Maya Villa

Aranwella, near Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Overview

Stylish small hotel wrapped in bird-filled gardens and picturesque paddy fields, just inland from Tangalle and its beaches

Many of Sri Lanka’s crumbling ancestral abodes have been rescued by foreigners keen to revive these magnificent mansions. But where others deviate little in their redesign, interior designer Niki Fairchild, co-owner of Maya Villa, has broken free of the mould by masterfully blending the old with the new. First, she completely refurbished the original 19th-century manor house, then she added a new wing and fused them together with an L-shaped indigo swimming pool. The result is a refreshingly simple yet striking take on colonial style, with 5 contemporary rooms available individually or together as a staffed villa for 10-15.

Enveloping the house is a magical 2-acre garden, home to melodious armies of exotic birds, and this setting entices families, couples and nature lovers alike. Unspoilt Aranwella immerses the hotel in tranquility; borrow bicycles to peddle around this sleepy little village, or take a tuk-tuk to the south coast’s beautiful beaches, 8km away. But Maya’s star attraction is the mesmerising sea of paddy fields rolling out beyond its emerald lawns. Their colours change chameleon-like according to the season, and provide a stunning backdrop to lazy alfresco meals - some of the tastiest we’ve come across in Tangalle.

Guest Ratings

Room:
85%
Food:
80%
Service:
85%
Value:
80%
Overall:
83%

Maya Villa: View all reviews

Highs

  • A very private, pampering retreat: the villa’s gentle staff cater to guests’ every need, and there’s a masseur on call
  • Sleek and spacious rooms, all with verandas or courtyards; some have romantic four-poster beds, too
  • The superb chef, whose repertoire ranges from Far Eastern nosh to full English breakfasts to local rice and curry
  • Abundant wildlife - hornbills, parakeets and electric-blue kingfishers chatter in trees, and pompous peacocks pace the lawn
  • Beautiful sunsets over the paddy fields, best paired with a speciality arrack sour. Lie back in a hammock to watch the drama unfold

Lows

  • The nearest beach is 15 minutes away, but transport is easily arranged and Maya’s garden, pool and privacy more than make up for the inland location
  • The lush garden attracts mosquitoes, especially after rain, so you’ll need to lather on repellent at dawn and dusk
  • No twin rooms
Rooms

Maya’s 5 spacious bedrooms are divided between the old house and a new wing that faces it across the swimming pool. Soaring ceilings, polished floors and eye-catching brass wall lamps are features throughout, and every room comes with a kingsize bed, a veranda with chairs, and an ensuite shower room finished in plum-coloured terrazzo or polished concrete.

The beautifully restored old house cleverly blends contemporary furnishings with traditional features. Its 2 rooms are set either side of a central dining area and come with regal four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting. Kumbuk is the more private and overlooks the rear garden, whereas Thekka gazes out over the pool towards the paddy fields. The entrance veranda of the old house has been turned into a semi-open lounge, with delicate latticework shutters, a cushion-plumped sofa and shelves of attention-grabbing books.

The 3 rooms in the new wing flaunt private courtyards and doorless bathrooms (not to everyone’s taste, but very chic nonetheless). Amba and Ehela sit side by side and come with the largest courtyards; cute corner room Kohomba has a cobbled terrace and its own miniature palm-topped lawn. To the front of the new wing is an open-sided wooden pavilion with minimalist blue and white daybeds and a poolside dining table for 10.

All rooms come with sitting areas (colonial-style planters' chairs in the old house, boxy low-slung couches in the new wing), plus hairdryers, fans, cable TV, CD players, iPod docks, WiFi and air conditioning. Bathrooms have rain showers (no tubs) and toiletries made using organic herbs and spices.

Eating

Maya’s food is some of the best in Tangalle. Not only is this down to the chef’s obvious talents in the kitchen, but also because the rural paddy-side setting is so deliciously divine. You can dine in the old house’s vaulted dining room, poolside in the new wing pavilion, or in the privacy of your room or courtyard.

Hearty breakfasts start with a choice of Sri Lankan apas (bowl-shaped rice flour pancakes) with seeni sambol (red onion chutney) or filling Full Englishes with all the trimmings. This is followed by tropical fruit, cereal, creamy buffalo curd and kithu (palm sugar) treacle - a wonderful local speciality. Fresh bread is made in-house.

Lunches are leisurely affairs served when and where you want; the staff took our order after breakfast so they could stock up on supplies. The fusion food mixes Asian influences with western dishes, so a typical buffet spread might include chicken lemongrass skewers, spicy pasta puttanesca, prawn tempura and fish curry with okra.

