Rock Villa

Alawathugoda, Bentota, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Emma Boyle
Bijou boutique hotel with delicious food and lush tropical gardens in a blissful coastal locale
For many years, Rock Villa was the treasured holiday home of talented interior designer, event planner and boutique hotelier Nayantaru Fonseka (a.k.a. Taru), before she transformed it into a chic boutique hotel in 2013. The original 170-year-old walauwa (manor house) is now a 2-bedroom suite complete with deep verandas, delicate fretwork and refined interiors - a shining example of her renowned talent for combining the contemporary with the colonial. Five newer bedrooms and suites have also been added, as well as a restaurant-bar.

Tranquil and very private, a stay here is immensely relaxing. The genuine staff cosset you with cold towels on arrival, juices and indulgent food, and the beds are some of the comfiest we’ve slumbered in along the west coast. The extensive kid-friendly palm-spiked gardens are sprinkled with hammocks-for-2, and although the frangipani-fringed pool is heavenly, Bentota’s southern shores are a mere 60 metres away. This coastal region is famed for water sports and beautiful inland gardens, and attracts families, groups and couples alike.

Highs

  • The hotel oozes style and sophistication; bedrooms are chic yet unfussy and retain their sense of place
  • The Walauwa Suite and Two Bedroom Pool Suite, each with 2 bedrooms, are spacious for a family or fabulously decadent for 2
  • We warmed to the sincere smiles and attentive service of the staff - particularly from the manager, who addressed us by name
  • There’s space for everyone to spread out: the gardens are sprinkled with hammocks, and staff happily ferry sun beds, cool drinks and mats to the nearby beach on demand
  • The food is excellent: many ingredients are home-grown, the restaurant serves in-house guests only, and the menu changes daily

Lows

  • The beach is 60 metres away, across a railway line. It wasn’t the cleanest when we visited, but the staff maintain a sizeable section of sand for guests
  • Trains pass nearby, however since the track is distant from the rooms the disturbance is minimal. You may also hear some chanting from the neighbouring Buddhist temple
  • There are no verandas in 2 of the Deluxe Rooms, which open directly onto the central walkway
  • Full prepayment is required upon reservation

Best time to go

The west coast of Sri Lanka is best visited between November and April when the seas are calm; showers can affect other times of the year, with the worst months usually May, June and October. The Christmas to New Year period is extremely busy, so it’s sensible to book well in advance.

Our top tips

If you’re staying a few days, make a trip to Diya Sisila, a rustic restaurant serving delicious homemade food beside the Dedduwa Lake, en route to Lunuganga. You’ll need to order in the morning - options consist solely of either a rice and curry spread or seafood, such as day-fresh crabs - and bring your own alcohol. Time your arrival for dusk to take in a spectacular over-water sunset and to bag one of the scenic floating tables.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Restaurant and bar (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
  • Concierge Service
  • Board games
Room:

Rooms

The rooms at Rock Villa, each artfully arranged, are split between various buildings. Beds are adorned with linen so plush and comfy that our afternoon read accidentally evolved into a lengthy nap. The location was very peaceful and although birdsong woke us at dawn, the thick curtains enabled us to sleep in.

The Walauwa Suite is booked as a complete house and definitely worth the extra cost if you’re a family, group or decadent couple seeking privacy. Original terracotta-tiled floors and high white ceilings characterise the elegantly styled, colonial-feel interiors, along with signature displays of purple lotus lilies and contemporary local art. The 2 elongated bedrooms showcase stunning four-poster kingsize beds, daybeds useful for sleeping a child, writing desks, almirahs, and modern white-tiled ensuite bathrooms with showers. The arched central living area has an iPod dock, TV nook and dining table, and flows onto a small kitchenette and a lovely garden-view veranda.

An elongated bedroom wing houses 2 Deluxe Rooms, arranged either side of a communal lounge with white rattan sofas and a TV. Slightly smaller, the Deluxe Rooms have a more modern, beachy feel, with plenty of white timber furnishings and comfy double beds shrouded in vibrant tropical-hued bedspreads. Those wanting outdoor space will be delighted with the roomier Superior Rooms, one is nearest the restaurant, and both have sofa-studded verandas.

