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Soul & Surf India hotel review: six nights of blissed-out vibes, yoga & art overlooking the ocean in Varkala

• Rating: 7/10
Rooms at Soul & Surf India start from 
$118 (£100) a night for single occupancy
Check current rates and availability

If you're wondering where to go for yoga in India, look no further. Perched high on a cliff top overlooking the beach of Varkala in Southern India is a 150-year-old, three-story Keralan house, that’s been known as Soul & Surf since 2010. The place attracts travellers interested in yoga, surfing and chilled-out beach vibes with a secluded location, just far enough away from the more Western, café-filled destination of Varkala Cliff. 

cliffs and ocean with palm trees in varkala southern india
The view of Varkala beach from Soul & Surf

After ten days in crowded, crazy Delhi, a few days at the Fairmont Jaipur plus a few more in the traffic-filled city of Bangalore, I was after some serious relaxation with a few home comforts thrown in, so I headed to Soul & Surf, for six days of yoga, art and good food, as part of my month in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The nearest airport is in Trivandrum, just over an hour away from Soul & Surf and the hotel can sort taxi transfers once you’ve booked your stay.

palm trees and ocean from varkala cliff
Looking out across the ocean

What’s the vibe at Soul & Surf Varkala?

Relaxed and easy. Anyone who’s been to India knows how stressful things can get at times, but at Soul & Surf it's one long holiday. The main building is set in beautifully lush green gardens, breakfast can be eaten out on the cliff-top, and it’s super simple to sign up to yoga and surfing classes, but if you want to sit on a sun lounger, reading a book all day, that’s cool too. I always like to explore, so when I wasn’t doing yoga, reading or drawing, I would stroll around the area, finding some of the most beautiful temples in India, kooky tree doll shrines (see photo below) and street stalls selling fresh coconuts. You’ll find people from all over the world staying at Soul & Surf and there are nightly films shown in the garden plus communal dinners, so it’s easy to get to know other guests or hang out if you’re travelling solo, like I was. But at the same time, it’s definitely not a party place, I was in bed by 10.30pm every night and my room in the main house was extremely peaceful.

plastic dolls hanging from tree trunk in varkala kerala
The doll tree shrine I stumbled across one afternoon

How are the rooms Soul & Surf Varkala?

I booked a ‘nice’ room with no AC as I was travelling in October and it wasn’t so hot (this is also one of my best tips for traveling the world on a budget—no AC means cheaper rates!). Room categories range from ‘quite nice’ and ‘nice’ to ‘really nice’ so I went for the middle option, but once I arrived I was told about some unfinished building works happening to my room, so I was upgraded to a ‘really nice’ room in the main house. My room was bright, colourful and spotlessly clean, the perfect place to relax and unwind. The shower was heated by solar power so sometimes took a little while to heat up, but that was the only minor issue, plus solar power is better for the environment so who can complain? The hotel offered good single occupancy room rates when I was last there (although these do seem to have increased quite significantly in recent years unfortunately).

bed with orange wall and lamps in soul and surf varkala kerala india
My room at Soul & Surf

What is there to eat and drink?

The Soul Food Café, out in the garden prepares amazing dishes for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is included in the room price and is a pretty communal meal, with everyone gathering and sitting together. When I stayed I had a tropical fruit plate most days, coffee or masala chai, a juice and then whatever the breakfast dish was that day, for my stay it ranged from a masala dosas and coconut pancakes to amazing overnight oats with cashew nuts and dates—all were sublime. Lunches were pretty good too, I remember enjoying fish tacos, meze plates and even quesadillas. Throughout the day you can order snacks and drinks and some evenings there’s either a BBQ or the occasional pizza night. All food, apart from breakfast is paid for separately and although more expensive then Indian cafes and restaurants, prices are still pretty reasonable when compared to home. On nights when there’s no food served at the hotel you can simply stroll down to Varkala Cliff where you’ll find many restaurants, as well as a few bars.

Any highlights?

Yes! Aside from the food, (which is perfect), there are brilliant daily yoga classes. I signed up for one or two classes per day throughout my stay. Classes are open seven days a week with a few options to choose from—Vinyasa, Slow Flow or Pranayama. They generally kick off at 8.30am each morning and the last class starts at 5.30pm, all are 75 minutes long. I took most of my classes on the rooftop, with incredible views out across the swaying palm trees towards the ocean and occasionally in the sun-drenched garden. The sunset classes were pure heaven. For my stay the teacher was a real highlight, correcting our poses, adding oil to our foreheads at the end of each class and really connecting with each person, classes were pretty small too and reasonably priced.

yoga matts and bamboo roof with sea views at soul and surf in varkala india
Rooftop yoga hall

Anything they could improve on?

Prices have increased since my first visit making it slightly less affordable.

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