Paradise Road - The Villa Bentota

Bentota, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £109 per night

A cool designer boutique hotel with classy rooms and classic architecture within a whisper of the beach
This was Mohotti Walauwa, a colonial-era, plantation villa peeking at the ocean through groves of slender palms. In the 1970s, Geoffrey Bawa, the island’s most celebrated architect, converted the house into a boutique hotel, Sri Lanka’s first. It became a classic - over time, a faded classic, handed from one new owner to another - and when Shanth Fernando took it over in 2008, he endeavoured to upgrade the building (more space, more glamour, more style) without changing its sense of history or diluting its charm.

The founder of Paradise Road (the Sri Lankan equivalent of Conran), Shanth has transformed the place into a chic, seaside hotel; expect 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.

Highs

  • A combination of Geoffrey Bawa architecture, tropical flora and contemporary style, this is utter perfection - every line, every vista, is beautifully drawn
  • Excellent dinners served by candlelight under a garden pavilion
  • The peaceful ambiance and beautiful suites make this an idyllic retreat for lovers and romantics
  • During our 2016 visit, the team were all incredibly warm and welcoming - efficient without being starchy
  • A marvellous sense of space: no matter how busy the hotel, you will find a corner to call your own
  • Only 1.5 hours from Colombo

Lows

  • The railway line that runs between the gardens and the beach: we felt it added character and charm, but others are less enamoured
  • This stretch of beach can accumulate some rubbish, but the section outside the hotel is cleaned daily
  • You’ll need to give 12 hours’ notice if you want the Sri Lankan breakfast
  • The pool can get a little busy when the hotel is full

Best time to go

November to April, for the best weather, the lesser chance of rain. September/October is monsoon season, and the summer months (May to August) can be very hot and humid.

Our top tips

Take a look at the beautiful Lunuganga gardens - a place of pilgrimage for Geoffrey Bawa fans. He 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 from the hotel (staff can arrange a driver), but check it’s open to visitors before setting off.

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • Beachside Hotel
  • 15
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • 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
Room: Standard Room

Rooms

Each of the rooms and suites has its own unique character, but all share the same signature Bawa-inspired monochrome style: an artful combination of contemporary and classic leanings.

All Superior Suites have a private sea-view balcony or terrace. Those on the first and second floor have the best vistas. We stayed in one of the more secluded ground-floor suites, where a freestanding bathtub overlooked neatly mown lawns and swaying palms. Just a few hundred yards across the rail tracks, we could see and hear the roaring Indian Ocean. Perfect for honeymooners.

The smaller Standard Rooms may have direct garden access rather than a private terrace. Some are in the property’s newer wing and overlook the pool; another has French windows and a freestanding bathtub.

Most luxurious of all is the first-floor Mohotti Suite, a 2-bedroom space at the top of a private stairwell. The bedrooms share a bathroom with freestanding bathtub, and the living room has views over the property and grounds.

All rooms are equipped with wood details, tiled or white-painted floors, antiques, cool lighting and huge kingsize beds draped in mosquito netting. The crisp Egyptian cotton sheets were a dream! Rain showers, LCD TVs with cable channels, air-conditioning, personal safes and minibars complete the picture.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The semi-open air Villa Café is a lofty, pillared pavilion where high-backed wicker chairs sit at white-linen dressed tables. Dishes are beautifully presented, the location is sublime and we felt the food was amongst the best in Bentota.

The cafe is linked to a bar with sofas, which spill onto a deck. Dining tables span much of the garden - our favourite spot was an elevated pavilion overlooking the sea. You can also dine in your room or by the pool.

The cosmopolitan a la carte menu is created by head chef, Nishantha Liyanage, who came from Paradise Road’s celebrated Gallery Café in Colombo. Dishes might include Sri Lankan crab curry soup, lemongrass and ginger chicken, grilled lobster with garlic lime butter, roast pork with apple sauce mash or feta and black-olive ravioli – all with a modern twist. The traditional Sri Lankan curry is served on a banana leaf with rice, dahl, sambal, brinjal pahi (aubegine curry) raita and mango chutney. There’s even an authentic pizza oven, plus homemade ice creams and refreshing drinks (homemade ginger beer, coconut water and cocktails).

We also loved trying the Sri Lankan breakfast. You get a fresh fruit platter, served with palm treacle and buffalo curd, as well as a choice of rotis, curries or eggs. We opted for white fish curry and rice, which was deliciously light. Just remember to order 12 hours in advance to avoid disappointment.

