Perched beside rippling rice paddies, Maya boutique hotel near Tangalle is immersed in a mature two-acre garden that's teeming with wildlife. This colonial-chic manor house enshrines its traditional designs with piles of style and modern-luxe touches. Small is beautiful here, as just five suites are split between the atmospheric Old House and sleek New Wing, with a midnight-blue pool snaking between the two.
Get this when you book through us:
For one-night stays, a dinner for two; for two night stays, a free yoga class for two
12 noon, but flexible subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm, but again, it’s flexible.
Double rooms from £182.35 ($235), including tax at 25 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Bring your yoga mat to practice the warrior pose in the lush gardens. Instructors will come to the house for solo sessions, but need to be booked in advance.
At the hotel
Two-acre garden, library of DVDs, CDs and books, WiFi throughout. In rooms: air-conditioning, ceiling fans and Green Leaf Herbal Product toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Four-poster beds luxe up the two main-house suites. Thekka and Khumbuk are identical in layout: for the best views pick Thekka; for privacy choose Khumbuk. Suites in the New Wing feature private courtyards and larger bathrooms.
A dashing 20m L-shaped swimming pool stretches between the old and new wings and out to the lush garden beyond. Beside it, wave-shaped loungers line a cobblestoned terrace.
Pencils and parchment for sketching the views.
Ask about the Yoga & Wellbeing programmes, held in May, June, September, October and November, including daily yoga, healthy meals, massages and excursions. Smoking isn't allowed in the bedrooms.
Very welcome. Extra beds (free for the under 12s; US$50 for teens) and free baby cots can be added to most suites. Babysitters are available at US$10 a day.
Ask for a table in the garden for a romantic tête-à-tête.
What dress code? Maya’s as laid-back as it comes.
Choose from the intimate main house dining room or the contemporary open-sided pavilion that peers over the garden, pool and paddy fields. The cuisine is western with an Asian twist, with fresh-caught seafood and home-cooked curries at the top of the list. Order in advance for interesting local delicacies such as marinated wild boar. The Maya restaurant is now open to visitors for lunch and dinner – the three-course lunch is a steal at US$20; dinner is just US$33.
There's no alcohol served at Maya, but you're welcome to bring your own (there's no corkage fee).
The restaurant and bar are open 7am–11pm.
You can order from the restaurant menu until 10pm.
Set beside paddy fields in the rural village of Aranwella, 8km inland from coastal Tangalle, Maya is immersed in the region’s patchwork-pretty rustic hinterland.
Fly into Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, and hop on an Air Taxi bound for Dickwella (20 minutes' drive from Maya), which will land you there in 35 minutes flat. Flights cost around US$226 a person. The drive from Colombo Airport will take around three hours. Call our Smith24 Team on 03300 376 891 to arrange flights and transfers.
The nearest train station is Matara, 45 minutes' drive from the hotel, and the end of the south-coast rail line. Hop on a train from Colombo’s Fort Station and wind your way merrily down for the price of a few dollars. The train takes just over four hours.
There are no self-drive companies in Tangalle, but since driver guides can easily be arranged by the hotel, there’s little need for your own car anyway.
Helicopters are the most impressive way to transfer to Maya. From November to March, Deccan’s (+94 (0)77 770 3703; www.simplifly.com) scheduled service costs a reasonable US$285 a person. At other times, a private charter will set you back a whopping US$2,800.
Worth getting out of bed for
Cycle rides through Aranwella village take you past tiny homes and down foliage-flanked lanes bursting with wildlife. Visit the village temple behind Maya to see the head monk, who will bestow serene Buddhist blessings on you, if asked. Further afield at Rekawa, learn and observe the rituals of marine turtles laying and hatching on the sands by moonlight with the Turtle Conservation Project (+94 (0)77 781 0508; www.tcpsrilanka.org) or, between November and April, head off whale-watching with Mirissa Water Sports (Mirissa Harbour; +94 (0)77 359 7731; www.mirissawatersports.com), 70km south-west of the hotel.
If you fancy eating out, head to beach-beautiful Amanwella (Bodhi Mawatha, Godelawella, Goyambokka, Tangalle; +94 (0)47 224 1333; www.amanresorts.com), whose 800-metre crescent of palm-shaded sand is a dream. Daytime dining options include the casual Beach Club for amazing seafood, burgers and salads, and the airy dining room up by the pool, which is a romantic spot for evening assignations.
