Mararikulam Beach Resorts - Abad Turtle Beach, CGH Marari Beach Resort, Carnoustie Beach Resort - Comparative Review

We got a chance to check-out the three most popular beach resorts in Mararikulam recently. Below is a comparative look at the three options: Abad Turtle Beach, Marari Beach Resort (Casino Group Hotels), and Carnoustie Beach Resort. To reach these resorts from Ernakulam area, take a Right from NH-47 about 10KM after Cherthala at Kalithattu Junction and drive ~3KM until you hit Mararikulam Beach Road (66 - Alapuzha-Arthunkal-Chellanum-Thoppumpady Road). Within the first kilometer to the Left, Marari Beach Resort comes on the Right and a little further down is Abad Turtle Beach. Less than a kilometer to the Right is Carnoustie on the Left. All three properties have similar basic amenities (gym, sauna, security, pool, beach access, A/C) but the service levels and sophistication are where they differ.

Abad Turtle Beach is the most economical among the three options. A beach cottage can be had for just under Rs 5000 (~$100 - the 19.92% in taxes are additional) on sale pricing online (regular pricing is Rs 8000 - ~$160). The online interface is however problematic - in some cases, the confirmed online pricing is not honored when checking in - there is a 50% charge for kids over six years, but that is not included in the online confirmed rate - the Terms & Conditions talk about it but reading that requires an additional Click and so is easy to miss - this can result in a very unpleasant first-impression as you will be asked to pay 50% more than the quoted rate. They have Beach Cottages and Beach Villas - cottages have a shared wall while villas are independent. The villas are located nearer the beach and that is an advantage as well. Pricing is around Rs 1000 per day higher for the villas. There are a total of 29 suites (three beach villas and 13 duplex cottages) spread over 13 acres. The beach villas are separated by the beach by a narrow strip of private land - beaches in Kerala are mostly government property and as such are not completely private - the beach area near this property is usually empty - two Abad staff members (life guard and security) are always present and they double-up to help with beach cots and such - a security personnel guards the entrance to the property from the beach as well. The villas/cottages have a very simple old-Kerala design that cannot be termed luxurious. Each villa/cottage has a sit-out in the back and some have hammocks in the adjacent yard area. The facility is fairly large with a butterfly garden, organic vegetable farming area, butterfly garden, and other open areas (mango, papaya, and sappota trees aplenty). The estuary invades parts of the property as well. Outdoor activities offered include a shuttle badminton court (around one-third smaller than a regular court), a basketball hoop attached to a tree, and bicycle rentals. The pool is nice (60ft x 24ft, 3ft to 4ft progressive depth - open to 7AM to 7PM, also a kiddie pool - 2ft dept, heavily chlorinated - goggles a must) although it cannot really be termed "an infinity pool" as the water body adjacent is smallish and so the visual effect of the pool merging with water-body that extends to the horizon is diminished. The restaurant is adjacent with seating for around 30 people (temporary seating is arranged around the pool when required). The restaurant service is pretty good - lunch is ala carte and dinner is  buffet (Rs 400 veg, Rs 500 non-veg, kids free) most days. Most of the guests choose to hang out in the pool area, the beach, or the ayurvedic wellness center. The wellness center has a doctor and unless you are pre-booked for a wellness package (7 to 28-day options at rates between 1000 and 4300 Euros depending on season and duration), you end-up calling several times to get an appointment - single massage session pricing varies between Rs 500 and Rs 1500 (~$10 to ~$30). The facility also has an indoor games room with a ping-pong table and a few other choices.
Marari Beach Resort is Casino Group’s flagship property. The facility consists of 52 villas in 25 acres of land. Standard villas are 400sft with a furnished verandah and private garden. The design is styled after the traditional fishing villages of Kerala with a thatched roof - they are however luxuriously furnished. The bathroom design is unique with a built-in traditional Kerala village style open-air courtyard with a fruit tree. Deluxe villas offer a private swimming pool and can accommodate a couple of additional people in the separate sitting area - they are ideal for families with kids. Most everything on offer at Marari Beach Resort is larger, better, and more professionally done compared to Abad Turtle Beach. With that level of service comes a higher cost - the best price online for a standard garden villa (400sft) for two comes to around Rs 8000 per-day (~$160) excluding taxes. For that, some of the upgrades compared to Abad Turtle Beach include:

