Maya Villa

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

Reviewed by Emma Boyle
Stylish small hotel wrapped in bird-filled gardens and picturesque paddy fields, just inland from Tangalle and its beaches
Many of Sri Lanka’s crumbling ancestral abodes have been rescued by foreigners keen to revive these magnificent mansions. But where others deviate little in their redesign, interior designer Niki Fairchild, co-owner of Maya Villa, has broken free of the mould by masterfully blending the old with the new. First, she completely refurbished the original 19th-century manor house, then she added a new wing and fused them together with an L-shaped indigo swimming pool. The result is a refreshingly simple yet striking take on colonial style, with 5 contemporary rooms available individually or together as a staffed villa for 10-15.

Enveloping the house is a magical 2-acre garden, home to melodious armies of exotic birds, and this setting entices families, couples and nature lovers alike. Unspoilt Aranwella immerses the hotel in tranquility; borrow bicycles to peddle around this sleepy little village, or take a tuk-tuk to the south coast’s beautiful beaches, 8km away. But Maya’s star attraction is the mesmerising sea of paddy fields rolling out beyond its emerald lawns. Their colours change chameleon-like according to the season, and provide a stunning backdrop to lazy alfresco meals - some of the tastiest we’ve come across in Tangalle.

Highs

  • A very private, pampering retreat: the villa’s gentle staff cater to guests’ every need, and there’s a masseur on call
  • Sleek and spacious rooms, all with verandas or courtyards; some have romantic four-poster beds, too
  • The superb chef, whose repertoire ranges from Far Eastern nosh to full English breakfasts to local rice and curry
  • Abundant wildlife - hornbills, parakeets and electric-blue kingfishers chatter in trees, and pompous peacocks pace the lawn
  • Beautiful sunsets over the paddy fields, best paired with a speciality arrack sour. Lie back in a hammock to watch the drama unfold

Lows

  • The nearest beach and restaurants are 15 minutes away, but transport is easily arranged and Maya’s garden, pool and privacy more than make up for the inland location
  • The lush garden attracts mosquitoes, especially after rain, so you’ll need to lather on repellent at dawn and dusk
  • No twin rooms
  • Guests have reported local dogs bark at night; bring earplugs!

Best time to go

December to April are the sunniest and driest months, with December to February proving particularly popular. May and June are the region’s wettest months, with October and November a close second. The paddy fields in front of the hotel change from season to season, but if you long for a lush pea-green scene, you’ll need to visit in December, January, June or July.

Our top tips

Twitchers can borrow binoculars and birding books to spot the amazing array of birdlife that visits the garden, but if catching it on film is important then bring a good telephoto lens. This will also come in handy for snapping wildlife at the safari parks in the area.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 5
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
  • Games equipment
  • Boogie boards
Room:

Rooms

Maya’s 5 spacious bedrooms are divided between the old house and a new wing that faces it across the swimming pool. Soaring ceilings, polished floors and eye-catching brass wall lamps are features throughout, and every room comes with a kingsize bed, a veranda with chairs, and an ensuite shower room finished in plum-coloured terrazzo or polished concrete.

The beautifully restored old house cleverly blends contemporary furnishings with traditional features. Its 2 rooms are set either side of a central dining area and come with regal four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting. Kumbuk is the more private and overlooks the rear garden, whereas Thekka gazes out over the pool towards the paddy fields. The entrance veranda of the old house has been turned into a semi-open lounge, with delicate latticework shutters, a cushion-plumped sofa and shelves of attention-grabbing books.

The 3 rooms in the new wing flaunt private courtyards and doorless bathrooms (not to everyone’s taste, but very chic nonetheless). Amba and Ehela sit side by side and come with the largest courtyards; cute corner room Kohomba has a cobbled terrace and its own miniature palm-topped lawn. To the front of the new wing is an open-sided wooden pavilion with minimalist blue and white daybeds and a poolside dining table for 10.

All rooms come with sitting areas (colonial-style planters' chairs in the old house, boxy low-slung couches in the new wing), plus hairdryers, fans, cable TV, CD players, iPod docks, WiFi and air conditioning. Bathrooms have rain showers (no tubs) and toiletries made using organic herbs and spices.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Mosquito net
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • TV (on request)
  • WiFi

Eating

Maya’s food is some of the best in Tangalle. Not only is this down to the chef’s obvious talents in the kitchen, but also because the rural paddy-side setting is so deliciously divine. You can dine in the old house’s vaulted dining room, poolside in the new wing pavilion, or in the privacy of your room or courtyard.

