We had a fantastic time and did lots of travelling. I have entered hotel reviews for the hotels we stayed in throughout our trip, we stayed at the Jasmine Palace for the duration of our holiday. As we have been going to Goa for the last 8 years we thought we would be comparing everything to Goa all the time but fortunately we did not. We enjoyed it for what it was. We think they are very different places and we love them both. We did think Kerala seemed more prosperous than Goa, we didn't see any shanty towns at all on our travels throughout Kerala. The thing we missed most was the fact that we couldn't get a beer on the beach in the heat of the day while we read our books! Goa has to have the edge because of this. We are spoiled in Goa because everytime we move a muscle at the beach shack we go to someone comes running to ask if we want a drink or do we want the umbrella up or the sunbed putting into a sitting position. We loved the restaurants and found them great value for money. They were much more civilised than we expected them to be. There is now a paved walkway across the top of the beach in front of the restuarants which goes the full length of Lighthouse Beach to Hawa Beach so there is no need to walk through sand to get to them, although some still have sand floors. The seafood was fantastic and as a fish/meat eater I even got to enjoy vegerarian food, I surprised myself. The portions were larger than Goa even though the prices were less hence I put a lot of weight on and am now on a diet once again before going to Goa at Easter! We also thought the shops were quite upmarket, selling lovely good quality clothes and jewellery, most of which we bought from Gujrathi Collections, next to Lonely Planet, they also have a shop in Mumbai. The girl who runs this with her family is usually on the Lighthouse Beach with her jewellery and bags laid out in front of the shacks during the day. She gave us really good deals and was more prepared to give us a good price than her family in the shop. She is in the shop herself after 6 pm so we had a good look around in the day and went back at night to see her. I did miss the girls selling things on the beach. All sarongs etc. are sold by men on the beach and we found them much more aggresive than the girls in Goa. Girls have more idea what girls want than the men. Unlike a lot of people we love to buy things while we are on the beach in Goa and see the same girls regularly every year who now know what kind of things we like and if they haven't got it they find it for us before we go home! We did find the fruit was of better quality on the beach. We were staying between Lighthouse Beach and Hawa Beach but we preferred Hawa Beach, it was much quieter and we thought the beach itself was nicer, not so much black sand. I did expect to have to walk further from Lighthouse Beach to Hawa Beach as from the maps it looked as though there were rocks separating the beaches but we found that Hawa Beach was just a continuation of Lighthouse Beach and it only took about 15-20 minutes to walk from one end of Hawa Beach to the other end of Lighthouse Beach. We travelled extensively throughout Kerala and found there was far less poverty around than there is in Goa. We didn't find it necessary to book at any of the restuarants except Fusion (which we found was vastly overrated) even though we were there at the busiest time of the year. We got front row tables every night. We didn't eat until about 9 pm most nights and found the restuarants stayed open later than in Goa. We never went back to our hotel much before midnight.
We had visits to the dentist in Trivandrum. I had a check up, scale and polish and a crown for £38. I was quoted over £600 in England! and my glasses - varifocals photocromic lenses and yearly contact lenses - cost £160. So the savings I made virtually paid for my package holiday.
We did an overnight trip on the backwaters from Alumkadare to Alleppey 50 km. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the locals at their daily life and took lots of photographs and video.
We also had Ayurvedic massages which I can thoroughly recommend. These were arranged from our hotel. We had a full body massage for 1 1/2 hrs which included body peel and herbal facial followed by a herbal bath. We had a medical examination first with blood pressure tests. The massage was done by a female and although it was a "full" body massage it was not intrusive or embarrassing. We found it very relaxing and our skin and hair felt like silk afterwards. We had one each week.
We did a 4 day spice trail trip to Thekkady, Munnar and Cochin partly by train and the rest by car. We visited the spice gardens, tea plantations, Perriyer and toured Cochin. We also had an elephant ride and saw a baby elephant 6 hours old which was amazing. This was a fantastic trip and well worth doing. We took masses of photographs and bought lots of tea, coffee, spices and nuts.
We ate some fantastic food in Kovalam. One of our favourite places was Rock Cafe but we couldn't really fault any of the restaurants and I think we ate in most!
I would recommend the Lobster Pot Restaurant situated between Leela Palace and Samudra hotels above Ashok Beach. This was a fantastic night out which I would thoroughly recommend. We had a meal with drink for a set price of 650 rps and a band (Purple Rain) were playing. They were excellent and we had a good dance. You need to book to go here as it gets very busy. The only shock was having to climb up over the rocks to get to the place, you do need a good torch, fortunately we had a good rickshaw man who came to our rescue going up and coming down.
We will definately visit Kovalam again hopefully next year.