Perhaps more famous for its cricket team and cinnamon export, Sri Lanka is a beautiful sun-kissed island that deserves more recognition than is often mustered. It’s home to crystal blue seas, balmy temperatures and a culture that’s rooted in history and tradition. 

Having fought in a 26-year struggle for independence against the Tamil Tigers, eventually coming to an end in May 2009, as well as being one of the countries devastatingly hit by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, the tourism industry finally began to flourish, welcoming tourists all over the world to its beautiful beaches, renowned rivers and diverse culture before Covid came swooping in. Now returning to its feet, whilst amid a fuel shortage and economic crisis, Sri Lanka is once again embracing tourists with open arms to its charming country. 

Having not ventured much further than the bounds of London since March 2020, I practically leapt at the opportunity to explore Sri Lanka’s South West coast to see just how breathtaking the country is. If sand running through your toes, sipping on heady coconut cocktails and jetting down the Madu Ganga river is what you’re in need of after two years of no vacationing, here’s why this slice of paradise should be your next bucket list destination. 

The Resort

To say Cinnamon Bentota Beach blew away my expectations would be an understatement. Located an hour and a half away from the capital of Colombo, the hotel is situated on the tip of Sri Lanka’s golden coastline, also often referred to locally as the ‘Gold Coast’. 

Almost hidden away by the sprawling groves of coconut trees, the resort boasts unrivalled views over the ocean and winding river. The space itself was designed by the famous architect Geoffrey Bawa. It fuses traditional Sri Lankan design with luxury amenities, with each room looking out over the river, beach or surrounding gardens. 

The design is what really makes this hotel stand out. From the moment you walk through the gates with the traditional musicians playing you into the hotel, before you enter the wide reception room that boasts multiple multicolour batik panels designed and hand made by the Aluvihare Heritage Centre, to beautiful natural pool and infinity-style pool that looks out towards the palm-fringed beach, no detail has been missed.

The hotel is situated on the tip of Sri Lanka’s golden coastline, also often referred to locally as the ‘Gold Coast’. 

It would be hard to forget the Peacock Salon, the vibrant 70s bar and lounge where we’d often spend our evenings sipping wine, relaxing on the cushioned wall sofas. The design itself is reminiscent of 70s inspired interiors, notably thanks to the bright yellow and moody orange ceiling, made from handloom fabric. The walls are lined with work from Ismeth Rahee, a selection of painted panels and intricately detailed birds. Not to mention the striking peacock that guarded the top of the main stairs down to the swimming pool and main restaurant area.

The resort is home to 159 rooms, including 16 suites. I stayed in the Wetakeiya Suite which looked out over the river and was filled with all of the best amenities you could ask for, including a bath so deep you could spend all day soaking. When I could tear myself away, the two balconies were where you’d find me lounging on, head tucked into a book or out looking at tuk tuks whirling along in the distance. 

The hotel has everything you could need, from the traditional food (I’ll come back to this) through to water sports on the river and views over the ocean and pool complete with a bar tucked inside.

The Culture & Local Area

As much as you could venture to Sri Lanka for Cinnamon Bentota Beach alone, there are plenty of local attractions dotted around and along the coastline. These were a few of my favourite spots… 

Lunuganga Geoffrey Bawa’s Country Estate

Located a twenty minute drive from the hotel sits Lunuganga Geoffrey Bawa’s Country Estate, the country home of the famed architect. Converting into his weekend home, the space is now home to five private suites spread across the estate, but you can also head here for the day or afternoon, exploring the grounds and the glimmering lake. It’s well worth wandering the water gardens, Japanese garden art, Italian Renaissance gardens and even English landscaping that still remains, as well as stopping by the restaurant for traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.

Lunuganga Geoffrey Bawa’s Country Estate

Explore the water gardens, Japanese garden art, Italian Renaissance gardens and even English landscaping that still remains...

Boat ride on the Madu Ganga

You can’t go on holiday without a boat ride in my eyes so I was delighted to take a boat ride on the Madu Ganga. Home to just about every kind of wildlife, from water monitors and crocodiles to jellyfish, exotic birds and even monkeys jumping from branch to branch. 

There are over 60 islands spread across the river, one of which we stopped off at named Cinnamon Island and saw how cinnamon is made by hand. There’s a Mangrove Forest too, helping to stabilise the coastline and reduce erosion from storm surges, currents, waves and tides.

Galle

About an hour’s drive from the hotel is the quaint city of Galle. Known for its Fort built by the Portuguese in 1588, it’s worth exploring the old architecture before making your way to the small streets filled with cafes, trinket shops and to really soak up the bohemian backpacker vibe.

The Beaches

It wouldn’t be a trip to Sri Lanka’s Southwest coastline without a mention of the actual beaches, and the hotel we stayed at sits right on the edge of Bentota Beach, home to crashing waves, white sands and perhaps one too many jellyfish. While we were there, the red flag was flying a lot of the time but I still made the most of paddling my feet in the balmy waters. 

Dotted along the coast, there were several turtle conservation centres and hatcheries which are the perfect attraction to visit for turtle lovers alike. Plus, Galle is home to Unawatuna Beach that’s well known for attracting a few backpackers.

The Food

If travelling to a new country revolves around the cuisine and culture as much as it does for me, you’ll be delighted with the foodie scene. Expect endless curries, fresh fruits, coconuts, rice dishes, dals and, of course, hoppers on offer around every corner. 

At Cinnamon Bentota, you can enjoy bed and breakfast or half board, sampling an exciting array of traditional dishes and flavours, as well as Indian, Chinese and even Italian cuisine. Unlike your typical hotel buffet, the food is cooked right in front of you, constantly topped up and refreshed throughout the sittings. There’s also the Sea Meats Spice restaurant on-site too that’s worth booking in for some of the freshest fish and seafood from the local shores – it also has a lovely beach bar style vibe, perfect for late night cocktails. 

Or, if you’re looking to work on your own cooking skills, the hotel offers an authentic cooking experience. Learning from the chefs, I can proudly say I can now cook up a Sri Lankan storm in the kitchen at home.

Looking for a tour?

We’d recommend Walker Tours – Ashoka was our wonderful guide and I couldn’t recommend him enough! Super friendly, informative and made the whole trip run with ease. 

www.walkerstours.com

 


The Facts…

Where we stayed: Cinnamon Bentota Beach

​​Bed and Breakfast Rate – Starting from £193++

Half Board Rate – Starting from £260++

Tele: +9411342275176

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.cinnamonhotels.com

Getting There: We flew with Sri Lankan Airlines

Flights start from £691 for an economy round trip

Tele: +94117771979

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.srilankan.com

 


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