The Big Six: Beach retreats in Kerala

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Surf hotels, secluded beaches, whitewashed villas, untouched coastline and private plunge pools

Soul & Surf, Varkala

Soul & Surf opened in this seductive south Indian state last month. Billing itself as the region's first dedicated surf hotel, it promises the perfect getaway for those wanting to combine physical thrills with time on the beach at Varkala. Led by British couple Sofie and Ed, the team will provide daily transport to the best waves and lessons for all abilities. For non-surfers, there are plenty of other ways to relax too. Take long strolls on empty beaches, enjoy a massage or sample fresh local seafood.

Soul & Surf, Varkala (020-81235643; soulandsurf.com). Weekly stays from £185pp, including breakfast and surf lessons.

Surya Samudra, Kovalam

The perfect combination of traditional Keralan charm and modern-day comfort, Surya Samudra has 31 private cottages just minutes from a secluded beach in Kovalam. Spend lazy days enjoying ocean views from the sparkling infinity pool or enjoy a "spice massage" treatment at the Ayurvedic spa, before feasting on piquant cuisine in one of the two restaurants, Café Samsara and the cliff-top Essence, both of which have views across the Arabian Sea.

Surya Samudra, Kovalam (00 91 471 248 0413; niraamaya.in). Doubles start at INR8,095 (£81), including breakfast.

Karikkathi, Trivandrum

The scenic location where Karikkathi now stands was first discovered by owners Sajjad and Shaina on their travels across India. Today, the scene remains as picturesque as ever, with dense palms hiding a single whitewashed villa, set back from the sand. The two rooms inside can be rented individually or as a whole property. If you tire of lolling around and generally doing a lot of nothing, the bustling state capital, Trivandrum, is just half an hour's drive away and Kovalam is even closer.

Karikkathi, Trivandrum (00 91 471 272 0238; karikkathibeachhouse.com). Doubles start at €90, full board.

Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kasaragod

Neeleshwar Hermitage offers the best of both worlds, with 16 cottages pitched just seconds away from the untouched coastline and close proximity to Kerala's exotic backwaters – a series of interconnected lagoons and lakes that run parallel to the coast. Guests can enjoy breakfast on the beach and then embark on a cruise aboard a beautiful houseboat. Bikes and guided tours are also on hand.

Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kasaragod (00 91 467 228 7510; neeleshwarhermitage.com). Doubles start at INR12,810 (£129), including breakfast.

Marari Villas, Marari

This collection of three serviced villas offers a home from home on a secluded beach mid-way up the Keralan coast. Ranging in size from one bedroom to three, there's a villa to suit most people. The two family cottages, Orchid and Hibiscus, each have a private pool within their walled gardens, while the larger Palm Villa opens straight on to the beach. A chef provides meals on request, but guests are also free to enjoy their own personal slice of heaven undisturbed.

Marari Villas, Marari (00 91 99 47 948707; mararivillas.com). Doubles start at INR7,500 (£76), with breakfast.

Vivanta by Taj, Bekal

This Vivanta hotel by the Taj group allows guests to experience the best of the beach and the backwaters as the two converge on the resort's grounds. There are 71 luxury rooms, some of which feature a private plunge pool and the resort is just seconds from Kappil Beach on the lesser-known north coast. Kayaking, fishing and trekking are offered during the day; a dinner of regional Keralan cuisine at the Latitude restaurant or laxed barbecue beside the pool await at night.

Vivanta by Taj, Bekal (00 91 467 661 6612; vivantabytaj.com). Doubles start at INR7,500 (£75), room only.

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