Far From the Madding Crowd: The Leela Palace, Kovalam
As I drove into the Leela Palace Kovalam, a stunning view of the Arabian sea opened up in front of me. The Leela is located at a height, on a tiny cliff overlooking the vast blue sea. While there’s little to do in Kovalam, the place still makes for an ideal long-weekend getaway option for those seeking solitude amidst an infinity pool, a gorgeous blue sea, and a typical beach resort with it’s summer vibes on point. With 5 days to spare, I enjoyed an entire week of unwinding at this resort; and when it was time to leave, it had already begun to feel like home.
About the resort:
The Leela Kovalam was built on a cliff, overlooking the ocean on two sides, and the beach on the third. The property was designed by Charles Correa for the Govt. of India, only to be taken over by Leela in 2005. They refurbished the property of course, while attempting to retain it’s charm from back in the day. While Kovalam remains a secluded destination, the hotel was packaged throughout. While the location, design, and the gorgeous decor inside the hotel seems to work in it’s favour, there are certain drawbacks worth highlighting, to set your expectations right. The resort has two wings: the sea view rooms located in the main wing, and the club rooms located in a building accompanying the main building. While the main wing is glamorous and gorgeous but a little more action-packed, the wing with the club rooms is more modern and secluded.
Do be warned, the lobby area and business centre are not air conditioned. For a destination that expects temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, I found it was absolute torture to spend a minute outdoors. The evening doesn’t bring much respite either, and the beautifully lit up outdoor bar area doesn’t make for a viable option. Besides the spa, rooms, bar, activity center and restaurant, there is no air conditioning in the entire hotel. The hotel staff is courteous, but it’s management is questionable. For the property, location and everything else in the hotel that shouts, “Luxury!” the hotel really fails to live up to its service quality standards.
This hotel was created for the pure purpose of indulgence, for those seeking to get away from the madness of a fast-paced city life. Two in-house spas (one international and another Ayurveda), two infinity pools, a library, activity center, adorable buggies to cart you around the hotel, and a beautiful beach to enjoy the sunset, are on the menu at this resort. Given it’s location, the resort is the perfect luxury hotel and love nest. You can borrow books and DVDs (albeit grossly limited) and spend the afternoon by the poolside.
As much as my heart took to the stunning property, view and decor of the hotel, I was disappointed to find that the rooms were severely below the standards one would expect from the prices they charge. A hotel that falls into the super-luxury category cannot afford to offer such tiny, old and damp rooms. The bathrooms were shameful, as was the seepage on the walls, the paint coming off their wooden doors and the scratches on the glass. After three frightfully tiny rooms, I was moved to one that was slightly bigger than the rest. These rooms will struggle to fit a third person, should you like to even consider it.
Restaurant and Bar:
I would recommend booking a dinner-inclusive meal plan, for there are few places to dine around Kovalam and it’s a lot more cost-effective to pre-purchase it. The food isn’t worth writing home about. In fact, I dare say it’s just below average. I was shocked to discover that the breakfast for 6 days in a row, was the same menu over and over again. Not a single dish replaced with another one, not a single dish placed different. Everything would lie in the exact place I found it the day before, leaving me to survive on the same food every day for almost a week.
The pastas, pizzas and burgers failed to appeal to anyone’s taste buds, and we resigned to trying Indian dishes in the hope of consoling our taste buds. To our dismay, even the local cuisine wasn’t done right. It takes a hundred light years for the food to arrive- the service is that slow. They’re too short-staffed during dinner, to help with your a-la-carte order. Another reason to book in advance and go for the buffet.
I must tell you though, that the cocktails at this resort simply blew my mind. I would only owe my love for these cocktails to their excellent barman, Neago, who whipped up a different one for me each time. That said, I tried a couple drinks by other bar staff as well and they fell short by a mile!
Beautiful, Secluded, Scenic:
While I believe this is a gorgeous property managed terribly, in essence the place is breathtaking. A luxury resort located on one of the most beautiful oceans, overlooking a beach and three different shades of blue- that’s only too appealing to the eye. For the plenty things this hotel needs to work on, the location, view and breathtaking beauty of this place are jewels that make up this crown. It’s far from the maddening touristic destinations one usually opts for. The hotel embodies peace and relaxation, and that’s exactly what you’ll get here. Just plenty of beaches, sunshine, green grass and blue sea!