The Fortress Resort & Spa is a stalwart of engagements, honeymoons, and luxurious getaways. Nestled on a stretch of pristine Koggala beachfront that plays host to playful waves and capricious turtles, the swank resort just about manages to match the area's natural beauty.
The hotel shies away from the glitzy glass and A/C monoliths structural patterns of Colombo, instead retaining a distinctly colonial vibe. My instinct wasn't wrong here, the hotel is actually loosely modelled on Galle's famous Dutch fort (barely 13 kms away).
You'll notice the tall walls, cobblestones, and strong wooden doors, that swing open to reveal low roofs, lush green lawns, araliya and coconut trees, and symmetrical Dutch/Portuguese influenced wooden pillars and whitewashed walls.
A sprawling pool fringes the beach expanse, surrounded by natural calamansis and leisurely woven beach chairs. Just beyond the pool, there's a flat and incredibly long stretch of golden sand that snakes down the coast.
The water is generally swimmable and warm during season (November to February), but can be a little rough off-season. If you're still keen for a sea-swim off-season, there's a little rock pool that lends itself to leisurely paddling.
The rooms show incredible attention to detail. Our ocean-facing suite on the first floor boasted a super king sized bed, a cosy square-shaped couch, and an outdoor balcony facing the pool and sea.
The couch seating fixture was one of my favourite features of the room, a lovely and comfortable spot with dedicated lighting facing the entertainment system, a swank set up of a flat screen TV with full cable access, Bose bluetooth speakers, and a mini cocktail bar. We found the mini-bar and cupboard fully equipped, with everything from wine glasses to martini shakers. You really barely have a reason to leave the room.
The bathroom was a beauty. Taking up just under half the room's floor space, the open plan bathroom featured dark wood floors, a lush rainwater shower, bathrobes, his and hers opposing sinks, and a bath-tub more technologically advanced than my microwave. It had pulse settings, hue-changing lights, and a jacuzzi mode.
The only downside? My travel partner had to hear me crooning Patsy Cline in glee and playing with bubbles for a solid hour. Open plan bathrooms are great for sleek uninterrupted style, but they create interesting dynamics if you're sharing a room with someone who isn't meant to see you starkers.
We missed the breakfast spread at the Fortress, mostly because we spent too much time indulging at the spa (priorities!). We did, however, have a rather decadent fine dining dinner at the upscale Duo restaurant, and the superb seafood spread at their weekend buffet lunch.
There were some slight misses during the dinner. Our cocktails just weren't up to scratch, and we were disappointed by our Kir Royales and pomegranate martinis (they were just too syrupy and sweet, and the kir royales were flat). The delicately arranged hors d'oeuvres also didn't wow us in terms of flavour despite their intricate presentation.
The buffet spread was large, but the action stations had pre-made large quantities of food as the hotel was at capacity. In general, the dinner was lacklustre.
However, the next meal we had, the weekend seafood fest, was vastly, vastly better. Left to our own devices, we explored the buffet, dabbling in the deliciously fresh oysters (they have their own oyster farm!), singapore style crab, fresh vegetables, and more.
The cold appetizers were a treat too, some seemingly random pairings that turned out to be inventive and delectable.
The platters also featured sashimi, sushi, and more.
As you'll notice from the photo below, we tried some random bits and bobs, all of which was frankly brilliant and simple. The Lankan crab curry was a must in our book, as is the prawn in garlic butter sauce and the crab & prawn cheese bake.
Our suggestion overall, would be to go for a la carte at dinner, and really go all out and indulge in the seafood buffet for lunch. Or brunch, because it could take you a while, and good food needs commitment.
We'd also suggest you check out their vast and well-curated wine and champagne cellars! It was a delight dining in one at Duo, and the soft lighting was cosily ambient.
It turns out skipping breakfast for the spa was a great decision. We opted for an intense healing Ayurvedic massage ritual, that lasts one hour, and uses a variety of local and indigenous essential herbal oils. It will cost you the average full body massage price (in keeping with most of Colombo's high-end spas that is), at about Rs. 7000.
The spa premises are sprawling, and beautiful. One of my favourite aspects was an al fresco jacuzzi in a beautiful shaded courtyard that's open for guests for post-spa usage. There are also multiple therapy rooms, saunas, massage suites and waiting areas.
I personally enjoyed the usage of open space, natural lighting, and local material throughout the premises. My massage too was a leisurely, slow-stroke experience which featured light aromatherapeutical movements and gently heated oils, courtesy of a very sweet and experienced local masseuse.
In general, the service was of a very high standard, but there were slight lapses in communication, most of which I put down to the weekend rush. I found the staff to be really helpful, knowledgable, and genuinely friendly.
However, the hotel was also at high capacity, so our rooms were occupied both before and after our bookings. This meant that we got checked in late, and checked out early, which was a little tedious. We were granted late check-out for one of the rooms, which was great, but apparently the receptionist didn't get the memo because our bags (which we packed in advance) were unceremoniously removed and kept in the reception. This meant when we got out of the pool around 2 PM soaking wet, we had to drag our suitcases up and down 2 flights of stairs to the spa/ gym bathrooms, change there, and then return, again lugging our bags.
It was an inconvenient way to end an otherwise luxe and beautiful holiday. Unfortunately for hotels, just one member of waitstaff treating young or local guests shoddily can often tarnish their service image, even when virtually every other staff member was impeccable, friendly, and prompt.
Barring the very last 15 minutes of our stay, we enjoyed every aspect of our weekend at the Fortress Resort & Spa. It is definitely an oasis of romance and luxury, featuring some of the most beautifully-appointed rooms I've seen on the island.
The Fortress' proximity to Colombo also means that it's not just a hotspot for honeymoons and engagements, it's also a great weekend getaway with that special someone. They'd better be special, because rooms here can cost you upward of 200 to 500 USD. Our opinion? It's worth it.