Need to know
11am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Early arrivals have free use of the spa, pool and spa shower while they wait. No check-ins or check-outs are allowed on 25 December, 31 December and 1 January.
Double rooms from $407.93, excluding tax at 28.7 per cent.
Rates include a full English breakfast with fresh fruit, juices and hot drinks. Prefer a proper Sri Lankan breakfast of noodly string hoppers and curries? Just request it the night before. Guests are given iced tea on arrival and a 10-minute head massage.
The hotel’s impressive lily pond curves around the villas and gardens, home to a kaleidoscope of fish friendly enough to be petted (the matriarch of the shoal may even respond when called by name). Resist the urge to feed them stray breakfast crumbs: they need to work up an appetite for their regular – and spectacular – feeding sessions.
At the hotel
Spa, yoga pavilion, gift shop, motor boat, tennis, ping-pong, board games, croquet lawn, volleyball court, fishing rods, library of books and films, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: minibar, free bottled water, tea and coffee, Kama Ayurveda toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Sleep like a maharajah in vast 1840s canopied beds: Reef Villa’s rooms have that laid-back, languid colonial style down pat, with prettily tiled floors, reclaimed ceilings fans and lashing of dark, tactile wood. Bathrooms are enormous, with hand-carved granite bath tubs big enough for two and cinnamon-scented toiletries; we fell for Ocean Suite Sapumal’s totally private open-air shower and the Lily Pond Suite’s sunken spa bath, tucked away in a lush planted courtyard. Ocean Suite Namal’s swinging day-bed is made for idle lounging; from its private veranda, stepping stones lead across the pond to the lawn, pool and golden beach beyond.
Fringed by gently swaying palm-trees, the infinity pool glimmers invitingly on the hotel’s manicured lawns. Stretch out on sunloungers beneath paisley-printed parasols or stroll straight through the garden gates to the golden beach beyond, a picturesque stomping ground for the friendly (and quite tame) local elephant. It’s safe to swim here from November to April and there’s always a lifeguard to keep an eye on hesitant swimmers.
Hide away in the Reefresh Spa’s enclosed courtyard, which has its own waterfall and couple’s treatment room, to work your way through the menu of exotic treatments: slathered in detoxifying clay and softening turmeric and honey ointments, you’ll be wrapped up in a cocoon of banana leaves and treated to seaweed or coffee-scrub facials. Sheltered beneath a thatched roof In the garden, the Ayurveda Spa has a steam room and traditional wooden massage bed; indulge in a sweet-scented massage or shirodara – a gentle, soothing pouring of warm liquid onto the forehead – to the sound of lapping waves.
Leave your adaptors at home: you’ll find international plugs discretely hidden away in the antique furniture.
The hotel’s rooms and public areas are non-smoking; you’ll need to stray away from the pool to light up. The Lily Pond Suite is equipped with grab rails; ramps for wheelchair users can be arranged for most suites, except Manel and Nelum.
Very welcome. Handcrafted mahogany cots for under-2s (US$65 a night) and extra beds for under-12s (US$90) can be added to rooms. The Captain’s menu offers child-friendly fare such as banana shakes, green smoothies, veggie burgers and chicken pancakes.
The hotel’s green credentials are second to none, with a holistic eco-friendly programme that rewards staff for inventive contributions. Measures run the gamut from water preservation to home-grown spa products; guppy fish in the ponds replace pesticides and drinkable water springs straight from the hotel’s own well. Locavores rejoice: special care is taken with the provenance of the food, making the most of Sri Lanka’s bountiful larder.