Amanwella

Near Tangalle, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Meg Baber
An exclusive and contemporary beach resort near Tangalle, offering upscale R&R
Few resorts can lay claim to 37 acres of coconut grove set along a private 800m crescent beach. If you have several good books to devour, a tan to top up, you relish anonymity, and are in danger of overdosing on Sri Lanka’s cultural and natural highlights, then a few days unwinding at the Amanwella are a must.

Modern, linear and expansive, this 26-suite hotel near Tangalle is the antithesis of its older sister the Amangalla; while the latter is seeped in colonial history and integral to the hustle and bustle of Galle’s fort, the Amanwella is unashamedly contemporary and reclusive. Its architecture emulates the style of Sri Lanka’s acclaimed architect Geoffrey Bawa: a slick juxtaposition between the spectacular natural environment - red earth, green jungle, turquoise sea - and the orderliness and symmetry of the manmade structures - beige concrete, vertical lines, smooth dark timber and manicured lawns. The overall effect is supremely restful - if there wasn’t so much to explore in this beautiful part of Sri Lanka, you could easily kiss goodbye to the outside world for your entire holiday and absorb yourself in the beach, massages in the spa, lazy lunches and cocktails on the terrace.

Highs

  • Enormous, exceptionally comfortable suites; we loved luxuriating in the quality of the soft white towels and linen
  • Splashing around in your private plunge pool - each suite has one
  • Soaring down the drive in the hotel’s gleaming tuk-tuk to go for fresh seafood at its beach club
  • Gazing at the bay over a latte, a newspaper and a game of backgammon in the vast guest lounge
  • Turtle-watching and long walks at nearby Rekawa, southern Sri Lanka’s most epic and unspoilt beach

Lows

  • We found the quality and service fell a little short of Aman's usual supreme standards. If you’re combining it with a stay at the Amangalla, we recommend saving the latter 'til last
  • Although stylish, the modern interiors feel a bit spartan
  • You’ll wonder where everyone is, as the hotel can feel deserted even when full - but perhaps that’s exactly what you want
  • The sea can be treacherous here (lifeguards hover over you when you go for a paddle), so sitting on the beach is like being presented with a delicious ice cream that you can’t actually eat

Best time to go

November to April is the best time to come, when the rains are least intense and the sea is calmest (albeit still perilous a lot of the time on this stretch of coast). December, January and February are the finest months weather-wise. The Amanwella is popular during these months so we recommend booking well ahead. May and June are traditionally the wettest months, but they can be surprisingly pleasant. July and August are drier but the Indian Ocean remains rough. September and October have many sunny spells, but heavy rains, intense humidity and high seas often persist.

Our top tips

Fuse the very best of Sri Lanka’s safari, beach and cultural experiences by using the Amanwella for some mid-trip R&R on your way between a leopard-watching excursion in the incredible Yala National Park and a stay at the exquisite Amangalla in the heart of Galle’s historic fort.

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Suite

Rooms

The 30 suites are stacked in rows up and along the hillside. From the outside they resemble glorified concrete bunkers; inside they’re slick, high-ceilinged and sharp-edged. You enter via a minimalist courtyard with a private plunge pool and a cushioned outdoor lounge area. Sliding timber doors - clever in design but complicated to operate - open into the airy open-plan bedroom and living area, and a further set across the room leads to an elongated terrace with a dining table, chairs and a double sun lounger.

Interior décor borders on corporate, with dark-wood writing desks, armchairs with footstools, and minibars enshrined in sideboards. The feel is a little stark, but we loved the cool silky smoothness of the crisp white linen, the magnificence of the view, and the exceptional comfort of our kingsize bed - you’re bound to sleep well here as long as you don’t mind the natural light filtering through the latticed walls in the morning.

Sliding screens divide the bedrooms from generous bathrooms, which have splendid freestanding tubs, twin sinks, a dressing area, snow-white towels, flannels and robes, as well as Amanwella-branded toiletries and mosquito repellent. The loo and shower are partitioned off in the corners.

