Lovers of lesser-trodden coastlines will fall head over heels for boutique hotel Kumu Beach, a tranquil 10-room hideout a stone's thow from the golden sand. Sat on a raised portion of beachfront on Sri Lanka’s south-east coast, this modern, villa-style property was built for life of a very serene sort. During the day, lounge by the ocean-facing infinity pool or in a day-bed beneath the palms, sampling exotic smoothies and iced Ceylon tea. Come evening, dine on tiger prawns, seared tuna and Sri Lankan hoppers at a table on the lawn, where you can watch the sunset give way to a ink-black sky thick with stars.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $230.04, excluding tax at 21.1 per cent.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast, daily afternoon tea and a selection of soft drinks in the minibar.
The stylish interiors are the work of Annika Fernando, one of Sri Lanka’s leading young designers. If you like what you see (and are making the trip north to Colombo), go for a whirl around her store, PR.
Oceanview Suites are the largest of the lot, coming with a living area, private terrace and roomy bathroom. If it’s the view that matters most, book a suite on the first floor, where the floor-to-ceiling windows and terrace look out to the horizon through the tops of palm trees.
The 23-metre infinity pool is at the foot of the garden, looking past slender palms to the boulder-strewn beach below. There’s a sun deck with eight parasol-covered sunloungers off to one side, and several shaded tables set up on the lawn.
There's a one-room spa hut offering a variety of treatments. Pre-booking is recommended.
Bring breezy clothes in shades of blue, turquoise and white, which will chime nicely with the hotel’s artworks and the ocean. If you plan to visit temples, bear in mind that you’ll need to have your shoulders covered.
All of the public areas are wheelchair accessible, and some of the Oceanview Bedrooms and Suites are specially adapted.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds (US$39 a night, suitable for children under 12) and baby cots (free) can be added to Oceanview Suites subject to availability. Babysitting is available for US$10 an hour; a week’s notice is required for booking.
Aim for one of the poolside tables on the lawn, which have the best sunset views and star-gazing potential.
Smart beachwear during the day; flowing dresses and loose-weave shirts at night.
Owing to the hotel’s size, its restaurant is a fairly intimate affair. There’s an elegant indoor section with rattan chairs and a banquette strewn with blue-and-white-patterned cushions, but the bulk of the tables are outside on the lawns, where diners can make the most of the balmy evenings and palm-framed ocean view. Borrowing from a range of South Asian cuisines, the menu features the best of Sri Lanka’s bountiful waters: offerings like tiger prawns, kingfish carpaccio and seared tuna steak are paired with exotic flavours and warming spices. There’s plenty produce from the land, too, including rack of lamb served Asian style, Australian rib-eye steak and classic Sri Lankan hoppers with black-pork curry.
There’s no separate bar; drinks can be ordered in the restaurant or brought to your preferred sunning spot.
The restaurant is open from 7am to 10.30pm.
Anything from the menu can be delivered to your room while the restaurant is open.
The hotel sits on the edge of Balapitiya beach, a stretch of boulder-strewn sand on Sri Lanka’s south-east coast.
Bandaranaike International Airport is the arrival point for most visitors. From there, it’s a two-hour drive to the hotel. The other option is to hop onto a Sri Lankan Air Taxi service to Bentota, a flight of around half an hour. From Bentota, it’s a 30-minute drive to the hotel. The Smith24 team can arrange flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
Trains run from Colombo Fort to Balapitiya five times a day, but be warned that they can get incredibly busy at times. If you’re happy to compromise on luxury, the hour-and-40-minute journey will bring you face to face with lush landscapes and local life.
Driving in Sri Lanka can be a bit bewildering if you’re used to smooth tarmac and a strict highway code. Unless you’re really determined to make the drive yourself, you’re better off hiring a professional to navigate the island’s roads.
Worth getting out of bed for
Kumu Beach lends itself wholeheartedly to lazy days by the pool, long lunches and walks along the beach – but that’s not to say exploring is discouraged. If you’re looking to get close to some of the native wildlife (and help protect it), try the Sea Turtle Farm and Hatchery on the edge of Balapitiya Beach. This not-for-profit organisation helps boost the local population of native turtles, rearing them from eggs until they’re large enough to be released into the sea. For more natural thrills, take a boat trip across the Madu Ganga wetland, made up of two lakes, various estuaries and 65 different islands, many of them home to untouched mangrove forests. Unsurprisingly, the area is teeming with life, including hundreds of plant species, crabs and crocodiles. For a slice of the local culture, stop by the Mask Museum in Ambalangoda, a small seaside town in which the locals make vibrant devil masks for various dancing rituals – some of them meant to exorcise demons, others to poke fun at their one-time British colonists.
Salty Swamis brings a shot of SoCal beach culture to the shores of Hikkaduwa, a popular surfing destination. The staff are fittingly laid-back, but don’t be fooled by the beach-bum vibe – they turn out delectable breakfasts, brunch and artisanal coffee with aplomb, earning them an unbreaking wave of praise. If you’re visiting the city of Galle to the south, try the elegant Dining Room at Amangalla, which resides in a colonial-era building within the walls of Galle Fort. Period furniture and antique silverware provide a refined backdrop to dinner, which always showcases the chef’s pick of the local markets. Another enticing option is Church Street Social, also within the historic fort complex. Nodding to Galle’s history as a thriving international sea port, the food here shows influence from Arabian, North African and South Asian cuisine, all served within a lively, laid-back setting.
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 boutique hotel in Sri Lanka and unpacked their locally made ‘devil mask’, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kumu Beach in Balapitiya…
Kumu Beach hotel is the sort of place that beseeches you to slow down, take stock of what matters, and then feel no guilt about taking it very, very easy. Sat on the stretch of coastline that links Colombo with Galle to the south, the hotel isn’t what you’d call in the middle of nowhere, but with its own stretch of private beach and a garden of rustling palms and singing birds, it deals out serenity and seclusion with a generous hand. Enlisting leading Sri Lankan designer Annika Fernando to work her magic on the interiors, the hotel have succeeded in bringing that same character inside, where the open-plan rooms are defined by simple but elegant furniture, tall windows and a distinct lack of clutter. What ornaments and artworks are on show have been carefully choreographed: many of the ceramics, cushions and paintings are in various shades of blue, turning your attention back to the infinity pool and the ocean beyond. In short, they’ve mastered the art of helping guests slip into a slower pace of life, using the stylish decor to their full advantage.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Kumu Beach’s Guestbook below.
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