The Last House

Near Tangalle, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from US$155

Reviewed by Ben Reed
Intimate Bawa-designed hotel (or house rental for 12-14), with peaceful grounds, elegant interiors and a brilliant beachside location
Sitting just along the coast from the up-and-coming town of Tangalle, and overlooking an often-deserted bay, is The Last House - the final residential work of famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Now a small hotel, it has views that stretch through coconut trees to the horizon, and airy interiors which fill the rooms with light. Simple, uncluttered style runs throughout, and a signature Bawa veranda encircles the property, giving shade to the scattered planter chairs which face out to sea. Just beyond the garden gate, the Indian Ocean laps gently on the palm-fringed sands of Mahawella beach.

Couples can hide away in one of the 3 double rooms set in the in the grounds, while families can spread out in a vast 3-bedroom suite in the main house; alternatively these bedrooms can be booked individually. The décor throughout is a striking mix of whitewashed walls, smooth cement floors, original doors and shutters, plump sofas, and colourful cushions. Head outside to the 10m pool in the central courtyard, explore the lush gardens and golden beach, and end your day dining alfresco on 3 courses of delicious local food. If you were shipwrecked here, you'd be in no hurry to leave.

Highs

  • Plenty of spots to unwind and gaze at the view, including a stylish outdoor lounge and cushioned daybeds by the pool
  • A great option for groups and celebrations - the house can be hired exclusively and sleeps up to 12, with the choice of self-catering or being catered for
  • A fabulous location on the south coast; the area is famous for its turtles and you have direct access to the golden sands of Mahawella beach
  • Meals use locally caught fish to fantastic effect - we still daydream about the pan-fried sea bass with beetroot curry from our 2012 revisit
  • The small, friendly team provides discreet yet helpful service

Lows

  • You’re 7km from the nearest town (Tangalle), and it can be difficult to find by tuk-tuk; we recommend using the hotel transfer service
  • There's no air-conditioning, but the expert Bawa design ensures that the sea breeze flows through all the rooms, and there are ceiling fans
  • No alcohol licence, though drinks can be bought at cost price on request, or you can bring your own

Best time to go

December to April brings the best weather and the calmest waters for swimming. May to November is the rainy season, but prices are likely to be cheaper and the area is much quieter. During peak season (normally 20 December - 12 January), The Last House is only available as a whole house rental.

Our top tips

We think this would make a great base for a group holiday. There's a good amount of privacy, no need to nominate a cook, and you get plenty of opportunity for fun and frolics; expect to find surf boards, footballs, rugby balls, cricket and badminton equipment, board games, inflatables for the pool and even a private fishing boat.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 4-6
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • 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
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Communal TV
  • Games equipment
  • Boogie boards
Room:

Rooms

There are just 4 guest rooms: 3 rooms set in the grounds of the property, plus a 3-bedroom suite on the first floor of the main house whose double and twin rooms can also be booked separately. All are stylishly uncluttered, with antique furniture, Egyptian cotton bedding, whitewashed walls, mosquito nets, ceiling fans and dashes of colour. Bawa's aim when designing the house was to merge the indoor and outdoor spaces, and large open walls let the breeze flow in (you'll barely notice the lack of air-conditioning).

The 3 double rooms are charming and spacious, with high ceilings and ensuite shower rooms. Moonamal, the largest, also has the added luxuries of a lounge and an outdoor shower and bath area. This room and Atteriya share the same cool blue and white décor, while Na breaks the mould with its wooden structure, warm pink colours and the option to have twin beds; elevated on stilts, it’s windowed on 3 sides and looks out onto a small lagoon with resident herons and kingfishers.

But it's the Cinnamon Hill Suite that's the star of the show. Consisting of a double room and 2 twin rooms (one of which is pretty small), it has acres of space and opens onto the house's wraparound balcony with imperious views of the ocean. The master bedroom is enormous, with ceilings open to the rafters, a kingsize bed, and a large ensuite bathroom with a freestanding tub placed dramatically in its centre. The 3 bedrooms can be booked individually, too.

You can also hire the whole house (sleeping up to 14 people), which would work well for 2 families or a group. Or you can opt for the Cinnamon Hill Suite with exclusive use of the communal areas (but not use of Moonamal, Atteriya and Na).

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Guests eat in an open-air dining area overlooking the colourful pool and gardens - the ideal spot for a leisurely meal. Room rates include breakfast, and lunch and dinner are available on request (there are half- and full-board options, too). If you’re renting the whole house, you can choose between cooking for yourself in the kitchen (bring your own food or use the shopping service) or being catered for. Either way, manager Ananda is your main point of contact and will discuss menus and any dietary requirements with you.

Breakfast is a tempting spread of fresh fruit juice, muesli, pancakes, eggs and Sri Lankan specialities such as hoppers. Lunches tend to reflect the beachside location, with an abundance of seafood salads and risottos on offer.

But it’s dinner that will really get your attention. The fabulous 3-course meals make the most of the ocean - perhaps crab salad with spicy coconut sauce to start, grilled fennel-crusted tuna with wilted garlic kangkong and curd raita for the main, and a refreshing passion fruit curd tart to round things off.

Remember that alcohol isn’t sold on site, so if you want a drink with dinner you’ll need to bring your own. Choice is limited in the local area, so it’s a good idea to stock up in Colombo or one of the larger towns before you arrive.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Shopping service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Step from the garden onto the golden sands of Mahawella beach, where you can swim in the shallows or hit the waves (boogie boards are available)
  • Take a bike ride or go on a fishing trip, then relax mind and muscles with an Ayurvedic massage or a yoga class (all available through the hotel)
  • Visit the turtle sanctuary in nearby Rekawa to witness nocturnal hatching and sea release
  • Take a tuk-tuk to the fishing town of Tangalle. Its bustling market and harbour offer an interesting insight into local life, and the surrounding coast is peppered with deserted beaches
  • There's a magnificent blowhole at Kudawella, and a Buddhist temple complex built into the mountain at Mulgirigala (25km away); climb to the top for spectacular views
  • A little further afield you’ll find the Uda Walawe reserve for elephants and migrating birds (some of which are rare)
  • Head to Kataragama (about 70km from Tangalle) for one of the country’s most important religious sites. Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus all visit, and the Hindu festival in August usually draws a good crowd
  • The Yala National Park and Bundala Bird Sanctuary are also within striking distance, though they're extensive enough to warrant an overnight stay
  • Back at the hotel, there's an antique chest full of board games, plus inflatable animals and lilos for the pool, and equipment for football, cricket, badminton and rugby

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome. Extra beds incur a supplement, but baby cots are provided free of charge. Babysitting is available by arrangement and most food requirements can be accommodated. Children under 12 years will be charged 50% of usual half board or full board food rates.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The Cinnamon Hill Suite is a good option for larger families as it has a large double bedroom and 2 twin rooms, plus space for a baby cot. Smaller families may prefer to stay in Moonamal, Atteriya or Na, all of which have space for 1 extra bed or a baby cot. The rooms in the Cinnamon Hill Suite (2 Cinnamon Hill Twins and a Cinnamon Hill Double) can also be booked separately, and each can fit a baby cot.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cot
  • Changing mat
  • Baby stroller
  • Swimming armbands

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

Kids Activities on site:

  • Footballs
  • Rugby balls
  • Cricket
  • Badminton
  • Bicycles
  • Boogie boards
  • Board games
  • Beach
  • Swimming pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Turtle sanctuary at Rekawa
  • Tuk-tuk rides into Tangalle

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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