Babies are a very good way to stress-test a hotel. If a hotel can survive the weird dietary requirements, fusiness and general disability of a baby, it can certainly cater to your needs.
Sun Aqua Pasikudah is very good for babies.
Let’s start with the pool. This is one of my favorite pools in Sri Lanka because it abandons the conceit of swimming laps and focuses on what people actually do in hotel pools – chill.
The pool is designed so that anyone from age 0 on up can have a place to sit or stand comfortably. You can swim laps if you want to at the deep end, but really?
As you can tell from the giant numbers, the pool goes from 0 feet to 4.6 feet deep. It gradually slopes in, so even an infant can sit on the shallow end quite happily. If you are a giant Nordic person this may not be ideal for you, but it works for me.
Another bonus is that the Batticaloa sun heats up the pool quite nicely. If you get in around sunset it's quite pleasantly warm. Add in the beautiful view and attentive service and this is one of my favourite pools in Sri Lanka.
In certain suites, there’s a pool in the room, so double bonus. How do you entertain a bored baby while your partner is trying to sleep? Why, dunk them in your en-suite pool. Presumably, this works for bored partners too, or bored anyones. It definitely works for a baby.
The pool is in the bathroom, which is perhaps not ideal style-wise, but it is a big bathroom, it gets its own bit of sun, and it makes showering afterwards quite simple. Not to mention finding towels.
Besides that, the bathroom is well-appointed (toothpaste and earbuds included) and the water pressure and heat are on point. Plus there are two sinks, very good for your marriage.
The bed is large enough for two people plus a wildly spinning octopus or, alternately, a baby. It’s quite comfortable, the AC is powerful and there’s decent floor lighting. They also gave us a cot which was kind.
As you'll notice from the photo above, the room is on two levels, a bedroom of sorts and then stairs down to a living area. The bedroom comes with a fridge and tea/coffee maker and on the other side, a safe and an iron and a hair dryer, and ample storage.
Having stairs within a room can be troubling if the child can tumble down. However, you can keep smaller ones contained on a lower level in a sort of pen. So, pros and cons.
This is where we took most of our meals, which was lovely, but I had to decapitate a crow and leave his severed head on the lawn as an example to others*. After that, it's quite peaceful.
The verandah is also a stone’s throw from the pool and the clubhouse, and of course the beach, so very convenient.
Normally when I travel I order rice and curry because most menus are lies and most places can execute a rice and curry. In this case it was the opposite. The rice and curry was merely passable, but the Western options were excellent.
The soups and lamb were stand-outs, as were the appetizers. One was a smoked salmon canape, which is easy to get right because smoked salmon is yum, but the next day they served a similar appetizer that was just tomato, and it was also delicious (above). They did wonders with that tomato, which shows some skill.
But now the baby part. Babies eat mushed up stuff with no salt or sugar. If you have a baby you’ll be surprised to find that they can eat literally nothing that adults eat. EVERYTHING we eat has salt or sugar, which should tell you something. Hence we had to ask the chef to prepare meals for the child, which they did with aplomb.
They made a very nice carrot and veg puree which she completely ignored (I ate it) and they also served fruit whenever she needed it (often, she likes fruit) and were quite accommodating. I’m sure they’d be accommodating to you, but it of course depends on how cute you are (she’s very cute).
Regarding the pricing of food, if you get full-board you can either get buffet or a choice from a set menu (for example, rice and curry or western and one more). Some meals and sometimes, however, it's just buffet. If you go a la carte, options go from $10 to $40 for most dishes (the higher side being imported stuff like the lamb).
One sad thing is that the beach and waters have changed. The waters were always very placid, and still are, but now the ocean floor is littered with broken coral and makes it hard to wade in, in most places.
There was a problem with erosion of the beach which the government seems to have tried to address with a breakwater, but who knows what additional issues that may have caused.
The beach is nice and once you get in as swimmable and peaceful as ever, but it's sadly not what it used to be.
Now the strip is full of hotels – Anilana, Amaya Beach, Sunrise By Jetwing, Uga Bay, Maalu Maalu, and more. There's honestly a bit of over-supply now. So what sets a place apart?
As an example, they have a dedicated play area with toys and games right by the pool. It's a small thing, but I haven't seen many hotels do that. They also have cribs and high chairs available (which is more normal) and the staff are genuinely kind to small ones. If you don't have kids this wouldn't matter, but if you do, those simple amenities make a huge difference.
The other differentiator would be that Sun Aqua is part of the Sun Siyam group that operates primarily in the Maldives. In many ways, the Maldives is a more mature luxury destination than Sri Lanka and you can that see in terms of general service levels.
Prices range from 12 K to 50 K based on whether you get a garden suite or a beach suite with pool, and that range would also move based on season (which is around August, usually).
The a la carte food, while excellent, isn't cheap, so this isn't a cheap holiday. Nor, I think, is it intended to be.
This is a place to go where everything is beautiful and nice and someone else makes the baby food and nappy bags just disappear and you can chill. I mean, that's what it was for me at this point in my life.
For the general tourist, I'd say that this is a very high quality beach villa experience. You can spend a week here quite happily disappearing into books and the swimming pool and emerging refreshed on the other side.
Our baby loved it. The people are lovely, she discovered sand and coral, which is AMAZING, and she loved the pool. If you have a kid or just want to be pampered like one, this is a good place for you.