A dense tangle of palm trees tower over an 800-metre stretch of sugary sand at Awanwella hotel, a seafront boutique in Sri Lanka near the town of Tangalle. This minimalist romantic hideaway has all the basics required to relax: space, comfort and scenic views. Sink into the sunbed for sunshine-filled days or set off to explore nearby jungle-fringed villages.
Get this when you book through us:
A private arrack-cocktail experience, in which guests learn about local arrack and its uses, plus Sri Lankan canapés
2pm, but flexible up to 6pm, if available. Earliest check-in is noon, although early birds can score a suite after 6am on request. Charges may apply to late check-out and early check-in.
Double rooms from $650.00, excluding tax at 20.91 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast, afternoon tea and minibar soft drinks.
The hillside spa suite is the go-to place for prettying up talons, trotters and travel-weary visages, but if it’s blissful body treatments you’re after, the coconut grove spa garden is the spot for sensual flight-revival healing a deux.
At the hotel
Beach, gardens, spa, library, beach club, concierge, free WiFi in public areas with USB sticks and micro-sims available for in-suite surfing, pre-loaded iPods on request. In rooms: plunge pool, minibar, Bose iPod dock, custom-made Link Natural toiletries, after-sun lotion, lemongrass and citronella insect repellent.
Our favourite rooms
Amanwella’s stylish suites are all similar in design, with sleeping, living and sumptuous bathing areas partitioned by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors. Indoor spaces spill onto view-boasting balconies and courtyards filled with banquettes and plunge pools. Ocean Suites offer the most indulgent sea scopes. Of these, we love Suites 110, 111 and 112 as they enjoy the greatest privacy and are nearest the beach, just a short stroll away down a palm-dotted hillside.
Tucked below the restaurant and bar, Amanwella’s 47-metre long infinity pool hugs the hillside and boasts breath-snatching views of the palm-speckled bay and the sea. Beside it, a deep terrace is topped with cushioned sunloungers.
Kaleidoscope-bright kaftans, floaty cotton shirts and floppy designer hats. You’ll spend your days barefoot, but bring flip-flops or sandals for the evening.
Welcome. Baby cots and extra beds for under 12s are provided free of charge, and there’s also a complimentary babysitting service.
Amanwella opens its doors to kids of all ages.
Each room has a day-bed that can be used for a little Smith or two at no extra charge. Extra beds for over-12s can be added (US$100 a night).
The beach is a kids magnet, and the hotel’s collection of buckets, spades and sporting equipment outshine the board games available indoors. While the sea is no friend to weak swimmers, there are lifeguards on duty on the beach and they’ll even accompany smalls into the sea to ensure they’re safe. Fishing trips and surf lessons should interest older children, as will the chance to spot elephants, leopards and crocodiles in nearby national parks. Creative kids can join the chef in the Amanwella kitchen for a hands-on peek into the art of Sri Lankan snack-making.
There’s no shallow section of the pool, but lifeguards provide an extra pair of eyes.
Baby and children’s menus are available, with kid-friendly fare including pureed fruits, tomato and cheese toasties, stir-fried noodles and banana splits.
Babysitting can be arranged – just speak to staff in advance.
Our favourite dining spots are in the moon-bathed coconut grove and on the beach, where candlelit tables ringed by flickering oil lamps are ravishingly romantic. Go all out and savour a seafood barbecue while musicians perform for you.
Effortless elegance; sultry silks and crisp cottons will keep you cool.
The Restaurant is perched eight metres above sea level, with sweeping views across the pool towards the coconut grove and beach. Table seating is on two elevated levels and outdoor seating is available on another lower level. Inside the Restaurant, doors open onto an internal grassed courtyard landscaped with frangipani trees and reflecting pools. The cuisine is Asian and Mediterranean, with an emphasis on seafood from the Indian Ocean. Amanwella’s second eatery, the Beach Club, serves up daytime nosh, plus private dinners on request. The menu includes simple Asian salads, Mediterranean classics, granitas and freshly churned ice-cream. Seafood is cooked over a coconut charcoal barbecue and served with garden-fresh salads and local relishes. The Pool Terrace serves simple lunches, young coconut juice and fresh fruit throughout the day; at night, antipasti and home-style mains are on offer.
