The Gateway Hotel Janardhanapuram Varkala
10 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Awful bad service and not 5*
"We actually didnt end up staying but have to tell the story anyway.
We had been travelling in Kerala for 2.5 weeks and really wanted a upmarket hotel for our final couple of nights. We went to the hotel and had a look at one of the rooms, they were not that up market but they did have what we really wanted, a double bed not 2 singles pushed together that you get a lot of in India, the room they showed us was fine, and mainly had that double bed! we booked at the reception.
Went back 2 days later, got shown our room which now had 2 single beds pushed together, not only this but it took half an hour at reception to get checked in, then another 10 to give us the key.
We complained and were shown another 2 rooms, all of which did not have the right bed and were in worst state than the first.
The staff were helpful but as we stood in recption you just felt it was a bit trying to be posh but not at all, we wanted something relaxed and friendly, as they were asking Â£50 for a room we didnt really want we left and went back to the Preeth Beach Resort which we had stayed in for 4 nights and loved, also this is 10mins from the cliffs and beach unlike the Taj. DO NOT STAY HERE!"
- Travel date: Fri 16th of March 2007
tired hotel but fantastic staff
"We booked our honeymoon at this hotel through thomas cook where kuoni advertise a first class hotel. 3 weeks before we left we read the bad reviews on here and tried desperately to change hotel but had no luck. So we flew dreading getting to this terrible hotel, but after a heart attack inducing drive from trivandrum airport we were surprised that it looked so pleasant at the front. We were shown to our room which was musty smelling and had damp problems in the wardrobe (#215), we complained and were moved room immediately. We decided we wanted better from the honeymoon and asked to move hotel which is when the manager told us this is infact a 3* hotel, it was a sunday and they couldn't do anything so we stayed for one night and had dinner, he most fantastic prawns i have ever eaten! We saw another hotel but the staff weren't a patch on those at the taj. We had 4 days of excursions organised by sherwin at the hotel and had a fantastic time. These included an elephant safari, a sight seeing tour, valentines night on a house boat on the backwaters and a shopping trip to Kollam.
Yes the hotel is tired and a bit tatty round the edges but it has its charms and the staff are a real credit to the hotel. The food was fantastic and transport from the hotel was excellent. We took a tuktuk to the beach and had a lovely walk through the waves. All in all we had a lovely time, if you only want the room to sleep in then this hotel is just fine, we would even go back there. We are writing to kuoni as we still feel we were mis-sold the holiday but the blame lies solely kuoni and not the hotel as they made our stay very enjoyable, kuoni don' even have the right photo in the brochure!
Please give this hotel a chance! if you want a relaxed holiday with quality food and helpful staff go here!"
- Travel date: Thu 22nd of February 2007
Needs updating .... a quickly!
"Unfortunately we had stayed at a lot of 5* hotels before we arrived at the Taj so it was always going to be a disappointment. Even though I had booked via the internet months before the trip, and the fact that I had phoned the hotel days before arrival, the suite that I booked was not available. We were told that the current occupants wanted to stay an extra night. I asked why they couldn't be moved to a standard room but this was laughed. The situation was handled very badly by the front desk staff and they didn't know how to deal with an increasingly frustrated customer.
So, we stayed in a standard room for the first of our planned 7 nights. It was very dated which made it look dirty. I hit my head on the light shade which fell off and produced a cloud of dust. There is no in room booklet to tell you about the hotel facilities or local area. The balcony is nice with a good view and plants.
The following day our suite was available. It was an impressive size located on the 3rd floor however it had the same problem of looking very dated. The room just didn't feel cosy or comfortable.
Although the staff were very pleasant I was annoyed that I wasn't offered a lounger matt from the pool attendant even though we were the first ones at the pool. In fact he seemed to ignore us completely. We ate lunch and dinner at the hotel. Both meals were very nice with a good choice (especially for us vegetarians). I did manage to break into a smile when I searched out the "Fitness Centre". The "Fitness Centre" is located in a room approx 2.5m X 2.5m and contains 1 running machine and 4 weights. I don't actually think there is enough room in there to use the weights. This room is a joke and should not be advertised by the Taj.
Because of the way our booking was handled we checked out after 1 night without even spending a night in the suite and took a 5 hour journey back to Kumarakom (Radisson).
Varkala itself seemed nice. It has some great value restaurants serving excellent food. The only problem is getting to the shops/restaurants - although the hotel cannot be blamed for this. If you are healthy and have night vision goggles then you will be fine (it is approx 10 mins to the beach - 25 mins to the cliff top).
If you get a good rate on this hotel and go with a low expectation then I am sure you can ignore some of the problems and have a good holiday. If you are stupid enough to stay in 5* accomodation before you arrive at the Taj (like us) then you will be disappointed!"
- Travel date: Thu 8th of February 2007
Ok but run down.
"Trust the other reviews. It is about a 10 minute walk to the main shops and cafes. If you wanna walk down to the beach you have to walk through scrb that can not be done at night. You are not on the beach! The rooms are ok but old and the pool area is really run down. If you are looking for a nice hotel to spend a few days don't waste the money here!"
- Travel date: Wed 17th of January 2007
Great Service, shame about the decor
"We stayed at the Taj Varkala at Xmas 06. First impressions were that the hotel has seen better days, the place does need a revamp. The rooms did smell rather musty (but you got used to that), the fittings were rather basic and rather annoyingly there was no safe in the room.
