Savvy travelers already clued in to Kerala, on the tropical southwest coast of India, have been checking in to the Malabar House since it debuted nearly a decade ago. Now the 17-room hotel, in a British colonial bungalow in Fort Cochin, introduces Malabar Escapes, a clutch of even smaller villa hotels. Trinity, the newest of the bunch, is another colonial house, just steps away from Malabar on the site of the Dutch East India Company building. It has three guest rooms and a pool, along with works by prominent Indian artists M. F. Hussain and K. G. Subramanyan. Just outside Fort Cochin, Privacy at Sanctuary Bay is a secluded two-bedroom bungalow rented to only one client at a time. Farther afield, in the foothills of the Western Ghats (a two and a half hour drive from Fort Cochin), sits Serenity at Kanam Estate, a 1923 five-room structure surrounded by spice gardens. Like Privacy, it comes with its own chef. From $210 to $425; 91-484/221-6666; www.malabarhouse.com.
Launched by the Oberoi group, which owns some of the most lavish hotels in India, The Vrinda is a barge that cruises through the picturesque backwaters of Kerala.
ROUTE The five-day trip departs from Cochin, crossing Vembanad Lake and the Pamba River.
ACCOMMODATIONS Eight minimalist cabins are swathed in neutrals; pillowy mattresses line the roof deck.
SERVICE Butlers are a button push away 24/7.
SIGHTS A long, narrow "snake boat" rowed by some 100 people glides by. Women draped in colorful saris stroll past colonial churches.
BOOKING $1,900 for two, including a night in Cochin, meals, and activities; 800-562-3764; www.oberoihotels.com.