Adjacent to the restaurant, the Lounge and Bar offers a tipple for every taste, plus a full cigar menu. Open from 10am until the last guest leaves, the bar is at its most atmospheric at sunset – take in this spectacle with an arrack sour, the hotel’s signature cocktail, in hand.
The Restaurant is open from 7am–midnight. The Beach Club opens its doors at noon and keeps serving until the last guest slips off to sleep.
In-suite menus are on offer around the clock, and dishes from the restaurants, such as fish curry or ceviche, are available on request. Each suite has two terraces for informal dining.
Just 10 minutes’ drive west of the fishing town of Tangalle, Amanwella’s location beside a beautiful hidden bay is divine.
Touch down at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, 235 kilometres north-west of Tangalle; from there, you'll hop on a Sri Lankan Air Taxi for the 50-minute trip to Dickwella airstrip or into a private car for a scenic five-and-a-half-hour drive to Amanwella. Call our Smith24 Team on 03300 376 891 to arrange flights and transfers.
Jump on a train at Colombo’s Fort Station and wind your way merrily south via Bentota and Galle for the price of a couple of dollars. The trip’s pretty rustic, so lighten your load with easy-to-carry baggage, and don’t forget to stock up on snacks.
The hotel can arrange chauffeur-driven cars with ease, so there’s no need to self-drive. The transfer from here to Amangalla is from US$50 a car, each way. Hire of a Sorrento is from US$50 an hour.
Charter a chopper through Deccan Aviation Lanka (around US$2,800; www.simplifly.com) for the jolliest jaunt; it takes less than an hour and lands on the cusp of Tangalle – free transfers are put on by the hotel. From November–March, Deccan’s scheduled service to Tangalle costs a less eye-popping US$285 a person, although with only four seats a day up for grabs, we recommend you book early.
Worth getting out of bed for
Your suite overlooks one of the island’s finest beaches. Making the most of this scene-stealer should be top priority; enjoy barefoot strolls, snorkelling expeditions to the calmer eastern end of the bay and fearless body boarding to the west. Equipment is provided and there’s a lifeguard on duty during the day, which is really handy if you’ve come with kids. Wander inland with an Amanwella nature guide to discover hidden villages that come alive at daybreak and dusk as birds, monkeys and squirrels flit between homes. Further afield, head into Tangalle for a glimpse at the town's fishing fleet or rise early to see the fruits of the sea on sale at the crack-of-dawn fish market. Afterwards, scale Mulgirigala, a 210-metre tall Buddhist rock temple, 30 minutes inland, bird-watch in Bundala National Park, then finish your day with a moonlit safari with the Turtle Conservation Project (+94 (0)77 781 0508; www.srilankaecotourism.com) at Rekawa. Ask the hotel to pack you a picnic hamper to snack on while you wait for these majestic creatures to emerge.
When you’re done rotating between Amanwella's eateries, take a car 20 minutes inland to another Smith pick, Maya (Old House, Temple Road, Aranwella, Beliatta; +94 (0)47 567 9026), for a sumptuous curry spread or a delightful three-course meal. Come early for a swim in the pool before savouring spectacular sunsets over the paddy fields that extend beyond the garden. Alternatively, drive10 minutes west to Seenimodera Beach to dine on seafood specialities at intimate five-bedroom villa The Last House (Pubudu Mawatha, Seenimodera; +94 (0)47 492 0262) – the crab curry is divine. If you’re heading north-east for a spot of night turtle watching at Rekawa, call in at Buckingham Place (Wellawathugoda Road, Rekawa; +94 (0)47 348 9447). The menu of western and local cuisine is fairly limited, but the hotel is just a kilometre or two from turtle HQ.
Keen doesn’t begin to describe these honeymooning Smiths. So eager are we to get to Amanwella, our romantic retreat in Tangalle, that we’re out of Galle at the crack of dawn, tackling the winding coast road east. As it turns out, we may have been a little too gun-ho, because by the time we pull up under the portico a couple of hours later, our room isn’t ready for us. No jumping straight into bed for this newly-wed couple.
With time to kill, Mr Smith and I take in the breath-taking setting of this tranquil resort, a collection of villas curved around a stretch of palm-fringed private beach. Breathing in the soothing sea air, we recline against over-sized cushions in the lounge area as a ceiling fan gently whirrs overhead. The truth be told, I’m glad for a chance to put my feet up after the twists and turns of the bustling, bumpy roads we’ve just travelled on.
