Sri Lankan hideaway Haritha Villas & Spa gives credence to the adage that sometimes the grass is always greener: at this breathtaking spot, supine over a hinterland hillside, the grasses, palms, paddy fields and jungle truly are blazingly green. And, nestled into this verdure are two grand colonial-style manses and modernist villas practically tailor-made for honeymooners, each with a private pool. You call the shots here, right down to meals, all customised to your tastes; but you can reach out to the resident Ayurvedic doctors for holistic wisdom as needed and summon your own butler to arrange activities such as waterfall bathing, whale watching, meditation sessions at a local monastery and more. So, welcome to the jungle – you’ll never feel more in the green.
Nine hideaways in total, including seven one-bedroom villas and two colonial mansions (one with one bedroom, another with two).
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £290.66 ($363), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast and a welcome drink. There’s a minimum stay of three nights over the festive season (20 December to 7 January).
Peacocks parading across the lawns, monkeys cheekily chattering away in the trees, buffalo grazing below, brightly plumed birds roosting and even scurries of squirrels frolicking in the gardens: the hotel isn’t just a haven for luxe-loving couples. And, once you've spied all the animals, turn your attention to the hotel's outdoor screen, set up for romantic movie nights.
At the hotel
Semi-private beach; spa with a steam bath, sauna and Jacuzzi; yoga pavilion; lounge; library; sala; bicycles to borrow for free; kitchen garden; free WiFi. In rooms: personal butler, private pool, iPad, Bose portable speaker, mobile phone for use during your stay, bar with a wine humidor, tea- and coffee-making kit, pillow menu and all-natural tea-leaf-based Ophir bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Give a hand to Gary Fell, the architect who designed the discreet contemporary villas that slot into the hillside (and the equally sleek fellow Smith stay Samujana). Each feels perfectly private, with leafy barricades all around, and a lushly planted roof that serves as part of the garden for the next level up. These have a more indoor-outdoor feel than the mansions, with walls that pull back to give you a glimpse of paradise from your bed, but if you do want a touch more grandeur, hire out the stately, colonnaded homes atop the hill.
The main infinity pool sits high on the hillside, peering out over the jungle canopy and into the valley below. Cushioned loungers along the side are made for two and after dark lanterns glow, but you can also summon cocktails to a cushioned banquette in sala. Each residence has a pool too: the modern villas have a plunge pool, and the mansions have a shared pool (private if both are booked exclusively), privy to the most spectacular panorama.
Store up those burning questions (where am I going in life? Who do I want to be? Do I want a massage or a facial?), because this is a bigger-picture spa, where pre-treatment, one of two resident Ayurvedic doctors will work out a bespoke plan for pampering, spiritual alignment and growth with you (and they’ll even pass it on to the chef to advise about meals). The answer might be as simple as a fragrant rubdown with luxurious Margaret Dabbs and Elemis products and a spell in the relaxation chamber, gazing out at Haritha lake as you sip a freshly plucked tea. Or it could be a combo of herbal baths, shirodhara oil-pours, acupuncture and singing-bowl sessions. Whatever keeps your chakras in line. The two treatment rooms are huge – both suited to couples’ treatments – with shutters that open to the elements, and there are secluded spaces for a steam room, sauna, Vichy shower and Jacuzzi. You can arrange for in-room spa spoiling. Each morning, free yoga lessons are held in a pavilion buffered by greenery and the 24-hour gym has motivational views too.
Prep according to your action plan: stretchy gear for yoga, sensible shoes for biking and hiking, a windbreaker for whale-spotting trips, a respectful cover-up for temple visits – it’s best to be ready for anything.
The hotel’s a scramble of slopes and stairs, which makes it not ideal for guests with mobility issues.
This ridiculously romantic stay is more post-nuptial than natal, with the hotel preferring that guests be over 12. However, on request they may make an exception if you’ve booked a colonial mansion (or two), both of which have sofa beds.
The team has worked hard to keep the hotel as green as the lush hillside it sits on. They’ve used natural locally sourced materials and non-toxic paints to craft the villas, which have grassy roofs and an indoor-outdoor aesthetic. And in the restaurant, ingredients come from the organic kitchen garden or small local suppliers.
Have your butler twirl some fairy-lights through the branches in your garden, add a few twinkly lanterns and festoon a table with candles for a swoonsome private dinner on your villa’s terrace. Or picnic on the beach.
Take inspiration from the sun-heightened hues and drape yourself in sizzling Sri Lankan brights.
The dining room has the same pared-back yet polished look as the hotel’s more modern villas, with a wood and stone lining, large windows and openings that spill out onto a sun-kissed terrace overlooking the infinity pool. As for what you’ll eat there, well, the choice is yours: dining is described as ‘unscripted’ and meal plans can be as bespoke as you like, so there’s nothing so restrictive as a menu. You might have fish or giant prawns that the chef nabbed at the market that day, richly spiced curries made using home-grown produce, house ice-cream in tropical flavours… The chef can surprise you too, if you wish, to add a frisson of culinary excitement to each day.
Sit pretty in the poolside sala, sequester yourself away with a cocktail delivered to your hideaway, have a round floated over to you in the pool: there are few boundaries when it comes to getting a buzz on here. The barkeeps excel in fruity libations made using picks from the hotel garden, and the signature Haritha Colada is their take on the creamy classic.
Breakfast is from 6am to 11am. From then food is available throughout the day till 10.30pm.
Dine whenever, wherever, and on whatever really (as long as the hotel can source it – big asks might need some notice).
