Chena Huts

Yala National Park, Yala & Southeast, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Emma Boyle
Luxurious lodge by leopard-rich Yala National Park: plush cabins, private plunge pools, and twice-daily safaris with near-guaranteed sightings
Wallowing like hippos in our very own plunge pool was an unexpected highlight of this remote lodge on the outskirts of Yala National Park. But it was only the tip of the iceberg as far as lavish amenities were concerned: the 14 thatched cabins also offer huge beds, sitting areas, freestanding tubs, and the kind of mod cons you'd normally only expect in a smart city hotel. Add gourmet all-inclusive food, excellent service and a small spa, and comfort-seeking nature lovers will find Chena Huts an absolute treat.

Located a 10-minute jeep ride from the park entrance, overlooking a seasonal lagoon and a wild stretch of sand-duned coastline, this small hotel hunches amidst wind-blown palu trees. The cabins and walkways are stilted so that nature can move freely, and vast walls of glass allow for hide-style wildlife spotting. Common visitors include birds, hares, wild boar and lizards, as well as the occasional elephant. As for Yala itself, it offers some of the best wild-leopard viewing in the world, and 2 game drives per day are included in the rates.


  • A spectacular location between lagoon, sea and bush; sunsets here are very special
  • Extremely knowledgeable rangers, who will help you spot leopards, elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles and all manner of bird life
  • The cabins are huge, very private and lavishly equipped (Bluetooth sound systems, sofas, huge TVs)
  • Top-quality all-inclusive food, without a boring buffet in sight
  • The plunge pools add to the luxe feel; we also loved the main pool with its waterfall shower and dazzling green tiles


  • It's pricey, and full payment is required upon reservation
  • Not ideal for toddlers and young children, though kids are accepted
  • The cabins' open-plan design suits couples more than friends
  • No private safaris; jeeps are shared with up to 5 other guests to reduce vehicle movements in the park
  • Minibars contain soft drinks only, and room service isn't available around the clock

Best time to go

Leopards are spotted year-round, especially during the drier months of May to September. Sloth bears are most easily seen when the fruits of the palu trees are in season (May/June), while the winter months are best for migratory birds. Note that parts of Yala are closed from September to mid-October, during the height of the dry season; during this time, you’ll safari in the other sections of the park or make for nearby Bundala National Park.

Our top tips

Try to avoid visiting Yala National Park on weekends and public holidays, when it gets busy with Sri Lankan tourists. Stay at least 2 nights to give yourself more of an opportunity to sight wildlife - longer if you want to diversify your game drives and make a visit to Bundala National Park as well (you will need to arrange this in advance to secure a ranger and jeep).

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Lodge
  • 14
  • All inclusive
  • 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


The domed, thatch-covered cabins were inspired by the treetop huts built by local farmers to keep watch for wild elephants, but they're infinitely more luxurious. All are identical in their spacious, open-plan design, though their outlooks vary - ours was immersed in the bush (good for wildlife viewing), while others overlook a seasonal lagoon or the sea (or both in the case of cabin 7, which is ideal for honeymooners).

We slept on a very comfortable kingsize bed set on a platform beneath a curved, freestanding fan; some cabins have twin beds instead. Behind the sliced-log bedhead were twin washbasins and a standalone tub, along with cubicles for the toilet and shower. Each cabin also has a lounge area, a minibar (soft drinks only) and a desk, and 2 sides are glassed (with blinds) so that you can keep an eye on wild visitors. Outside is a generous deck and a plunge pool with jets.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Bluetooth sound system
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


Food and most drinks are included in the rates, and they're excellent. The Basses Restaurant sits on a rise above the beach and is named after the offshore Great Basses lighthouse, which can be spied on the horizon. The glass-walled, nautical-themed interior has air conditioning for comfortable daytime dining, while the romantic timber deck with its sunken bar makes a fitting spot for sundowners and candlelit dinners. You can also dine in private amid the dunes.

The à la carte breakfast menu is extensive. We opted for tropical fruit, Sri Lankan kiribath (milk rice) and perfectly cooked poached eggs. Lunch and dinner are 4-course international set menus with a few options for mains and desserts. We enjoyed all our meals, which included succulent lamb chops, grilled seafood and deliciously fresh fish, although the desserts were a little uninspiring. Curries are available on request if you'd prefer something local.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant


  • Explore Yala National Park on a shared game drive with one of the hotel’s knowledgeable rangers; you'll stop for drinks and snacks en route. Keep your eyes peeled for leopards, sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles and numerous species of bird
  • Join a ranger for an early-morning or pre-sunset walk around the perimeter of the lagoon (home to storks and turtles) and along the beach
  • Swim in the green-hued pool, set in a clearing ringed by low-rise trees, and bathe in the waterfall that tumbles down from above the bar
  • Wander the cinnamon-wood pathway to the hotel’s small spa for a massage, scrub or reflexology treatment
  • If you have an extra day or two, visit Yala’s mesmerising jungle temple, Sithulpawa, whose rock-top dagoba offers panoramic jungle views
  • Or head to Bundala National Park, 35km away, which is a major wintering ground for migratory birds

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife


Children of all ages are welcome. The staff seem to really love kids and go out of their way to assist families. However, due to the remote location, the raised walkways and the visiting wildlife, Chena Huts is best for kids over 5.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All cabins can fit an extra bed or baby cot. The best option for larger families is booking cabins 4 and 5, which are connected via a short (raised) exterior walkway and share a front deck (though they have their own plunge pools).

Families Should Know:

Jeep safaris are shared so children will need to be able to last the duration (3-4 hours). Morning drives leave at 5am.

Kid Friendly:

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