The Family-Friendly Getaways You Haven’t Heard Of
School holidays are starting, and there’s one thought on our minds: How to get the hell out of the city. Now is the time for fresh air and stretched legs.
But we’re tired of the same old resorts. Sure, a five-star makes a family vacation easy, but we’d rather have something a little more unexpected… though just as comfortable. Here are five family-friendly boutique hotels we’ve stumbled upon, places where we’d love to linger and where visiting with kids of any age in tow is still relaxing.
Family-friendly boutique hotels in India
Anchaviyo Resort (Palghar)
Only 90 kilometers from Mumbai, Anchaviyo Resort perches on the Vaitarna River and spreads across 150 acres of vibrant Maharashtran landscape. Room options range from AC tents to luxury chalets, which means you don’t have to listen to complaints about the heat when you’re trying to sleep. Bicycles of all sizes are available to ride around the resort’s walkways, and there are balls and other sports equipment for use on a massive central green. The resort also offers kayaking on the river, as well as a pool for swimming. When the sun gets too hot, there’s a small indoor spa, a library and a movie theatre.
We love that the staff is relaxed but helpful, and activities are available but unstructured. The flexibility around accommodation type is also great (there are rooms that fit two to four people, plus extra beds).
The one drawback might be the one restaurant on the premises — delicious, but entirely vegetarian. (And no chance of sneaking in protein — or even general snacks — as the rooms don’t come with mini-fridges.)
Prices range from INR 6,000 to 28,000
Bungalow on the Beach (Tranquebar)
You’ve probably heard of the Neemrana Hotel group — 23 ‘non-hotels’ housed in converted heritage properties. The most famous is possibly the Fort Palace just outside of Delhi, but the Bungalow on the Beach is just as delightful, if lesser known.
Once home to the Danish Collector of Tranquebar, Bungalow on the Beach is an eight-room hotel that overlooks a 17th-century Danish fort and the Bay of Bengal. It offers a slightly more high-brow take on a beach holiday, for families who are tired of braving Goa’s electronica crowd. This boutique hotel’s primary drawback (and charm) is it’s out-of-the-way location: about a two-hour drive from Pondicherry. Which means once there, entertainment is limited and mostly experiential: touring the small city by foot, visiting a 14th-century temple, or the similarly ancient archaeological museum. The hotel also organizes boat rides to nearby fishing villages where you can explore the local industry and visit with fishermen in their homes.
The hotel has invested in the atmosphere more than amenities, so don’t expect room service, or a mini-fridge in the room. Or a drink with your meal — but meals make up for the abstinence: Breakfast is a solid affair of the basics, and the a la carte lunch and dinner menus are replete with delicious local curries and fresh seafood. Overall, we love how accommodating the staff is of children: high chairs are available at meals, and extra cots can be added for children at no charge.
Prices range from INR 6,500 to 8,500
Glenburn Tea Estate and Boutique Hotel (Darjeeling)
Located, unsurprisingly, on a 1,600-acre tea plantation in West Bengal, Glenburn Tea Estate and Boutique Hotel sits on a hilltop above the River Rungeet in the shadow of the Kanchenjunga range of the Himalayas. About a four-hour drive from the Bagdogra airport, this boutique hotel only has eight rooms, keeping the experience personal and relaxed. Similarly to Bungalow on the Beach, the estate itself is the main attraction, offering guided tour of the plantation that take guests from the picking to the roasting to the tasting — similar to what you might do at a vineyard, but here the whole family can sip and give their opinion. Beyond this, families can hike, fish and birdwatch. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the hotel library has a small collection of books, board games, and a TV.
While lovely, the resort is more of a homestay, and amenities are limited. Glenburn does not offer room service beyond a morning cuppa, nor are there mini-fridges in the room (though the staff offers extra cots for kids at no additional charge). Meals are served at fixed times in a formal, communal dining room (high chairs available!); the menus here are fixed, but the staff is happy to accommodate allergies or dietary preferences. Our favourite part: The hotel has an open kitchen policy, so if you’ve tasted something you love, you and the kids can hop back into the kitchen and the chef will give you all a little cooking class.
Prices start at INR 36,500 (inclusive of all meals and transfers) for two.
The Malabar House (Kochi)
The Malabar House became Kochi’s first heritage boutique hotel in 1996, so it’s been around for a while. But its modesty means you may not have heard of it. Located opposite the St. Francis Church in the historical Fort Cochin area and very close to the sea, Malabar House has 17 rooms and suites that are on the small side, but clean, well-serviced and comfortable (and all include a mini-fridge). The hotel happily adds beds and cots for children at no additional charge, though that might mean you feel a bit cramped at night.
Which is fine, because during the day, you won’t want to stick around. The hotel has a pool and an Ayurvedic spa, but the main draw is its access to the historical sites, like the Chinese fishing nets, reachable on foot or on one of the bicycles the hotel offers to adults and older children. And in the evening, you’ll linger downstairs where the hotel hosts live, instrumental music every night (winds down by 10pm) at its restaurant, where high chairs are available upon request. The restaurant serves delicious Kerala-style cuisine and boasts a wine bar, where you’ll find well-heeled locals hanging out post meals.
Prices range from INR 9,000 to 20,000
Sukoon is an eco-luxury, docked houseboat with five rooms. (One suite can accommodate two adults and two children, while the four remaining rooms are comfortable for two adults and one child under eight. It’s close quarters, so you’ll need to be okay with getting friendly with your fellow guests.) Secluded from the cramped rows of houseboats on the Dal Lake, Sukoon a place for the family to unplug and unwind; if that’s not the goal, then a holiday here could be interrupted by a lot of whining. Lounging on the boat deck, bird watching, and reading are the main activities, though the staff can arrange a walk in the surrounding hills and city. An organized shaikara (a kind of Kashmiri gondola) ride is also possible and will take you through the lake’s famous floating flower markets.
While luxurious, don’t forget the fact that it’s a boat with limitations: Sukoon doesn’t offer full room service. The rooms are well-designed, but basic, and there are no TVs on the property. WiFi is sporadic at best. But the staff can prepare Kashmiri, Indian and continental meals, so there’s an actual chance everyone’s food tastes can be satisfied. And they’ll also set up your meal outside under the stars — a treat, if the kids are awake, and super romantic if they’re already tucked in (beer and wine are available).
Prices range from INR 10,000 to 13,000 (inclusive of breakfast and dinner)