Kerala Backwaters Houseboat Experience 2023: Everything You Need To Know

Cruising along the idyllic palm-lined “Venice of the East” isn’t 100% romance. Read on for our experience on an “ultra luxury” Kerala Backwaters houseboat with the Alleppey Houseboat Club.

Kerala Backwaters houseboat docking

What Are The Kerala Backwaters?

The Kerala Backwaters are a series of palm-lined waterways near Cochin (Kochi) and Alleppey (Alappuzha) in the Indian state of Kerala surrounded by small villages on both sides. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East”, it’s known as a destination for houseboat trips, although you can do day trips as well as shorter ferry or canoe rides.

Boat exiting cancel on the Kerala Backwaters

How Do You Get To The Kerala Backwaters?

The Kerala Backwaters are quite an expansive, interconnected channel of waterways with multiple entry points. Entry points include Alleppey, Kumarakom, Cochin, Kottayam, Kollam, and Munroe Island (Mundrothuruthu) among others.

We departed on our Kerala Backwaters houseboat trip from Alleppey, the most popular houseboat port in Kerala.

The fastest way to reach Alleppey is by flying to the Cochin airport. The Cochin airport is about 85 kilometers (52 miles) north of Alleppey and should take about 2-2.5 hours to reach by car.

Another option is to fly into Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Alleppey.

View from the balcony of our Kerala Backwaters houseboat

Alternatively, you can reach the area by train, bus, or car.

Book your travel below through 12Go!

What Can You Expect From A Kerala Backwaters Houseboat?

Well, there are many different Kerala Backwaters houseboat operators and each operator offers several different houseboat experiences. The price will vary based on the location of the port, the company, the category or class of the boat, the number of bedrooms, the number of people, and the number of nights.

Nightly prices inclusive of meals for the Alleppey Houseboat Club range from a base rate of 8,500 rupees ($103 USD) for a 1-bedroom deluxe houseboat to 150,000 rupees ($1,819 USD) for a 10-bedroom luxury houseboat.

My brother-in-law treated the entire family to a 1-night cruise with the Alleppey Houseboat Club on a 6-bedroom Ultra Luxury houseboat. He reserved the boat for 10 adults, 1 child, and 1 kid for a total price of 65,000 rupees ($788 USD) which amounted to $65 USD per person. The cruise was 21 hours long from 12 PM until 9 AM the next morning and consisted of a welcome drink, 3 meals, snacks, coffee, and tea.

The categories or classes of houseboats that you can choose from with descriptions provided by the Alleppey Houseboat Club are as follows:

  • Deluxe (Budget) – the standard category of houseboat with all basic amenities included. AC is operational from 9 PM – 6 AM. Each meal includes 1 non-vegetarian dish.
  • Premium – (supposedly) includes AC at all times and each meal includes 2 non-vegetarian dishes.
  • Luxury – (supposedly) includes AC at all times and a luxury food menu. Luxury houseboats may include hot water facilities, a jacuzzi, or other amenities.
  • Ultra Luxury – this is not even detailed as a separate category by the Alleppey Houseboat Club despite labeling our boat as such.

Continue reading on for my full review of our “ultra luxury” Kerala Backwaters houseboat experience with the Alleppey Houseboat Club.

Palm-lined Kerala Backwaters

The AC Situation On A Kerala Backwaters Ultra Luxury Houseboat

Once we boarded the ultra luxury houseboat, we were informed that the boat would be running on a generator from 12 PM – 5:45 PM until it docked for the evening and connected to electricity, therefore, the AC should be used sparingly until then. We were shocked – full AC should mean AC access 24/7.

Technically, we could request that the AC be turned on in certain bedrooms if anyone wanted to rest, but it wasn’t presented in a positive light. There was one indoor living room that had been cooled prior to boarding where the AC remained on for the duration of the cruise, however, the AC was off in all other areas with the exception of the dining room during the lunch hour. The areas where the AC was off were steaming hot.

