Despite being a hotel, it feels more like a club. There's just so much to do, so many activities, and so many areas dedicated to random fun things. Our visit in the off-season lull didn't have the full charm, though.
From our welcome drink (thambili with arrack and lime) to the tailor and clothes shop at the entrance, each detail was carefully crafted.
There's a lovely big pool overlooking the lawns and the sea below, and direct access to the sprawling Dickwella beach. It was quite rough when we visited in May so we didn't get to splash about.
There's also a fully-fledged beach club by UTMT down the beach with everything from a funky repurposed truck serving as a bar and a bunch of games including petanque. But unfortunately, it was all closed up for the off-season.The hotel itself had loads to do and see, from an in-house cinema (showing about 2-3 movies per day) to a fully-stocked bar.
The therapy itself was great, but I particularly liked that they had free sessions with the in-house ayurvedic doctor as well as free herbal tea available.
For practical purposes, I can't go into detail about every great activity available at the resort, from cocktail making and tasting, to tours of the town, giant tic-tac-toe boards, so you ought to head there and discover them yourself. There's even an old-school telephone booth that lets you make free international calls.
Here's a photo of me trying to call my grandma in Bangalore for proof. It was a bit anti-climactic when she didn't pick up.
Our room itself felt almost like a ship cabin, with its reclaimed wood walls. The decor was simple but sustainable; rice bags repurposed as lamps, and lots of handwoven fabric. The mosquito net drops down from the panel above the bed, which was a bit of sleek space-saving design.
It was a tad uncomfortable that the bed was two single beds pushed together as opposed to a double, but the mattresses were comfortable enough.
This is one department that could have been slightly improved upon. There's a possibility their chef was on leave during our visit, because I've heard good things about their dining prior to our stay. Our breakfast consisted of a buffet cold spread (yoghurt, fruits, cereal), plus a few set options the kitchen will whip up for you.
The fresh juice and shooters were great, but my omelette was accompanied only by a couple of supermarket chicken sausages and a couple of slices of tomato. Seeing as the breakfast costs about Rs. 1800+ if you're not a guest or on B&B basis, this was really not quite worth it.
The eggs Benedict too was just alright, but didn't come accompanied by anything except a piece of lettuce.
For lunch, we opted for the a la carte menu. The chicken curry came to Rs. 1700 and the fish n' chips to Rs. 1200. There was some paripu, beans, and sweet potato along with a little glass of rice, papadam, and a side dish of chicken. Everything was well-prepared, but a little bland for our liking. It was a straightforward r&c you'd make at home, but probably would cost you a fraction of the price.
The fish n' chips were crumb-fried as opposed to batter fried, and came with store-bought French fries rather than the green banana chips mentioned on the menu.
We'd definitely recommend the homemade ice cream, which in this case was cinnamon. It's light, sweet, and fresh, at a relatively reasonable Rs. 350.
They've got in-house masseurs, yoga teachers, fitness instructors, tailors, and more. The workers and wait staff are mostly from the general area around the resort, trained and kept on retainer by the management. The receptionist was very sweet and helpful, and overall we found the service to be friendly but quite slow (it felt a bit like we'd pulled the staff out of holiday mode). It's apparently a lot more proactive when the hotel is fully-functional.
We ended our trip feeling relaxed, and curious to return during the big season so we could see what the place and food is like while they're on top form. Overall, we'd heavily recommend it especially if you've got kids, or like your holiday with a side of excitement. They also gave us an adorable little jar of homemade chutney when we checked out, which made the goodbye that much sweeter!
Like the famous Jetwing Lighthouse - but fancier.
Shangri-La's first foray into Sri Lanka, a full-service resort…