Family Hotel Review: The Dune Eco Village & Spa, Pondicherry, India

Located on the Coramandel Coast of Tamil Nadu The Dune is a wonderfully creative eco-getaway that families are sure to love. It’s a fantastic location, the accommodation is original and fun, and there are non-stop activities for everyone to enjoy.

Best For: Families travelling together, grandparents; kids of all ages

Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell

Why You’ll Love It

Located on the Coramandel Coast of Tamil Nadu The Dune is a wonderfully creative eco-getaway that parents and children of all ages are sure to love.

Set amid 35 acres of organic farm The Dune resembles a small village with 50 individually designed cottages, villas and rooms each differing in size, design and feel. The accommodation – partly crafted using reclaimed materials from South Indian heritage properties – is quirky and colourful with lively artwork and splashes of local culture. There are two excellent restaurants to choose from, both serving healthy organic fare, plenty of fresh seafood and South Indian specialities.

Sandy tracks link the resort and the best way to get around is on one of the hotel’s bicycles. You can do laps in the infinity pool, soak up the sun on the private stretch of sand, serve a game of tennis or join in the daily afternoon volleyball competition. If you’re seeking a dose of (Gallic) culture then pretty Pondicherry is just 15km away and the experimental town of Auroville is nearby too.

 

Why The Kids Will Love It

If you’re looking for a family holiday destination then The Dune ticks all the right boxes: fantastic location, original and fun accommodation, and so much to do.

The setting is the perfect playground for children of all ages. For younger children there is a shallow children’s wading pool, enormous sandpit (with a ragtag collection of toys) and a playground with a slide, swings and multi-coloured playhouses fashioned from old water storage tanks. Daily tours lead to The Dune’s very own farm where chickens, turkeys and rabbits live, and kids can even try milking one of the docile (and very patient) cows. Organised children’s activities include art and pottery lessons and there are a handful of kid’s bikes for zooming around the property. The Dune is located right on the beach but guests should note that this is a public beach with little shade. The sea is also too rough here for little swimmers.

Older children and teenagers will love the complete freedom which comes from holidaying here as well as the myriad of activities on offer; swimming, tennis, volleyball, boating, and horse riding are just some of the ways they can fill their days. There’s also a very impressive DVD library with over 1500 titles and a cosy lounge to watch them in.

Hotel Details

Rooms:

The 50 rooms are highly creative and a lot of fun, each with a unique theme and design. Options range from thatched huts on stilts and slick modern villas to a soaring Tower Suite with views over the ocean and artist studios that come with their own pool.

The more basic rooms are ‘nature-cooled’ meaning they are open to the elements (and occasional creepy-crawlies!) and cooled by the ocean breeze. These charming beach ‘shacks’ tend to have roofs of palm thatch and walls made from casuarina or betelnut branches. Most have ceiling fans.

The modern or contemporary rooms are better equipped with air conditioning and DVD players. These rooms tend to be decorated with local art and many have a private garden. A handful of rooms, including the Dome House, can sometimes feel damp owing to the position of the bathroom in the bedroom itself. The two ground floor artist studios both come with a 20-foot private pool.

There are pool villas too, although these are less suited to young, curious (non-swimming) children.

 

Best rooms for families: Many of the rooms can accommodate a travel cot if you are travelling with an infant. The following are the best rooms for those travelling with more than one child, older children or those families that simply require more space. Extra beds are available and the number permitted depends on the room type.

Baywatch House The seven Baywatch Houses sit near the beach and swimming pool. Of these, there are several which are well suited for families. Numbers Four and Five connect making them a good choice for families with older children. Number One is large and has a daybed, which acts as a good bed for kids and/or space for a cot. Number Seven has two bedrooms and two attached bathrooms as well as a large lounge. Numbers Two, Three and Six are not particularly suited to families.

The Courtyard House Built in the style of a traditional Kerala planter house, The Courtyard House has three bedrooms with attached bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms also have a mezzanine space to accommodate children. There is a large open-air lounge, fishpond and a private lawn.

Bangle House Decorated using broken pieces of traditional glass bangles, this colourful cottage has a double bedroom and a separate lounge.

The Art Deco House This beautiful 60-year-old Art Deco wood planter’s house has two separate rooms with attached bathrooms and a large lounge in the middle. There is a private garden to the front and rear of the house.

The Doll House Home to a collection of antique dolls and miniature colonial doll’s house furniture is this pretty wooden planter’s house. There are two bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a large private garden and views of the pool.

The Family House The colourful Family House has two ensuite double bedrooms, a lounge and dining room and a well-equipped kitchen. There is also a private garden.

The Kerala House This Kerala Planter’s Mansion is over 150-years-old and made from wild Jack Fruit timber. There are two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, an indoor and outdoor lounge, a private garden with pond.

The Wood House 3 The recently opened Wood House 3 is another traditional Kerala planter house that has one double bedroom, a large lounge with mezzanine area that functions as an additional sleeping area, and a bathroom with a double shower. There’s also a private garden.

