Whether you seek a romantic getaway, a cultural immersion, or a rejuvenating escape, Coconut Lagoon is a time capsule to championing slow life!
By: T. Kashyap
Posted on: August 2, 2023
LF Says: ★★★★★
Just a few days after Kerala’s backwater paradise, Kumarakom, welcomed the dignitaries for the first-ever G20 meeting in April 2023, I arrived in this quaint little town filled with natural canals. Moreover, it was the only Indian state on this year’s The New York Times list of 52 Places To Go. Truly, Kerala is one such place that mesmerises you at the very first glimpse. And this little gem in Kottayam district made it to that esteemed list.
Kumarakom captivates the senses, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of all who are fortunate enough to experience its allure. And as I pen this down, I consider myself lucky enough to have been able to absorb the goodness of this pristine wetland.
Landing in Kochi on a serene April evening, I headed off to Kumarakom the next morning. As you approach the archipelago scattered on the eastern edge of the Vembanad Lake (the longest one in India), the atmosphere changes. You’re welcomed by a tranquil breeze while your eyes feel relaxed by the scenic beauty of the backwaters. The scene is unparalleled.
I was staying at Coconut Lagoon by CGH Earth, which is (literally) located amidst the Vembanad Lake. You have to take a boat to reach the retreat. As you set on your journey on the private jetty, the beautiful scenes of Kumarakom unveil. The gentle lapping of the water against the boat creates a soothing soundtrack that relaxes you. The surrounding landscape is a picturesque canvas of swaying coconut palms, lush greenery, dense mangrove forests, and glimpses of village life along the shoreline.
A short ten-minute boat ride later, I approached the gates of Coconut Lagoon.
Amidst the backwaters
As soon as you arrive at the resort, you hear the unmissable rhythm of traditional musical instruments, and soon enough, you are greeted by the reception team. The resort is a real spot of luxury and tranquility with a blend of tradition and heritage.
But what makes the stay in Coconut Lagoon most enticing is being in the old mansions—tharavads, the once-upon-a-time traditional ancestral homes found in Kerala. The mansions and villas offer visitors a glimpse into the state’s rich cultural heritage. They have a range of elegantly designed villas and bungalows, each exuding a unique charm and character.
Staying in one of their ‘heritage mansions’, it was really a beautiful experience to witness this architectural marvel. The Heritage Mansion is a duplex setting with a bedroom upstairs and a living and bathing space downstairs. The open-air bathroom with its natural stone finishes and tropical greenery provides a refreshing and rejuvenating experience.
In fact, the tharavads at the resort have been transplanted from nearby villages and reassembled here!
The entire mansion overlooks the expansive lake and you wouldn’t know how time passes by as you soak into the pristine environment. I spent most of my time looking at the various houseboat cruises and canoe rides as they sailed by. Oh, What an enchanting sight! The panoramic vistas that unfold before your eyes leave you in awe of the natural beauty. And if not from your rooms, you can simply relax on the chairs on the veranda and soak in the sights.
The resort's meticulous landscaping ensures that every corner is immersed in greenery. The well-manicured gardens, with their neatly trimmed hedges and carefully arranged plants, exude a sense of serenity. The rich variety of flora not only enhances the visual appeal but also creates a fragrant and sensory experience as you wander through the resort.
Soak in Kerala’s architectural marvel
A standout feature of CGH Earth is its commitment to preserving the natural environment and the local heritage. Coconut Lagoon’s wooden cottages with thatched roofs are no more seen around in modern Kerala. In fact, the tharavads at the resort have been transplanted from nearby villages and reassembled here!
What draws your attention most are the wooden carvings and decorative elements. Intricate designs are etched on the wooden beams and pillars, depicting various mythological figures, and geometric patterns. It’s a delight to marvel at this ancient craftsmanship. The roofs are covered with traditional terracotta tiles, giving a rustic and charming appeal. The doors feature Manichitrathazhu - an ornate locking system featuring complex and intricate mechanism with multiple levers.
