The Frangipani Tree

Near Galle, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £213 per night

Inspired by architect Geoffrey Bawa, a modern minimalist hotel that lets the oceanside setting speak for itself
Once upon a time, hippies came to Sri Lanka to tune in and drop out on its gorgeous golden shores. The beaches are as much of a draw as ever, but these days, hosts of hotels vie for attention with smart flatscreens and all sorts of fancy accoutrements. Not so here; at The Frangipani Tree you won't even find a TV in your room. The magic of this hotel is simply its setting - the raging waves of the Indian Ocean crash just meters from the Hawksbill, Leatherback and Olive Ridley suites - named after the turtles who head back to this beach every year to lay their eggs.

The keen young team urge you to switch off your phone, kick off your shoes and pick up a book to lounge by the pool. If you need more activity you can do some laps or play a game of tennis, but basically, it's all about downtime. Add to this casual but tasty dining and beautifully spare interiors courtesy of Bawa protegé Channa Daswatte, and it's no surprise that tuning in and dropping out is fashionable once again.

Highs

  • The clean, minimalist lines and polished concrete show Geoffrey Bawa's influence, and make a refreshing change from Galle's heritage hotels
  • You can see the world famous stilt fishermen from the beach and spot sea turtles bobbing up and down in the sea
  • The perfect place to escape and relax - beautiful bathrooms and minimal tech
  • A long, thin pool; great for those who actually want to swim on holiday
  • Throughout our stay, the friendly service from all the staff was excellent

Lows

  • Some may find it a little pricey given the lack of mod cons, but for others, that's the attraction
  • The management have introduced high speed WiFi (but you don't have to use it)
  • No in-room fridges, but a cold drink will arrive rapidly if you order one
  • You'll need to take a tuk-tuk if you want to dine out

Best time to go

Peak season is November - March and this is when Sri Lanka is traditionally buzzing. We stayed in October and it was very quiet - the off season is alarmingly quiet across the country. However, rates are lower and you'll get the full attention of the staff, although the weather can be hit or miss.

Our top tips

At dusk, the local swifts swarm and nest in the palms. Grab a lounger on the grassy bank at 6pm and watch as thousands gather in the warm night air. By 6.30pm every single one has settled in the palms along the beachfront. Extraordinary!

Great for...

Beach
Family
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • 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
  • Tennis Court
  • Yoga
Room:

Rooms

The 9 lovely suites are spread across 3 villas, and you can fall asleep to the sound of the ocean in each. They're named after types of sea turtle and you may even see the species bobbing about in the waves, just steps from your front door.

Picture this: high ceilings, smooth polished concrete and white gauzy nets fluttering around the bed. Minimal furniture draws focus to the big bed and the cushioned lounge area covered in nautical stripes. Tech is limited to WiFi and iPod docks, so it’s easy to unplug completely if you wish. All suites have air-conditioning and are fitted with ceiling fan in case the Sri Lankan heat gets too much.

Most have open-air bathrooms which are great fun; the only exceptions are Olive Ridley 3 / 4 / 5. They compensate with the spacious rooms and incredible sea views - you can watch the world-famous stilt fishermen from your window. In contrast, Olive Ridley 1 / 2 are set back from the ocean and lack those ocean vistas.

The 2 Hawksbill suites have large four-poster beds, panoramic ocean views and outdoor living spaces with dining tables in their own gardens.

Our Leatherback suite’s open-air bathroom had a lovely egg-shaped tub sitting under a fragrant frangipani tree (what else?). Just mind out for those concrete floors though - slippery when wet.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Local mobile phone
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • WiFi (on request)

Eating

Lunch and dinner include lots of fish and seafood, as well as traditional Sri Lankan curries, light salads and sandwiches. We feasted on delicious grilled calamari, fresh yellowfin tuna and a magnificent lobster curry. Those with a sweet tooth will find tempting desserts, such as a flourless chocolate cake served with real vanilla ice cream.

A simple breakfast can be served on your terrace at a time of your choosing. We were served tea and coffee, fresh fruit juices, a fruit platter and homemade bread with eggs cooked to order. Frittatas, pancakes drizzled in honey and Sri Lankan hoppers are also on offer.

A short and simple wine list is available but don't expect a huge choice - wine can be tricky to come by in Sri Lanka. Cold beers are plentiful and cheap though.

For larger groups, there is a big outdoor communal table, next to the pretty row of frangipani trees and decorative ponds.

