Family Hotel Review: Emerald Isle, The Backwaters, Kerala, India
For an authentic Kerala backwater experience look no further than this lovely family-friendly homestay where activities include guided village walks, boat tours, bicycle rides and fishing.
Best For: Adventurers and outdoorsy types; big kids and teens (but all ages welcome)
Reviewed by: Victoria Westmacott
Why You’ll Love It
For an authentic Keralan backwater experience look no further than this lovely family-friendly homestay set on the edge of a small island, blanketed in emerald green paddy fields.
The setting is beautiful; almond, palm and fruit trees surround the property and a stone path leads towards the water’s edge where you can watch life on the backwaters drift by. The bungalow itself is a 150-year-old historic wooden home built in the traditional Keralan style with terracotta roof tiles, red oxide floors and a shaded veranda dotted with wicker chairs. Owned by the charming Job family, the ancestral home started life as a farmhouse and the original granary and coconut store are still on show.
Today there are five simple bedrooms open to guests and an array of activities on offer. It’s a unique and truly idyllic getaway.
Why The Kids Will Love It
Emerald Isle may be a peaceful retreat for parents but it’s an equally adventurous destination for kids, which starts with the journey there. The island is only accessible by boat so guests are picked up from the other side of the riverbank and rowed the short journey across the Pamba River to the property.
Once on dry land there are numerous ways to explore the island and to get a feel for local life. There are guided village walks adapted for children, and bicycles are free to borrow. Boat tours through the maze of narrow canals, and fishing for mudfish at Emerald Isle’s fish farm are on offer and you can even swim in the river if you like.
It’s a wonderful outdoorsy kind of place that big kids and teens will relish. There is a lot of water here however, so parents with younger children will want to keep a close eye on curious toddlers and adventurous tots.
There are five bedrooms; three Heritage Rooms, one Granary Mini Suite and one Luxury Cottage.
The Heritage Rooms are located in the main house. The décor is rustic and homely – wooden walls, original rosewood furniture and open-air bathrooms with showers. Heritage Room One is a triple with one double bed and one single. Heritage Rooms Two and Three are doubles and are inter-connecting.
The Granary Mini Suite is also located in the main house. As the name suggests, this was the former granary and the bed has been placed on an elevated platform reached by stone steps. There is a small sitting area here and an outdoor shower.
The Luxury Cottage was once a coconut storeroom and stable but is today the largest guest room with a double bed and separate sitting area with wicker chairs and a sofa. This is also the only room to have a minibar. There’s a private garden with table, chairs and hammock and the open-air shower is decorated with potted plants.
Best rooms for families: Accommodation is flexible; the Heritage Rooms can fit one extra bed and two extra beds are allowed in the Luxury Cottage. The rooms can also accommodate a baby cot. Children aged between five and 12 who don’t require an extra bed are charged a nominal amount (see Rates for more information).
Heritage Room One can accommodate a family of four (if you add an extra bed); inter-connecting Heritage Rooms Two and Three work well for families with older children who require their own room. The Luxury Cottage is lovely and private, as it’s set away from the main house.
Cots are not available, so you would need to bring your own, babysitting is not offered but also not needed as all the rooms are near to the dining room (and there are no other dining options nearby).
Keralan cuisine is at the heart of the kitchen at Emerald Isle and the meals are created using locally grown herbs and spices and freshly caught fish.
Continental options include cereals, omelettes and toast. South Indian and Keralan breakfast are also offered such as poori-bhaji, dosa-chutney-sambar and Appam egg roast.
The menu changes daily and features Keralan cuisine as a rule. Simple continental dishes can be prepared but the chefs are more accustomed to cooking regional cuisine. Regional specialities include Karimeen Pollichathu (pearl spot fish fried in a banana leaf), Avoli Fry (fried pomfret) and Neimeen Curry (spicy Kerala fish curry). There is also an excellent selection of chicken and duck dishes as well as very good vegetarian dishes.
For Kids: There is no kids’ menu and for those children craving continental cuisine the options are limited. However, the chefs will allow you into the kitchen to whip up a plate of pasta (or equivalent) if necessary. There are no highchairs.
Activities for Parents
Lounge in a hammock with a good book, take a tour of the family’s farm and sneak a peek at the original property deeds hand-etched into 250-year-old palm leaves hanging in the living room.
Make an appointment with Emerald Isle’s Ayurvedic doctor and enjoy a relaxing Ayurvedic massage or book an appointment for a facial instead.
Cruise the backwaters at sunset in a wooden country canoe, go on a village tour, visit ancient temples and the 1400 year-old St Mary’s church.
Take a walk through the paddy and coconut plantations and learn the art of toddy tapping from coconut palms and then enjoy a cooking demonstration of Kuttanadan cuisine.
Activities for Kids
Take a dip in the river Pamba or go fishing for mudfish at Emerald Isle’s fish farm.
Criss-cross the maze of narrow canals in Emerald Isle’s own wooden canoe or see life on the backwaters at speed in a motor boat.
Get an understanding of local life with a village walk and then borrow a bicycle and pedal your way around the island.
Ask your parents to book Emerald Isle’s houseboat for an overnight cruise on the backwaters.
A/C, common room, doctor on call, nearest hospital is 20km away, 1 extra bed in Heritage Rooms, 2 extra beds in Luxury Cottage, inter-connecting rooms, laundry, Ayurvedic centre, WiFi.
At the time of writing rates were as follows:
Heritage Room: INR 5,700 (approx. US $90)
Granary Mini Suite: INR 6,500 (approx. US $105)
Luxury Cottage: INR 7,300 (approx. US $120)
Extra Bed: INR 1,500 (approx. US $25)
Children below 5 years: Free
Children 5 – 12 years without extra bed: INR 500 (approx. US $10)
Rates may vary. Please contact the hotel directly for a quote based on your family’s requirements.
When to go:
Tropical South India is hot year-round but the best time to visit is between October and March when it’s relatively dry and cool(er). During these months temperatures average around 30C. December and January are peak season and this is often reflected in hotel rates. From March the temperatures and humidity increases in the build up to the monsoon, which arrives in June.
Location & Travel:
Emerald Isle is located in the Backwaters, Kerala, India.
Cochin International Airport is 95 km away, roughly 1.5 hours drive. Trivandrum International Airport is 160 km away. There are regular direct flights to both airports form Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. Domestic airlines servicing these routes include Air India, Jet Airways, JetLite and Spice Jet. Emerald Isle can arrange transfers for an additional charge.
Alappuzha Railway Station is 13 km away and there are regular trains to Ernakulam (1hr 15 mins) and Trivandrum (3 hrs).
Contact The Hotel
For more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:
Reviewer’s Top Tips!
1) Keep your eye on adventurous tots if travelling with little kids, there is a lot of water here.
2) This is a simple homestay and while the food is delicious, it might not appeal to all kids, bring snacks if your child is a ‘particular’ eater!
3) Make sure to pack Arundhati Roy’s beautiful Booker Prize-winning book The God of Small Things set on the backwaters of Kerala.
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