PART 1 – Smaller Luxury Boutique Hotels in Sri Lanka
‘Boutique’, to us, used to mean small, intimate and personal – a term now increasingly misused in the same way that ‘luxury’ has been to capture a developing market. Some definitions include hotels of up to a hundred rooms but for us the Sri Lankan limit of fifty is more in keeping with realistic expectations of providing the highest standards of care and attention.
We’ve divided our review of luxury boutique hotels into two – Smaller and Larger. This is the first and gives you an insight into those of fewer than twenty rooms.
We’ve visited all of them – so that between the two posts over the next week or two, you can make a preliminary selection based on how many people you wish to share your world with – and then we’ve commented on each so that you can narrow down your choices. We really like all of these hotels and any reservations we express are simply to differentiate between them and to provide some form of perspective for you.
All have very similar facilities but for precise detail check out each of the websites that we’ve added after each comment.
Please remember that there are a number of excellent hotels that we haven’t included that aren’t classed as boutique; having well over 50 rooms. You’ll find our reviews of some of these included in The Exotic Treasure that’s Sri Lanka
Aditya – Galle
We liked this little hotel the moment we walked in. The smart, stylish, bright, airy, crisp and clean design with a colonial take on a modern palette is just up our street. It’s almost as if you’ve come to a private house; a notion confirmed when we’re told that we can order and eat meals whenever and wherever the mood takes us – no set times, places, menus or orthodox conventions (actually that’s better than our house!)
This is truly a personalised and sophisticated boutique experience without any doubt.
Whilst the building itself is unremarkable, what they’ve achieved within its confines is. The twelve suites are all individually designed, furnished with art and antiques from the Orient and named after Hindu deities; all adding to the feeling that you’ve been inducted into a very smart religious sect. Spend some time here and you’re bound to become a believer – this is personal attention with gongs!
Adiya Boutique Hotel: 719/1, Galle Road, Devenigoda , Rathgama , Galle, Sri Lanka.
Casa Colombo – Colombo city
Located in Colombo 4, at first glance the two-hundred year old Casa Colombo is an imposing Moorish style mansion that promises much. To a larger extent this is delivered with the twelve large butler-served suites and quirky decoration, big copper baths and bright décor. The huge mango tree in the middle of the pool makes a shady and attractive addition to overall presentation. Its let down only by the rather more tired common parts and the perception that service might reflect this – but it’s all more than made up for by the enthusiasm and willingness to please of the manager Zacky James de Silva.
Casa Colombo: 231, Galle Road, Colombo 4, Sri Lanka
Frangipani Tree – Thalpe
Individual, quirky, hippy, colonial, beautiful – descriptions that all improbably seem to fit Frangipani Tree. Comprising nine suites in three villas; each with a view of the ocean, Frangipani Tree exudes calm and contentment. Each suite enjoys modern and elegant custom furnishings, four-poster beds with beautiful linens, covered terraces and verandahs with sun beds and private dining tables. A place to go if you wish to be private and only socialise when you choose.
Frangipani Tree is part of a small group of ‘Edwards Collection’ boutique villas, all of which offer unusual and intimate, quality residences.
The Frangipani Tree: 812, Matara Road, Thalpe, Sri Lanka.
Reef Villa & Spa – Wadduwa
Claiming to be the ‘ultimate tropical beach villa’ we see nothing to dispute this in the stylish colonial décor and tranquil setting of this beautiful retreat. One of our personal favourites, Reef echoes elegance and quality from the old East India Company and days of the Raj. Hidden away from general view, Reef is an oasis of calm. Designed and run by British owners you’re never in doubt of inhabiting a tropical paradise. As you lounge in the elegant ‘Plantation House’ that’s replete with memories and mementos of the past, or retire to your own suite – one of only seven – you’ll feel like a personal house guest of the owners rather than a transient visitor. A gentle stroll to the end of the garden to gaze upon the Indian Ocean reminds you that you are truly in paradise.
Reef Villa & Spa: 78 Samanthara Road, Wadduwa, WP 12560, Sri Lanka
Serene Pavilions – Wadduwa
The twelve individual pavilions of this resort are set out around spacious verdant gardens that lead to the Indian Ocean and radiate from a principal reception pavilion; seemingly floating on a quiet pond stocked with golden fish swimming in a leisurely manner between the lily pads and flowers.
