“A cool designer resort with classy rooms and classic architecture within a whisper of the beach”
The founder of Paradise Road (the Sri Lankan equivalent of Conran), Shanth has transformed the place into a chic, seaside resort; there are beautiful rooms and suites, an elegant restaurant, The Villa Café, a series of salons and courtyards (cocktail bar, gallery, library-like lounge), all in monochrome stripes, black shutters on pristine white stucco, gorgeous natural materials in earthy colours (mud, ebony, ivory, silver and stone) and all overlooking the gardens. In 2 acres of lawns, shaded with coconut and frangipani, there is a long, lean slate-lined pool. The beach is a just a few minutes’ walk away.
- A combination of architecture, tropical flora and contemporary style, this is utter perfection - every line, every vista, is beautifully drawn
- A marvellous sense of space: no matter how busy the hotel, you will find a corner to call your own
- The peaceful ambiance, making an idyllic retreat for lovers and romantics
- Dinner by candlelight under a garden pavilion. The food is excellent - and inexpensive, too
- Friendly, helpful staff - efficient without being starchy or formal
- Only 1.5 hours from Colombo
- The railway line that runs between the gardens and the beach: some guests wave at every passing train, but others are less enamoured by the intrusion
- This stretch of beach can accumulate some rubbish, but the section outside the hotel is cleaned daily
- With just a handful of rooms, you will have to book early
Best time to go
- Beachside Hotel
- Restaurant (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Each of the rooms and suites has its own unique character, but all share the same cool, monochrome decor, the same artful combination of contemporary and original style. The hotel’s signature colour scheme (black and white, mud, ivory, ebony, silver) teams with wood, tiled or white-painted floors, huge beds draped in mosquito netting, armchairs or easychairs, antiques and cool lighting.
All Superior Suites have a private balcony or terrace, though there is one standout ground-floor suite with its own plunge pool and private courtyard access. Those on the first and second floor have views of the ocean, or there are some more secluded ground-floor suites with freestanding bathtubs overlooking the gardens - we think this added privacy makes them perfect for honeymooners.
Standard Rooms are slightly smaller and may have direct garden access rather than a private terrace. Some are in a newer wing of the property and overlook the pool, while another has French windows and a freestanding bathtub instead. Families may want to request the 2 first-floor Standard Rooms, which work well when booked together thanks to their shared balcony.
Most luxurious of all is the Mohotti Suite, a 2-bedroom space located on the first floor at the top of a private stairwell. There’s a shared bathroom with freestanding bathtub and a separate living room with views over the property and its lawns.
All the rooms have kingsize beds dressed with crisp white Egyptian cotton linen, rain showers, LCD TVs with cable channels, air-conditioning, mosquito nets, personal safes and minibars.
- Air conditioning
- Cots Available
- Dvd player
- Extra beds
- Mosquito net
- Plunge pool
- Safe box
- Satellite tv
The food is excellent - among the best in Bentota, we thought. Sri Lankan cuisine can get a bit samey but here even the familiar, traditional dishes (thalis and egg hoppers) are served with a modern twist - the head chef, Nishantha Liyanage, came from Paradise Road’s celebrated Gallery Café in Colombo. The food is beautifully presented, the location is sublime (eat in or out, more or less wherever you like) and it’s not expensive.
The hub of the kitchen is the The Villa Café: a lofty, pillared pavilion, semi-open air, and linked, via a courtyard to a bar area furnished with sofas that spill onto a deck edging the lawns. High-backed wicker chairs sit at black tables dressed with white linen and overlooked by a row of giant urns. You can have a table more or less anywhere in the garden, but our favourite spot was under a pavilion on an elevated bank overlooking the sea. Best to bag one early when the hotel is full. You can also dine in your room (most have a veranda or terrace) or by the pool.
The a la carte menu is cosmopolitan and features, among other modern dishes, Sri Lankan crab curry soup, baked crab with mustard cream and white wine on a potato mash, lemongrass and ginger chicken, grilled lobster with garlic lime butter, roast pork with apple sauce mash and mustard sauce, crab and coconut risotto, feta and black olive ravioli or simply fresh fish and fat chips.
A traditional Sri Lankan curry and rice comes with a choice of black pork, prawns or cashew nuts, and is served on a banana leaf with dahl, sambal, brinjal pahi (eggplant curry) raita and mango chutney. You can also order a variety of crisp, thin pizzas (fresh from the restaurant’s authentic pizza oven), homemade ice creams, refreshing drinks (homemade ginger beer, fresh lime soda, coconut water, plus the full range of alcoholic drinks) and cocktails.
Breakfast is typically Sri Lankan (fresh fruit and juices, and a variety hot savouries including rotis, curries and eggs to order).
NB, all of the lounge areas have bells for you to ring if you need service; this stops staff from hanging about and invading your privacy.
- Room service
- Vegetarian dishes available
- Hang out by the pool, or take a stroll down to the hotel’s quiet stretch of beach - just across the railway line, it’s a seemingly endless strip of soft white sand
- Unwind at The Villa Spa, where male and female therapists offer a range of luxury ayurvedic treatments (hot sand body massages, stress-relieving head massages, indulgent foot treatments)
- Visit the Turtle Hatchery on Bentota beach where visitors are encouraged to release tiny baby turtles into the sea
- Take a look at the beautiful gardens at Lunuganga - a place of pilgrimage for fans of Geoffrey Bawa who spent many years in the lush landscaped grounds of this charming lakeside plantation villa (from which the Villa Bentota draws much of its inspiration). It’s a 15-minute drive, but be sure that it’s open to visitors before setting off (staff can arrange a driver)
- For the full Bawa experience, add a visit to Brief, a botanical garden created in 1929 by Geoffrey’s brother, Bevis
- Drive or take the train down the coast to Galle - a World Heritage Site, the old town, founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, is roughly 60km to the south
- Hit the shops - in touristy Bentota town, a few minutes’ drive away, there are shops selling local crafts, textiles and silver jewellery. Or the Villa has its own Paradise Road gift store
- Ask the hotel to organise waterskiing or windsurfing on the beach, horse riding at the nearby Boathouse, or a boat trip along the backwaters of Balapitiya
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
Children are welcome, and 0-5 year olds stay for free in a baby cot or when sharing parents' bed, plus there's a children’s menu for young diners. In truth though, Villa Bentota might seem a little too perfect for toddlers and rumbustious youngsters and, aside from the beach, there’s not a lot for them to do.
Babies (0-1 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
Two of the Standard Rooms (with a shared balcony) can be booked together, the Mohotti Suite has 2 bedrooms, and most other rooms can fit a baby cot or extra bed.