The Luxe List 2012, India: Vivanta by Taj – Bekal at Kappil Beach

Bringing a dash of secluded style to the northern backwaters of Kerala, the latest addition to India’s Vivanta by Taj brand is well worth the two-hour drive from the airport at Mangalore, just across the state border in neighboring Karnataka. The 71-villa retreat is set behind Kappil Beach on luxuriant grounds overlooking a placid, palm-fringed river, which guests can explore by kayak or by foot along waterside trails.

Roofs and awnings of hand-woven bamboo reference traditional kettuvallam houseboats, while inside the laterite-clad villas, rooms are decorated with wall murals inspired by chitra pothi (palm leaf) art; the most covetable units come with private courtyards and plunge pools. At Latitude, the resort’s main restaurant, chef Valentine Athaide is at his best with Keralan dishes such as a tangy karimeen fish fried in banana leaves. The heart of the property, however, is the 15,000-square-meter jiva grande spa, which features yoga and meditation pavilions, ornamental ponds, and a dedicated Ayurveda facility with a comprehensive menu of treatments. Try the Vishrama, a deep muscle massage that uses essential oils of eucalyptus, Indian ginseng, sesame, and camphor.

Bekal; 91-467/661-6612;; doubles from US$282.

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