The lowest-lying Ocean Suites enjoy uninterrupted views of the beach and coconut grove, and in our opinion are worth the higher price tag. The cheaper Suites overlook the buildings beneath and are a steeper climb from the beach and restaurant (though a couple of tuk-tuks are on standby to whisk you back and forth). Three of the Suites share connecting doors and would be perfect for those travelling with children or another couple.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

The best thing about the food here is that you can enjoy it in the immaculate split-level restaurant overlooking the pool and ocean, or alfresco anywhere of your choosing - on the beach, in the coconut grove or on your suite's terrace.

The passionate chefs specialise in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood is a speciality, as you’d expect at this beholden-to-the-beach resort, and king prawns, fresh lobster, lagoon crab and yellowfin tuna are proffered daily by local fishermen. We asked the chefs to prepare their favourite dishes for us to sample, and were almost as impressed with the taste as we were with the beautiful presentation of the prawn cocktail starter, the pan-fried fillet of red mullet on braised vegetables, and the traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry with tempered calamari. Our desserts of vanilla pannacotta with caramelised passion fruit and chocolate mocha tart with espresso ice cream were unforgettable.

You can also dine at the hotel’s beach club - as delicious as it is decadent. Seafood here is cooked the local way, over a coconut charcoal BBQ, and served with a fresh garden salad and local relishes.

Breakfast options range from traditional Sri Lankan curry to continental spreads to the smartly presented ‘hearty English-style platter’ of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms. Drinks, light meals and cocktails are available all day from the lounge, adjacent to the restaurant, and on the pool terrace.

For a change of culinary scene, try the no-frills seafood restaurant on the Amanwella’s doorstep. Beyond that there are few alternative dining options owing to the undeveloped nature of the area; your best bets are small hotel Maya Villa and the larger Buckingham Place, both British-owned and within a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride (ask staff to call ahead and book you a table).

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Laze on the beach, have a facial or massage (best enjoyed in the coconut grove), then cool down with a few laps in the 47m pool

  • Learn how to make an authentic Sri Lankan curry under the guidance of the hotel’s chefs. They’ll even arrange for you to accompany them to the early-morning fish markets to source produce, and will pack difficult-to-find dry herbs and spices for you to take home

  • Observe majestic sea turtles at the Rekawa Turtle Conservation Centre, a 10km drive from the Amanwella. Combine this after-dark (and ideally full-moon) excursion with dinner at neighbouring Buckingham Place

  • Relish the vivid late-afternoon light and spot an abundance of monkeys, birds, deer, monitor lizards, hares and mongooses in the traditional village of Wella Wathuara, which surrounds the hotel

  • Visit Mulgirigala Rock Temple, perched on a 210m-high rock rising out of thick forest 35 minutes north of Tangalle

  • Ask the manager to arrange a round-trip helicopter ride up over the lush green hills of Kandy and on to the World Heritage citadel of Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock’) - the medieval capital of Ceylon, which soars 200m above Sri Lanka's dry interior plains

  • Go whale-watching (best from December to April) to see blue whales breaching off the coast. The hotel can organise trips on restored Indonesian fishing boats from Mirissa Harbour (a 90-minute drive from the Amanwella)

  • Browse the hotel’s boutique for jewellery and souvenirs, or ask staff for recommendations from their well-researched list of local shops and antiques dealers

  • The sea here is often too rough for swimming, but surfing and snorkelling can be arranged nearby

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children and babies are always welcome, and free babysitting (provided by a lady from the local village) is thoughtfully on offer. That said, the hotel isn’t designed with kids in mind, and others guests are often - quite understandably - the type that would prefer children to be seen and not heard. It’s therefore a tricky place to bring a toddler or a crawler; a newborn would be less of a handful.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra beds (charged for) and cots can be added to all rooms. Three of the Suites, located up the hill away from the beach, have interconnecting doors.

Babysitting:

Free babysitting is available on request.

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors can be provided by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and highchairs are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced, and there are steps and ponds galore in the grounds. The sea here can be dangerous; lifeguards man the beach.

Kid Friendly:

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