Reef Villa and Spa

Wadduwa, Bentota, Sri Lanka Book from US$365

Romantic, tropical hotel filled with original colonial antiques, set on a stunning beach on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast
Husband-and-wife team Brendan and Bernadette pooled their skills as architect and designer to create this stylish hotel on a beautiful section of Sri Lanka’s coastline. Set amid lily ponds and fringed by an exotic garden of frangipani and hibiscus, it has a calming view onto the Indian Ocean, only interrupted by swaying coconut trees.

Self-confessed antique hunters, the owners filled Reef Villa with their Sri Lankan and Southern Indian collection, showcasing the opulence of the colonial era with heavy carved doors, deep verandas and cool marble floors. The 7 high-ceilinged suites pair traditional colonialism with modern, comfortable fittings - intricate four-poster beds dating back to 1850 (when they were built for the British Raj) are now dressed in 400-thread count sheets. Dressing rooms resemble a mini museum stuffed with ceremonial objects, yet in the lavish bathrooms, huge granite tubs gleam like modernist sculptures.

Outside, the cerulean pool beckons, and come dusk the Reefresh spa is perfect for an almond oil massage. Reserve evenings for a seafood dinner under a canopy of stars: this is a routine you won’t tire of.

Highs

  • Serene spa: recommended is the clay cocoon followed by an essential oil bath sprinkled with frangipani
  • Fabulous food with an emphasise on seafood: think lobster thermidor, crab ravioli, grilled fish and prawn curry
  • Indulgent champagne bar and good wine list
  • Vast suites with sumptuous bathrooms; some have their rain shower in a leafy outdoor garden
  • Polite, happy and attentive staff with good conversational English, who can't do enough for you

Lows

  • Informative brochures, special offers and notices (all monogrammed with the Reef logo) seemingly cover every surface
  • During monsoon season there are strong undercurrents in the sea, so it's not safe to swim May-July
  • No good restaurants or shops within walking distance, so if you want a change of scene, you'll need to take a tuk-tuk

Best time to go

The hotel is open year round. The finest weather on the west coast runs from November through to April. During this time days are warm with temperatures rising to a daily maximum of 30°C. Evenings remain balmy. From May to July, the southwest monsoon brings rains to the west and southwest coastal region. August and September are drier months. In October and November, the northeast monsoon brings intermittent rain but the cooler, drier winds herald the start of the winter's calm seas.

Our top tips

  • This hotel is a lovely place to chill out, perhaps at the end of a holiday after travelling around the country first
  • Great for...

    Eco
    Foodie
    Honeymoon
    Spa
    Wedding
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 7
    • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
    • 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
    • Tennis Court
    Room: Olu Suite

    Rooms

    The 7 suites, named after Sri Lankan flowers, share a wonderful sense of grandeur and comfort. Beautiful writing desks, tables, chairs and other antiques fill each room; our bed was perfectly soft and louvered doors kept the morning sun at bay. Rumblings of trains from behind the hotel are audible, although not enough to be a disturbance.

    All suites are large (100-120 sq.m) and have cool, tiled flooring. High ceilings show off Keralan roof tiles; below these hang enormous pankah fans with elaborate pulleys, as well as 1920’s rotating fans; you get air con, too. Romantic four-poster beds with beautiful carved legs are impressively preserved.

    In the modern bathrooms, polished granite is prominent - you could practically swim in the vast tubs. Double sinks stand on a wooden slab in front of a huge Venetian-style mirror and a curve of stone hides your rain shower; some suites have their showers in a small garden. Ayurvedic toiletries include lime and lavender handmade soaps.

    Dressing rooms (in the larger suites) are a cultural showcase of black and white photographs, mini pankah fans, Kandyan necklaces and tribal jewellery. Vintage suitcases sit above the minibar, topped with an old safari hat. The Ocean Suites have verandas with a traditional Indian swing covered in cushions - perfect for afternoon naps.

    Manel and Nelum, on the first floor of the main house, are the biggest and most expensive suites, with sea views and a refreshing breeze. Nelum has a balcony which overlooks the pond and is a good place for spotting birds. Manel’s shower is in a tiny garden at the rear. Olu is the smallest suite and has a Zen view of lily ponds, stepping stones and manicured foliage. It also has an adorable leaf-shaped jacuzzi set in a walled garden, and an outdoor shower .