The only bar for miles is Amanwella’s sea-view stunner, which serves up a comprehensive menu of wine, champagne, Cognacs and cocktails.
For a sun-starved Brit like me it’s difficult, nigh on impossible even, to tear myself away from Sri Lanka’s palm-fringed, white-sand beaches. So when Mr Smith announces that he’s booked us two nights at Maya – a country house 45 minutes from the Tangalle coast – I’m at first less than grateful. ‘Give all this up,’ I say, lower lip trembling as I point at the fine sand, the softly rustling palm trees, the waves tumbling in. ‘Trust me,’ he says, ‘you won’t regret it.’
So we go. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s right. I don’t regret it. In fact, I love every single minute of it. Maybe it’s the location – at the edge of a peaceful village, surrounded by rice fields, where the only noise you’ll hear is the soft tchk tchk call of cicadas.
Maybe it’s the tree-filled garden with colourful birds flitting about and exotic, tropical flowers blooming from hidden corners. Maybe it’s the house itself, open-plan with wooden shutters and cool concrete floors and interesting touches such as the vintage fans and copper water jug on the bedside table. Whatever it is, the moment I arrive I lie across the vast bed, let the cool breeze wash over me, listen to the silence and feel instantly calm.
Maya is the kind of place where the biggest decision you have to make each day is whether to read your book on the sun-lounger by the pool or swinging in the hammock under the trees. Oh, and you will have to decide what to eat. Regularly and often. Dinesh, the charming house manager, appears at our shoulders with surprising frequency, suggesting that it might, perhaps, be time to eat something. The food from chef Darshana is so good that we never turn him down. Breakfast is a feast of fresh fruit followed by porridge with syrup, toast with local jam and egg hoppers – a Sri Lankan-style pancake with a fried egg in the middle and a spicy onion chutney on the side.
After a busy morning lazing by the pool, it’s time for lunch: a salad one day; a Sri Lankan curry banquet the next. Nothing is prescribed. Dinesh wanders out, tells us what’s been freshly bought at the market, what Darshana thinks he might be able to rustle up for us and we choose.
Wrapped in sarongs, we eat in the shade by the poolside, barefoot. The trees around us are filled with feathered friends. Mr Smith finds a book on Sri Lankan birds in the house library and becomes a veritable twitcher. We spot brightly hued parrots, woodpeckers, kingfishers and peacocks, which are native to Sri Lanka. One lunchtime a troupe of monkeys swings into the garden, flinging themselves from tree to tree, impossibly acrobatic.
Bikes beckon in the late afternoon, and we ride down country lanes through deep green rice fields. We visit the neighbourhood temple, tiny and unpretentious. I decide to go for a jog (all that eating is taking its toll) and run through the village in my Lycra leggings and acid-pink T-shirt. Two teenage boys escort me on their bikes, proprietarily fending off interest from others. Women laugh and then hide their faces behind the corners of their saris. A rickshaw driver slows. ‘Are you exercising?’ he asks, mystified. ‘I am,’ I tell him, breathing hard, my face redder than my T-shirt. I don’t go far, as I’m not used to the tropical heat, but I’m sure my short run is still the talk of the town.
Come evening, in the softly lit garden, we lounge on sofas on the terrace beside the pool. Dinesh brings us roasted cashews with garlic and chilli and his speciality cocktail, the Arrak Sour, which is icy, sharp and deliciously refreshing. There’s soothing music playing on the stereo and the haunting nocturnal cries of the peacocks blend in so well it feels as if they’ve been specially mixed with the tunes to give the beats a truly Sri Lankan vibe. Of course we eat again: cuttlefish salad, fresh tuna with mashed squash, and steamed date pudding.
The scent of cinnamon oil warming in a burner welcomes us back to our room when we call it a night – the staff burn it to keep mosquitoes at bay, but it’s such a warm, sensual fragrance I wish I could bottle it for home. We light a candle and enjoy the luxury of a four-poster bed.
When it’s time to depart I realise how truly fickle I am. ‘Go back to the beach,’ I say, my lower lip trembling. ‘Leave all this?’ Mr Smith just sighs and nods. It’s hard to drive away but at least we have the memories of a magic two days to take home with us. Back in wintry London, I urge friends to make a beeline for Maya. ‘Trust me,’ I say, ‘you won’t regret it’…
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