JUCE Hotel, run by the same people that do CASA Colombo (one of our city favourites), is conceptually different from pretty much any hotel we've come across on the island. It's a young, fresh, party hotel with low prices and a fun vibe.
There's a vivid green theme that's carried through out the hotel. It's contrasted well with neutral whites and dark wood, so it's really not that jarring at all. It also helps establish the fun/ young vibe they're going for. Despite being a budget hotel, there's a lot of charming additions and attention to detail, like the funky variations of yaka masks (a hat tip to the Ambalangoda location no doubt), and lots of foliage.
There are definite strong design elements at play, with a bright pink elephant serving as a water tap, and a submerged bar area at the pool. Little touches like the self-lit ice buckets and the gently strobing lights are also pretty cool.
The lovely beachfront location also does the place wonders, as you get to watch gorgeous sunsets while frolicking in the sand. I personally found the current/waves a little too strong, but I saw lots of tourists having a great time so maybe it's my swimming skills at fault here and not the water.
There are 3 accommodation options. You get the sea view rooms (interestingly called the F***ing Amazing View Rooms), the non sea view (F***ed up View Room), and the dorms. We stayed in a third floor sea view room, and it lived up to its profane promise. The room itself was very comfy yet minimalist - expect lots of soft squishy seating and pillows, stark white and green offset colour scheme, and some funky mirrored yaka masks.
Additions like the JLB Bluetooth speakers, rainwater shower, and in-room coloured strobe lighting from Philips were surprisingly upscale quality touches for a budget hotel. Nothing felt tacky or low-quality at all, which was great. The phone didn't work the entire time we were there, but this was a connectivity issue the staff couldn't really do much about at the time.
We also had a look at the dorm rooms out of curiosity, and after the first onslaught of eye-watering green, saw some well-appointed bunk beds and a seating area. Each comes equipped with its own USB and dual point charging points, fan, reading light, and locker. For USD 15, this is an absolutely superb deal, specially as you have free access to all the hotel's other amenities. Sri Lanka really needs to start catering to the backpacker market more!
We got there in time for dinner, which was a solid Lankan spread, complete with clay pots and plenty of curry leaf. I wasn't vastly impressed by the opening vegetable soup as it was fairly cold and greasy, but the mains more than compensated for that. The chicken curry was the piece de resistance, delicately cooked with strong flavours and a creamy consistency. The dessert spread was pretty good too, with everything from watallapam to kiri-panni.
The breakfast spread was a little less varied, but they were more than happy to give us whatever add-ons we needed. I asked for some bacon and sausages, and they happily gave us a huge helping of freshly made meats, and also offered us some eggs as we liked. The existing breakfast spread included cereals, milk, toast, boiled/ scrambled eggs, oats, and plenty of fresh fruit. Incredibly healthy, wholesome morning fare.
Lunch was a la carte, and we had it at the indoor restaurant Bite. The colour scheme maintained the white/green combination, but it was a little softer and beautifully lit with natural light in the afternoon.
We opted for the green salad, which was very fresh and flavourful, but could have done with some excitement in terms of presentation as it was pretty monochrome.
For the mains, we tried a carbonara and a grilled tuna. The carbonara was honestly enough for two, as it was absolutely creamy and filled with parmesan and bacon. The flavour was nuanced and lightly peppered, which we enjoyed (but weren't able to finish!).
The tuna was my favourite of the meals, well cooked, and with a beautifully and simply balanced lime and pepper seasoning. The rice was lovely and garlicky, although a little on the oily side (but we're on holiday, so a bit of oil is alright I guess).
We were huge fans of the service. Everyone from the manager to the waitstaff to the cleaners seemed genuinely enthused to help. They showed us around the hotel, checked on us from time to time, and rectified anything we found to be lacking. English skills were pretty great too, which made our lives easier.
This is a hotel with a clear agenda - to provide cheap and fun accommodation for young partiers. It's a great place to host a dance party or a rave, and provides great food, clean and chic rooms, and a lovely beachside location.