Haritha Villas & Spa sits at the bulb of teardrop-shaped Sri Lanka, close to the golden curve of south-east coastline, a 10-minute drive from Hikkaduwa and 20-minute drive from colonial outpost Galle.
The nearest international hub is in Colombo; flights arrive direct from destinations all over the world (although visitors from the Americas will need to stopover) at Bandaranaike International Airport, just under two hours' drive away along the new highway. Or, if you have some time to spare, take the three-hour coastal route to see sparkling blue panoramas along the way. The hotel can arrange transfers on request.
You can ride the train all the way from Colombo down to Hikkaduwa, an immensely scenic route taking in emerald hills lush with tea plantations and turmeric-coloured beaches. Galle is on the same line too.
Driving in Sri Lanka can be a game of bike and tuk-tuk dodging (and maybe even the odd ox), but it can be done – cars can be hired in Colombo (you’ll need to secure a regional drivers’ licence). And it’s fairly inexpensive to hire a local driver if you don’t want to put your reflexes to the test. Theres free parking onsite.
Worth getting out of bed for
What’s the point of having a butler if you don’t make the most of their local know-how and unflagging helpfulness? And, you can even summon them to your room using the app on your provided iPad. They’re your conduit between the Ayurvedic gurus in the spa (for highly personal pampering) and the restaurant chef (to hammer out meal plans and pass on your preferences), and can assist in other kindliness: securing a bike, packing a picnic, ferrying drinks to your villa, holding a private barbecue workshop… And, they can fill your trip with the sort of experiences lifetime memories are made of. Perhaps you’ll make your way down the winding Madhu Riveron a safari, past Kothduwa Temple and Cinnamon Island, or set off on a guided trek through Sinharaja rainforest, home to toque macaques and giant squirrels, slow lorises and other beasties, plus a waterfall for refreshing dips. Explore your spiritual side with a meditation session with local monks or a trip to the 2,300-year-old Yatagala Temple to see its cave-carved sanctuary and giant Buddha statues, and hike up to the peace pagoda on Rumassala Hill, a view-blessed stupa that symbolises the end of conflict in Sri Lanka. Or delve into the island’s natural resources, with trips to the Virgin White Tea Plantation, or tour Meetiyagoda’s moonstone mine and acquire some mesmerising gems. Colonial Galle is just a 20-minute drive away and the hotel can arrange an archaeologist-led tour of its historic treasures: the fort itself, clocktower, lighthouse, national library, maritime museum and Groote Kerk (an 18th-century Dutch place of worship). Whichever season you arrive in will dictate what you do; wreck diving is at its best from October to April, surfing offHikkaduwa Beach is best from January to April, ocean fishing trips are best taken between December and April, and Talpe Beach’s acrobatic stilt fishermen should be captured at sunrise or sunset from May to September. Whales and dolphins are at their most frolicsome from November to April – and you can join a shared or private trip to spot them, and the local turtle hatchery is at its cutest from November to May when the babies hatch – for an extra charge you can help them waddle to the sea. And, if you just want to flop, your trusty butler can lay on a complimentary tuk-tuk to whisk you off to Narigama Beach in under five minutes.
Hikkaduwa is a mere 10-minute drive and has a good selection of laid-back beach hangouts, quirky indie eateries and high-end diners, plus fish so fresh it’s practically jumped from sea to plate. Friendly vegetarian eatery Bookworm (along the beachfront) has the appealing conceit of being both a library and a spot where you can enjoy authentically spiced curries and dahl. JLH Beach Restaurant is as casual as can be but it’s just steps away from golden sands and its seafood is superlative, plus it carries a global range of dishes. And, No 1 Roti Restaurant has earnt its self-aggrandising name by serving delicious iterations of the Sri Lankan flatbread, including sweet versions, and a spicy kottu scramble.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this set of tropical-modernist villas and colonial mansions on a hillside lording over the paddy fields near Hikkaduwa and unpacked their fragrant teas and luminous moonstones, a full account of their body-is-a-temple break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Haritha Villas & Spa in southern Sri Lanka…
Deep in Sri Lanka’s hinterland, soaring above paddy fields that look near neon under the searing sun, Haritha Villas & Spa’s modernist hideaways are set in a cascade over a hillside, fanning out below two gracious colonial-style mansions. From a drone’s-eye view, there’s the odd twinkle of blue where a swimming pool peeks out, but the landscape is overwhelmingly green: villas have planted roofs; trees, shrubs and palms sprout forth wherever they find a foothold; and paddies and tea plantations spread out below – in fact, it’s so vigorously hued that it feels like Kermit the frog has built himself a monumental tropical lair. But, thriving life is what Haritha’s all about; if you’ve wondered where your best self might be, well, they could be tucked away amid the verdure. Two resident Ayurvedic doctors advise on health, nutrition and which spa experiences could help you get your mojo back (shirodhara, perhaps? Or acupuncture, a singing-bowl massage…). Experiences cover meditation with local monks, waterfall bathing, releasing baby turtles into the ocean and visits to moonstone mines; and ‘unscripted’ mealtimes tend to favour healthy, energising dishes made using house produce (along with less healthy rounds of Haritha Coladas). Peacocks strut through the greenery, monkeys play in the canopy above and buffalo graze by the base – soul-stirring stuff by itself, but made even better with your own personal butler to take care of you, the choice of a vintage mansion or sleek secluded hideout to snooze in, and a private beach a mere three-minute tuk-tuk ride away. So, pack your bags – it’s time to grow.