Sri Lanka is a rustic coastal paradise for a wandering soul. Which is why not many would associate it with the potential to pamper seekers of luxury. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Sri Lanka has seen a steady rise in the rise of luxurious resorts and hotels cropping up, thanks to its natural wealth and a comparatively moderate crowd visiting versus the usual coastal destinations. When I first heard of a Shangri-La hotel opening up here last June I was pleasantly surprised and decided that it’s something I wouldn’t miss out on. And so, I set off to discover how the simplicity of this South Asian country could blend in the grandeur of a property so famed for its elaborate twist of luxury.
The nearest airport to the hotel is the Matala Rajapaksa airport, which is just 35 kilometers away. I landed in Colombo though and was treated to a beautiful 5-hour scenic drive that traversed some of the most spectacular locales of the country. The Shangri-La Hambantota Resort and Spa is a Beachfront Luxury property set on a former coconut plantation and spans over 130 acres. I was told that it contained its very own 18-hole golf course, over 300 rooms and suites, an artisan village and a famous spa. I was welcomed by the sight of elephants idly ambling across the road leading up to the property.
The Hambantota Resort tells of the architectural excellence that has been employed in its creation. From the intricate teak work to the terracotta tiles on the paths, each detail has been meticulously included. What I truly loved was how finely the hotel balanced the ambiance of the indoors and the outdoors. The very size of the property is a lot to take in. Yet, it doesn’t feel large and cavernous, but more inclusive. There are several pools spread throughout the property, including two family pools and a beautiful Sunset Pool for the romantic. All three pools are salt-water pools and include a children’s pool with a waterslide and even a waterfall. This is a respite from the humid and warm climate of the region.
The rooms are sized from 48 to 240 square meters and feature a balcony in each one of them. You could either be blessed with a view of the gardens or the stunning blue waters of the Indian Ocean. I was put up in the Deluxe Room that overlooked the pool area. The rustling palm trees offered me all the company I needed in my solitary explorations of this enchanting patch on earth. Before I get into the details of the room, I’d like to focus on how brilliant the bathrooms were. They were large and made of Emperador marble, overlooking rows of palm trees. Since the room was located on the ground floor, I was treated to the illusion of being closer to the natural surroundings. The goodies included Shangri-la toiletries, a pillow menu, a Direct Dial phone, a mini-bar and provisions for coffee and tea. I loved spending time in the balcony overlooking the endless rows of palm trees. The details in the room and its vastness made it surprisingly discouraging to step out, even with the splendorous outdoors before me – a fair testimony to the extravagance that it resonated.
The food on offer at the Hambantota was incredible. Bojunhala is the main dining facility of the hotel with a buffet spread that included Asian and local Sri Lankan cuisines. It’s the go-to place for those who depend on all-day dining. While vegetarian options are scarce in the coastal regions, the novelty in flavors and the heavy influence of local cooking techniques in all dishes was rather obvious. Scaling down the pompousness and size of a dining experience is the other restaurant in the property called Sera. It is known for its South Asian cuisine and is perfect if you’re a couple looking for a quieter, more intimate setting to enjoy your meal. For those with the thirst for good alcohol and good music, the Gimanhala Lounge would be perfect. It plays host to the younger lot among the visitors and has a partial outdoor setting that sets it apart from most lounges.
The Hambantota is Sri Lanka’s first hotel with its own 18-hole golf course and I must say that the course is constructed with the best international standards in mind. If you’re caught out without equipment then you could drop in at the adjoining store and gear yourself up for the turf. It’s the best of both worlds for golf professionals who seek luxury but also welcomes beginners who’re looking to try their hand at the sport. The hotel has its very own Director of Golf who has trained all 55 caddies who preside over the games. I loved sacking out at the Ulpatha sports bar that served delectable eateries while watching the pros take to the greens from an envious vantage point.
There’s nothing like settling into a Sunset Pool to catch the spectacular cloudscapes while sipping on the white sangria (recommended). Or you could make your way to the Chi Spa. A few guests I spoke to confessed to being here only for the spa. It is located in a location removed from the bustle of the hotel to maintain a tranquil atmosphere. There are twelve treatment rooms on offer, designed in lines with the hotel’s Chi style. You can pick from Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments here. The Asian Blend treatment is among the most sought-after treatment methods here. Post your treatment you could unwind a relaxation lounge.
The thought put into keeping families with children entertained is commendable. In addition to a pool for kids, the Cool Zone Kids Club offers several activities for the young including a trapeze. One of the restaurants also offers a kid’s self-service buffet on plates themed around popular characters. This is just another reason why the Hambantota
There’s a lot to offer at the Shangri-La Hambantota simply because of its enormous size. It would take at least four days here to truly make the most of all that this spectacular property has to offer. Or more, if you’re a golfer or love exploring national parks. The service was just right, the touch of luxury balanced with ethnic excellence was great and the activities would make sure that you wouldn’t have a moment of boredom.
If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka for the first time, I’d recommend the Shangri-La Colombo to experience the modern side of the country and the Shangri-La Hambantota to take in its rustic rural flavors.
Where: Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa
Sittrakala Watta, Chithragala,
Ambalantota, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 477 888 888
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel but all the opinions expressed herewith are his own.