NB. The lounges have bells to ring if you need service; this aims to help give guest greater privacy by minimising the need for staff to stay close by.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian dishes available
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Chill out by the pool, or take a stroll down to the hotel’s quiet stretch of beach. It's just across the railway line; a seemingly endless strip of soft white sand next to the roaring Indian Ocean
  • 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)
  • 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 (roughly 60km south). The 16th-century old town is a World Heritage Site founded by the Portuguese
  • Head in to touristy Bentota town, a few minutes’ drive away, where shops sell local crafts, textiles and silver jewellery. The Villa also 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
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Waterskiing
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children are welcome, although in truth, Villa Bentota might seem a little too perfect for toddlers and rumbustious youngsters. Aside from the beach, there’s not a lot for them to do.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Families may want to request the two first-floor Standard Rooms together, as they have a handy shared balcony. The Mohotti Suite has 2 bedrooms. Most rooms can fit a baby cot or extra bed.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots on request

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

Children's meals:

There's a children’s menu and parents with smaller children may appreciate the option to dine in your room (most have a veranda or terrace).

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 11 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Rooms
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

We absolutely loved our stay at the Villa. Having stayed in a number of boutique hotels around Sri Lanka on our trip, this was the highlight. The hotel is beautifully decorated. There's so much space that you feel like you have the place to yourself. Our room was small but perfectly adequate for our needs and with lots of spaces to lounge, sit and read you don't spend much time in it anyway. The staff were amazing. So attentive without being overly fussy. Super friendly. There were two trainees working in the restaurant who were excellent. I hope they get to read this review. We ate at the restaurant three times a day and couldn't fault the food. My husband requested lots of things that were off the menu such as biriyani for dinner and hoppers for breakfast which they were happy to oblige. They even typed out and took us through the recipe for their pork curry which was amazing. A really special place. We'd definitely return.

10/10, , December 2016

Very tastefully done with lovely artwork and great service. Beach at villa not swimmable but pool was good. Some loungers on the beach would have been nice perhaps. Trains not a problem at all although I am quite noise-sensitive. Restaurant rather hot/humid despite the fans - relocate? Overall though, excellent.

9/10, , April 2016

Paradise Road The Villa was the perfect start to our holiday in Sri Lanka. When reading about crossing the train track to reach the beach it sounds like a hassle, but in reality its actually charming and there aren't so many trains that its a nuisance. Architecture, design, service and food at the hotel are all excellent. We both had great massages from the resident masseur. Food at the hotel restaurant is excellent and was a great introduction to Sri Lankan eating traditions, including hoppers for breakfast.

10/10, , December 2015

Beautiful location, a real gem of a place, with excellent service and outstanding fresh and well prepared food. The rooms were beautiful, especially suite 4 with private balcony overlooking the property and the pool was perfect. The property is littered with amazing & stylish art and there are so many different little alcoves for guests to be, you never feel like you are around many other people despite it being fully booked this Christmas weekend. I cant recommend Villa Bentota highly enough.

10/10, , December 2015

We loved our stay here and really appreciated the upgrade. The perfect way to end our holiday. A very stylish, blissful, chilled out property with excellent food and service. Pool and grounds are fantastic as well as decor. Highly recommend.

10/10, , January 2015

This is the most gorgeous hotel. Beautifully designed with more the feel of staying in a friends home - all be it with a stunning 25 meter infinity pool. All the public spaces - and there are lots considering the number of rooms- are superbly designed with wonderful displays of art and objets. The staff are all charming and helpful. The grounds are immaculately kept and even the passing trains add to the experience. We would return tomorrow.

9/10, , January 2015

Beautiful hotel. Fantastic service, always anticipating our needs. Excellent dinning. A great experience.

9/10, , October 2014

What an amazing place. Found a slice of heaven on earth at villa Bentota, will definitely come back again and again. Efficient and friendly staff.

10/10, , August 2014

Beautifully furnished and comfortable hotel. As a treat for booking through i-escape we were given complimentary massage which was excellent. The location was excellent and the staff very receptive. However, we ordered some room service which never arrived and we didn't bother to chase this up. We were on a bed and breakfast deal, and on the day of our departure the hotel could not arrange a breakfast at 7:00 am and instead gave us a packed breakfast in a box which was disappointing. There should be provision for this.

9/10, , August 2014

Absolutely loved the place, the staff (Roshan is excellent as front-of-house manager) and the food. Highly recommended for a few days by the beach close to Colombo.

10/10, , August 2014

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Rates for Paradise Road - The Villa Bentota