Apa Villas

Thalpe, near Galle, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from US$198

Reviewed by Yasmin Boland
Laid-back beach retreat with a fabulous pool
Imagine arriving at a secluded beachside villa, resplendent with tropical flower displays, and stepping out onto an airy terrace surrounded by palm trees and swaying hammocks. A cool drink in hand, you breathe in the sweetness of the air, gaze out on the surf rolling into shore and admire the vibrancy of the sunset. A lone turtle, searching for somewhere to lay her eggs, pops her head out of the water.

This is Apa Villas: 3 fully-staffed colonial bungalows in a coconut grove on the beach at Thalpe, on Sri Lanka's south west coast. Owned by Hans Hoefer, photographer, designer and founder of Insight Guides, the 7 suites have been elegantly decorated to blend in with their natural surroundings. Being so small, you get privacy and quiet, with an incredibly polite and helpful team of staff.

Take a dip in the heavenly pool, enjoy delicious Sri Lankan food freshly prepared by the cook, visit Galle's old Dutch fort, stroll along the beach or just laze around the garden.

Highs

  • Rent a single suite, ideal for couples, or a single villa, perfect for families. Larger parties of up to 14 people can book exclusive use of all 3 bungalows
  • You can enjoy your own villa with all the services of a small friendly hotel, including delicious meals at very reasonable prices
  • A secluded location, yet only a few kilometres from Galle (Sri Lanka's most atmospheric historic town) and Unawatuna (for laid back beach bars and scuba-diving)
  • Room are comfortable and calming - the beach-front suites are the pick of the crop
  • The cool swimming pool stretches from the villas to the beach

Lows

  • Some of the bathrooms could do with modernisation
  • Due to the strong undercurrents and sharp coral reefs, the beach is not ideal for swimming. However, Wijaya Beach (1.5km) is fantastic for swimmers of all ages
  • The villas are close together and share a pool so, unless you book the entire property, don't expect total privacy
  • There can be occasional traffic noise due to the nearby road

Best time to go

October to April are considered the best months in this part of Sri Lanka. Temperatures hover around 28C throughout the year, but heavy rains usually fall in May/June and September/October. If cost is an issue, consider coming outside the peak season of December and January to make the most of lower prices and cheaper airfares.

Our top tips

Head to Koggala Lake (5km east of Apa Villas). It's a haven for birdlife and you can enjoy a sunset boat trip across its waters to the secluded Cinamon Island.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 7
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

Spread between 3 villas, 6 of the 7 elegant suites enjoy wonderful sea views. Contemporary yet colonial, living areas are spacious and stylish. Beds are set on raised platforms and laid with crisp linen. Mosquito nets are cleverly hung from the inside. Ceiling fans, air-con and the sea breeze will keep you cool. Mod cons are minimal (this is about escaping modern life), but you will find plenty of books to read.

Suites 1, 2 and 3 - Cinnamon Villa
Each suite has one double and one single bed as well as a sitting area. They share a large central living room and a long terrace with rattan sofas for lazing around in the heat of the day. Suite 2 has garden views, the others look to the sea.

Suites 4 and 5 - Cardamon Villa
Each large suite has a double bed, a walk-in wardrobe and a sitting room. They share a wide veranda furnished with colonial-style chaise longues and a dining area that faces the swimming pool.

Suites 6 and 7 - Saffron Villa
Saffron has the most spacious suites and they’re divided by a pretty lily pond. Each has a double bedroom, a sitting room and a terrace.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

One of the highlights of Apa Villas is the delicious food. The permanent household staff can cater to your needs - nothing is too much trouble. The varied menus cover local specialties and international dishes, all of which are carefully prepared to your taste. Guests tend to eat on their verandas, although there is a large dining room in the main house for big groups.

Dinners range from freshly caught crab with a Singapore twist to Sri Lankan curries using coconuts picked from the surrounding grove. Most dishes are based on locally grown vegetables bought fresh that day, and you can also sample squid, prawns and meats from the market.

Breakfast is a healthy selection of tropical fruits, buffalo milk curd, toast, eggs, pancakes, marsala omelettes and Sri Lankan breakfast hoppers.

Light lunches (salads, burgers, sandwiches and cakes) are available throughout the day.

Refreshing chilled beers, cocktails made from local liquors, homemade popsicles and freshly made juices (including pineapple, watermelon, passion fruit and orange) can be provided.

If you fancy a night out, head to the buzzy Wijaya beach bar and restaurant nearby. Otherwise there are some lovely restaurants in Galle and laid-back beach cafes in Unawatuna.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Fridge
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Visit the historic coastal town of Galle (8km), once occupied by the Portuguese and then the Dutch. Explore the labyrinth of buzzy shops and eateries lining the narrow streets inside its 17th-century fort
  • Wijaya beach (1.5km) is great for swimming, snorkelling and turtle-spotting
  • Go scuba diving in Unawatuna (3km). There's a dive centre with qualified instructors who will take you to explore ship wrecks. Experienced divers can also explore the coral reef in front of Apa Villas where you may spot barracudas, lion fish and lobsters – staff can arrange equipment
  • Visit the small but untouristy Kataluwa Buddhist temple, tucked away in the jungle near Galle
  • The helpful staff can arrange cycling, rafting, canoeing and trekking
  • Enjoy sundowners on the beach or relax with an in-suite massage (on request)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Rafting
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children are welcome at Apa Villas and staff will do all they can to help parents.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

All suites can hold an extra bed or baby cot. The Cinnamon and Saffron Villa suites can each sleep up to 4. For oodles of space, book an entire villa or even the whole property.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged on request.

Children's meals:

The chef can tailor meals to children as required.

Kids Activities nearby:

Beaches suitable for families: Wijaya (1.5km away) or Unawatuna and Habaradura (both 3km away).

Families Should Know:

The beach by Apa Villas is not suitable for swimming as the water has strong undercurrents and sharp reefs.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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