The i-escape blog / Marta Purwin

By Marta Purwin, Bookings Consultant

 Marta’s journey along Sri Lanka’s south coast was one of pure luxury. Here she regales us with tales of beautiful villas, paradise beaches, and a sweet (and spicy) taste of the high life.

Stop 1: Negombo

After enduring a prolonged period of inactivity thanks to the pandemic, boarding a plane to a far-flung and exotic destination like Sri Lanka seemed incredibly surreal. 16 hours of flying later, we touched down. Our first stop was The Wallawwa hotel, located a mere 20-minute drive away from the airport, and we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting haven to kickstart our adventure.

The Wallawwa

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / The Wallawwa
Left: The pool at The Wallawwa; Right: The Garden Suite

Despite its proximity to the airport, The Wallawwa boasts a serene rural location, and the manager’s exceedingly warm welcome upon our arrival had an immediate soothing effect on us – swiftly dissolving the memories of our gruelling journey. We were given warm towels, welcome drinks and a quick tour of the single-storied colonial manor house, which we were told has been carefully tended for more than two centuries! Its breathtaking grounds are home to 18 luxurious, fully air-conditioned rooms and suites. The property’s gardens are meticulously maintained and offer secluded areas for unwinding after a long flight, and the pool area, which nestles beneath mature trees, creates the illusion of being in a tropical rainforest. Absolute bliss.

Our room was the Garden Suite. The décor was stylish with an authentic Asian feel, complete with a four-poster Balinese bed and muslin drapes, a built-in window seat leading to a private terrace, and a wooden cabinet housing a mini-bar and coffee machine. All rooms have high wooden ceilings, terrazzo floors and retro black telephones, hinting at the hotel’s colonial past. The bathrooms are spacious and have a subdued atmosphere with dim lighting. Instead of bathtubs, most have large walk-in showers, except for the Mountbatten Suite. Those who prefer long soaks may feel disappointed, but we found showers to be far more fitting in the hot and humid climate of Sri Lanka.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / The Wallawwa
Left: The Garden Suite; Right: Dinner at The Verandah

After freshening up, we headed to The Verandah, the low-lit, open-sided restaurant, for dinner. The casual yet sophisticated atmosphere, coupled with the talented chefs’ international and Asian fusion cuisine, made for a delectable meal. The dishes were complemented with local ingredients and flavours, many of which were sourced from the hotel’s vast kitchen garden, which we had the pleasure of touring. The chefs had a deep understanding of the health benefits and culinary potential of the ingredients and were happy to share their recommendations. We couldn’t resist trying their famous black pork curry, seasoned with cardamom, tamarind and ginger, and served with mouth-watering accompaniments. To our delight, it surpassed all expectations, as did the delicious cocktails. Breakfast was equally delicious, featuring crispy egg hoppers with spicy katta sambol, freshly baked croissants, warm pancakes, and colourful fruit plates.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / The Wallawwa
The Z Spa at The Wallawwa

A big highlight here, and what makes the Wallawa a perfect beginning or end to your trip, is the Z Spa, situated in a peaceful central courtyard. It focuses on pre- and post-flight relaxation, with the signature facial or the black tea and cardamom wrap particularly effective for travel-weary bodies. The spa also has flexible hours and can accommodate appointments even after dinner (with advance notice), which we thought was a great touch.  The setting felt exclusive, private, and above all, tranquil. The staff were gracious and accommodating, with impeccable manners and an unobtrusive presence that really helped to make our stay here exceptional. We were genuinely sad to leave, and next time we will book the Wallawwa for a night at the end of our trip too, as nothing in busy Colombo or Negombo was able to beat the experience we had here.


Stop 2: Balapitya

Kumu Beach

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Kumu Beach
Left: Pool at Kumu Beach; Right: View from Ocean View Bedroom

Our next stop was Kumu Beach. It took us 2 hours to get there but the hassle was taken away by the lovely staff at the Wallawwa, who helped to organise our transfer.

Arriving in Balapitiya, a charming coastal location in Sri Lanka, evoked a real sense of tranquillity.  Upon entering the grand, five-meter-high wooden doors, we were met with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by palm trees. Walking across the vast lawn, the beach awaited us with its golden sands, rolling waves and nesting marine turtles. Overlooking the beach was the 23-metre infinity pool which looked incredibly enticing. The picturesque scene resembled something you might find on a postcard (or a computer background, nowadays!)

The outdoor lounge and dining areas had gorgeous ocean and pool views and were adjacent to the 10 suites arranged in a double-storey U-shape. The two pavilions with vaulted ceilings, sizable French doors and globe-like statues provided breezy and calm relaxation areas for the guests.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Kumu Beach
Ocean View Bedroom

We were lucky enough to be given the Ocean View Bedroom on the ground floor, which boasted a four-poster bed, bi-folding doors and our very own private terrace overlooking the grounds and beach beyond. Waking up to this view was truly magical. The rooms were all tastefully designed with herringbone coir rugs and off-white terrazzo floors; en-suite bathrooms had pebble-floored showers.

After taking a dip in the inviting pool, we quickly readied ourselves for dinner as the sun began to set. We chose to dine alfresco on the sea-facing timber deck, to fully appreciate the stunning scenery; if preferred, there is also the option to sit in the air-conditioned bar. The staff here were exceptionally attentive, and it wasn’t long until they knew us by name and remembered our preferences. The restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients and a fusion of flavours. Their seafood selection is particularly fresh, so we opted for the seared tuna steaks and tiger prawns to start, followed by a meaty main course and a selection of white wines. The next morning, breakfast came with a tropical fruit platter, berry smoothies and bread baskets, and we ordered pancakes, eggs benedict and egg hoppers as extras. Although I typically can’t tolerate spicy food early in the day, I found their chicken curry to be so tasty that I added some to my hopper each morning!