Hearty breakfasts start with a choice of Sri Lankan apas (bowl-shaped rice flour pancakes) with seeni sambol (red onion chutney) or filling Full Englishes with all the trimmings. This is followed by tropical fruit, cereal, creamy buffalo curd and kithu (palm sugar) treacle - a wonderful local speciality. Fresh bread is made in-house.

Lunches and dinners are three-course leisurely daily changing set menu affairs served when and where you want, perhaps in the Garden Pavilion on the edge of the paddy fields. The fusion food mixes Asian influences with western dishes, so perhaps chicken lemongrass skewers, zesty crab salad with a zingy ginger dressing, prawn tempura and fish curry with okra. Bananas fried in cane sugar and served with dollops of silky curd finished off our meal a treat. Vegetarian options are always available - just ask. There's a snack menu served after 3pm too.

Maya is a 15-minute drive from the beaches of Tangalle, which is where you’ll find the best options for eating out (staff can arrange transport). Sleek hotel Amanwella, set on a gorgeous crescent-shaped swathe of sand, has 2 restaurants; its Beach Club with a Mediterranean-inspired menu was our favourite choice for relaxed seaside meals.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Top up your tan by the pool, lounge in a hammock, or kick back on the veranda with a book

  • Be pampered by the masseur, or take your relaxation further by booking a session of yoga or Tai Chi with a visiting instructor in the Garden Pavilion

  • Watch the abundant birdlife in the villa’s garden. There are binoculars and birding books to borrow

  • Challenge the staff to a game of cricket on the lawn, or enjoy a leisurely session of croquet, volleyball, badminton or petanque (equipment is provided)

  • Learn the secrets of Maya's chef during a cooking lesson (available by arrangement from May to November)

  • Borrow a bicycle and head off to explore Aranwella and its hinterland - make your first stop the Buddhist temple next door. Villa staff can guide you around the area and pack up picnics if required

  • Head to the coast (staff can arrange transport) 15 minutes away to spend a day on one of the beaches; Mawella, Palm Paradise and Seenimodara are some of the prettiest. Afterwards, travel back to Maya via the market in Tangalle

  • Travel 15 minutes to the north to marvel at Mulgirigala Rock Temple, a Buddhist temple perched 210m above the surrounding forest. The 360-degree views from its peak are sublime

  • Head to Rekawa Beach to wait for egg-laying marine turtles to come ashore. Combine this after-dark treat with dinner at nearby hotel Buckingham Place

  • Take off on a half-day trip to seek out wildlife in one of the region’s national parks - Yala, Uda Walawe and Bundala. You might spot leopards, elephants, monkeys and bears

  • Brave a crack-of-dawn wake up to go whale-watching off the shores of Mirissa, an hour up the road. It’s well worth the early start for the potential sightings of blue whales, sperm whales and acrobatic spinner dolphins (best from December to April)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Petanque
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tai Chi
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Although the hotel wasn’t designed with kids in mind, children of all ages are welcome and will adore having the run of the 2-acre garden. It’s big enough to kick a ball, and there are plenty of spots for playing hide and seek. The staff here are great at keeping kids engaged (they've even been known to enthrall them with kite-making classes!), and there are family-friendly films to borrow. For a bit of excitement there’s nothing like a tuk-tuk ride to the beach to go boogie boarding.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Travel cots are available, and extra single beds (free for children under 12) can be added to all rooms.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement - see Rates. You'll need to give a day's notice.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

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

Children's meals:

Maya’s chef is famed for his homemade ice creams and can whip up special meals for children on request. High chairs are available.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Petanque
  • Volleyball
  • Cricket
  • Badminton
  • Board games
  • DVDs
  • Bicycles

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beach and boogie boarding (boards are available to borrow)
  • Whale-watching
  • Turtle-watching
  • Trips to safari parks

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced, and many rooms open straight out onto the pool terrace, so keep a close eye on mobile toddlers.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Maya Villa