Top 5 hotels in Sri Lanka: From oceanfront bungalows to secluded lodges in the middle of the jungle
Sri Lanka is full of dynamism and diversity that attracts travellers from all over the world. There are many beautiful and unique attractions here: extraordinary nature, ancient ruins, charming beaches and national parks that are home to elephants, leopards and many species of birds. This place is also associated with delicious food with an abundance of colourful spices, complemented by a cup of fragrant Ceylon tea, and the hospitality of the locals.
Sri Lanka continues to gain popularity among travellers, and along with this demand, there are more and more great places to stay: from old houses to new-style hotels.
Where is the best place to stay in Sri Lanka?
The capital of Sri Lanka is the cosmopolitan city of Colombo, where you'll find cool galleries and coffee shops, good hotels and an excellent range of stores. If the goal of your trip is an idyllic beach vacation, then head to Sri Lanka's southern coast with lively cafes and beautiful beachfront hotels. You can stay close to the city of Galle and take short tuk-tuk rides inland to get a closer look at the country's culture. Or you can continue your journey to Yala National Park and stay in its fantastic lodges.
In Kandy, you can combine a beach vacation with a visit to shrines, such as the Temple of the Tooth. If you're ready to take your mind off the oceanfront, you'll find more ancient monuments in the centre of the island in the Cultural Triangle, such as the majestic Sigiriya Plateau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and ancient historical relics. Whichever destination you choose, you'll find great hotels that you can consider your home in Sri Lanka for a while.
1. Kurulu Bay
From the Sinhalese, kurulu translates to "bird": this image perfectly suits the area's atmosphere of serenity and relaxation from everyday life. Among the top hotels in Sri Lanka, this one is one of the newest: it opened in December 2022.
The hotel occupies a beautiful jungle estate on the south coast overlooking Lake Koggala. It has 14 garden suites and tree houses. All cottages have their own unique design from modern to folk with tiled roofs and are equipped with a large double bed, en-suite bathroom, mini bar, outdoor seating area and bath amenities. The two-bedroom cottage also has panoramic windows, a kitchenette and a small private pool with sun loungers. Garden Suites overlook the rich garden and are closer to the main pool. Their amenities include large beds, en-suite bathrooms, separate living areas and outdoor seating areas. Tree houses are the best choice for a secluded vacation, making Kurulu Bay one of the most popular hotels in Sri Lanka for honeymooners.
A stay at this retreat will include lounging by the two pools, spa rituals combining Western science and Eastern techniques (we recommend you definitely try the wraps and flower baths), yoga and meditation classes at sunrise or sunset and, of course, delicious food. The kitchen offers simple but elegant dishes: from wood-fired pizzas to lobster tail curries.
2. Trebartha East
One of the hotel industry's latest local acquisitions is this cosy 4-bedroom boutique hotel, which opened in early 2023. Among other well-known hotels in Sri Lanka, this one is favoured by architecture connoisseurs and surfing fans due to its location near Ahangama town in the south of the island.
Trebartha East sits atop a working cinnamon plantation and offers panoramic views of lush jungle, rice paddies and the ocean in the distance. The design of this circular building is by renowned architect Narein Perera, and almost all of it is created from wood. The interiors pay tribute to the craftsmanship of local artisans and artists: inside, guests will find locally made furniture, rattan, teak wall paintings and handmade carpets. The atmosphere is more reminiscent of a family's private home rather than a hotel. A curved 18-metre pool where you can sunbathe or relax after a day at the beach is nearby.
Each of the hotel's 4 rooms is named after the trees from which the hotel was built: the two rooms with king-size beds are called Jak and Kumbuk, the room with two separate beds for two guests is called Teak and the duplex suite Hora. Bedrooms have ceiling-to-floor windows, bathrooms with rain showers and sitting areas. The hotel welcomes guests over the age of 12, but families with small children (under 12 months) are also welcome, and a crib is available upon request. It can be rented whole for a large group with no age restriction. Breakfast is included in the rate. The hotel has an à la carte kitchen throughout the day and drinks are served by the pool.
Good hotels in Sri Lanka also provide interesting extras. For example, guests at Trebartha East can take a guided tour of a cinnamon plantation, book massages, facials or private yoga classes.
