I don’t think you can find a country more welcoming to families than Sri Lanka and it’s a particularly special place for me, I even discovered I was pregnant during our last trip so it felt like a rite of passage to take our 18-month old twin daughters along for the next one – along with my husband’s parents, his sister and her young family, so ten of us all together, such a treat!
We spent two weeks slowly working our way along the south coast, starting off at Uda Kanda, an airy, open-plan hilltop villa near Galle. This was the best surprise of the trip because I usually like being right on the beach but we completely fell in love with the beautiful and tranquil setting. Just ten minutes’ drive inland from the beach and it’s like another world, far away from the hustle and bustle of the busy coastal road. The villa is set high up in the forest canopy and had the most incredible views and lots of wildlife including purple-faced langurs and tonnes of birds.
It worked really well for our multi-generational family group: lots of space and so accommodating to our various meal requirements and daily activities. Two tuk tuks were on call to take us on early morning surf trips, down to the beach for evening sundowners as well as the odd ATM or nappy run, nothing was ever too much trouble. We really enjoyed the chilled, peaceful vibe here and I would highly recommend it for young families; heaps of baby-equipment and toys to borrow, lots of outdoor space to run around in, a pool with shallow steps to play on and the sweetest staff, particularly Narveen, the (very accomplished!) chef, who doted on all the children and even took it upon himself to rock one of the babies to sleep while we ate dinner one night.
Next we drove east to Mawella Hideaways, clustered behind the sweeping 2km curve of near-deserted Mawella Beach. We loved the privacy and barefoot simplicity here. Aside from short periods at dawn and dusk when the fishing boats come and go, the beach is blissfully quiet. We rented all three of these stylish beach bunglows, each set in its own large garden and connected by sandy lanes and gates. The staff could not have been more helpful and accommodating to us throughout our stay – an extra high chair was even procured for us, not from a shop but whipped up by the local carpenter, isn’t that wonderful?
It’s a really beautiful stretch of coast and we particularly enjoyed long beach walks and getting up early to see the local fishermen pulling in their huge nets, they even let us help which was great fun. In the evenings, monkeys come down from the trees to sit on the boats and we loved watching the night time fruit bats at very close quarters. Each night after the children were tucked up in bed, we feasted on a delicious selection of Sri Lankan curries served up in a candle-lit pavilion. Bliss!
A 15 minutes tuk tuk ride later and we arrived at our next port of-call, The Saffron House, a stylish villa set in 3-acres of beautiful tropical gardens, just a sort stroll from idyllic Hiriketiya Bay. Somewhere in Sri Lanka there might be a villa with better views, but I’ve yet to find one. Set high on a rocky headland, glittering azure water stretches out as far as the eye can see and coconut palms swayed above our heads wherever we laid our towels. Decor is simple yet striking: gleaming polished concrete and clean lines abound. Add an infinity pool, a front-row sunset seat, delightful staff cooking freshly caught seafood and knock-out curries, and we were in heaven.
I think this was my favourite stay on our trip and it’s got to be one of the best off-the radar locations on the south coast, an easy stroll down to horseshoe-shaped Hiriketiya Bay, which is wonderful for families. This sublime spot is only just being discovered by those who want a quieter and more authentic slice of Sri Lankan coastline, where you can laze on golden sand and watch surfers ride gentle waves. Back at the villa the children loved spotting wild peacocks, monkeys and monitor lizards in the gardens and out to sea we saw bobbing turtles and were told if you’re lucky you might also spot blue whales further out. We’re already planning our return.