Hideaway Villas.

Hideaway is the best restaurant and probably the best hotel in Arugam Bay. It has excellent food and accommodation and thoughtful family management.

Hideaway is really good. If you can get a villa there, book it, though it’s likely to be fully occupied during season. Even if you can’t you should go there for one meal at least. They do an excellent rice and curry and some really sophisticated fusion fare.

The Restaurant

We’ll start with the restaurant bit because that’s what most people are likely to experience. Hideaway is great for dinner/drinks and good for breakfast or lunch as well, just try to make a reservation in advance. During the day they have a little juice bar selling drinks and cookies on the street, but the real treats are inside.

Depending on what’s available in the markets/ocean you can get some wondrous meals at Hideaway. Jumbo prawns, sashimi tuna, seer, crab, plus some well prepared veg. Dinner here costs Rs. 1250 to Rs. 1600 (usually). It can go up to Rs. 2,250 for the seafood platter at the highest.

We tried the Ahi Poke Tuna, which is basically a tuna sashimi salad. It’s simple, basically raw tuna and salad, and delectable. This dish depends on having very fresh tuna, which they get from the sea across the street. Add a bit of sesame and lime and salt and it’s a zinger. You know when you have sushi so good you just close your eyes and savor it? It’s like that.

We also tried a seafood casserole which was a more filling option, generous bits of meat and cheese served in a clay pot along with couscous and pomegranate. Finally, a friend of ours tried a fish steak (we forget which fish, apologies) which was served with a fruity topping on a bed of mash. All excellent tasting and – in terms of plating and presentation – up there with the best restaurants in the country.

Honestly, pound for pound, I’d say my current top two restaurants in the island are Ministry Of Crab and Hideaway.

The desserts are also good. Above is ice cream with tamarillo (tree tomato) sauce. I’d never heard of tree tomato before but it’s tart and goes well with ice cream, I’d recommend.

Note that there is no set menu for the food, a lot depends on what fishermen have caught that day, or what’s in season, which is how it should be. Do note that Hideaway has long been famous for its rice and curry and its traditional Sri Lankan fare (including string hoppers and the like) is reliably good. Breakfast costs between Rs. 450 and 800.

They also have a little outdoor bar in the garden which serves up cocktails (Rs. 550, roughly) and there’s a 2-for-1 happy hour from 6-7 PM most days.

The Hotel

Hideaway has 14 rooms (stand alone bungalows for $100, family bungalow for $125 and rooms in the main building for $50). These are quite competitive rates for Arugam Bay, where a closet can go for Rs. 7,000, but be warned that the place is fully booked from basically June to September. During season A-Bay is completely full and you won’t be able to get a room at Hideaway unless you book well in advance. Like months in advance, ideally.

We apologize that we don’t have photos of the inside of the rooms, since we didn’t book in advance :(. We stayed in closets along the strip, sadly, so be forewarned. You can check out images on TripAdvisor. I stayed at Hideaway a few years back and the rooms are simple, clean and nice. The stand-alone bungalows are their own little houses and you end up spending most of your time on the verandah, overlooking the garden.

Hideaway is not beachfront, you have to cross the street to the hulking Bay Vista for that, but that’s honestly not a bad thing. The Arugam Bay strip, especially in season, can get a bit stressful and it’s nice to retreat into a garden. Also, the places along the beachfront honestly don’t try that hard, they just keep slapping more basic rooms up and people just pay for it. You get a way better standard of accommodation on the landside, if you can book it.

Location

Hideaway is basically in the center of the strip. It’s walking distance to Main Point, bicycling distance to Peanut Farm and Pottuvil Point and you can catch transport to Whiskey Point easily enough. Gecko’s is across the street if you want another decent meal (with highly variable and possibly hostile service), as are a lot of other restaurants and places for coffee or whatever.

What’s nice is that Hideaway still remains a hideaway. You’re not right on the strip and there is so much foliage that you’re quite insulated from the rampant tourist development outside (an ironic thing for tourists to desire, but we do).

Service

Hideaway started as a family home and is still run by the family. Sharon runs the front desk and answers the phones most of the time. She’s usually busy (and can be, in her words, ‘a dragon lady’ on the phone) but she’s charming in person and always extremely professional. You might see her nephews Yanik or Yhevin tending bar or making smoothies at the juice bar during the day. The space has transitioned nicely to younger family management and they’ve brought innovations in terms of food and music while retaining the character of the place.

Conclusion

Forgive me if this review has been gushing. Hideaway is objectively a great guesthouse, but our experience in Arugam Bay was such that it is like 7-star in relation to most other places on the strip. During season prices are really high and you don’t usually get much value for money. In terms of dining, Arugam Bay is good but we found a lot of the stuff under-seasoned and not especially creative – the places just seem to cater to tourist demand but aren’t that creative on their own. Hideaway is different in that it retains a distinct character which tourists also happen to like. We recommend it, for a stay if you can book it and for a meal even if you can’t.

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