    The Ocean Suites, Namal, Sepalika, Sapumal and Kekatiya, have lovely sea views, and shady verandas enclosed by exotic plants, although being ground level means they are not so private. All have outdoor garden showers.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Cd player
    • Coffee tea making
    • Cots Available
    • Dvd player
    • Extra beds
    • Fan
    • Hairdryer
    • Internet access
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Mosquito net
    • Phone
    • Radio
    • Safe box
    • Satellite tv
    • Terrace
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi
    • Wifi internet

    Eating

    We ate breakfast by the pool, in the shade of a coconut tree. There is a small thatched restaurant but staff are happy to arrange a table outside, so you get better views. We loved our beautifully arranged fruit platter and silver pot of tea. You should also try the delicious curd and local kithul honey. Also included is a surprisingly authentic English breakfast or a Sri Lankan breakfast: roti or string hoppers with egg and potato curry plus sambal and the obligatory dhal.

    The lunch menu offers a selection of sandwiches like BLT, or some lovely fresh pasta dishes, such as pumpkin ravioli. There are some tasty salads to choose from including a fresh chicken and papaya mix. Afternoon tea is either a homemade banana or coconut cake, or the full works: a cake stand filled with tiny cucumber sandwiches, fresh scones and cakes, plus a huge choice of teas.

    Evenings are romantic: the garden is lit up with clay lanterns and the waves act as background music. Courses follow each other fairly swiftly, but the food is fantastic. Starters are marine inspired; perhaps avocado and prawn salad, seafood bisque or fish brochette. For mains, we recommend the fabulous lobster ravioli, or a whole fresh fish served with lime slices, vegetables and sweet potato puree - note, the hotel does not serve red meat. Make sure you leave room for the cardamom and coffee pudding; delicious.

    The wine list is predominantly upmarket French (Chablis, Pouilly Fuisse, Chateauneuf-du-pape and Medoc). And there's an impressive selection of bubbles at the champagne bar, including Laurent Perrier and Moet & Chandon.

    If you prefer, meals can be served in your suite, and there's a room service menu (last orders 11pm). Choices include omelette, chicken burger and garden salad.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Children meals
    • Coffee tea making
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Organic produce
    • Restaurant
    • Room service
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Relax on a lounger by the pool with a complimentary mango sorbet, or stroll along the beach

    • Hail Monica the elephant as she trundles along the sand, and hitch a ride as she splashes through the waves

    • Pamper yourself at the spa; try a hot-stone massage using smooth volcanic rocks, slathered in sweet almond oil

    • Try an early morning class of Hatha yoga, in the marble floored pavilion; mats provided

    • Take the hotel's tuk-tuk and driver to the 300-year-old Maha Vihara temple in Wadduwa, (15 mins' drive) and examine the relief sculptures of Lord Buddha

    • Visit the atmospheric 125-year-old mansion Richmond Castle, (20 mins by tuk-tuk), to appreciate this fine example of British and Indian colonial architecture. See if you can spot the picture of the Queen Mother as a young girl in the gallery

    • Head to tourist enclave Bentota, where the hotel can arrange a meandering boat trip through the thick mangrove swamps. Spot aquatic birds such as herons and kingfishers

    • Enjoy the once-weekly entertainment of local Kandyan dancers, who perform at Reef Villa after dinner. Their energetic devil dance section is amazing

    • Arrange the ultimate in luxury - a bath drawn for you by staff, scented with aromatic herbal oil and decorated with petals

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Private guided tours
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Yoga

    Kids

    The hotel welcomes well-behaved children. There's lots of space to explore, and the grounds include a large aviary with eclectus parrots, cockatiels, and love birds. For journeys, the hotel can provide a baby carseat.

    Best for:

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

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Interconnecting (through the dressing rooms) Ocean Suites - Namal and Sepalika - are ideal for a family; while Manel and Nelum are opposite each other. All suites except Olu Suite can fit at least 1 additional single bed, while most can fit 3.

    Babysitting:

    On request

    Baby equipment:

    3 baby cots (request in advance)

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

    Children's meals:

    The restaurant has a children's menu, children's cutlery and a highchair.

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

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

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