse beach, right near the lighthouse. It's a welcoming budget place to stay with large comfortable rooms, some with ocean views (and the sound of the waves), and really helpful staff. The hotel has a seafront restaurant as well. The only drawback is that the road doesn't reach the property, but porter assistance is provided to carry luggage.
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- Rates: 1,200-3,000 rupees per night, plus tax.
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Little Elephant Beach Resort is in the same area as Beach Florra Inn but is just back from the beach. The accommodations consist of five double rooms and two apartments with sea views. All were built or renovated in 2013, so they're modern and attractive, and spotlessly clean. The best room is huge, and opens out on to an equally huge balcony that runs along the length of the room. The hotel has its own Ayurvedic center, and holds morning and afternoon yoga classes. Dental treatment can be arranged as well.
- Rates: 800-5,500 rupees per night, plus tax.
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Also in the same area, Stay Well Ayurvedic Beach Resort is a small and inviting blue family-run guesthouse. There are six rooms, most with private balconies, and one with private kitchen. Ayurvedic treatments are provided on the premises by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor, and yoga sessions are held on the rooftop. Rooms are neat and tidy. It's a real gem!
- Rates: From 800 rupees per night, plus tax.