Several cocktails later, we’re led to our room, admiring the plunge pool as we walk down the stairs to our suite. The sound of crashing waves draws us towards an expansive terrace overlooking the deserted beach below. As far as hotel views go, this is one of the best.
Now, I normally don’t go into details about the toilet, but this luxury cubicle’s wooden window shades open to reveal blissful ocean vistas through floor-length glass. His-and-her sinks and a modern stand-alone bath complete the contemporary, open-plan bathroom.
No sooner has the bellboy dropped off our luggage than we’re reaching for our bikini, trunks and sunscreen and heading straight to the beach, a stunning stretch of pale golden sand flanked by coconut trees and a line of sun beds.
After languishing under the powerful afternoon sun for half an hour, I decided to give my mosquito-ravaged limbs a cooling dip. I tap Mr Smith on the shoulder and wake him with a start from his dozed state, gesturing for him to join me for a swim.
Before I’ve taken five steps into the sea, a ferocious wave catches me by surprise, whipping my legs out from under. I struggle to my feet in time to catch a glimpse of Mr Smith’s horrified face as his new wife disappears again, pummeled by another punishing wall of salt water.
Finally regaining my footing, bikini top askew and with what feels like a bucket-load of sand weighing down my bikini bottoms, I take stock and realise that the only things lost are a pair of designer sunglasses (they were old anyway), a cheap plastic bracelet and my dignity. I gingerly tip-toe my way back to the sun-beds, where we collapse in fits of laughter.
Donning mask and snorkel, the hotel’s lifeguard begins to dive in vain for the lost sunglasses, but I’ve already relegated them to the depths of the Indian Ocean – a fashion sacrifice for a hilarious story to entertain family and friends with when we get home.
After washing what feels like five kilograms of sand from my bikini and body back at the villa, Mr Smith and I fix ourselves a drink from the minibar and settle onto the day-bed on the balcony to watch the sun slip towards the horizon.
As a honeymoon treat, Mr Smith has made special arrangements for our dinner. All dolled up in a sundress and sandals, I’m puzzled as we retrace our steps, toward the beach, though this time the path is lit by lanterns. Instead of heading to the beach club restaurant, Mr Smith guides me towards a solitary cloth-draped table beneath a palm tree, where we dine on barbecued seafood by candlelight. Top marks, Mr Smith.
When it comes to turn-down treats, the staff at Amanwella take the cake – sitting on our oversized bed when we return from dinner are two handmade straw hats, a godsend for someone who’s just lost her sunglasses.
Slightly sunburnt and exhausted after a day of travelling and a good old-fashioned beach dumping, we collaps into bed and are lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean, just a few metres below our window.
Whoever designed the rooms here must have been a morning person, because at first light we’re stirring as the sunlight pours through the shutters, making it impossible to sleep beyond 6am. Well, when you’re staying in paradise, you want to make the most of every moment, right? (At least, this is the argument I make to a very grumpy Mr Smith.)
Donning my new straw hat, we make our way to breakfast – a relaxed, à la carte affair overlooking the pool, where we feasted on fresh fruit and a deliciously spicy Sri Lankan omelette.
With yesterday’s dumping still fresh in our minds, we opt for the safety of sun loungers by the hotel pool, which offers soothing views of the beach and the odd local fishing boat. While Mr Smith worships the sun throughout the afternoon, I decide to give my skin a rest and head for the day spa instead. The five-minute uphill walk to the spa villas serves as my exercise for the day, rewarding my exertion with a treatment from a skilled Balinese masseuse.
Floating back to the villa post-massage, it’s tempting to order room service and call for an early night, but on good recommendation we venture out for dinner at nearby boutique guesthouse the Last House. Throughout Sri Lanka we’ve been impressed with the cuisine, particularly the local curries, but nothing compares to the three-course feast we’re fed at the Last House. We start with a chilled aubergine soup, followed by a gigantic king prawn the size of our dinner plate (with just enough room for salad on the side), before finishing with fresh mango and a banana and chocolate dessert.
As is the way with most great escapes, this getaway is over far too soon. And as our car pulls away from the resort, I reflect that although I’ve lost a pair of sunglasses, I’ve gained an unexpected beach exfoliation, a new straw hat, a golden tan, a luxurious hotel experience and perhaps a few extra kilograms.
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