Dinners are more formal 3-course affairs with set menus that change daily. We enjoyed a delicious zesty crab salad with a zingy ginger dressing, followed by a Thai red prawn curry. Bananas fried in cane sugar and served with dollops of silky curd finished off our meal a treat. Vegetarian options are always available - just ask.

Maya is a 15-minute drive from the beaches of Tangalle, which is where you’ll find the best options for eating out (staff can arrange transport). Sleek hotel Amanwella, set on a gorgeous crescent-shaped swathe of sand, has 2 restaurants; its Beach Club with a Mediterranean-inspired menu was our favourite choice for relaxed seaside meals.

Activities

  • Top up your tan by the pool, lounge in a hammock, or kick back on the veranda with a book

  • Be pampered by the masseur, or take your relaxation further by booking a session of yoga or Tai Chi with a visiting instructor

  • Watch the abundant birdlife in the villa’s garden. There are binoculars and birding books to borrow

  • Challenge the staff to a game of cricket on the lawn, or enjoy a leisurely session of croquet, volleyball, badminton or petanque (equipment is provided)

  • Learn the secrets of Maya's chef during a cooking lesson (available by arrangement from May to November)

  • Borrow a bicycle and head off to explore Aranwella and its hinterland - make your first stop the Buddhist temple next door. Villa staff can guide you around the area and pack up picnics if required

  • Head to the coast (staff can arrange transport) to spend a day on one of the beaches; Mawella, Palm Paradise and Seenimodara are some of the prettiest. Afterwards, travel back to Maya via the market in Tangalle

  • Travel 15 minutes to the north to marvel at Mulgirigala Rock Temple, a Buddhist temple perched 210m above the surrounding forest. The 360-degree views from its peak are sublime

  • Head to Rekawa Beach to wait for egg-laying marine turtles to come ashore. Combine this after-dark treat with dinner at nearby hotel Buckingham Place

  • Take off on a half-day trip to seek out wildlife in one of the region’s national parks - Yala, Uda Walawe and Bundala. You might spot leopards, elephants, monkeys and bears

  • Brave a crack-of-dawn wake up to go whale-watching off the shores of Mirissa, an hour up the road. It’s well worth the early start for the potential sightings of blue whales, sperm whales and acrobatic spinner dolphins (best from December to April)

Essentials
  • Dining: The hotel’s chef prepares breakfast (included), lunch and dinner daily, and you can dine in the old house, in the intimate poolside pavilion with its superb paddy field views, or in your room. Drinks and snacks are available throughout the day
  • Communal areas: There are open-sided living and dining areas in both the old house and the new wing, with plenty of inviting sofas, books to borrow, and CD players with iPod docks. The 2-acre garden is dotted with trees, hammocks and deckchairs, with views stretching out across the surrounding paddy fields
  • Internet Access: WiFi is available throughout
  • Swimming Pool: The 20m indigo swimming pool snakes its way between the rooms and out into the garden. It's surrounded by a cobbled terrace with loungers
  • Spa Treatments: The on-call masseur can provide pampering treats, including full body massages, head massages and yummy cucumber wraps
  • Recreational: The 2-acre garden is ideal for croquet, petanque, badminton, volleyball and cricket; equipment is available. Binoculars and bird-watching guides are provided, and there are bicycles, board games and boogie boards to borrow. There's also a library of films and CDs to choose from, and staff can arrange day trips, transport, cooking lessons (May-November only), yoga, and Tai Chi
  • Weddings and Celebrations: Maya’s incredibly lush backdrop makes it a wonderfully romantic venue for saying ‘I do’. The hotel can cater for 24 dinner guests and accommodate up to 14 people overnight
  • Max. Wedding Guests: 24
  • Meetings/Functions: Not suitable
  • Disabled Access: None
  • Pets: Pets are welcome by prior arrangement. Maya has 2 friendly resident dogs named Patch and Paddy
  • Languages Spoken: English, Singhala

Environmental Policy

The hotel has solar power and uses CFL energy-saving bulbs.

Social Responsibility

Most staff members come from Aranwella. Guests can donate to the local temple, and funds raised already have provided a computer and kids’ English classes at the temple school.

When to go?

December to April are the sunniest and driest months, with December to February proving particularly popular. May and June are the region’s wettest months, with October and November a close second. The paddy fields in front of the hotel change from season to season, but if you long for a lush pea-green scene, you’ll need to visit in December, January, June or July.

Author's tips

Twitchers can borrow binoculars and birding books to spot the amazing array of birdlife that visits the garden, but if catching it on film is important then bring a good telephoto lens. This will also come in handy for snapping wildlife at the safari parks in the area.