If you fancy a change of scene, there are a number of good local eateries a short tuk-tuk ride away in Galle Fort.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Walk along the beautiful beach (15 minutes) or grab a tuk-tuk (5 minutes) to Vijaya Beach Club where you can swim in the lagoon, snorkel in the protected reef, and have a delicious fresh fish lunch
  • Kick back by the 35m pool with a good book and a cold drink, or do some laps (towels are provided)
  • Ask the team to arrange a massage or yoga class. The hotel also has its own hard tennis court, just ask if you fancy a game
  • The beach in front of the hotel is quite rough for swimming but you can watch the stilt fishermen or go surfing; alternatively head to Weligama, Ahangama or Hikkaduwa beach for even better breaks
  • Arrange a visit to the nearby turtle hatchery to find out more about protecting Sri Lanka's turtle population
  • Take a tuk-tuk into Galle: explore the historic fort and check out the unique shops selling everything from local fabrics and furniture to contemporary jewellery
  • Longer trips can be arranged to the Uda Walluwa or Yala National Parks for a bit of elephant and leopard spotting

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Safaris
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome though it is more of a couples' hideaway. The freshwater pool is a godsend in the heat, the tennis will keep older kids happy on cooler days.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

Families wanting interconnecting rooms should request Hawksbill 1 and 2, or Olive Ridley 3 and 4. Olive Ridley 3 / 4 / 5 can hold the most extra beds. Do bear in mind that some of the rooms allocated to families do not have the best sea views.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged with prior notice.

Families Should Know:

The sea here is quite rough so keep an eye on children of all ages.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 12 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

We enjoyed a memorable stay, service was really great, pool was fantastic, food was excellent and room, especially bathroom was stunning. There is a great beach shack about a 10-15 minute walk down the beach (heading away from Unawatuna direction) for casual, cheap sundowner beers.

9/10,

The rooms were fantastic and the setting was beautiful. The service was average, a lot of the waiters could not understand English well enough and service was slow. However, the front staff were very helpful. I would recommend it again

9/10,

Great hotel. We were very nicely welcomed and the service is great. The main inconvenience is the lack of beach and no possibility to have a swim in the sea in front of the hotel.

9/10,

We loved our stay at the Frangipani Tree. It is a beautiful hotel and an oasis of calm. The room was lovely and the outdoor bathroom was very unique and lovely even in the rain. Staff were very helpful and attentive. always there to help but never annoying or lingering.
The food was really delicious, clearly all made fresh to order, beautifully presented and really tasty. The only comment would be that the towels around the pool are very poor, they are too small for the sunbeds, old - often ripped and stained and not very soft. Would definitely go back and recommend to friends as well.

10/10,

Everything about our stay at The Frangipani Tree was wonderful. The staff were friendly, helpful and not at all instursive. Our room was simple yet beautiful and was cleaned and re-freshed each day so you felt like you were stepping into a new room every day. The food was absolutely amazing, everything we ordered (whether Sri Lankan or otherwise) was delicious. We loved it so much we had to stay an extra day as we just couldn't bear to leave. We stayed in Leatherback but all the rooms looked to be amazing, the setting was stunning and we couldn't have hoped for a better stay. Thank you to everyone at the Frangipani Tree.

10/10,

You may ask why it costs so much to provide so little; but to deliver so little so well is incredibly difficult. A wonderful hotel with excellent food, extraordinary rooms and delightful service. A perfect location for a perfect honeymoon.

10/10,

I particularly enjoyed the setting of this house, totally authentic by the permanent presence of fishermen to the interior decoration of the house which is sober and elegant. Très beautiful place to interact in Sri Lankan life where only the sound of waves and birdsong wake us in the morning.

10/10,

Very nice hotel that opens onto the ocean. The décor is sober, contemporary and very elegant, the staff show kindness and discreet presence and the rice and curry is by far the best we had during our trip. Everything is mastered without any heaviness or mannerism. I will return with great pleasure

10/10,

Loved the Frangipani Tree in every way. Beautiful property, kind people - they took excellent care of us.

9/10,

We had a good experience staying at Frangipani Tree. The staff are very helpful and kind. The rooms are beautifully decorated and very spacious. Also the location is perfect. Only remark is, that there was a lot of noise during one day due to a wedding at the property next door. This was complimented with a discount at check-out.

8/10,

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Rates for The Frangipani Tree