The place reminded us of a retreat or spa with its clean simple lines and were it not for the Reef which is close by would have captured our imagination and urged us to linger. As it was, by comparison with the Reef, for us it lacks the natural warmth we seek and all feels a little contrived rather than effortless – but nevertheless, its beautifully designed and constructed and one can’t help but feel special – you’re sure to have a wonderful time here.
Tintagel – Colombo city
We found Tintagel simply charming. Set in the exclusive Colombo 7 district, it has a chequered history; having been built in 1930, later becoming residence of Solomon Bandaranaike who was assassinated on its veranda and whose wife subsequently became the world’s first female Prime Minister. Latterly it’s where Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall stayed on their visit to Sri Lanka in 2013; the Blairs have been and whilst we were staying Mrs Clooney was also in residence. It radiates quality and opulence without being pretentious and feels like a chic private club rather than hotel. Its rooms are as charming as its staff and overall Tintagel is reason enough to find the excuse to stay in Colombo.
Tintagel: 65 Rosmead Place, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
Michele Beach – Balapitiya
If you judge by first impressions you’d perhaps be tempted to drive past and find an alternative; situated as it is on a busy main road with an extensive and overbearing blank wall of concrete to greet you. As you walk through the front , this notion is immediately dispelled as you gaze upon the blue waters of the Indian Ocean lapping at the beach below, beyond the broad wooden veranda that fronts much of the property. Michelle Beach uses white painted concrete on a grand scale but to good effect with airy, bright spaces that suggest a coolness that carries through into the sixteen suites. Each has its own lounge, some have either plunge pool or Jacuzzi and all are decorated in a clean contemporary fashion with windows that make the most of the 180 degree sea view. Michelle Beach, for us, gives the impression of having the character of a large hotel condensed into a smaller package.
Michelle Boutique Hotel: Balapitiya, Sri Lanka
The Fort Printers – Galle Fort
The old mansion that Fort Printers is situated within traces its lineage back to Dutch times with significant editions being made by the British after 1796. Until 2002 the building was a traditional wood-block printer but has now been converted into a collection of rooms and suites with a distinctive minimalist but stylish period flair achieved with the use of numerous antiques and plain unadorned walls. With its location in the heart of the Unesco Heritage site of Galle Fort with its quaint streets and shops on your doorstep, you are very much part of the comings and goings of local life. The Fort Printers offers flexible accommodation with its three villas, with a total of 13 bedrooms; each of the villas may be booked for exclusive use or as separate suites.
The Fort Printers: 39 Pedlar Street, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Uga Residence – Colombo city
This refined eleven suite residence is a former home of a notable barrister, known for entertaining the great and the good of colonial society. Built in the 1800’s this traditional Victorian bungalow is deceptive from the outside; opening out into extensive grounds that house the suites, pool , bars and dining areas; two of which are for private dining – all richly appointed and elegantly presented.
Undoubtedly stylish, designed with every attention to detail and facility, we felt the Residence ideal for jetting into Colombo with an entourage for a set of high powered meetings where we could immunise ourselves from the disturbances of city living outside the gate whilst relaxing without a care when business was done.
At the time of writing we don’t think you can go far wrong with any of the Uga Escapes properties around Sri Lanka although each has its own distinct character.
Uga Residence: No 20, Park Street,, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
The jury’s out on our tenth choice – we’ve a mind to think it’s got to be Tea Trails, near Hatton (www.teatrails.com) but as we haven’t yet visited or stayed there don’t feel able to include it – so watch this space for a later addition. When the next small boutique hotel takes our fancy we’ll let you know!
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Tourist travel to Sri Lanka increases every year without any serious problems but it pays to be aware of current advice although we’ve found it to be one of the friendliest countries we’ve visited.
If you’d like some guidance on packing tips, see:
We arranged our travel through Worldwide Holidays, specialists to Sri Lanka to whom Cherrie is a consultant.
See separate reviews on both larger boutique hotels that we stayed in together with other related posts that deal with different aspects of our trip in more detail.
Top Ten Larger Boutique Hotels
The Exotic Treasure that’s Sri Lanka
For a general guide to Sri Lanka – see the official tourist board website