 

Food: 

There are two restaurants at The Dune, the main FUN (Food U Need) Restaurant at the heart of the resort where all meals are served, and the poolside Seafood Bar that overlooks the kids’ pool that is open for lunch and dinner. Recent reports from guests say that the service can be very slow.

Breakfast is served in the FUN restaurant with a generous buffet offering freshly squeezed juices, croissants and breads as well as yoghurts, fruits and cereals. The south Indian organic coffee is particularly good. You may also choose local breakfast specialities, and the dosas (crispy South Indian pancakes) are particularly tasty.

Lunch and dinner are served at both the FUN Restaurant and the Seafood Bar. The extremely family-friendly FUN Restaurant has an extensive menu offering both continental and Indian cuisine. The emphasis is on made-to-order food using fresh organic produce wherever possible and the menu is a mix of “hypotoxic” and “non-hypotoxic” cuisine. A large proportion of the ingredients used are grown on the farm or from the hotel’s sister property, Elephant Valley, located in the Palni Hills, an area of the Western Ghats. The Seafood Bar serves excellent barbequed seafood as well as salads, sandwiches and snacks and is located next to the children’s play area.

For Kids: Kids get their own menu and children’s meals are served throughout the day. The Family House has a well-equipped kitchen for self-catering and you can book a chef for if you don’t feel like cooking. Snacks and light bites are available throughout the day. Room service is available but there is no separate menu and you should order well in advance as service can be slow.

 

Activities: 

Activities for Parents:

Stroll along the beach, swim laps in the infinity pool, take a jog along the 2km running track or simply soak up the sunshine on one of the poolside loungers.

Take part in an early morning yoga session before pampering yourself with a treatment at the award-winning Ayuvedic spa.

Wander the boulevards of neighbouring ‘Pondy’ (Pondicherry), a former French colony that maintains a Gallic air of je ne sais quoi. Browse the boutiques, have a game of petanque, and savour an espresso at one of the many cafés.

Visit utopia, or at least the experimental utopian community of Auroville where 2,000 people live in apparent harmony. Make sure to check out the great golden dome of Matri Mandir.

Play tennis, pedal around the grounds, practice your putting and get your heart racing in the daily beach volleyball game against the Dune staff – be warned, they’re good!

 

Activities for Kids:

Build sandcastles in the sandpit and even bigger ones on the beach, play on the playground, scoot around the grounds on two wheels, and splash and swim in the kid’s swimming pool.

Join the daily afternoon visit to the farm to milk cows, feed rabbits, and ogle at the turkeys.

Learn to use a potter’s wheel, fly kites, and play table games in the games house that’s positioned alongside the kids’ swimming pool.

Marvel at the Gingee (Jinji) Fort, one of the most unassailable in India and devise ways of penetrating the ancient walls.

Book a horse-riding trip or join the local fishermen on an early morning trip to sea.

Work your way through the DVD library (there are 1500 to choose from!) and then kick back in the lounge with a movie or two.

Goofy foot it over to the small fishing village of Tandryankupam, just 2km from Pondicherry, and learn to surf the waves. The best months for beginners are February – June; advanced surfers should visit between June and January.

 

Facilities: 

A/C, babysitting, common rooms, baby cots available, doctor on call, English-speaking paediatrician in Pondicherry, nearest hospital 10 mins away, extra beds, inter-connecting rooms, kids’ activities, kids’ club, kids’ menu, laundry, shop, spa, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.

 

Rates: 

Rates vary considerably according to type of room and date of travel. Please contact the hotel for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements. Additional rates apply for children sharing a room with their parents.

 

Travel Information 

 

When to go: 

The best time to visit The Dune is from late November until the end of March when you’ll enjoy sunny days with temperatures ranging between 25-35C. The temperatures rise from April onwards and it starts to feel more humid. Tamil Nadu experiences two monsoons; the summer one falls in July and August and the winter monsoon starts in October and lasts until the end of November.

 

Location & Travel: 

The Dune is located near Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu, southwest India.

Chennai International Airport is the nearest airport and is located 135km away. It can take anywhere from two to four hours to drive between the airport and the Dune depending on the road conditions and traffic. Chennai Airport is served by regular daily flights to many Indian cities by domestic airlines including Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet and IndiGo.

Villupuram Station is the nearest train station, 52km inland from The Dune (roughly one hour by car). From here you can catch trains to Chennai and Bangalore.

 

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Contact this hotel

For more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:

The Dune Eco Resort & Spa

Reviewer’s Top Tips!

Reviewed by: Katja Gaskell
Co-founder, globetotting.com

1) Bring a backpack for babies & little kids (so that you can still ride a bike around the resort)
2) Service is slow. Order food before the kids get hungry!
3) Rooms vary in quality, make sure you check which room you have been assigned as some are significantly better than others.

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