Since our visit, a Two Bedroom Pool Suite has also been added. Comfy beds, inviting sofas and a pretty alfresco dining area make it look like true home-from-home; the private pool adds a touch of decadence.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Rock Villa has an extensive menu. The restaurant only accepts in-house guests and you can dine by candlelight in the dining pavilion, poolside, or for those staying in the Walauwa Suite, in your private dining room or on your veranda. You can eat when you like and tackle breakfast at whatever time you choose to surface - we highly recommend the eggs Benedict, pancakes or the curry dish, although there are healthier options, too.

A menu of light meals featuring pasta, seafood, meats, pizza and salads is available any time. Tempted by our location, we went for crispy fish and chips for lunch, along with the delicious multi-bowled rice and curry option.

For dinner, there’s a daily changing 3-course set menu, with themes ranging from modern Chinese and Thai to western combinations and BBQs, all beautifully presented. We dined on a zesty beetroot salad with feta, followed by chicken schnitzel with sage-buttered green beans and slivered almonds. Our dessert - sticky toffee pudding - was an absolute highlight. A more expensive seafood option featuring lobster is available every night, too.

The Walauwa Suite has its own kitchenette - a hangover from its previous days as a private holiday home - equipped with a fridge, hob and tea- and coffee-making facilities, although it’s not designed for self-catering.

In terms of eating out, Rock Villa is in good company as 2 neighbouring hotels - Club Villa and The Villa Bentota - each have their own very good restaurants for outside diners.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll down to the hotel’s brushed section of beach to sunbathe beneath walking palms, stretch your legs or jog along the golden sands
  • Hop on a train (or take a taxi) down to Galle Fort - this famous rampart-wrapped Dutch-built old town is home to atmospheric heritage buildings, boutiques, cafés and museums
  • Out at sea, go diving and deep-sea fishing, or simply cruise aboard a luxurious 48-foot sailing catamaran on a day or sunset cruise, departing from nearby Beruwala Harbour
  • Make for the Bentota River to try banana boating, water skiing, jet skiing and scenic upriver cruising, or go para motoring from the beach
  • Don’t miss lakeside Lunuganga, the exquisite former estate of the late Geoffrey Bawa, one of the island’s most revered architects. Then visit Bawa’s brother Bevis’ more intimate former home, Brief, a low-slung art-riddled house with manicured gardens dating back to 1929
  • Venture inland to explore the rich palm-sprinkled tapestry of villages and Buddhist temples (the ancient Kahandavihara Temple is a favourite)
  • Drop into one of the local turtle hatcheries and help release baby turtles back into the sea
  • Visit the vast mask-making museums and antiques shops at nearby Ambalangoda
  • Back at the hotel, swing in a hammock in the garden, staring up at the star-shaped heads of coconut palms, or retreat to your room for a relaxing Ayurvedic massage

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Jet skiing
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Water skiing
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Extensive lawns, an in-view pool, nearby beach and friendly staff make this hotel suitable for children of all ages, however its small size and relaxing, coupley atmosphere befits quieter, independent teens or babies most of all. Kids under 6 stay for free.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The family-friendly Walauwa Suite comes with its own living-dining room, TV nook, kitchenette, furnished front veranda and 2 bedrooms (each with a daybed suitable for a child)

Babysitting:

Babysitters can be arranged.

Baby equipment:

  • One baby cot available to borrow, so request in advance to ensure it hasn't already been booked for your dates
  • High chair in the restaurant

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

Children's meals:

A special kids' menu is available, featuring macaroni cheese, sausages and mash, spaghetti bolognese, pizza and fish and chips. Special requests are easily accommodated

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • Board games
  • Badminton
  • Playing cards
  • DVDs

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Sandy beaches
  • Water sports (including banana boating)
  • River cruises (where you can spot wildlife)
  • Turtle hatcheries

Families Should Know:

A railway line runs beyond the fenced boundary of the garden, between the hotel and the beach

Distances:

  • Airport: 2.5 hours
  • Hospital: 25 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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