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Kumu Beach
Left: Breakfast hoppers; Right: Swimming in the pool at Kumu Beach

There are many activities to do in the area – a turtle hatchery and water sports are available at Balapitiya Beach, the mask museum is in nearby Ambalangoda, and Galle’s famous 17th-century fort is only a 50-minute drive away. We chose to go to Bentota to see Geoffrey Bawa’s stunning gardens at Lunuganga and it was a real treat!

But Kumu Beach is primarily for relaxing. After a day of sightseeing, the hotel arranged a couple’s massage for us in their one-room Ayurvedic spa, and it was a highlight of our stay here. As we bid adieu, we felt rested, rejuvenated and ready to embrace the jam-packed itinerary ahead of us.


Stop 3: Galle

After staying at such incredible hotels, and having had so many adventures, the bar was high at this point. We thought it wise to organise two staffed, private villas back-to-back for the end of the trip but did not realise just how blissful the next few days would be. We also knew both properties were close to each other but hadn’t anticipated just how close! Turtle Beach House and Serendipity Villa are literally on the same stretch of beach, about six doors down from one other, which meant no transfers and a lot more time to explore the local area (Habaraduwa) but also Galle and Koggala Lake.  I personally had never stayed in a staffed villa before so was excited to be waited on but equally anxious about the setup. “When will the staff be there? Do they go home at night? Can you just help yourself? How private will the experience feel”, I kept asking i-escape colleagues before my trip!


Turtle Beach House

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Turtle Beach House
Bedroom and sitting area at Turtle Beach House

When we arrived at Turtle Beach House, both Santa the house manager and Shantha the chef were waiting for us outside (yes, the similarity of their names got quite confusing at times!). The house blew me away as soon as we walked in – the breezy open-plan living and dining area seamlessly extending out to a wide veranda, a glistening pool, a perfectly manicured, palm-fringed garden, and then a picture-postcard white-sand beach beyond. I couldn’t believe this was all ours for a couple of days!

Except it wasn’t. At first, I really struggled to get my head around the staff being there the whole time, despite how welcoming and smiley they were. I felt slightly awkward. But you soon realise it’s something you just get used to, and you actually end up relaxing into it pretty quickly. It then dawned on me that this is how celebrities must live all the time, and the whole experience got a lot more glamorous! Despite this, we still couldn’t help but engage with the staff – ask how they are, invite them to eat with us, thank them profusely. You could tell they weren’t used to it, but Santa reassured me it was kind and very refreshing!

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Turtle Beach House
Left: Beach in front of Turtle Beach House; Right: Baby turtles at the turtle hatchery next door

Soon after we unpacked, we headed to the (almost secluded) beach outside and straight to the turtle hatchery next door. It’s a sanctuary for injured or sick turtles who can safely recover here. They also allow you to release baby turtles into the ocean, which was one of the highlights of our trip.

On our return, Shantha had set up the table and rustled up a zingy squid salad. This is when we first realised how much of a talented chef he was – dinner ended up being one of the best meals we had in Sri Lanka, and the best curry I’ve ever eaten. Turns out Shantha once taught Rick Stein the secrets to Sri Lankan cuisine! After an unforgettable feast, they arranged for a masseuse to come to the villa. It was a candle-lit affair that was so relaxing it sent my partner into a deep sleep – and then he started snoring!

We had a really restful time here and fully understood why the feedback is glowing. Their guest book was full to the brim with praise, and it was a solid five-star rating from us.


Serendipity Villa

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Serendipity Villa
The pool and food at Serendipity Villa

The last stop was Serendipity Villa – which was in such close proximity, we simply wheeled our suitcases down from Turtle Beach House (despite the staff insisting on us ordering a 10-second tuk-tuk!)

Serendipity is defined as ‘unexpected good luck’. Well, the name is very fitting, we certainly felt lucky to be staying here, just the two of us. If you really want to pretend like you’ve made it in life, this patch of paradise will do the job! I could not stop taking snaps – and photos did not do the place justice.

It’s an exquisitely furnished, beautifully appointed colonial-style villa, set in an immaculate coconut grove, with three double bedrooms and a 16-metre pool – did I mention it was just for the two of us?! It happens to sit on a section of beach that’s incredibly picturesque – people walk down to it just to take photos.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Sri Lanka / Serendipity Villa
Left: Bedroom at Serendipity Villa; Right: Sunset stroll on the beach

As soon as we arrived, we noticed that the staff were a lot more discreet, appearing only at pivotal points – something I quite preferred. The layout of the villa allowed for more privacy. Chef Ruwan’s food was sensational, and we loved how much effort they put into setting up the table and creating a tranquil ambience for dinner – lots of candles and lanterns, the pool is lit up, and the fairy lights twinkle in the palm trees. We loved the food so much that we requested to eat dinner there both nights (the first night’s food was complimentary, a gift for all i-escape guests). For lunch, we went to KK Beach Hotel next door, which served gorgeous food and is a great place for cocktails or mingling with others during your villa stay. Other restaurants are a short tuk-tuk ride away.

For safe swimming, Wijaya Beach is only a 5-minute drive away via the coast. It’s a gorgeous cove with very calm waters and lots of friendly turtles to swim with (also one of our highlights). Our days were spent snorkelling and sunbathing, then eating and drinking in the total privacy of our uber-luxurious villa. Heaven.

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