We stayed for 2 nights in a deluxe double room. I immediately expected the a/c wasn't working properly, but left it on while we went for dinner at the on-site restaurant. Popping back in later on, there was no power at all. I informed one of the staff (young guy wearing glasses), he said there'd been a power cut, said something about the voltage being wrong (?) and that the a/c would be working now.
Anyway, had a wee dip in the beach which is literally seconds from the rooms, then the staff set up tables right on the beach, showed us the local catch, and we made our order for dinner. The fresh prawns we had, cooked in a mild sauce, made one of the nicest meals we've had in India. A few beers after sunset, listening to the waves, made a great end to our first night, though on returning to our room the a/c still wasn't working. It was late, so we left until morning to mention the aircon again. After the same staff member as before (with glasses) tried to convince us we were using the remote control wrong, eventually they admitted there was a problem, and moved us to another room. We were happy with the problem solved, but the same staff member made condescending comments to us later in the day, suggesting he wasn't happy with the "fuss" we'd created...
The main swimming beach is a pleasant enough 15-20 minute walk down the beach, and it becomes clear from the walk that the Palm Tree Heritage has the additional benefit compared to other Varkala options of no vendors/shops, which again makes this option a good choice for a relaxing break. Somewhat bizarrely, we were told by a different member of staff about the risk of encountering violent, drunk fishermen on the walk up the beach, and advised to avoid it after dark. Whether there is a genuine problem, or whether it was a clever ruse to get you to stay on-site for meals and drink, I'm not sure... It certainly isn't good PR for Varkala as a whole! Regardless, I'd recommend walking to the main beach (in daylight!) if you're interested in sunbathing, body-surfing or shopping - or visiting one of the many milkshake and pancake cafes, which reminded us a bit of Thailand.
Given the good quality of our first seafood dinner, we also ate dinner on-site the next night. The meal was just as good, so we can definitely recommend the Palm Tree Heritage for food (the breakfast and other snacks on the menu were also good from our experience). However, our second and final night was slightly spoilt when we were suddenly informed that they'd run out of beer. We found it a bit odd that they didn't just get some more (which they'd done once before earlier in the night), but didn't make a fuss and decided to take it as a cue for an early night after settling our bill for the evening. Weirdly, we were followed back to our room by the same staffmember with glasses, who repeatedly asked us if everything was alright - we both thought he was trying to goad us to cause some sort of trouble!
Our train onwards was the next morning. After a better sleep in the room with working a/c, we again had a nice set breakfast and hung about waiting to leave for the train station. The India Rail live status website gave us a bum steer when the train was due to arrive (the train miraculously went from 46 minutes late to on time in the space of 1 stop!), and we ended up having a mad panic to get to the station on time. The owner was very helpful in quickly re-arranging our pickup, and we arrived just in time to catch our train.
Overall, we enjoyed the setting and the food (I should also point out that the cleaners do a wonderful job, considering the beach is yards away), but our various interactions with one staffmember in particular, and to a lesser extent with other staff, made us glad to leave in the end. The Palm Tree Heritage is expanding with some new and beautiful-looking chalets due to open the week after our visit, so business is obviously good for the owners. I'd suggest they spend as much attention on staff training and maintaining facilities in the existing rooms, noting that we did not receive an apology or discount for the non-working a/c on the first night.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Palm Tree resort the tranquil stay on Odayam Beach ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Palm Tree Heritage Hotel Varkala
- Palm Tree Heritage Varkala, Kerala