This Taj is certainly not of a similar standard to other Taj hotels (where we have stayed before). However the food at the hotel was excellent (buffets mainly) and very authentically South Indian and was indeed better than some of the local eateries in the actual beach resort.
The staff at the hotel were very friendly and service orientated. The walk to the beach is a bit long (10mins) and yes you do need to go through some jungly type areas, but this is India after all and you need to appreciate that not everything is going to be 5 star.
With regards to the beach (there are 2), it was clean, the locals did not bother us at all apart from offering to sell pineapples and other fruit and in no way felt at all dangerous.
All in all Varkala is less touristy than Kovalam and rather a nice experience, the hotel does need a revamp though."
- Travel date: Sat 6th of January 2007
Do not go to this resort unless you have low standards
"Point of View: my husband and I are from the States and frequently visit 3-5 star hotels and resorts.
During our trip to south india, we went to both this Taj resort and Taj Cove Resort at Kovallam. The two resorts are night and day and it is hardly believable that they are the same chain.
We arrived at the Taj Garden Retreat at nearly 4pm and were told our room was not ready and waited nearly 20 minutes for it to be cleaned. The Taj Garden Retreat is a blast from the past, and not necessarily a welcome one. The rooms are so dated that its hard to tell what year it is if your in your room, maybe late 1970's. Not only are the rooms dated, they have the added downfall of also being dirty. Our shower curtain was moldy and the bedspreads were dingy and tattered. Outside of the room is a private garden area, which is mainly populated with flies, misquotos and even garbage.
On top of the unfortunate condition of the room are other negatives. The hotel's beach is non-existant and to get to the public Varkala beach you have to walk quite a distance through a jungle sort of atmosphere, passing stinky open sewer systems along the way. Once at the beach the area where tourists swim is quite far, and the "local" beach is scary for tourists. I'm not even sure if you could leave your towel safely on the beach while you swim.
The food at the resort is not good at all. The entertainment was even worse than the food. They had a man singing Karaoke, not only did he not know most of the words, he sang the same songs over and over. We were subjected to strange and almost embarrassing selections from Dire Straights "Waterline" to "Knights in White Satin". Repeatedly.
The one positive aspect is the staff, they are very friendly and eager to please. They are tripping over themselves to help you. however in the end, great service doesn't make a bad hotel good."
- Travel date: Tue 26th of December 2006
This hotel was a BIG disappointment
"The Taj Group of hotels is recognied as being one of India's best but the rooms in this hotel were a great disappointment. When the bedroom door was opened the first thing that hit us was the dreadful musty smell. Both rooms we occupied were damp. Clothes placed in the storage area at night were damp when removed in the morning. Bedrooms are poorly furnished and bathrooms are antiquated. Sometimes bath towels were O.K., other times they were thin and frayed. Sheets on one bed were torn with the blanket sticking through. If you are looking for quality accommodation you will not find it here!
I would rate this hotel "terrible" were it not for the location and the staff. It stands in beautiful well-kept grounds and superior rooms look out on lovely colourful little gardens. The staff, mainly young people, were excellent. They were courteous and helpful and always smiling. Breakfasts, buffet style, were very good and also good value for money. At least one chef was on duty to cook eggs to order. The dinner menu was fairly priced and food was very acceptable.
All in all, this is a hotel which has seen better times and the rooms are in urgent need of refurbishment."
- Travel date: Wed 8th of November 2006
Lovely place to stay
"We have just returned from a wonderful holiday, staying at the Taj Garden Retreat in Varkala. This is a brilliant location if you want a quiet and relaxing holiday, set at the top of a cliff with beautiful views of the Arabian Ocean. We opted for a superior sea view room and did have a brilliant view. The hotel is very clean and, although some of the furnishings in the lobby bar, restaurant and pool look a little tired, we didn't find this a problem as it seemed right for the location. We didn't have a problem with the closed footpath down to the beach as it was easy enough to make use of the grass bank which led to the steps.
We loved the food - tasty curries, especially the local vegetarian options available every day and the a la carte menu is huge too. If you did want something other than local cuisine, choice was abit limited. However, the chef was willing to respond to individual's requirements and would always rustle something up that wasn't on the menu if needed.
We found the staff could not do enough to help make our stay enjoyable and we would definitely recommend this hotel to those of you looking for a taste of Kerala in a not too touristy destination."
- Travel date: Sun 19th of February 2006
Great location shame about the finish!
"An hotel with an excellent location. Good sized and well appointed rooms and bathrooms. Avoid room 215 - there's no view and noise from machinery. Air conditioning and extractor fans can provide a general air of curry over the pool. Staff almost literally falling over each other but to little effect! Steps to beach closed at present, but with a little imagination the hotel could make a temporary path across the 'lawn' below the ayuvedic centre. We were disappointed with the quality of the food in the hotel. Staff did make every effort to correct any complaint. What a shame the owners don't invest a little more in this hotel to make it really 5 star. Kathy"
- Travel date: Thu 16th of February 2006
A delightful palace!
"We stayed here for just one night at the end of our trip, and we wished we'd had more time there. The infinity pool was gorgeous and serene, the poolside restaurant tranquil, the food yummy, the service impeccable, and the room delightful. If you're looking for a small, romantic getaway, this is probably not it (it does have that big hotel/resort feeling), but it is truly a class act. I also had a wonderfully relaxing foot massage at the spa. True, the prices at the spa are higher than usual for India, but hey, that's what you get when you stay in a resort designed for wealthy Westerners."
- Travel date: Tue 8th of November 2005