If you are planning a trip to India and are unsure of where to begin, Kerala - a state in the south of the country - is the perfect introduction. With a laid-back vibe, sandy beaches and not to mention the incredible weather, there isn’t a lot not to like, so when we were invited to stay at the luxury Xandari Pearl hotel earlier in the year, we couldn’t possibly say no. The five-star retreat offers everything from your own plunge pool to an all-day dining restaurant, all while doing everything to be as eco-friendly as possible. What's more, it's even popular with famous Bollywood stars. And did we mention the fact it's on the beach?
The luxury hotel has everything you need
The hotel is ideally located on Marari Beach in the fishing village of Maraikulam, and guests have their own private entrance. The village is easy to access by rail and road, and is just under an hour's drive away from Cochin International Airport. Marari Beach itself is a popular tourist destination and considered one of the best beaches in Kerala, boasting white sands and a clear-blue ocean.
You can take a swim in your own private pool
Rooms even have their own plunge pools
When it comes to the rooms, be warned, it might be hard to leave them. The resort has 27 villas spread across the hotel's sprawling 18 acres, and five of them have their own plunge pool – and what's not to like about a midnight swim? Each villa also has a private garden with a hammock and table, as well as an outside shower – and taking a shower while looking at the stars is quite something. Villas are all designed to accommodate two, making it a great place to go away with your partner, friends or simply stay in the room alone for extra luxury.
Xandari care for the environment - and even have straws made from leaves!
An eco-friendly resort
Xandari is passionate about saving the environment, and many features in the Pearl resort showed this. These include glass bottles in the hotel room to avoid using plastic and straws made out of leaves – which not only did the trick but were very Instagram-friendly too. What's more, there is very little waste. Food that isn’t eaten at the restaurant is given to staff, and when they can, they use the ingredients from their own grounds. The impressive gardens grow everything from mangoes and tomatoes to cashews and coconuts – and during our tour, a farmer even climbed up one of the 600 coconut trees to retrieve some, before climbing back down and cracking them open so we could enjoy coconut water. There are also animals kept on site. Community is just as important to the hotel too, so local fisherman are the ones who supply the kitchen with fresh fish every day.
Everything from coconuts to cashews are grown in the hotel's gardens
Kerala as a state has strict rules when it comes to alcohol and while some places are more relaxed about it than others, in general it is difficult to get drink. For many wishing for a detox weekend, it's the ideal place. However, there is talk that the hotel is going to get a liquor license in the near future, making it possible to have alcohol with your food and at the bar.
Rooms have everything you need for a relaxing stay
Luxury spa with healing power
The hotel has its own spa offering a range of massages which you can choose from on a scale of one to ten as to how firm you would like it to be. There is even an in-house doctor so guests can get a personalised treatment prescribed by him using the hotel's own home grown medicated oils. And miracles really do work there. One regular at the hotel explained to us during our stay that he suffered from backache for years until taking a trip to the massage room at the resort.
Yoga on the beach and other activities
Being in the country where yoga originated from, it is only right that during your stay you take part in a session – especially as it's on the beach! Even beginners – like we were – can enjoy the classes, which are designed to suit your level and ability, ensuring that you leave feeling relaxed and zen, rather than stressing out over the moves you couldn’t perfect. Other activities on offer include cooking classes, coconut tree climbing, guided villages tours, bike rides through the town, beach volleyball, and tours of the grounds. In another bid to promote eco-friendliness, you can even plant your own tree and make your mark at the resort forever.
You can even watch your food being prepared
At Xandari Pearl there is an all-day dining restaurant called Pearl Spot, that overlooks the swimming pool, complete with a demonstration kitchen for you to watch the chefs cook some of the most popular dishes before indulging in them. And everything is just so fresh, dishes from mango chutney to the curry sauces have all been made with the produce grown on-site.
You can combine your trip with Xandari riverscapes
Explore the backwaters on a houseboat during your stay
During your holiday in Kerala, it is also possible to enjoy a night on a traditional houseboat, something that is becoming increasingly popular with travellers who venture to the state, and has even been dubbed the 'Venice of the backwaters'. Xandari Riverscapes houseboats take you out in the backwaters in Alleppey, and offer air-conditioned bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and sleep up to six people. During your time on the boat – which is built with wood harvested from local jackfruit tree plantations – you will dine in style, and be served Kerala cuisine cooked by a team of chefs on board. Waking up to watch the sunrise and enjoying the view with a coffee is certainly a magical experience.
Xandari Harbour offers the perfect location with stunning views
Where else to stay while in Kerala
During our visit we also stayed at Xandari's second hotel resort in Kerala, Xandari Harbour. Situated on the harbour in Fort Kochi, we enjoyed going on a boat ride along the river, exploring the fishing port and watching the fisherman at work, and explored the Jew Town in Kochi – which was a short drive away, and a shopper's paradise. There we had a go at haggling down our purchases and getting lost in the many narrow streets selling everything from perfume to linen shirts. What's more, the hotel was close to the airport, making it the ideal place to relax in at the beginning or end of your trip.
Prices for Xandari Pearl and Xandari Harbour start from £120, while a night on a houseboat at Xandari Riverscapes starts from £200. For more information, visit Xandari.com