Luxury (over US$35/Rsl000 per room night)
The prestige place to stay is the five-star Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort (tel 68010, 65323, tlx 435-216, fax 0471-62522), with its superb location, water-sports, yoga and massage facilities, but the standard of service and food fluctuates. The beach cottages are pleasant, but as the air-conditioning rarely works, are not recommended in the hotter months. The large balcony rooms from Rsl300 single, Rsl450 double in the low season and 25% higher between mid-December and the end of February, have the famous sunset view. A new wing opened in late 1992 and the old Palace guest-house on the hill above the resort has four suites from Rs2800.
Mid-range (US$10-35/Rs250-1000 per room night)
Try the well-appointed Hotel Rockholm (tel 584306) up on the lighthouse headland. This has some lovely, breezy rooms (Rs375 single, Rs450 double) overlooking the cliffs, and an excellent restaurant with open-air patio. KTDC’s pleasant Hotel Samudra, (tel 62089) a 15-minute walk north of the luxury Ashok hotel, is a modern building, tastefully done, commanding a quiet stretch of beach. In season, it has a good restaurant on the roof. Rooms include Rs550 doubles, with balconies and sea views.
Budget (under Rs250 per room night)
Directly behind the Rockholrn on Lighthouse Road, is Syama Lodge with huge, well-furnished rooms at Rsl50 single, Rs200 double (half the price in low season). There are a few rooms from Rs250, with sea-view balconies, at Hotel Seaweed, near the lighthouse (tel 60806, 63452) and like all Kovalam’s hotels you can bargain discounts of up to 50% in the low season (any time apart from November to February). At the budget end, there are now so many small, cheap, and generally comfortable lodges, either right on the beach, or set just back from it that recommending any one over another is a difficult exercise: they’re changing all the time. Many have rooms from Rs50 per night and it is also possible to rent rooms with local families for Rs250 a week.
Kovalam has some excellent restaurants although some of the old favourites on the beach have been closed down. Good Italian, French, Chinese and Malabar dishes plus the local seafood are all just a short, lazy stroll up the beach. Two popular beach restaurants are the Black Cat and Coral. The Rockholm (tel 306) has excellent fish dishes, depending on what’s available that morning in the market. While the menu includes some European dishes it is their seafood that excels. Lobster, crab, mackerel can be prepared to order. Meals cost anything from Rs60 to 250 a head depending on how many dishes of crab curry you can eat. The Searock restaurant has a menu of Indian and continental dishes and meals are from about Rs50. No restaurant is in a hurry to serve you in Kovalam. If the laid-back service gets to you, eat out at the Rockholm or the Eden.
The nearest tourist office is in Trivandrum. So is Indian Airlines, State Bank of India, and the post office. To change money, use the bank at Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort. To post letters, buy aerogrammes, etc., use the small sub post-office in Kovalam Village (a 20-minute climb up the back of the beach, near the top of the headland).