Boat docked along the Kerala Backwaters

The Condition Of An Ultra Luxury Kerala Backwaters Houseboat

Our boat was clean and felt hygienic aside from the one cockroach we spotted. Additionally, one of our family members thought they heard a rat or mouse but never saw it to confirm. The condition of the ultra luxury boat was definitely worn around the edges.

The couch looked as though it had never been replaced, however, it was comfortable and large enough for all of us to gather together with room for the kids to play. There were several areas throughout the boat where the walls and flooring were peeling.

Bedroom on Kerala Backwaters houseboat
A closer look shows the peeling wallpaper

The Rooms On An Ultra Luxury Kerala Backwaters Houseboat

The rooms are small, like rooms on a cruise ship. Our king bed was comfortable and we had normal flush toilets and hot running water to wash hands and shower. Unfortunately, our houseboat operator controlled the AC to one temperature, blaming it on the previous guests who had stolen one of the remotes, so we were unable to adjust each room according to temperature preferences.

Bathroom on Kerala Backwaters houseboat

The Food On An Ultra Luxury Kerala Backwaters Houseboat

We received lunch, dinner, breakfast, tea, coffee, and fresh fruit that could be cut for us whenever requested. The food was prepared fresh onboard.

For lunch, we were served pappadum, chicken fry, fish fry, vegetables, sambar, rice, and a sweet pudding for dessert.

For dinner, we were served chicken fry, fish curry, rice, assorted vegetables and salads, and a sweet pudding for dessert. In addition, the boat captain told us we could buy other food in one of the villages if we desired. So, we purchased shrimp and they served that for dinner as well.

At night, they offered us several options for breakfast the next morning. We chose puri bhaji and they prepared eggs and cut fruit as well.

Food served on Kerala Backwaters houseboat
Only part of our lunch spread. Local “Toddy” coconut liquor is the milky-colored drink pictured in the plastic bottle.

The Kerala Backwaters Experience

Locals boating along the Kerala Backwaters

There’s no doubt that the ride along the palm-lined Kerala Backwaters is scenic. I loved observing the way the locals live in the small waterfront communities– watching them converse with one another, do business, fish, do their laundry in the backwaters, walk and ride their bikes or take other modes of transportation along narrow paths, play, and boat from place to place.

Washing clothes in the Kerala Backwaters

You can request to stop wherever along the way as well as take part in activities such as a speed boat ride, kayaking, watch the locals demonstrate coir (fiber from coconut husk) basket weaving, stop at a beach, or for the ultimate “Venice of the East” experience, ride along the narrowest canals in a canoe.

Kayaking on the Kerala Backwaters

The men in our family requested a stop at a Toddy shop, the name for local watering holes that sell non-standardized palm wine, or Toddy, made from the sap of coconuts. The alcohol content of Toddy ranges anywhere from 1% to apparently 30%. The alcohol content increases as the wine ages and continues to ferment!

We also stopped to visit a local seafood shop and pick up fresh, raw prawns for our chef to cook for dinner.

Once we docked for the evening, we disembarked and walked through the village to get a closer look at the local way of life.

Local life along the Kerala Backwaters

When you’re on the Kerala Backwaters, you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time to a slower, simpler way of life. It was a relaxing place for me to unplug and recharge. However, it by no means felt luxurious, but rather more like a “glamping” experience.

Summary Of The Kerala Backwaters Houseboat Experience

I really enjoyed our Kerala Backwaters experience. It was a family reunion and we rented out the entire six-bedroom houseboat. While it certainly wasn’t a luxurious experience, we made good family memories surrounded by beautiful scenery. If I were to go back again, I’d take a canoe down one of the narrow canals beneath a luscious palm tree canopy to get the full “Venice of the East” experience.

Family reunion on the Kerala Backwaters

I hope this post helped give you a better idea about what to expect on a Kerala Backwaters Houseboat experience.

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