There was a storm hitting the South Coast, so our first night at the Marriot Hotel, Weligama was spent exclusively indoors. It’s not a bad place to wait out a storm, having even been made the local tsunami shelter. The power occasionally went on and off, as the generators (which must have been huge) were switched on to take over from a failing main grid.
The Marriot Weligama dominates the landscape along the Weligama Bay. Its prominent presence amongst the smaller buildings lining the coast easily marks it out as the only large scale, five-star rated resort in the area, with only a few boutique hotels and luxury resorts such as W15 and Cape Weligama to compete with. But that might change soon. Weligama has so far remained unexploited by big capital projects such as the Marriot, but this once relatively deserted stretch of beach, home to mostly locally run businesses catering to a steady stream of backpackers and surfers, has lots of empty land to fill the demands of a growing market for resorts.
The Marriot is conveniently located right at the center of the Weligama Bay. It's an easy 20-minute drive away from the nearest exit of the Southern Expressway. So getting there is quite easy. Aside from accommodating tourists and travelers, it also offers options for banquets and conference facilities.
All rooms face the bay. Or should I say, All Rooms Face the Bay. This is something the hotel seems particularly proud of, and why shouldn’t it? The Weligama Bay is an expansively beautiful stretch of ocean. It's a pleasure to contemplate it from such a height, something you can safely say no one has seen before it was built, except maybe from an airplane.
The rooms divide into three categories, Superior Ocean, Lux Ocean and Ocean Vista. Basically all the rooms are outfitted the same. But the higher you go, the more you pay. As a compromise, rooms on the second floor (Superior Ocean) have a small terrace/garden.
Inside, everything is organized in an open plan arrangement. You can leave the bathroom fully open if you like using the sliding doors that disappear cleverly into the walls. It features a nice, huge bathtub. Not always a common feature these days.
They’ve thought of pretty much everything inside. A wall panel comes stocked with all sorts of slots for any electronics you might have. The closet comes with an iron and ironing table which seems standard for every room, the TV is gigantic and most importantly for those Instagram pics, there’s great Wi-Fi.
The spaces are really roomy. The walls facing the ocean are basically almost entirely glass, and electric switches allow you to roll the shutters up and down so you don’t have to get up in the morning to let in some light.
All meals for full board and bread & breakfast customers are served at the excellent Weligama Kitchen, which has a delicious buffet that can daunt even the hungriest Sri Lankan schoolboy. The hotel also offers a seafood fine dining experience at Big Fish and you can also grab a more laid back meal at Tides, the hotel’s bar cum restaurant. It also features a spa, which seems quite popular. All of this costs you extra, needless to say.
The Marriot is a little pricier than other five-star resorts in the area, but offers a level of comfort, service and amenities, as well as quality food and beverages that definitely seem above par when considered together. Starting at around $300 per night (for two, full-board), it does rather cramp the bank.
This place is certainly no Galle Lighthouse or Blue Waters, and it sticks out of the landscape like a sore thumb when looked at from afar, but close up it does hold on to a subdued elegance. The landscaping is basic and nothing too spectacular, and the first thing that stands out about the interior is the amount of wood being used. Apparently this is because steel corrodes easily in the ocean breeze, duh. But really, wooden ceiling fans? We tried them out and found that they actually worked really well.
Only having opened a few months ago, the Marriot seems to have aggressively recruited experienced staff from other establishments to stock its roster. The brand, one of the biggest in the world, owns dozens of properties in India, and a number of Indian nationals work here in various positions, including that of General Manager.
The Marriot is on the pricier end of what 5-star hotels will cost you on the South Coast, but they offer services that can compete with even pricier boutique hotels in the area. The food in particular, is fantastic.