3. Halcyon Mawella
Another surfer's paradise is located near the wide Mawella Beach near the town of Tangalle. The local working fishing village is surrounded by unspoiled jungle, which together create an inimitable setting for the new Halcyon Mawella Boutique Hotel.
It features four split-level beach houses with interiors inspired by Indonesia, India and Lamu. Inside, rooms have private living areas and bathrooms with showers. Free toiletries, towels and quality linens are provided. Cosy beds are decorated with handmade blankets, brightly coloured armchairs offer comfortable seating for reading, and the custom-made tiles on the floor are inspired by the seaside. Outside, the roofs of the houses are covered with iluk, a grass that was traditionally used for roofing. To utilize as many vintage materials as possible, almost all of the unique windows, columns and antique doors were taken from ancient homes from around the island.
Since the jungle here directly faces the ocean, this retreat is one of the best hotels in Sri Lanka for a lazy beach vacation. Various adventures are organized on the water, such as kayaking in the lagoon, after which you can climb the curved mirrored staircase to the bar, grab a signature Halcyon Spritz and settle in to relax by the pool. Halcyon Mawella also has a restaurant whose menu utilizes the finest local ingredients, including those grown in its own garden, and an abundance of fresh seafood. The food is complemented by a selection of draught beers, cocktails and wines from around the world. A choice of continental, full English or Asian breakfast is served each morning.
There is a sunbathing terrace, garden and free private parking on site.
4. Tekanda Lodge
The luxurious Tekanda Lodge is close to the bustling town of Ahangama on Sri Lanka's south coast, but like most top hotels, it strives to create the quiet and secluded atmosphere needed for a relaxing vacation. This is made possible by the 10 acres of organic tea and coconut plantations around it.
The hotel is located high on a hilltop, but within minutes, you can reach the Indian Ocean coastline. It is a six-bedroom lodge with a superb landscaped pool. Wood, silt and natural stone have been used to create the hotel to blend in with the magnificent surroundings as seamlessly as possible. The lodge has 4 bedrooms: each has an en-suite bathroom, a sitting area and a private veranda. Inside, the room is equipped with a king-size bed, air conditioning and Wi-Fi, and the price includes a hearty breakfast, unlimited fresh coconuts and tea/coffee throughout the day. There are two more cabana bedrooms near the house. They offer more privacy and space but also have easy access to the pool and common areas.
Days at Tekanda Lodge will be a symphony of nature: start with a jog on the beach or a morning surf before breakfast, then take a swim in the emerald pool or do yoga on the picturesque terrace. Experience local village life: visit the morning fish market, attend an estate tea weigh-in, learn to cook dhal from the chef or go fishing on Koggala Lake. The hotel staff will help you plan all these activities. A great end to the day is dinner, served at a communal table on the veranda for a family atmosphere, or on your private veranda in a secluded setting. And don't miss the opportunity to watch the sunset on the beach during your vacation at the best hotels in Sri Lanka.
5. Gal Oya Lodge
One of the popular destinations in Sri Lanka is the national parks. Gal Oya Park is not as famous as Yala and is the least visited, so its nature remains untouched. A boat safari during which you can observe turtles, crocodiles, and elephants will be an unforgettable experience. After the adventure, settle down to rest in a remote lodge. This is one of the most unique accommodation options among hotels in Sri Lanka.
Gal Oya Lodge is an eco-cottage set in 20 acres of jungle with breathtaking views. The hotel has 9 spacious bungalows and villas. Each has king-size beds, a private living room with panoramic windows, an outdoor bathroom and a garden veranda where you can relax in the middle of nature.
There is also a swimming pool, restaurant and bar on site, seamlessly blended into the surrounding landscape. Sri Lankan culture and traditions were the inspiration for the lodge, and this is reflected in the interiors. The bungalows are reminiscent of rural villages and are built using local time-honoured techniques. All tables and chairs are handmade from teak and mara wood by local village artisans whose craft has been handed down from generation to generation.
For its guests, the lodge offers personalized experiences that cannot be found at other resorts and hotels in Sri Lanka: boat safaris on the largest lake, jeep safaris, bicycle tours and bird watching, mountain treks and cooking classes, and jungle walks with the headman of the indigenous Vedda community who will talk about medicinal plants, cave dwellings and the survival of hunters in the ancient jungle.