Features

  • Room service
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Garden
  • Terrace
  • Guest lounge
  • Library
  • WIFI internet
  • Outdoor pool
  • In room treatments available
  • Bicycles available
  • DVD library
  • Games equipment
  • Boogie boards
  • Available for exclusive use
  • Pets welcome by arrangement
  • Off street parking
  • Airport Transfers

Kids

Although the hotel wasn’t designed with kids in mind, children of all ages are welcome and will adore having the run of the 2-acre garden. It’s big enough to kick a ball, and there are plenty of spots for playing hide and seek. The staff here are great at keeping kids engaged (they've even been known to enthrall them with kite-making classes!), and there are family-friendly films to borrow. For a bit of excitement there’s nothing like a tuk-tuk ride to the beach to go boogie boarding.

  • Best for: Children (4-12 years)
  • Family friendly accommodation: Travel cots are available, and extra single beds (free for children under 12) can be added to all rooms.
  • Babysitting: Babysitting is available by arrangement - see Rates. You'll need to give a day's notice.
  • Baby equipment:
    • Baby cots
    • High chairs
  • Children's meals: Maya’s chef is famed for his homemade ice creams and can whip up special meals for children on request. High chairs are available.
  • Kids Activities on site:
    • Petanque
    • Volleyball
    • Cricket
    • Badminton
    • Board games
    • DVDs
    • Bicycles
  • Kids Activities nearby:
    • Beach and boogie boarding (boards are available to borrow)
    • Whale-watching
    • Turtle-watching
    • Trips to safari parks
  • Families Should Know: The pool is unfenced, and many rooms open straight out onto the pool terrace, so keep a close eye on mobile toddlers.
Location

Location
Maya Villa is 8km inland from the coastal town of Tangalle, in southern Sri Lanka. It’s set in the rural village of Aranwella, a 4-hour drive (or a 45-minute flight) from the capital Colombo.

By Air
Fly into Colombo Bandaranaike International (230km away). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving this airport.

From the Airport
The hotel can arrange road transfers from Colombo (see Rates), or you can take the speedy Sri Lankan Airlines air taxi service to Dikwella Lagoon (15 minutes from Maya). Flights operate once or twice daily, and Maya staff can meet you at Dikwella.

By Bus
You can catch a direct bus from Colombo to Tangalle (15 minutes from the hotel) or to Matara (an hour from the hotel). From there you can finish the rest of the journey by tuk-tuk, or arrange for staff to pick you up.

By Car
If you want to hire a driver and car for your whole holiday, enquire through our Tailormade Tour Operator; they can collect you at the airport when you land, drive you down to Maya, then drive you to your onward destination after your stay. The driver's meals and accommodation are provided for free at Maya.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Sri Lanka and getting around

Reviews

Press Reviews

Escapism Magazine, October 2013
"Cleverly formed from one of Sri Lanka’s ancestral abodes, this stylish hotel is just inland from Tangalle and its stunning beaches. The original 19th-century manor house and a sleek new wing sit around an L-shaped indigo pool, creating a striking take on colonial style. The five contemporary rooms are available individually or together as a staffed villa for 10-15, and the two acre garden is home to scores of exotic birds. Rolling out beyond the lawns is a sea of emerald paddy fields, providing a beautiful backdrop to alfresco meals whipped up by the superb chef."

Conde Nast Traveller (UK), October 2012
"This Indian Ocean Island is quickly climbing to the top of every traveller's wish-list, and with gorgeous beaches, increasingly trendy hotels and excellent swells, it's no wonder why. This stylish boutique hotel in southern Sri Lanka is located in a quiet rural village eight kilometres inland from Tangalle, Maya Villa has just five contemporary suites spread over the grounds of a restored 19th-century manor house, and is surrounded by green paddy fields."

Travel + Leisure, January 2012
"Sri Lanka’s beach-lined southern coast is the country’s strongest draw... [and] a handful of designers have opened boutique hotels... Hong Kong decorator Niki Fairchild has turned a century-old house into the glamorous five-suite Maya."

Guest Reviews

Reviews are from people who have booked through us.

  • “We loved Maya. The manger looked after us exceptionally well as did his staff. The room was beautifully decorated and had everything we needed.
    The massage is a must.
    Food excellent and the neighbouring village a nice place to take a bike though or walk.We had 3 gorgeous days here.
    All very peaceful, the beaches an easy excursion if you need it!”

    Sandie, Australia (14.01.13)
  • “Lovely location. The room was excellent, the only annoyance was the mosquito net above the bed which became tangled in the bedding over night. The design at one of your other hotels was much better having a frame the size of the bed to suspend the net from so it didn't drape itself across the bed.
    [A note]: we left some shoes outside the room at night to find them ripped up by the local dogs [in the morning].”

    Rosalind, Qatar (06.11.12)