The reception space of Coconut Lagoon showcases the most notable and traditional feature of tharavads, the central courtyard, known as the nadumuttam. It’s an open-air space, surrounded by rooms and verandas, providing ample ventilation and natural light. Curious to know more about it, the team at the resort explained how this ancient Indian architectural system emphasises harmony with nature and cosmic energy.
Inside Coconut Lagoon, you are always greeted by a canopy of swaying coconut palms. These tall and elegant trees are symbolic of Kerala's coastal charm as they sway in the gentle breeze. There are even backwaters and canals that meander through the property.
Embracing culinary traditions
The culinary experience at Coconut Lagoon is a gastronomic delight. Every meal is a blend of cultures and you truly understand why the state is a hub for spice traders, and is referred to as the ‘Spice Garden of India’.
While you can find dishes from all around the world, indulging in unique and traditional meals brings a new culinary high to your vacation. As opposed to most hotels, their sumptuous buffet spread showcases an extensive range of Kerala's culinary delights and does not disappoint.
At Ettukettu, their main restaurant, I loved relishing the flavours of Appam with almost anything-creamy, aromatic stews or spicy, rich gravies. From breakfast, and comforting lunch, to delightful dinners, they had become a beloved part of my stay.
Their lakeside restaurant, Aymanam, gives an authentic seafood experience. Set in a traditional Kerala-style building, with its wooden beams, sloping roofs, and open-air seating, the restaurant has an inviting and intimate atmosphere. I dined for only one night and it was enough to tantalise my palate with their succulent seafood delicacies. From fish curries to spicy prawn masalas, I couldn’t get enough and it’s a must-visit!
And if you wish to learn the secrets of Kerala's cuisine, then head to their cooking demonstrations. From grinding spices on a traditional stone to cooking over an open fire using clay pots, you can witness and participate in the age-old techniques that have been passed down through generations.
Sailing in the Vembanad
While you’re in Coconut Lagoon, there’s not going to be a dull day. Whether you choose to relax, explore, or engage in local traditions, the resort lets you immerse in the culture of Kerala at its best.
Indulge in a rejuvenating and relaxing spa experience rooted in the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda. Or enjoy traditional dance forms like Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, or Kalaripayattu martial arts. Take a leisurely bike ride or a nature walk through the resort's lush gardens and surrounding areas. This was also the first time I witnessed a butterfly garden, and it’s magical! With several species of butterflies and ponds with turtles, it’s natural therapy.
However, I couldn’t get enough of paddling through the serene backwaters on a kayak. And if it’s your first time like mine, it will be an experience of a lifetime. We started off early morning and Abhinash, the kayak guide, ensured it was a piece of cakewalk activity.
At first, the kayak was quite wobbly, but as I got used to it, I became more adept at controlling it. The calm waters of the Vembanad made the task easy. As I paddled through the tranquil waters, I came across local fishermen in their traditional wooden canoes, going about their morning routines. Truly, the worries and stresses of everyday life fade away with the simple joy of being on the water!
As the day progressed, I decided to skip the regular sunset cruise on their canoe and instead take a kayak sunset ride instead. That's something I highly recommend! As the sun sets, the lake transforms into a magical landscape. Witnessing the breathtaking beauty of a sunset over the backwaters seemed like a healing experience.
As you paddle further into the water, witness the gradual transformation of the sky. Shades of orange, pink, and purple begin to emerge, painting a stunning tableau. Enjoying the changing colours of the sky; listening to the soothing sounds of nature while the gentle breeze carries a sense of tranquility - nature seems to slow down. Embrace the stillness of the moment!
When the sun descended lower on the horizon, the golden light casts enchanting shadows over the landscape.
Kumarakom is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, and I did go on a bird-watching tour to observe a diverse range of birds, like kingfishers, egrets, herons and even majestic eagles. These small birds are a delight to watch as they dart across the water, plunging with lightning speed to catch fish. So keep your eyes peeled out for these beautiful creatures as you sail along.
When the sun descended lower on the horizon, the golden light casts enchanting shadows over the landscape. “God’s own country”, as Keralites like to call it, leaves your heart full. And then I realised that finding bliss is not complicated. Sometimes, it can just appear out of nowhere—in the middle of a lake.
LF Says: ★★★★★