  1. Authentic thatched-roof villa design with bathrooms that are reminiscent of old Kerala style bathrooms that are open to sky. They also have modern amenities such as AC, safety deposit box, minibar, full-length windows, etc but no TV. The airy design is prevalent in all buildings,
  2. Olympic-sized pool and beach-side dining option,
  3. Club-house format with several activities to choose from: live music, yoga classes, ayurvedic massage services, library, etc.
  4. Occasional folk art, music, dance, cooking, etc demonstrations along with active participation from staff,
  5. Outdoor activities such as lawn tennis court (clay) and volleyball court,
  6. Unlike Abad Turtle Beach which does not serve any kind of liquor, Marari Beach Resort stocks a full array (wine is served only by bottle and is quite expensive).
  7. Options to experience local village life without compromising on the comforts of a resort: bicycle rentals (to go around the area and possibly taste the local brew - toddy), roam around the public beach area, early morning bird watching trip, and the 4PM Chai service.

Carnoustie Beach Resort excels in opulence and extravagance. The property is very new (about one year since the grand opening) and the upkeep at this point is exceptional. There are 40 villas (some not operational yet) that vary in size from around 1100sft for the AKUND Deluxe Villa to over 2500sft for the PUNAG Pool Villa. The deluxe villas start at Rs 20,000pd (~$400) while the pool villas start at Rs 30,000pd (~$600) and goes up to Rs 60,000pd (~$1200) depending on size. There is a full-fledged Ayurvedic Spa, premium bicycle rentals, and beautifully manicured lawns on offer. The property is blessed with an excellent staff that will honor your every need as best as they can. Also, the food is excellent and a great deal of effort has went into providing a 5-star experience in this department. The resort however has several disadvantages:

  1. They are yet to get a bar-license and although their brochure mention they have a bar onsite, it is not true. Food in general is very good, but there is only one restaurant open, although they mention there are three in the brochure.
  2. The property cannot be viewed as one with a proper semi-private beach access. The access requires going past a road to the other side and the beach area itself is a more public area compared to the beach areas at Abad Turtle Beach and Marari Beach Resort.
  3. They mention all credit cards are accepted although if you try to use American Express they will not accept it.
  4. The villas are exceptional and there is a butler for each one. There is however a downside: the beds and pillows are hard as a rock!
  5. Possibly because the resort is very new, there is a general lack of activities compared to the other two resorts and service levels can be very slow (check-in, out, restaurant, etc): pretty good brand-new bicycles, the recreation room, some indoor games, library, the wonderful spa, and a fully-equipped gym facility (no AC) just about sums it up. Some classes are offered occasionally as well. In the evenings, there is live entertainment, but the quality is questionable.


Overall, Abad Turtle Beach is our choice if you are looking for a reasonably economical family-oriented choice. The resort offers a lot of the options at Marari Beach Resort (except bar service) in an understated manner at a better price. Marari Beach Resort is a great option, if you do not mind spending somewhat more for an overall better experience. Carnoustie Beach Resort is suitable for folks looking to be pampered by a great staff in an impeccably opulent setting.

Cautionary Note: The private land between these resorts and the beach has many trees, one of which is Othalam - it is a very poisonous fruit that is known as one of the preferred choices for suicide in the area - for visitors, this is really a hazard that should be marked, as the fruit can be easily mistaken for a mango.





Last Updated: 06/2013. 

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

Has the open defecation problem in Marari beach stopped now?

ks said...

Hello,

Beaches all over Kerala has this problem. Many resorts clean up their frontage and so it is somewhat mitigated for tourists. The underlying issue is that the beach itself is public land.

Regards,

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