Why you’ll love the Secret Garden
This charming family-friendly guesthouse is tucked away in a quiet residential area, close enough to Cochin’s highlights to make sight-seeing easy but far enough away to escape the high season hustle and bustle.
It’s an elegant, traditional Keralan home with low red-tiled roofs, wide verandas, wooden doors and shutters. There’s a blue-tiled swimming pool, dedicated yoga space under a mango tree and a courtyard garden. With just seven bedrooms the feel is definitely more homely than hotel.
The Secret Garden is owned and run by Thora, a self-confessed ‘migrating bird’ who divides her time between her native Iceland and Kerala. Her team are incredibly helpful and they go out of their way to help make your stay as enjoyable as possible.
Why the kids will love the Secret Garden
Children of all ages are welcome at the Secret Garden, however the pretty property operates on a B&B basis only so families with younger kids requiring in-house meals might not find it terribly convenient. For families with big kids and teens, however, the Secret Garden is an enchanting family-friendly option.
Two rooms in the newer wing have alcoves – or ‘window beds’ as they’re called – that double up as extra sleeping areas. The alcoves are intricately painted with colourful, traditional Indian murals echoing those found in the Dutch Palace. These ‘window beds’ are an excellent choice for families and tend to be a big hit with children.
The fabulous central swimming pool will appeal to all kids. There are bicycles to borrow and from here it’s only a five-minute pedal to Vasco da Gama Square with its snap-worthy Chinese Fishing Nets and Cochin’s charming old streets with restaurants, cafés, shops and galleries.
There are seven bedrooms; three doubles, three triples and one suite. Four bedrooms are located on the ground floor of the main house, opening onto the veranda and central courtyard, and the other three rooms are positioned in the two-storey annex that faces the original home.
The bedrooms are simple but stylish with terracotta tiled floors, high ceilings, locally crafted hand-carved furniture and canopied four-poster beds that are covered in floaty white mosquito nets. The bathroom walls have been finished using natural pigment tempera and there are white dressing gowns for guests to use.
Bedrooms One, Two, Three, and Four are in the main home. Bedroom One is a triple with two single beds in one room and another bed in a small adjoining room. Bedroom Two is a twin-bedded room and Bedroom Three has a double bed. Bedroom Four has one double bed and a single bed in a small adjoining room. These rooms are all fairly small.
Bedrooms Five, Six and Seven are in the new two-storey annex and are considerably larger and lighter. Bedrooms Five and Six are on the ground floor and open onto a shared veranda overlooking the central courtyard, the swimming pool and the main house beyond. Bedroom Five is large with a four-poster bed and a fantastic ‘window bed’ painted with a colourful Indian mural. This ‘window bed’ is large enough to double up as an extra bed. Next door, Bedroom Six is a smaller with one double bed. Bedroom Seven covers the entire first floor and has a four-poster double bed, a large ‘window bed’ and a spacious bathroom with twin vanities.
Best rooms for families: The rooms in the new annex are a great choice for families, particularly rooms Five and Seven. The ‘window beds’ work well as extra beds and two smaller children could easily sleep in them together. Both these rooms can accommodate an additional extra bed (subject to availability as the hotel only has one extra bed) or cot.
In the main house, room Four is a good option for families with just one child, as the main bedroom has an attached single bedroom. Families travelling with older children could take adjoining rooms in the main house and there are a variety of options that might suit including twin, triple and double rooms.
There are no cots available and no babysitting on offer.
Secret Garden operates on a B&B basis only and there are no other meals or snacks available other than breakfast. However, the kitchen is open 24-hours and available for guests to use. If you do feel like cooking yourself then the lively Pattalam market is nearby where you can buy fresh fruits, yoghurt and vegetables.
The continental style breakfasts are served outside (weather permitting) and the spread includes muesli, homemade multigrain bread, curd, homemade marmalade, fruit, cheese, eggs cooked to order, fresh juices and excellent coffee.
For Kids: There is no dedicated children’s menu. There are no highchairs.
Activities for Parents
Take part in the early morning yoga sessions held on the rosewood deck under the mango tree and then relax poolside.
Wander along to Vasco da Gama square to see the cantilevered Chinese Fishing Nets in the morning, watch the catch of the day being hauled in and then sold at the local market.
Stroll the delightful streets of old Fort Cochin and enjoy the eclectic architecture and old colonial charm.
Hop into an auto-rickshaw and head to Mattancherry’s Jew Town district, once the centre of the spice trade and now the place for antique shopping.
Make sure to visit the Jewish Cemetery and Paradesi Synagogue; the synagogue dates back to 1568 making it the oldest in the Commonwealth.
Eat, eat and eat some more! Coconut-fuelled Keralan curries are absolutely delicious.
Activities for Kids
Swim in the Secret Garden’s sparkling, central swimming pool.
Borrow a bicycle and pedal along to the Chinese Fishing Nets and watch the fishermen manoeuvre these enormous cantilevered contraptions; you might even be able to join in.
Explore the crumbling but charming streets of Fort Cochin stopping by Teapot for cake en route.
Step all aboard for an evening sunset cruise along the waters looking out for dolphins along the way.
Visit the local Kathakali centre and watch the artists apply their colourful and detailed make-up before enjoying a performance of this highly stylised art form. Traditional martial arts demonstrations are also performed here.
A/C, common room, doctor on call, the nearest hospital is 19km away, laundry, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.
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:
Secret Garden is located in Fort Cochin, Kerala, India.
Cochin International Airport is at Nedumbassery, 40km from the hotel. The drive from the airport to Fort Cochin can take 1 to 1.5 hours owing to the traffic, although this can drop to under an hour if you arrive at night. Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, IndiGo and Go Air all fly to Cochin.
There are two train stations in Ernakulam, Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction. Daily trains run to Trivandrum via either Alleppey or Kottayam and there are also services to Thrissur, Calicut and Kannur.
1) This is a very homely but simple B&B, if you want an all singing and dancing resort-type hotel, this is not the place for you.
2) Secret Garden can be a little tricky to find, call Thora before you arrive so that she can give your taxi driver directions.
3) Make sure to visit the Chinese Fishing Nets!